The door

The door would not close.
I had tried for years
to close it behind me.

So like me, to fill a room
too full, to keep too many
useless things, to fear
pardoning the ghosts.

I pressed my hands against
the door. I shoved. I used
all my weight, as well as
the weight of all my wishing.

Then, love,
you came along and placed
your perfect paver's hand
on top of mine.

The door closed beneath my palm.
A quiet, solid click of the latch.
No slamming, no straining,
no groaning of the hinges,
no splintering of wood.

The door closed. 
The door stayed closed. 

And all at once there
was nothing more to do
but turn to meet the warmth
of your golden-sweet smile.

I have exactly one callus
to show for my prior efforts,
right at the base of my
left ring finger. 

I would show it to you,
but I don't want to let go
of your hand.

—for ML

Speak to me first


Speak to me first of absinthe
and pork belly. Your calloused
hands do the talking—
I have done most things and
you, woman, will be next

Lean in.
Tell me the one secret I have
never been told. Linger by
my ear, finger a lock of my
hair with your
usual carelessness— 
take me or leave me, 
the usual.

You will never be mine but
only children count people.

this silence

This silence would be deafening
if you could hear it, still. 

It broke you years ago, when
you were seized with a fit
of wanting needing so violent
you dug your way out through
your own skin to escape the
stunning cruelty of the
everpause between the
asking and never receiving.

You bled yourself in
payment for what did not,
would not come.
You did not think to ask
for a receipt.

Maybe this silence was
always deaf to you too.
Imagine that: 
a deaf silence.

The world becomes something
altogether kinder, if we know
nothing exists that can hear
some of us, and not others.

There are those who swear
they hear, and are heard.
They insist that this silence
excavates their fossilized prayers—

readily willingly mercifully
just in the nick of this time
and that time too—

from somewhere inside the black
crevasse of palms touching.

You have stopped (almost)
longing to be one of them.

You are alone.
You put yourself to bed
at night and listen to your
own prayers as they
whimper, then settle,
in the dark.

You are the only one
who can hear the four-letter
words howling fire
and spitting bile
and leapfrogging
in your belly.

You are not mute (yet)
but you know better (now)
than to ask this silence
just one more time
about the unanswerables
the unmentionables
the unhaveables
the unavailables
the unassailables.

You are nothing much to everyone in particular.
You are no one's one.
You are especially nothing to a few.
You are everything to two for as long as
it will be until you are not.

Yes, this silence
would be deafening
if you could hear it,


the yes places

For me there have always
been the yes places

I know them before I
get there
I am always on the
slowest train to yes.

I know the yes places
will receive me as
well as I have mapped
them in my heart.

They always do.
Iceland, Wales, Scotland.
Germany, France, Japan.

There are, of course, 
others. How the thread
unwinds, tangles.

When I leave something
behind in a yes place—

a gold ring, a book,
a lover, say—

the yes places never mind.

They fold my lost things,
over and over, until they
disappear, until their shapes

no longer appear on
my heart's map and
I can trace each skyline
as I please.

It's wise to pack light,
the yes places say.
The dark will find you,
wherever you roam.
Latch the suitcase.
No need to bring
anything from home.


Because on January 1st, I drew a picture instead

On the second day of 2016,
I can hear the new year shuffling on the porch,
a new postman on an unfamiliar route, 
unsure where to lay
the oversized packages.

I sip my warmish coffee,
listening to the new year fumble tinnily
now with my battered blue postbox.
He might welcome some instruction.
He might welcome a welcome.

I might have welcomed these too, once.

In 2015 I might have dared to open the door.
I might have introduced myself, with my signature
head duck to a bob to a once-fetching tilt,
with the usual apology in my eyes
for the screen door's consolation prize:
yes, sorry, only this, only me,
only a woman of a certain age
(read: not his)
with wet eyes liquid soul wobbling breasts the yearning
sloshing onto the toes of his newly issued uniform shoes.

In 2015, I might have warned the new year that
the dogs will always bark. I might have counseled him
to leave the awkward pieces of mail on the
wide-hipped seats of the red plastic Adirondack chairs.
I might have told him not to fear his first day
(although how I hate the first day of anything)
and let him know that, sometimes, my daughters bake.

Now I refuse to open the door to him. Too soon.
It's nothing personal, newest new year.
He is welcome as far as my porch—as far as the doormat.
Let him, thumping, unseen 2016, deliver as he may.
What do I know, after all, about his job?
Let me, steely now, sit quietly. Let me offer no apology for being.

No year is at fault for what it delivers. No need to
shoot the messenger; no need to interfere.
What will come will come, never when expected,
and thus,
just as expected.

Safe enough


By 43, I think, in addition to knowing the right brassiere for any occasion, I should know how to say goodbye. I should be able to say goodbye with conviction, without looking back. At least, I feel like I should be able to do this. But I am always looking back, hoping for one last glimpse, one more wave. No wonder my neck and spine hurt all the time. I ache with goodbyes.

Not love (a sestina)

Yes, I would rather sleep alone than fight

and this is why I sleep alone. A drunk?

Not too late, my first last career. I write

already, my prerequisite word sea

dotted by empty green bottles. But sex.

You were saying? I liked it with you. Love--

The second-best shower

He loved me when he was drunk. There was a simple equation at work, not hard to follow: the drunker he was, the more he loved me. He grinned red-faced on that June night in his corner of the backseat of the cab. The red-faced grin: the closest thing to love I'd come to know on his face.

Sea shell, snowshoe, circumstance

In last night's dream I could run pretty fast:
tenth place in the 5k that involved climbing
wobbly circus ladders through plastic sheeting.
I did not stop for water. When I got home,
Lady Gaga received me well in my bed.

Then I drove five hours north to see you in
Montreal, a place in which neither of us has
ever lived.