Belén Speaks to the Writer

Well. Bueno.
Put me in your story
for I belong in it,

am already there,
have always been.
Say how I learned

many things for my family,
English, yes, but also
how things work here.

Say that I learned from girls,
especially the almost-nice one,
almost rhyming name girl.

Say a thing about me
that’s almost


Ellen Celebrates Thanksgiving

My gratitude fits on the head of a pin sometimes—
like angels—but today I am thankful for this drive,
alone, after dinner. Across the bridge to the reservoir,
the factory where they used to make veggie burgers
(the scent of soy belching out of the smokestacks;
we said we could smell it on the kids who lived nearby),
the place where the apartment buildings begin, houses
tailing off, smaller and smaller. Belén lived there,  
and so did the one bad boy I ever dated. No need for
his name, or not just now. But sometimes, my car
finds its way over that bridge, back to that complex
of apartments, filled with other families by now,
of course, nothing remaining of Belén or Nameless.
I’ll have to find a store on the way home, any one
that’s open, to buy the Cool Whip I said I needed
for the pies. A house full of company, and I drive off
looking for ghosts of friendship and love—ashamed,
maybe, but so grateful, I could almost burst into tears.


Pat, on the Subject of Barbara

I don’t know what she was thinking,
after all this time, breathing at me
about Modigliani, my red hair

as if—what—I would leave Ralph,
break his heart, for what amounts to
girlish heavy petting, at most,

or the Victorian model of friendship?
Read any old novel, and you’ll find
girls in bed together, panting and

talking about bosoms—and then
they marry men. So, it’s not worth
thinking about. I wish she hadn’t.

Still, though, when I saw her email,
all the old lights lit up again, a whole
harbor, a fleet of ships in her name.



Ruth Seeks Ralph’s Attention

Plug in your better eyes
and look at this.
This is how I used to bake,
back when I felt better.

These days, as you know,
I mostly say, Why bother?

Years of storebought pies
before I ever let on, and no one
said a word—so, the pies I made
must not have been that extraordinary

after all.

But in case it matters,
I want you to watch as I flour
everything—the board, the stockinette
over the rolling pin, the air I still breathe.


Barbara Writes to Pat

I saw a poster in a shop once,
years after we

parted ways,

that reminded me of you—

a young woman with short, dark hair,
large, dark eyes,

one strap of her camisole
sliding down her shoulder

the way yours used to.


She looked nothing like you.
I remember your eyes are green, Pat,
and from the pictures I saw on Facebook,

your hair is still that same soft

There was something about the one strap,
I guess, or the directness of her gaze,

so I put you in the painting
even though you weren’t there.

Funny how the mind works, isn’t it,
when you’re in love?


Pat Replies to Barbara

Of course I still think of you, Barbara.
You and I were such close friends, tho I don’t
think I remember it quite the same way you do.
I know that now the whole world is focused on
looking for these things, accepting or celebrating,
and maybe you fell into that same trap. But
that doesn’t mean I don’t think of you fondly,
all those sleepovers when we listened to records
and talked about boys—did you forget that part?
I’m sorry you never got married, but I hope
someday you still can, and that you’ll be
as happy as Ralph and I have been. That’s
what I wish most, Barbara, when
I think of you.


Henry Notices Ellen

On Thursday,
I fell in serious high regard
with a younger lady at church.
I think she’s about 55,

which I remember—young enough
to tell yourself you’re still in bloom,
not withering as I am now. Withered.

I had seen her before, I’m sure,
but something about the stained-glass
light across her face as she laid quilts
over the pews for the annual show,

something about the patches of light
and patches of fabric, a lightness
in her hands. I thought of possible