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.


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.


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.


And I Said

And finally I had had enough
and I said
I won’t swim under your rainbow
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.


The Horrible Person

The horrible person begins her travails
in our newly horrible land. She spits
on all the gumdrops and gives them
to the children she’s smuggling
under her left breast. She’s huge,
this horrible person — much larger than
any other horrible person you may have seen —
and her wings and flames add another
dimension of horrible. Her horrible warts
tell stories that bore you and terrify
dogs and the children under her breast.
Familiarity breeds more horribleness.
The horrible person slithers when she walks,
and snickers, too, and sometimes there’s
a foul belch of smoke from under her dress.
The horrible person owns this land in her
sandpaper palm. She stuffs it up her sleeve
like a used tissue, wadded and wet from her
horrible nose. She rests her horrible bunions
on all of our backs. We wish we had a boat
to shove her out to sea. We wish we had
a broom to sweep her under the rug
of the earth, let her melt somewhere
in the core of her, let her become lava
to erupt in some other new land,
someplace deeply insignificant
and far away from here.


A Sudden Decrease in Pressure

Enough of this
false testimony and half madness,
yellow leaves sliding down your face

like lemons

or lemon-shaped tears, at any rate.
Off with her head! Or yours, I should say,
and you should feel an almost immediate


a sudden decrease in pressure
as your limbs float free
like so many mylar balloons


and then sinking into the ocean
to choke sea turtles and clams
who probably deserve it.


Help You Free Your Little Bird

Baby, it’s OK if you put a bird in a paper bag
and spill out a long, clear vein of moonshine,
the kind from the sky or from the corn,
don’t matter which, and it’s OK if you
whistle for me even when you don’t want me,
you know I’ll come running for you anyway,
help you free your little bird, help you
drink up all the moonshine — the kind
from the sky and the corn.


Gristle and Wires

But that was back when we had baskets for hearts,
and our blood leaked out just as fast as we could
wet new willow twigs and try our best to mend them.
A muscle heart is not so easy, how it flops around
unseen, unable to be repaired without a clumsy
cracking of its cage, its carapace of bones.
Basket hearts were less than ideal, it’s true —
but muscle hearts? An entire life based on
gristle and wires? Who thought of this?
Sometimes we think of other hearts —
s bicycle pump, say, or a series of pistons —
but our muscle hearts have mastered us by now,
learned our coughs and all our indecisions.


Everything Stilled

This is where we dim the lights
on all of our greatest inventions.

This is the dog in a case in a museum,
never to ride the mail trains again.

These are the butterflies pinned
against Styrofoam, everything stilled

like the face of a clock in a box
in somebody’s basement or attic.


A Middle-Aged Multipara Coughs One Time Too Many, Walks into a Bar, and Says

What fresh, new, horrible betrayal is this?
Just what the hell is going on here?
How long before I’m one of those
Maxine cartoons, bitching about
arm flaps and wrinkles, the futility of
resisting any of it any longer?
Why did I think I could continue,
with my unlined face and my taut
pelvic floor, interior walls that could
crack walnuts (or shoot ping-pong balls)?
This is happening because I didn’t heed
the advice of the chipper midwife:
that Kegels while in line at the bank
could snap things back to attention.
Of course I didn’t listen — I was only 35,
and it seemed like I could still
outrun everything, and who wants
to add yet one more thing to worry about,
one more regimen to stave off an uncertain
decline? Now it’s all beginning to look
more certain — the rapid slide toward
obsolescence, the obscene and the vile
and the shamefulness of loss. It’s as if
I’m unraveling, a little at a time, but
yes — I think a drink might help,
somehow, and I’m old enough,
finally, to know what I want.