A Bar of Soap, Streaked Blue and White

When I was a child, I once worried
a hole through the center of
a bar of Coast deodorant soap —
the family bar that we all shared
in the blue upstairs bathroom of
our house in Thief River Falls (in
family lore, “the Thief River house”).
I don’t know what I was thinking,
how it is I believed that no one
would see, or would not immediately
know that this was not an accident,
just something that happened in
an old house, a blue bathroom, a
blue tub — to a bar of soap,
streaked blue and white, with
that smell that drove me on,
with my fingernail, because
I couldn’t eat it and had to
consume it in some other way.

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Certain Handfuls of Snow

I’m happy now that I know
where things really stand
with crows flying into windows
or a certain scud of snow
that hits the fence as if
flung there by the handful
like rice at a wedding before
everyone believed that rice
makes birds explode. Which
it doesn’t. I have to tell you
that it doesn’t. I can’t ever
know a thing that you don’t
know — I can’t ever know that
you’re wrong — and just keep it
to myself. Certain handfuls
of snow, I must fling against
certain fences. Certain crows
can’t just live in my brain,
happy to rest with head under
undamaged, unbroken wing.

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Keep This Under Your Hat

I don’t think weasels are real;
otherwise, how come I’ve never seen one?
Do they all work in casinos?
I’ve never been to one of those, either.
If they do, I bet they stack the deck
against humans, so the house — the
weasel house — always wins.
It always does. It always does.

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My Daughter Dances to Alicia Keys’s ‘Superwoman’

Every Tuesday in the makeshift dance studio
on an upper floor of a local church, whether
she wants to or not, and mostly (I suspect,
I know) she does not. Every Tuesday, she
summons enough coordination to follow
along — more or less — as I hear,
through the door, Alicia Keys’s voice
reaching some level of transcendence,
a fever pitch of effort or emotion.
I’ve never heard the song, fully.
I catch a word or two here and there,
just as I catch a glimpse or two
here and there of my daughter as she
approximates, roughly, the steps of
the choreographed dance, the movements
of the other dancers. I hope that
someday, she will remember this as
an important algebra that she needed
to work out between her quick brain
and a body that is often recalcitrant.
Whatever the song is about, I hope she
will take from it something she needs,
even if she can’t fully understand it
now — the lyrics, and why it is that
I keep bringing her here to Jazz I/II.

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The Satin That Covers the Edge of the Blanket

Turn the hem around
your hand and
smell the smell of
sick-day comfort;
you are on the couch
once more, in gray
half-light where
somehow, your mother
is still alive,
has brought you
the threadbare yellow
blanket with orange
roses. Her name
has roses. Her hand
is soft as roses.
Her hand is the
satin that covers
the edge of the
blanket. It’s come
loose at one corner,
the stitching — if
you could crawl in,
between satin and
blanket, you’d be
in your mother’s
hand. You’d be
all right, then.

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