The hay gathered itself into neat rectangles.
The road longed for a spine and so came the passing lane.
I sat in my office, alone, at last, without exclamation.
There was the book I kept meaning to read.
There was the plant I kept meaning to water.
And so I learned my touch could not be heard.
Nothing called to me except for myself.
I peered into the hallway, for where else do the inconsolable roam?
I comforted the window, its view of the other window.
The glass bore prints of the quiet janitor.
Way up high I could see where the moths get out.
Thank you to Tony, who sent this to me an entire year ago.
Oh it’s Christmas time in Omaha Nebraska!
“Almost alive” red lips say through the panes.
His blue eye, his brown eye, his chipped ear.
Wearing a gray wig, missing two fingers,
My father is easily the handsomest mannequin
In the display window at Brandeis and Sons.
At me? His son: JohnJ ? Unassembled I lie
In a crate near the electric train.
See the workers dressed like priests screw on
My head. Lock on my arms. Twist on my legs.
1 am seated in an easy chair. I am wearing
My new schoolboy costume. I hold a new Latin
Book in my hand. A Chicago Bears satchel over
One arm. Yellow pencils in my pocket.
I paste a scowl all over my face.
The “Dumpy Doll” envies my frown.
Father smiles at me. He does not understand
Why the electric train and track he bought for me
Are only a mountain of dark plaster, a flurry
Of dry snow, the thin noise of wheels.
Nor does he understand why the ice skates I wanted
So badly are razor blades across the cold back
Of the duck pond. Nor do I. Fixed
In plaster, I stare. I scowl.
Oh see my hands. Oh see my feet.
Thirteen more days till Christmas.
I stare ahead. I do not blink.
After the new year, they will take us apart.
When the Vacation is Over for Good
It will be strange
Knowing at last it couldn’t go on forever,
The certain voice telling us over and over
That nothing would change,
And remembering too,
Because by then it will all be done with, the way
Things were, and how we had wasted time as though
There was nothing to do,
When, in a flash
The weather turned, and the lofty air became
Unbearably heavy, the wind strikingly dumb
And our cities like ash,
And knowing also,
What we never suspected, that it was something like summer
At its most august except that the nights were warmer
And the clouds seemed to glow,
And even then,
Because we will not have changed much, wondering what
Will become of things, and who will be left to do it
All over again,
And somehow trying,
But still unable, to know just what it was
That went so completely wrong, or why it is
We are dying.
On this night, my body
unwound like a spool.
I was beneath a boy
who loved thread for all the things
he could make of it.
Tonight, I am smooth and pliable
like good silk before a snag.
I am a metaphor for anything
beautiful and ruinable when it
hooks on to sharp things.
He lays his full weight
on my torso and I am a leaf
pressed still onto the mattress,
pressed small and flat by something living
for the purpose of study.
I am not sad about this.
It’s here that I can feel all my edges,
visualize my outline best
against a hungry white backdrop.
I am not sad about this.
I am dry despite the spit
and I am dry despite the fire hydrant
opening along the sidewalk of my spine,
giving my dancing vertebrae reprieve
in such repressive heat.
Beneath the grunting face
of the simplest kind of sex,
when two people want things
that are not each other, so settle
for a drive-thru buffet of each other’s lips –
It’s okay. I am dry and sort of shiny
but dull on the other side
like good silk.
I don’t really remember the snagging
but at some point he stops
and looks down at our axis
to find blood.
I gave him a fake name
when we met, so I feel like
maybe the red is someone else’s
admission of guilt, a red slap
on my ass that melted into shame,
a kiss so hard and hungry
it poured its color onto the sheets
or maybe the fire hydrant’s water
ran out of blue and started
spraying out its own red self
from my opening that pretended
itself an altar, though it is not.
There’s blood, he said
and I am suddenly shooting with pain.
I have been so careful with my dry,
I forgot that water is needed here
so my body offers blood.
He finishes, and there are loose runs
all over my pillowcase,
a trail of pulled silk and ruin.
Sudden Smells, Sudden Songs
Where does it all come from,
The sap of strangeness inside us,
The sudden flow of feeling — I love that song!—
That lighter blood, that second breath,
That something where in the darkness
A knob is turned.
Who are we then? In that moment
We are not who we were a second ago:
A quick smell of rosemary changes us, that fast.
We stand up, familiar to ourselves,
Then sit down strangers. We are
Two people. Maybe more.
–Naomi Shihab Nye
My Palestinian father named his donkey after you.
Yahu—everyone thought it was for the Internet,
but he knew. Now I think he insulted the donkey.
The donkey was friends with a horse, in a field.
They didn’t have much, but they shared it.
Pink flowers in spring—neither of them
tried to rule the field.
Your army just bombed a U.N. center for refugees.
Gaza, imprisoned in poverty for decades—
take that! More blood for supper.
Years since my father died,
his donkey still stands quietly
gazing from enormous eyes,
hanging his humble head.
Without you, I prefer the nights:
the darkness inside me
like the darkness around. All day
I am alone with my emptiness:
a white space, with nothing to feed it
but light and shadow.
My claw feet can’t follow you.
I have no voice to call you.
I only know you are near by scents-
orange oil, or lavender – and by a heat
that creeps up my cold skin
and tells me I will feel again
the weight of your body. You have no idea
how wonderful it is to hold you,
to have you lie so still, so happy.
When you move, I hear a whoosh
and you touch me in so many places
I’m trembling and tingling.
It’s spoiled by fear of your going.
Sometimes, I pretend I’m a cradle
for you to sleep in – but you always wake;
or a womb – but you still escape,
leaping out and leaving me.
So next time you come, I’ll be a coffin
filled with chilling water
in which you will stay for ever.
or the day after, I’ll press my
mouth to your scar & run
my tongue along it
so I can taste how you were once
opened, so I can know where
you never closed. Each
scar’s a door, we know
that—I want to whisper into
yours, I want my hands
to hover over it, I want you
to whisper please
I want you (please please please)
to beg for it.