Sometimes I’ve Heard the Door Shut

It is inevitable that one month comes to an end
so another can start, whether you’re ready for this to happen
or not.

An artificial division–28 days, 29, 30, or 31, so what?–
comes to feel natural, like the ribs that mark off
a single stalk of celery, or

those blasted sunflower seeds or cells in the honeycomb
(they’re trending now, Fibonacci numbers and, in general,
heavy breathing over the beauty of math).

How many plums are in your bag?
How many years
does each of us have?

One month slides into another, melting, indistinguishable,
at least for the last few days of one and first few days
the next.

But I can’t deny that sometimes I’ve heard the door shut,
the sun meeting the earth as softly, as undeniably as
eyelid touches cheek.

For the PAD Chapbook Challenge, Day 30. Prompt: an inevitable poem.


Local News

The news about the little tree outside my window
is that its leaves don’t so much change as shrivel
and die in place. This is not picturesque, but
it seems fitting, and cardinal pairs seem to like
little shrivel trees up against power lines
as well as any other trees. Maybe more than some.

I don’t have a favorite tree, but this one comes close.

The news about this plastic bowl of snack mix
is that I really shouldn’t be eating it. This is
the season of constant eating. In theory, I bought it
to support my daughter’s Girl Scout troop, but really,
it was so she could earn a patch shaped like an otter,
with a message about the benefits of physical activity.

I agree with this message. In theory.

The news about this tablecloth is that it’s beginning
to crack and will probably need to be replaced. It is
oilcloth, from Mexico, I think — though we bought it
at the fancy kitchen store on 53rd. This was the day
that I almost mandoline-sliced my fingertip into the
salad; we patched my finger and served the salad.

We had company. What could we do?

The news about this Betty Crocker cookbook is that
I’m a little disappointed in its selection of pies. I’m
on a mission to become a better pie baker over the course
of the next year. The problem is, I’m not sure what I want
in a pie, exactly, or why I want pie to become easy.
My mother made pie like it was almost nothing.

My mother, deftly paring apples and smoking.

For the PAD Chapbook Challenge, Day 28. Prompt: “_____ News.”


Evening, November

I don’t love conflict
of any kind, or

crying while I do the dishes
Look how the despair is softening my hands!

or how my inner gray is twinned
by the gray outside

until the sun goes down, mercifully —
it’s like the old dirty joke says:

They all look the same
in the dark.

For the PAD Chapbook Challenge, Day 25. Prompt: A love poem or an anti-love poem.


I’ll Be Honest with You

I don’t think those foxes are ever coming back
with that baby.

They had that look about them, you know?
Like a couple of foxes that have always wanted

a baby and couldn’t have one of their own

for whatever reason. I’m not an expert
on fox fertility and other mysteries in the night.

We all couple and uncouple in various ways,
and wish for things.

I imagine it’s the same for foxes.
They are, after all, mammals.

Even now, that baby could be tucked up safe,
drinking fox milk,

wondering what it’s all about,
or how this life began.

For the PAD Chapbook Challenge, Day 24. Prompt: “I’ll Be _______”


Between Things

Alone is the moment when
you lie diagonally across
your queen-sized bed,
the first big purchase
in your adult life.

You sleep behind a shoji screen
in a makeshift bedroom carved from
a living room in a graystone apartment
that you share with two housemates.

Your internship ended, and you
didn’t go home. Now, you’re temping,
and then comes your very shitty
first real job.

You have bought yourself
a box turtle, a lizard,
and two tree frogs so

you’ll have someone to take care of.
Everything else dies, but the turtle
is a survivor. A year from now, your
boyfriend will move here, you’ll both
move to the other side of town.

Two years from now, you’ll get married.
He’ll love your turtle, too, make ramps
for him all around the room while
you’re at work, at your second,
and much less shitty job.

But for now, you are alone.
You are with people (and a turtle),
but you are alone. You are 24 years old,
and really, you slept better on
your friend’s couch, when you were

still between things, trying to make a plan.

For the PAD Challenge, Day 23. Prompt: an alone poem.


Release the Hounds

from their eternal

Who wants to
slink around junkyards
and into the woods

if there are other ways
to be a good boy or good girl?

Who loves the scent of blood,
shoe leather, fingernails?

Release the hounds,
and they will laze on couches,
chase rabbits — not men,
not dead women and children —
while they sleep. Forever?
For dog years?

At least until
a scent drifts in,
like ringing a doorbell,
or a call on the red phone:
Hello, hound.

You are a hound forever;
you can never be released.

For the PAD Chapbook Challenge, Day 22. Prompt: a release poem.


East Is an Easy Direction

Unless you go too far
in your catamaran
and fall off

the face of the earth,
drifting like a balloon,
a star, a star-shaped balloon.
You never meant to disprove

a theory that makes the world
go round. You never meant to
take us back to the Dark Ages,
when we feared dragons and

edges, all the perils
that await us when we
push off from shore.

For the PAD Chapbook Challenge, Day 21. Prompt: Write about a direction on the compass.


Way Back Then

But don’t follow me, darling;
I’m not going where you need to go.
This bus doesn’t stop on freeway
overpasses. This bus barrels through
the night until it reaches its
final destination, comes to a stop,
is explored by voracious crabs
and enterprising sea birds. Don’t
follow me unless you want to come
to ruin on some stinking shore,
the least picturesque beach
in America, as declared by
Readers Digest, in some foxed
issue I found in the garbage
behind a doctor’s office,
back when I was a scavenger.
Back and back and way back then.

And with that, I’m all caught up. This was for the PAD Chapbook Challenge, Day 14. Prompt: a “follow” poem.


Holy Hegemony, Batman

That’s what I might have said
in 1989 (which, as we all know,
is the year that, somewhere else,
Taylor Swift was busy being born),
even though I didn’t know what
hegemony meant and, OK, since
we’re telling truths here, I’d
need to Google it today if I
wanted to front like I knew it
all along, its full meaning,
anything other than a vague
notion of its sense. But I
trafficked in vague notions
then, in 1989, of myself and
of the world, of what it was
that I wanted, the possible
futures I saw in the window
over the couch as I looked
at my reflection and sang
to myself so I could know if
I was any good at singing.

Catching up. For the PAD Chapbook Challenge, Day 15. Prompt: “Holy _______”


I Am No Different

But someone like me always says
there’s no explanation for any of it,
nothing owed to us and nothing to be
expected, that life is a random bag
of facts and occurrences, many of them
ugly and completely unjust, because
there is no justice, no traffic cop.
Sometimes I really hate myself.
Sometimes I sound so smug, so much
like others of my type, the clichés
tumbling out of my mouth before I can
call them back. The truth is, we all
think in stereotypes and patterns.
I am no different. Neither are you.

Catching up. Last one for tonight. PAD Challenge, Day 16. Prompt: an explanation.