The soil exposed the roots.
When you loved a man,
he whispered your secrets
to another ear. The leaf litter,
grasses absorbed the shock
of rain, the canopy stopped the drops—
the trees disappeared. All night
you wondered where he went.
You sniffed his clothes in the laundry
basket for clues. The land
down-sloped, drug itself to
degradation. When you asked
he lied. When you waited,
he did it again.
It was December again and a package arrived from Amazon. A package
from you— three hardcover books for my kids. The note said, From:
Uncle X. Happy Holidays. The Missing Piece became our favorite. It was
clear. I am the missing piece that you grasped in your mouth,
neglecting your natural tendencies, and you rolled with me one summer,
all over my bed, your bed, that golf course out by Elmwood Park, those
hotel rooms, and then you spit me out. Bouncing off in search of what?
Westward travel? Southern travel? The loneliness of bachelordom,
bachelorhood and the promise of an eternal life because you do not
burn like Paul and those others who founded churches and died alone,
penniless. The Giving Tree. I am the tree. You want shade? Here. You
want my arms, tight around your neck embracing the smell of aloe vera
and sweat. Here. You want my trunk, cut, etched with your poetry—you
are the only writer there ever was or ever will be. You want me to
float out to sea, elongate your days and nights, and succumb to
islanders and apples. Here. You want to rest on breasts when weary,
and whine about those other writers, doctors, students and professors.
Here. Then, you saunter off, finding no other shelter. To the desert
you go. This is a lovely book set. In metaphor reiterating how my
existence is a mud-caked shoe left on your patio after digging
ditching in a village all afternoon, then thrown away—the stench too
strong to remove and you find a cab to drive you to the market to find
new shoes, but you can’t bargain in Spanish, can you? You know
“zapatas;” you know “dinero.” Encircled by banana trees and lonely
women who stare at your green eyes, your grizzly face, your lips that
rhyme words in English. Here.
Little closed eyes on the arm
pray for the other arm; pray
for the fingers not marked; tell
someone why you exist, why you insist
on listing the alphabet in
a fist; quarantine the left
from the right. Delicate, white
streaks—jet contrails on skin.
When the sky finally blues,
clouds dissipate, will
you open your eyes, will you
finally see him?
All day I type, fold, print and stand. Busy, I exchange greetings with
the congregants and brown nose to the volunteers, but at night. At
night snuggled into my black blanket in my black room, I sleep and
left to its own wanderings my mind flies to Central America. A dirt
floor. Ten people in one room. You naked, me naked, trying to cover
ourselves with my blanket on a cot made for a child. You’re against my
back, your breath in my ear. We have to move again to another spot.
Comprehension is lost in language and deed. Scrambling to the pee pot
in the corner, then back to the cots, I search for you in the dark.
Mosquitoes buzz so loudly your whisper is lost. Finally in your arms,
you smell like the earth, like sweat, like a wet dog. Cradling my head
in the crook of your arm, you pray in Spanish. I say amen. I have no
idea what you said. “Say it again in English,” I kiss your ear. You
do. I sleep in your arms. Come morning, I am in my bed alone. The
alarm. The shower. The dressing. The commuting. At dusk I stand in the
backyard, watch the children play in their playhouse, teeter on the
seesaw and wait for bedtime.
This time the werewolf saves the women
in the village; carries them off
by their hair while their dresses are torn
on rocks and sticks in the forest. The women
scream and kick, yet he trudges onward.
This fearless animal lugs eleven
with one arm; in this other fist, he clasps
a locket with my name on it: catharine. Inside
is the photo from a barbeque, 2008, corn on the cob,
(teaching the boy how to husk), hamburgers,
ketchup, and arm wrestling with the overweight friend.
Memories he clings to as he saves all
the women from romance. Why take the chance?
He must take them to the river, drown
them in the water, munch on their still-warm,
moist flesh and add their teeth to the chain.
Oh wait! You know this story. You have done
this to men and women for two decades—
every time you promise you’ll never do
this again, learned your lesson—you’re sad,
sorry, remorseful, then you meet the next girl
at the Walmart parking lot. The cars lined up
like gravestones. Each license plate lists
an expiration date. Pick me up in your car,
drive me around town. I know we won’t get far.
I hate birds. Their wings flapping, beaks pointy
and their pecking, pecking at the ground
for bugs, worms, gold—-God knows what.
Once, a little bird flew in my face.
To swat the thing away with my arm
was out of the question—it was a friend’s pet.
So, I hit the deck. Flattened body, arms
covering my head, tears soaking her welcome mat,
I laid in her foyer until she assured me
the beast was locked up in its cage. I rose,
trembling. Her eyes, her kids’ eyes large.
It was like a bullet ricocheted off the walls
and I dodged it. I survived. Now,
I imagine how to murder that bird.
Poison? Too easy. Bird-nap? Too
hard. I purchased a snake for my son,
under the guise that he needed a pet.
Allergic to cats and dogs, possibly
all fur, we ended up with the corn snake.
There is a snake in the Mexican flag
on the verge of ingesting an eagle.
Birds. Left over dinosaurs, right?
Whatever happened to the extinct
monsters should have happened to
these flying atrocities. The solar flare
missed. The asteroid wasn’t big enough.
Noah, that workman of God, could have
at the very least, left the birds off the ark.
Look how they break up a lovely sunrise;
listen as they pollute the air with song;
look at how they leave excrement on
our sidewalks, cars, roofs. Look!
With my gun, I saunter off to the field.
Watch how they flee. Watch how I aim,
watch how my hunting dog chases
down their fallen bodies. Cut open
their breast, tear off their feathers,
fry them up in skillets and listen
to the crack and pop of the grease.