None of this over, no, not start, not twiddle your thumbs lined up for take off. We only want the beginning of the middle. To wake up on a Saturday morning instead of Sunday or whatever the other options--maybe
she sees you back, wouldn't that be nicer than standing dripping de-icing fluid on the tarmac,
What does distance really do? I don't feel like I need you now that I've been balanced with only my own arms raised at my sides, my questions asked, my physics written out in chalk, my palms wiped on my jeans. I can do without Rube Goldberg machines.
Was I supposed to miss you more? What is distance even for? And be honest, are you really shocked that I would doubt what I want? On every Apollo mission, two men walked on the moon and the third one waited in orbit.
I'm thinking of events that require name tags. The first day of camp. College visits, and orientations. Conferences. Mock United Nations. I'm thinking of hearing parties through glass and turning the fan on for the noise. I'm thinking of trying to think about boys. I'm thinking of driving from Illinois to Indiana to Ohio and watching the terrain stay the same. I'm thinking the check engine light is on. And I should get a new lock for the back door. And fill out a W-4. I'm thinking of how intense a crush would feel to a binary star. I'm thinking of the oceans people are. I'm thinking, what is it with poets and the sky? Why do people hide? How many strokes can I take without a breath? What other kinds of sentences are there? Are we there yet?
The skin on my fingertips is cracking. I washed all the dishes by hand. I dried them and stacked them and put them away. I walk on the wall between honest and kind. I wait for the film to unwind, or become exposed. The darkroom is where I first taught my heart to close. To add the sulfate and turn on the bulb so the picture wouldn't change, the way turning on the light doesn't knock over the first domino. How your arms rise from your sides when you skip, a bird taking flight. How you lie on your stomach to photograph a seagull. How do you love two people? When I close one part, the cracks form somewhere else. I walk on the wall between honest and kind. It is seven feet tall. I throw an arm out to either side for balance but it reminds me of you, so I fall to the right.
The clouds crouch low over San Francisco, and they are deciding between blanket and weather. They do not know whether to be comfort or a cold matter of fact. They do not want you to look back and sea provides the cold, air provides the hot, the marine inversion the Atlantic never had. Have you ever said things confidently without being sure? Have you ever asked about her faith and listened to the answer, say, the number of beads, without being sure, but knowing she was? So at least that makes you sure of something. Have you ever heard music in a public place and felt that foggy weight-- what does it take to dance anymore? What is that extra oomph it takes to get your arms above your head? What is the difference between fog and dead? The joke is that I don't remember.
I flip from about the author to the dedications again, but I'm sure I like an appropriate balance of looking back and staying here. I break Passover when it coincides with your birthday this year. When the snow melts to reveal the leaves with crunch preserved, and they dance in the storms that make birds cling, I welcome back the dead while I breathe the living. When the weather vane tucks in its arms to gain momentum I watch it spin, but I never spin myself until I hear the rain tell me it is copying the comet--not falling, but reaching for grounded like imagination after I close the book.
Alaska is the largest united state. Jupiter is the largest planet in our system. Yours is the brightest eye in the darkroom, loudest boot-soles in the hallway, a real sonic boom of a presence. I like to see you taking up space. Weaving the lanyard through your fingers as you swing your keys, chains colliding over and again bringing you home. I like to be there when you return. Green walls, eight paws, books strewn and notes scrawled--I like the signs that you live here. I like the volume you occupy. Demand a kiss when you burn your lip. Unzip your coat and hang it on the back of your chair because you live here. I like to see Jupiter's cyclone hasn't shrunk it and your storm hasn't stopped you. Think of space, and then take it.
there are raindrops that cling and raindrops that fall. there are comets that call out their dying around and around--there is halley who's dizzy and knows which kind of raindrop she'd be if she could reach the earth--
a question on a slip of paper, maybe the back of a receipt, maybe written with the pen at the bottom of your bag that has been missing its cap for two months but is not yet dried up and you fold it in half, maybe three times, partly to hide it and partly to smallen, and you roll it and hold it between thumb and index and you look for god in the rain taking the ink and leaving the leaf-litter wishes sodden on the ground. your prayer was query, not request, but it too could litterize. then you tuck your roll into the stones and turn around anyway, all forward eyes, and that is faith.
the baby teeth are a map and a compass. when they come out the real guys file in, erupting the gums, ending sentences with prepositions until they learn where to stand. It's a wisdom trap--the third molars are learned until they know they don't belong. Someday they'll stop trying altogether. Good riddance. And in their place, the sutures sew the site of eruption like tying the loose ends of a volcano and hoping the lava pressure doesn't brew. I came out when I saw I could stand next to you. I trip over uneven stitches. I am not held together.
She was beside this guy, and beside herself with her and him. She remembers sitting on his shoulders while the sun set over Jerusalem. She was smiling in such a way that the sun was backing down from a challenge neither it nor I had seen, which is why I took the picture.
It was beautiful to see. The tilt of her head for his photographs, the link of her arm for his steadying walk, the share of her sounds with him--one earbud apiece--all the things she used to do with me
And in the holy city I was blessed to see her dance between two kinds of love so seamlessly
I am looking for someone I know her name but I don't know what she calls herself. I take a microscope to everything I see thinking she must be pretty small to have escaped me so long but she doesn't hide in flakes of metal or the grains of wood. All matter is just pieces that don't look like they should stay together but things don't just fall apart, so. I have to find her.
The silicon in sand is learned by crystal system, organized into branches and the seed crystal is cubic imagine diamonds in the grains imagine cut against the grain a glass tree doesn't know enough of crystal symmetry to grow back imagine it opens a book leaves to pages to learn only half how to help the other half how to dissociate ions scattered across the earth crust never enough. This is how sand is made.
With windswept hair and the beginnings of smiles, faces in focus and the backs blurred, arms out to the sides like birds that are already flying, hands in hands that brighten what is around them instead of fighting it. Serenading each other with words that settle into the crisscrossing of passers by instead of matching them step for fist. Wouldn’t that be nice. Instead we sit a little apart on the rocks, because even when we are close the telescopes magnify the distance, and I look up instead of around, trying to recall the difference between comets and asteroids and meteors but only half in it. Those things could be anything, as long as I get to watch something else burn as it falls.
Hubble saw stars between stars and there is more space all the time. Sometimes things go in fine and come out far. But what about us is getting more apart? What about Einstein seeing the same signature of space expansion as you? What about couples who smell different though they use the same shampoo? What about black boxes—does the butterfly remember its cocoon? Does a firefly see its own light? What about dressing babies in clumsy shoes? Do bare feet mean nothing to you?
At sunrise a little girl calls Uncle and he comes to her and past, down the pier to reel in the blue *****. Everyone is crossing the river where it meets the bay to exchange pleasantries and to tear off the legs. So by mid morning: north up the winding road past foggy construction zones. Everyone is crossing the lake in canoes while she is catching salamanders, throwing news in campfires and tripping over her shoes. She takes her paddle to the water and then the sun right above: time to move. A couple hundred exits passed, a couple hundred exits past noon. A little northwest this time, a little late for lab. Everyone is cross- ing campus like they mean it. She climbs and counts and it's actually one hundred sixty- two steps up the clock tower-- you have to count again--and what a view. Jumping isn't the way, you can't go down when you're on top. She follows the water norther, wester, you have to count again, have to see something new before dark
watching things dry is always the same: the paint, the tears, the puddled up fear that sits on the bench and then lives to regret it, the solder that cools, the hair in the breeze, the ruffled bird's feathers when she learns she's not free, and she. a slight glistening gone, trick of the eye, flight of the bird, end of the cry. watching tears dry is like watching paint dry. the toll taker sighs on the bridge, takes your money and holds it while he waits to give it to somebody else, just counting coins and watching the water hit the sky.
a mantra: I can do things that hurt, I can do things that hurt, three miles in, feet in the dirt, trying breathe in, cold numb swim, trying goodbye, hello, subvert, feet in the river, feet in the dirt, I can do things that hurt, I can do things that hurt.
I know the quietest way to ***** an egg. The softest way to close a door. How to pour the water into a tilted glass so it doesn't splash back. A bird chirps at just under sixty decibels. A light bulb sings at fifteen. I dream of polymer chains snapping clean, recyclables humming to each other at night while they biodegrade at a rate negligible to the human timescale. Twenty decibels: the chiral calcite spiral of the snail when it falls to the sand, when it dies, when a girl apologizes for asking a question.
from the sixth floor, see the traffic lights change in time with each other up and down the street snake eyes snake eyes snake eyes snake eyes snake eyes green green green green red red as they always did but not just as they used to
Did you know that an eastern bluebird is a type of thrush? It reminds me of her eyes, but I've tried not to tell you. And did you know a bluebird has a red chest, like a robin? Bright red, like the shoes she wears even when it rains and the water soaks through. Did you know that a robin is also in the thrush family?
I can hear her steely-eyed hope--in the bluebird's trill. Did you know that chemotherapy can be administered by pill?
In eighth period no students rest their heads on their desks today. They are afraid that the moment they look away, they will turn back to find they’re not people anymore.
As for us, we had a voice at least. We had a dream of being the teachers with the same last name, the English teacher with the periodic table on the wall, and her wife who teaches monomers like they were grass’s leaves. Is that a complexity you can understand?
You can repeal our hope of exchanging rings— our feathered thing— but we will still converge on the ninth graders of your nation to be sure your face has not tinted them with your fear. There will be no redshift here, only a drift of progress. There we’ll be, stationed in the inspiration of youth to undo your unfathomable bigotry.
the daughter of Apollo whistles back at birds reminding them to stay close, she knows that Icarus was a dense bloke so it goes, they circle in the overexposed sky and come back just shy of the shine, and the cicadas always know when it's time. then she says, "come along," and they all know to go, following the whistle of the daughter of Apollo.
sitting cross-legged on the floor bare right foot over left knee, tilting the controls like that will give you more control as a kart hurtles down rainbow road— ever the hardest track, but the one to which every child comes back time and again—and to think some of us will live there, will love in prisms of light with no railings, sit among the stars and fold paper cranes when people ask us to explain our pride as if they have never heard of love.
when you fall off the edge everything goes dark but in this life the ghosts don't float you above it all to get your bearings back; somehow you have to do it without the benefit of afar; the stars don't spin around your head while you count your scars; in this life the ghosts are dead.
I turned off the TV, I watched a bird cross the street, scurrying on its little feet and hopping onto the curb. It did not use its wings once. It does not need to see things from far away like I do.
once we realize that we are not small, this is our world and we can act to change it. if you live in a state whose senator voted "no" to background checks, contact your local representatives expressing your concern about civilian ownership of military-grade weapons. make our voice loud.
In a row, three generations of prayer; when foreheads meet the floor, Nanu gets a chair.
Imagine how scared the stars must have been the first night they couldn't see you. Imagine the gasp, the wind's fist unable to grasp the cosmic impermanence of what it made while you and two mothers sway, there is mango and honeydew on three plates and dates to break the fast the shadow crossing the moon so slow, the tides forecast.
Away from the city I see Alcyone and all the bright things I didn't know existed, and girl have I missed it. At the pediatrician's office my mother told me there was nothing the doctor could do about my anxious palms, no salve to cover it, just keep rubbing them on my jeans and raise my hand in class with blue dye on the sides where other kids have graphite but you say you like the way my hands shine. Our fingers, intertwined.
This place, its color saturates when you return to it. A cosmic ghost playing a cosmic joke, waking up, propping himself lazily on an elbow in bed, casually sliding up the brightness of the universe like he does it every day, like he was born to it, when really we were.
A duck flutters onto the path and we are at an impasse; we wait in the dark until the sun comes back, but the thing doesn't move. I can see in your stubborn shoes, laces never loose, the unwillingness to let this creature be afraid of you.
On the way back there are other ducks that don't notice us, and that is enough.
Standing at the edge of your eyes my toes curl over the rim. They push the ground away I am just cold enough to breathe. I am just helpless enough to let the water support me and float free.
I am afraid the way I was afraid of the mossy dark reservoir behind the second dam. Afraid the way I was when I watched kids haul their bodies onto the rocks with their knees still shaking, their teeth still protesting against each other. I am afraid the way I was when I dipped my toes in the water long enough to hear them scream, afraid of the bottomless, afraid it wasn’t bottomless enough, couldn't see.
Just afraid enough to jump. Just cold enough to breathe.
"standing on the parted shores of history, we still believe what we were taught before ever we stood at Sinai's foot,"
dodging shards of terra cotta on the ground and shards of croaksong in the air we crouch at the bank, half way there, and the frogs vault over the tops of our sneakers. we are scaring chipmunks and hiding from snakes, balancing on the pipeline with our arms raised out like birds about to take flight. at the reservoir people are jumping from on high, grabbing at stars on the way down. when they land the cold pries open their fists and they surface shaking and full of nothingness. someone tosses an empty can of keystone into the water, stumble-swims away from it. it spills over one dam and glides toward the next, a girl flinches from a rock like a moth from a swat and pulls the can to the crags, they both rest there breathing heavy. they both dry off. she pulls on her clothes and pulls herself home in a flurry of forgot. as more kids jump, more stars fall from their hands until the can is full of a hope too heavy to drag home.
holding everybody in arms of a bowl to catch what we cry. Turning the saltwater into oceans, mirrors still enough that we can see, watch ourselves try. And for those who like waves she pulls at the tides, rough hands smoothing the sand, and when she thinks she can't get it right she consults the moon, watching and learning till she's ready to teach. And for those of us who don't like the beach, she holds her hands out to us with palms up, lifting the salt away and the water up, sending our tears purified to the sky to rain down on us, fresh and quiet every one.
but the inflection of the human voice saying God only knows, she doesn't say it like God is the only one who knows; not: God, only, knows, but God only knows. She knows and says nothing. God is not one to kiss and tell. She keeps some things to Herself, doesn't share everything with me. Think how sad a couple of souls would be if truly one, grown so together that they are once again alone. God only knows what I'd do without you; nothing more.
the sun is setting in slant through the window, outlining everyone in gold thread
there’s loud music and laughter and RESERVED tables full of people eating and laughing like they’re at any tables at all
at the end the music is still playing and the sun is still slanting its way down but the rainbow flag is draped over the dusty piano to free up her hands so she can clean other things. everything is tidied up, things gathered, minimizing space taken
the stickers, the flags of all combinations of colored stripes, pink and blue and purple sunsets, prism rainbows, the black table cloth stretched out below the window as two people fold the sunlight into it, packing it away. name tags are peeled off shirts. In the end,
they leave with a whole foods canvas bag full of things that could be anything, ready to blend back into everything else.
the sun ducks behind a mountain on the horizon and the sky purples, bruised by indifference. the sun ducks behind a mountain on the horizon and no one is outlined anymore.
There are two ways to fall in love with the stars. Each begins with a child on her back, asphalt and grass, looking up.
Each begins with a reaching.
There are two ways to fall in love with the stars. Each begins with a feeling of light that is cold, of the glow of afar, of nothing but the magnetic math of the vacuum between here
Each begins with finding light in dark.
She can at this point grab the tail of her hope in a telescope, wonder at the whole mirrored mess, open her aperture as wide as her heart and stretch the shutter speed as long as her patience, let in all the light
She can mesh her fingers through Orion's, standing ready to help him catch the Pleiades that hover above his hand, she can hold his sword for him for a while. She can brush her fingertips along Andromeda's straining arms, soothe the chained flesh of her wrists. She can trace faces in the sky with her kind touch, ladle warm soup for every one, scratch the bears behind their ears to keep herself coming undone. She can blush, timid to reach the extra lightyear that will bring her hands to Cassiopeia's hair.
Or then she can calculate the cold, Orion's sword a pen, fight through the mechanics for the dynamics and get there.
On the backs of receipts and physics formula sheets I've been drawing compasses. Needles pointing randomless, concentric circles, shaky lines creeping outside their contours and I don't need you to tell me I'm an amateur. I already can't find my way.
This is a lightly used copy of Nancy Drew. This is an eraser shaped like a softball. This is a bit of unraveled tennis racket grip. This is an empty paper picture frame– this is the picture that went in it.
I leave them all down south. Here, I have only what I need: the books, the periodic tables on the walls, the dried leaves she collected for me and had laminated last fall. The star charts and on the top shelf the glass jar of dead roses. The little drawings she left me on the backs of receipts, the graphs of crystal shapes and symmetries.
I have only what I need now. I am surrounded by me, having survived my youth, ready to start telling the truth.
This is a string of beads with half a heart in the middle. This is the remnant of a joint collection of bobble-head turtles; these are the heads that have fallen off.
Dead flowers are brittle, break easy. Dust covers the things you gave me, mutes them, claims them, overtakes them, squeezing the pages of books together until they choke, clouding the glass jar that you use as a vase for the dead flowers.
Dead flowers do not need water, live easy. You made the bed this morning so if memory failed me I would have no way of seeing today that you were here last night. And when I blink my eyes, for that moment they're closed I cringe with the sudden goodbye, every instant turned away from your face filled with the graceless empty of having just finished a book. No longer able to live in its eyes, burrow into its spine, nestle into the crook of its neck.
dead flowers are brittle, break easy, please, please be careful with this–