I Know All the Words

This is what I want —
an invocation or a memory
untainted by ’60s Methodist
abstract stained glass or
having been kissed

in the church kitchen,
an old man’s  sweaty cheek
smearing my glasses.

I want tiny cups of grape juice,
dusty sighs and offertory envelopes,
paper bulletins and golf pencils
to draw on them. Do I want

’80s Jesus to come back,
those days to come back, only
this time I would yell
for my mother, in the next room,
decorating long tables
for Easter dinner? I didn’t yell —

I went out to the playground,
sat on the jungle gym, thought
how everything had changed.

And it had.

The skyscraper church
in downtown Chicago —
far from Dayton, Ohio —
rings out the doxology,

Wesley hymns, and I’m sorry
to be separated from my music,
startled when I know all the words.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Feet on the Wall of the Tub

Splendid flippers,
if only they were webbed.
I used to say they were like
pounded veal cutlets,
flat as frying pans after
the weight of two children
and all of it, all of it.
Impossibly wide.

I think of my mother’s feet,
tiny double-A’s, N for narrow,
which mine once were, too.
What a division between us,

small but important, when
mine exceeded their limits,
became unlike hers.

Now, they are a solid medium.
B.

If you traced around them
and drew a pair of shoes to fit,
they’d never look like shoes —
except maybe the kind that
look like rubber feet.

It’s as if they’re the base
of a statue. It’s as if I’m
the mother Sea Monkey
in the ads, with flippers
and a crown of flesh —

as if, in having these children,
I evolved backwards, became
some briny new queen.

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Statsny and the Moon

Statsny looked out at the moon
but couldn’t see it.
He was not a hard-boiled guy;
his wrists were like pink baby arms
with feathers.
The moon looked in at Statsny
but didn’t see him.
It was not the kind of moon
that goes around caressing faces
through windowpanes,
bringing dreams.

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You’re Just a Little Boat

Let the melatonin ponies
nuzzle your sacrum, lip you
over into a field of poppies
or under the rope to the
deep end before you can
realize, fight yourself awake.
You’re just a little boat,
a pleasant little tugboat, say,
not a garbage scow circled
by ravaging seagulls. Ponies.
Remember the ponies, how
their eyes command you
toward sugar cube dreams.

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That New Year’s Marathon

One thing I appreciate about Twilight Zone is
that it is unprejudiced against urban life.
That is, hell may occur in sunny suburban lanes
or in smoke-clogged tenements of sirens, noise,
but heaven may also be in a crowded brownstone
of strangers become friends, and there’s
nothing wrong with taking the bus to work,
shelling out your nickels and dimes, even if
you’re a woman. Think of Carol Burnett
in that one episode, doling out cookies
and blandishments, the countless everyday
greetings of a certain kind of city life,
until her guardian angel comes and
fouls things up, places her in a mansion,
a tiara on her head, battered by rounds of
applause, empty praise from puffed-up
know-nothings at the kind of party where
a single high-heeled shoe is found
the next morning. The answer, of course,
was to put her back where she was,
leaping for joy up the steps of her home,
almost crashing into the mailman.
So many separate orbits intersecting,
so many ways to be happy, live a life,
no need — if you don’t dig it —
for wasp waists and pearls, wide lawns,
a cultured accent to use on the phone.

 

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Meet Quality People Out in the Snow

People who will help you
start this new year fresh,
assemble all your best ladders
in garages all over town.
No time for garden walls now,
walks in the sand or over
the hot biscuits of time.
In January is the clean slate,
the no more sugar plums, only
your arms, your breath,
the thoughts in your head,
the people you can meet.

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