You Can Tell a Fable About Yourself

You look in the mirror one day, and there you are,
a sad joke in your curlers and cold cream, and
it doesn’t matter if you’re wearing your uniform
or your dress and hat for going to town or,
like now, a baby-blue nightgown and robe.
It doesn’t matter anymore what you wear,
even though you have a nominal boyfriend
who’s always working or going bowling,
his hands always cold from meat. Dead flesh
is all you are, or may as well be, except
you can still keep a whole house running
with very little help other than, on occasion,
the pretty woman of the house, there
to stir the pots. You can tell a fable
about yourself, sing a song, make a face,
give the advice that solves the problem,
now or 23 minutes from now, not next week.

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Or a Shadow in a Culvert Below Us

But that river never had a fish in it,
that I could tell. It just went on
meandering, riverlike and fishless,
until it became a rivulet in a parking lot
or a shadow in a culvert below us
echoing, unheard, beneath our wheels.

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When I Thought I Threw Away Some Pictures of My Mother

I was blind to the cars
as I crossed several streets,
and why is it that when I’m
crying in public, suddenly I see
everyone I know? How are you?
Good. Thanks! when I am nearly
bent in half by the shock of grief
again, after all this time, when
I have made a mistake that,
as it turns out, was correctable,
was corrected, so that the world
and the day looked different then,
this autumn sun no longer so
merciless, and maybe
my last round of monarchs
will see Mexico after all.

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You Would Call Me Lady O

If I ran, I would run and rattle your wind chimes,
distress all your pretty things, unwind all the baby birds
from their nests. I would be a hurricane, not clean
like in imagination, but roiled, a wave of yellow-brown
carrying chickens and stop signs, doll strollers and real ones,
indiscriminate. I would be destruction. You would call me Lady O.
You would never call a hurricane another name.

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The Ravages Large and Small

You’re old, dear,
when your love can no longer save you
from the ravages
large and small,
when the mushrooms in the backyard
are no longer equal to
the moss on the front walk,
when a certain dimness invades
every window
of your mind, and you only want
the old French songs,
low and slow
as beef stew with carrots or
the last wash of sun
in the bottom of your cup
as you put it away singing —
you, the cup,
or both.

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Anything But Gray

I have to do something about the pervasive sadness
of light or its absence, steal the last butterscotch disc
of sun, squirrel it away in my right cheek, or find
productive, cheerful things to do in the gloom.
Maybe this is a good time to take up knitting,
which seems unavoidable. Or doing the dishes —
really launching into doing the dishes — would be
a useful thing. It’s satisfying, the pruning of my fingers,
the lingering green Palmolive, a scent memory of
having worked, having done something other than
sitting here checking the window for anything but gray.

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And I Said

And finally I had had enough
and I said
I won’t swim under your rainbow
anymore
with a shovel for rocks
or anything under my arm.
I won’t rear up
like a red-veined horse
or a pear
about to burst open,
become wasps.

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