When she said yes, I had no idea
that gravity was about to flip into reverse
and hurl me out the window and into the sky
like a dollar bill on a prankster's string.
But it did.
She waved once, her mouth a startled "O,"
sparks dancing between our outstretched palms.
I found myself bobbing over the suburbs,
picking up speed. Traffic stopped.
A woman in a SUV pulled onto the curb,
and her oldest son stopped hitting his brother
long enough to press his nose flat against
the safety glass. He whined, "Mom, can
I be a flying man?" And with weariness
she felt something snaking out of her throat
to say, "Maybe when you're older."
A pigeon was pacing me for a while, giving me the evil eye --
"hey, buddy," he said, "ain't got no right" --
but the clouds were soft as candyfloss, so
him the bird and kept on swooping.
As the air got thin and the sky got dark, storms
below me and stars twinkling all around, I
almost got to thinking about bare skin
and the vacuum of space.
But then it dawned on me,
as the sun peeked over the edge of the Earth:
Who am I to need air? Who am I, to float past the moon
fretting over minor details, sweating small stuff?
Let ice crust my astonished face, my eyes turn into mirrors.
Let Saturn tip its hat to me, and Pluto fetch my slippers.
Let my lungs swell full to bursting, my heart cook in its blood.
Andromeda waits to dance with me and stroke the face of God.
Conjure up visions of tempests and fire;
stride across deserts with Sufis and liars;
measure out prayers to the width of a hair --
and you'll never approach my desire.
But passion is lacking in time and perspective,
and visions and prayers only get you so far.
Sure, tempests are fun -- but when all's said and done,
if you're still in the desert, who knows where you are?
A flash of your flesh in the steam of the shower,
A brief demonstration of feminine power,
A beckoning grape in the nape of your neck:
Love is forever; these things pass in hours.
by way of demonstration,
I pull a cobble off the bridge
And drop it, hard
and heavy, off the side.
"Now, look," she said,
her arms spread wide,
"You've got me wet."
Two newlyweds were hurrying to refinish their home
Ahead of winter weather and a second set of loans,
But it always seemed, no matter what, their work was never done;
No sooner would they patch a hole than find another one.
And he grew tired of hammering, and she got sick of grout --
So even as they fixed the house, each dreamed of moving out.
The day they put the plumbing in, it nearly came to blows
When he forgot to kill the main (so water overflowed
And wrecked the downstairs drywall two days before her mom
Had promised she'd be dropping by to see how far they'd come.)
But as they sat there steaming, sunlight flashed and lit her hair
In rivulets of cinnamon; she caught sight of his stare,
And smiled wryly back at him, amusement in her eyes,
Inviting him to lift her to her feet with a small sigh.
She wove her left hand's fingers through the fingers of his right,
Then passed him down the pliers; she took up the putty knife.
Did it matter, the next morning, that the job took twice as long?
They may have built it slowly, but they slowly built it strong.
You lay beside me, your soft breath
light on my warm cheek, your head heavy,
your nose pressed, all crinkled-up, into my arm,
and sighed almost too quietly for me to hear,
a rush of slow contentment.
I tightened my arms around you,
one hand running soft spirals along
the smooth bare skin of your back,
hesitantly up the crest of one rising breast--
at which you mumbled something and cuddled closer,
pressing your nipple into the palm of my hand.
Your eyes fluttered a little, your lashes
tickling up and down my chest, as the flush
just began to fade from your cheeks
and your toes uncurled and muscles relaxed,
unhurried in the circle of my arms.
I dipped my head to kiss you, breathing
a line from eye to eye and so down to your mouth,
and you returned it even in your sleep,
one of your hands clutching fitfully,
like a child, at my shoulder, pressing it,
squeezing it tightly to the rhythm of our hearts.
But what if Joan
there on the pyre,
thirty seconds from the fire,
realized how to talk back to her voices?
And what if Anne
there on the train,
twenty seconds from her pain,
figured out that she had other choices?
Or what if Christ
there on the cross,
fifteen seconds from His boss,
found the words to say to save us sorrow?
I guess that they
would feel like me,
having met her yesterday,
when she's leaving two weeks from tomorrow.
the knocking of the rain
on your roof
on your porch
or your windowsill. Please?
it's coming down hard now.
Whole town's inside
(it's that, or drowning.)
Still, it's wonderful;
still it's something!
Will it fill all the
rills (or is that
There's thunder -- and yet!
It's peaceful when it's raining,
somehow more so when it's over,
and you don't notice
(on the floor
'neath the window,
cuddling by the fire)
each drop is marking
seconds 'til we
She lay in my bed not two inches from me,
curled up around my teddy bear,
her borrowed pair of silk boxers riding
gently up the side of one perfect thigh,
a flash of something wonderful in the
dim pre-morning light.
I was perpendicular to the bed, my body
sprawled along the floor, my head
perched almost painfully on the
edge of the mattress. She was, after all,
one of my brother's friends, had come here
to chat over rented movies; my bed was
just a place to crash before going home,
and she lay there smiling and trusting
as I lightly ran my fingers across her face,
twisting whispering plaits of her hair--
like sunset, or dying candlelight.
Around three or so she decided to sleep, so
I tucked the covers around her and settled down
at the edge of the bed, watching the smooth curves
of her body rise and shimmer with each breath,
remembering a brief glimpse of bare breast
as I kissed her forehead and held her hand
and waited for the sun to spoil everything.
Out my window in the peach glow of the parking lot
two lovers cover each other
in the firm assurance of a goodnight kiss.
Then he drives away.
I can imagine his half-shadowed face
staring at the road,
knowing he would run back to her
if he knew she was
sitting on her steps,
tearing needles from the spruce next to her,
tossing them mindlessly at the sidewalk,
and feeling the same flat sadness --
feeling thick and full of lonely.
Still, it's only goodnight.
But I'm lying here all by myself
and thinking how perfect it would be
to feel alone because you left
and not because you never came
there is a
certain kind of wonder
in turning back to a
bud or some
to find that they
have achieved beauty
by becoming only what
there's a dim x over o'hare
a fluttering contrail weft
marking the concrete spot where
she kissed me goodbye when she left
The bench is cold in winter,
the metal spotted with flecks of ice.
We sit anyway, being tired,
and I take off my coat
and drape it over her bare legs,
shivering now myself.
I am thirsty.
She stares off into the bluing sky,
her hair stuck to her hollow cheeks
as she glazes over like porcelain.
I whisper something to disturb the tableau,
but she shrugs me away
and watches the streetlights.
It is finished.
I reach for her arms, imploring,
hoping to find some shelter there--
but touch ice and pull back, frightened.
Now she smiles, the first time tonight,
and walks away into the snowdrifts
as the sun forsakes the set.
At the corner of O'Hare and LaGuardia
(the streets, not the runways)--
in a little subdivision where she lives--
you can look south and the stars will shimmer
as though God were breathing over them.
I saw her last week at some cheap lakeside diner,
sitting side-saddle on a fake wicker chair;
she had taken up smoking and wore purple Ray-Bans,
but I knew it was her from the bow in her hair
that I'd given her when we were kids back in college
since I thought it would match this pink teddy she bought.
I picked a small table some sixteen feet from her
and stirred up my Pepsi; I knew that I ought
to say something at all, but no words came easily
at the time and I stared as she finished and then
picked up her purse and ran out without tipping,
calling, "Tom, it was good just to see you again."