We Tried

You and I went to mid-priced restaurants.
You and I had expensive conversations.
A scent of lemon grove; it was only
industrial air freshener or the bug trap
glowing blue over my shoulder or yours.
Many decorative concealments, filigree.
Many things that could not be exposed,
no matter how long we talked, over what
desserts or off-priced margaritas as big as
our heads, as big as anything else we tried.



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For J

When J was growing up, he had a mother.
When J was two and he danced in the living room,
in his diaper, to Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies”—when he
dropped down low so the diaper skimmed the floor,
and then he stopped, waiting for applause—
his mother took note. (How could she not?)
When J was three and he peeked in the window
of his sister B’s ballet class, when he said he would
like to take ballet, too, J’s mother asked around
and found that in their neighborhood, ballet was
mostly a safe and OK thing for boys. There were
several boys in B’s spring recital, so J’s mother
began to dream, and she signed J up in the fall.
Then, J’s mother and his sister B would peek at J
in the window when B was on the way to her class.
It is true that J would barrel around on his muscly
sausage legs and crash to the floor, and make faces
in the mirror, and pester all the girls. But it is also true
that J was often up on his toes, spinning, moving
differently from in his everyday life—and that many
of the girls seemed to enjoy his pestering. When people
commented here and there about whether ballet was
really an acceptable thing for boys to do—for J to do—
J’s mother firmly shut them down. What about
Baryshnikov?, said J’s mother. And, It takes a lot
of muscle to lift those ballerinas. J’s mother was glad
she had chosen J’s father so well: a large, masculine,
kindhearted man who never doubted that J should
take ballet, and who was even less open to comments
about it than J’s mother was. Before the next recital,
J and B’s mother chose pale pink roses for B and
fire-tinged roses for J. Two children dancing.
Two rose bouquets. J and B’s father held the
bouquets as their mother took pictures, and as
people in the audience said, “Awwww” at the sight
of little blond J in his black tights and ballet slippers,
white T-shirt and orange vest. One lucky girl linked arms
with J and danced with him onstage while the other girls
danced with each other. At the end, J looked straight up,
dazzled by the lights. As the other, older groups danced,
J’s mother took note of all the boys, their roles, what might
lie ahead for J. That’s as far as J’s mother can dream
this particular dream. She knows that dance can be cruel,
and that dancers, even boy ones, sometimes end up broken.
She knows this is folly, anyway, projecting a future that
might not work out, that might not even be wanted,
after all. She’ll just say this: When J is all grown up,
he’ll have a mother—J’s mother hopes—
and she’ll love him no matter what he does.





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Go ahead and write about it,
the milkweed raising its flags,
advancing into the strawberries,
the violets everywhere, placeholders
until you make a new decision, the chives
perpetually about to bloom, the first spring bees
coming to inspect everything, approving, drunk.
Crab apple snow all over the brick, the snowball bush
in blossom—fragrant sweet spicy—the plans, all the
beautiful plans. Yours, and who else’s?

Nature’s? Nature’s plan? There’s the problem:
Everyone writes about flowers, nature, the buzz of it,
this green, nervous madness; all poets write about
spring, new life—except the ones who write about
fall, winter, death: the reaping sickle of the bitter wind,
all that. It is enough that you are now writing about
writing; that in itself is indulgence. Must this also be
about spring, the beauty of the garden? Yes? Then here’s
another plan: Don’t forget to write about the cat shit

you found yesterday where you will soon plant zinnias,
iridescent green flies walking all over it, tasting it with
their odious feet; that, and the garbage that perpetually
blows in under the fence, candy wrappers and broken
bottles. Also, there’s nonstop traffic passing by, just
a few feet away: How much carbon monoxide?
How much lead? Yes, how much lead is now wedged
in the creases of your fingers because you scrabble
in the dirt barehanded, so besotted are you, so


Japanese beetles might come, a shiny army,
to eat the wild grapevine; the weeds might
take over once summer is in full swing, swelter
and drought, no more novelty to any of this, only
work and heat. Write about these, too, and never
forget them. Perhaps they can save you from
the sweetness of this unbearable world,
sweet as any cheap, delicious wine.




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