Immersed

The light in our room is dim,
an undersea 
          soft saturation
so you might soon 
                  please sleep.

This is our new 
house, a place
         for new 
beginnings, to shed sadness
like snake's skin, 
like snow melt.

This is not 
the house
you came home to, round-eyed,
reddened baby. This is not

     the room of your first
     seizure, your first
     birthday when the weight

of your compromised life
lay heavy on my heart, 
                       heavy
on our hope. You are not

the child I imagined,
not the child I wanted, 
          and sometimes
not 
the child I want.

This new room is ours, 
broad
expanse of windows, morning light,
we two love long, lazy days
lounging 
on our shared bed.
It is our safe place.
          "Olly, olly oxen free!" 
This marriage

bed is now a place to parent
in my own soft way.
(You may disapprove.
You will disapprove.) But
I am tired. 
Ten years and I 
imagine sleeping 

and seizing
descend similarly, stifling, static.

You grab my hand now, 
                     pull it
toward your chest, as you cross
the threshold, unwilling

I am your link
to the awake world. I watch you
                                transform, 
again a baby--pink
lips and starfish hands
curl, flex.

I lay beside you,           holding
my breath, and watch
you traverse the nocturnal

waves

that carry you from awake--

          "up, up" you say
          "no tired" you learn to say

to sleep, the snags and snaps
that trip your tricky brain.

But tonight you slide smoothly
into somnolent dreamscapes.

Your long legs 
        bisect the bed,
a little boy's legs now,
thick at the thigh, 
no baby. But then you 
        draw those legs in,
a turtle hatchling, furled,
you make room
again
for me.

That years' long 
fear manifests again, 
fear like a fizz 
in my stomach,
you might never wake and I

will be left in the shallows,
                             no air
                             no air
your dolphin laugh echoing
like a lost recording, 
just so much oceanic static
no proof

     I once heard what I heard 
     and saw what I saw.

              ("You wouldn't believe!") 

I once loved a love
both rare and roaring.

An Extraordinary Triumph of Ordinary Proportion

A spontaneous poem for #worldpoetryday

my child
makes little sense
few words fewer
talents no test to
tell us
what went wrong what
he gets right
still
everything
about him is delicate
delicious
fine
eyelashes fan
starfish hands
old words
made new with new
sounds
not of this world
may never
make his mark
so what
my world is wider
deeper
and sometimes
darker
no reason
just repeat
he may not know

he is brave

but taught
me not to be
afraid
of the dark

Lost

I

When I Was Young

I thought north was always before me.
Any direction I turned, there
it would be. This misconception is the
likely birthplace
of my yearning. I grew up
with fields circling me, house and barn strewn
haphazard upon acres. The only center
that held
was my own.

I read maps like I read books.
The sun set left
and rose right, but when
cresting the sky, bright
as a hole to heaven, I had no choice
but to stand
still, hands domed, guarding
my eyes from expanse,
not eclipse.

I grew up disoriented
by the carpet of bright dandelions that
lit our lawn, littered pinholes spilling lava.
The sun-scalded circles
of pale, parched grasses,
alien architecture.
The snow like sand dunes in
white winter waves.

I was led
nowhere by the north
star, that sure promise of orientation,
as it beckoned, blinking. Unable
to find my way home,
lost so long with longing,
I found I had
eaten all the breadcrumbs.

II

Not Much Older Still

That morning,
words were the only map we had. All
our points pin-plotted, dots
linked by strung string. I thought I knew
where I was headed but landmarks scuttled,
and I’ve never been
any good at anagrams.

When you turned me
inside out, your hands drawing me open,
I couldn’t read
my veins to find where I left
my heart. Cold,
hand-wrapped cups like offerings, or pleas, between
us, we are two
beggars bereft of coffee or coins.

If you follow me,
we could find ourselves
in San Antonio since Canada is nearer
Alaska than Maine is to Milwaukee.
And only by arriving will we know when
to leave. Just don’t
let me loose
on the vertiginous grid of New York City, or I may
circle you forever.

Together we tripped
along this
rocky topography, this landmine-strewn
field of uncertainty rimmed only by horizon. The vista
cants, my compass is unreliable, and again
north is before me
because north is never
what I’ve had to leave
behind.

Ecdysis (Or, Middle Life)

I look at myself,
lax flesh falling, and fail
to recognize my hands, my legs,
the breasts that won a contest
once. Still,
electricity runs
beneath my skin, and if
I touch you
you may turn
to ash like those putrid black
snakes that sizzled on the sidewalk
after a quick flick
of my brother’s Bic.

I Will Break Your Heart

I will break your heart, dear one, not
because you love me and I cannot

love you in kind, but I will break
your heart as you forget the gravel

of my laughter. Your jokes now strike
a minor chord, and your pretty is just red

lipstick on a steamy mirror, never
as erotic to me as when you dragged

your fingertip along a flower petal.
It is true the echo of my shoulders

shrugging under cotton, rosined bow
notes, will stoke, stroke, your pain

to a fever’s pitch and you will bear
the edge of a blade, my tongue, in the

sweet hollow beneath your jaw. I will
break your heart, dear one, when you

step out onto the rocks, slick with algae,
and cannot cross the river before I go.

I Have Since Gone Dry

There once was a little bird on my tongue, tip-perched,
talons flexed and body quivering, open beak cocked back,
ready to receive the worm, but I’ve since swallowed whole
her song, and twice tweezed feathers from my tearducts,
white as salt, dry as salt. I lay them on my tongue each
time to taste the tang of words once on the wing.