Belongings Light as Petals
In the prairies of Kansas,
the early morning is darkened still,
the fields of corn left waiting
for the rough touch of men to return
to their stalks. A light comes on
in Charlie's house, the kitchen
where he pours a cup of coffee,
sits down, sighs into the spindles
of his chair, and starts talking.
His wife transposes herself
against the background, staring
out the window until the horizon
line is one gray blur of trees and stalks.
Last month Charlie's home was hit,
the back porch split open like an onion,
and his grand-daughter's dog gone for good.
The next week she packed up and left.
There's no difference in Charlie's mind
between those who leave
and those who are taken away.
He chalks the tragedies up to God,
wants to be malleable in his hands.
When he sleeps, he sleeps easy,
never fearing the soft tap of hail.
Charlie's talking about the tornadoes
that have ripped through the dry land
this month. None of them have hit
the same path; each scrambles
dizzily like a bee from flower to flower,
but more angry, with a vengeance
the locals can't explain. Still, Charlie stays,
even as his neighbors' houses
are uprooted easy as daisies.
Tonight, when we get inside and you run
to the bathroom, already unzipping your fly,
I feel you might never get back to me. I'm three again,
looking into the dark cave of hallway.
I hear the echo of my mother's voice,
but it's thin, flimsy, and I could be tricked.
Staring into the blackness, I wait
to be scooped back up into her arms,
Grabbing whatever I can--a fistful
of her dress, a clump of hair.
This night, this hallway, following
your wet footprints, I am too large to bury
myself into your arms wen you return.
Not able to wrap my tongue around words
like "fear" and "absence," I stare blankly,
dropping damp layers while you roam.
When you fold into me I lie
still but don't sleep. In the darkness
the room develops slowly: moonlight
specking like spilled salt, water
stains bleeding out across the ceiling
like small and ancient lakes, rippling
as if someone were throwing stones.
And even now I think I should
never be so undressed, alone
with the mirror staring at me
with its large, blank pane of eye.
At this age my wrinkles have earned
the right to love, to go without makeup
in the morning, to get near a mirror
without hearing me wince or sigh
at my jowls and sagging breasts.
I feel my body with my body
and am ashamed, tucking away
my naked skin like a trashy magazine
that shames the coffee table.
If not this skin, these wiry hairs,
if not the stiffness and these aches,
then what else? Even as I hold
my breath in protest, veins, flimsy
as thread, hollow as drinking straws, cradle
the body's blood, saying you're not done.