We Go

I know nothing of the man staring me down across the street. He in his bubble, I in mine. Engines turn and turn and turn, his eyebrows are raised, shoulders crunched forward. The red light burns above his head, above mine. Dust falls. And finally, the stale red dies and jumps to green.
We don’t need our feet to ask where the pedal is, our bodies braced for forwards, go. We go, down, down the pavement. There is always some light catching in the grasses, catching in the leaves somehow closer than the clouds. But the windows are up, and no air moves inside.
I think the movement is excruciating. I mean, we lean and we lean so far into the next step, we might as well have our stomach on the wheel and our face in the engine, convincing ourselves it smells nice.
Some days it happens. It’s a wonder we aren’t growing taller to accommodate our constant reaching. I think we are getting shorter. Maybe it’s all compressing in the backbone, in the seven vertebrate that balance our heads. My hand doesn’t bother to reach the nape of my neck, it believes in the studs above my shoulders, unhesitant to leave the little letters it tickles.
The living room is empty of people. A green couch, gaping, faces me with a painting on the wall to back it up. There is some purpose, it’s interior design, I relay this information to the ruminating part of me. It’s like the man with his thoughts, oblivious to the carpeting it used to be so proud of.
All of the lamps are shut for a moment, the light blots and billows and raises with the wind, lowers with the window panes, lowers like the eyelashes on my cheeks. Windowpanes. I wish I could place some little flowers there, wait for them to grow, carefully, attentively, give them water, and let them rest in furious reproduction. It’s just sealed wood right now.
Straightening my spine, I let the world come in. It is pinched at my front shoulders, shielded by the backpack scars and bra straps.

I wonder where all the good maps went. Suddenly, they went missing from houses, from homes with wooden walls, from glove compartments littered with wrappers and cigarette boxes holding onto the last cigarette like the will of an aging parent. There’s not much to give except advice- Be careful. All the other words are lost in childhood.
What do I mean? No, it’s not me, you read the newspaper everyday. It tells you some slates about the news. You hear that? We’re making history. We’re living through it. We’re making it all history. And the words growl on and on and on in the spidery corners near the floor. I ask them to please shut up for a moment, or at least take out the trash- won’t that be useful? But they like the sound of their murmuring through closed doors too much. Says it makes them feel like a god. Who can argue with that? Not the glass tupperware, for sure.
Maybe we don’t like to leave the scene unfinished, or we’ll rush from one end of the campus to the kitchen, ready to think about bedtime over pasta and Grey’s. I’ve never seen it. But maybe I tell a lie. I can’t write without telling the truth. I mean, if I wanted to say that home has maroon shutters, I couldn’t make the main character mine. Good, I guess, but I mean no, I can’t relate. Home has blue shutters. Home has my cat. Home has a backyard with the same trees making a peace sign in the branches you can only see from my height on the porch, or the trampoline, and the jack in the pulpit berries that will kill you if you eat them. Home has lawnmowers.

It’s like ribs, the way tree trunks’ legs stick up sometimes. An almost exposed root. There’s flesh on it, not the same, but even after all the words, there it is. There’s flesh on it.

And cells, too, are made in amnesia.

from the pith

Leaves forfeit after all, dismounting and falling away almost like snow,
their branches and buds are bare.

Red and yellow are the only pure colors left to die.
Blue shrivels up with the sun’s casting-off–

I have pushed lucid hints out
to sea, it is a scape,
a bull, a let-it-go-this-too-shall-pass,

I converse drought resistant Others
with you,
behind closed eyes of silence
and watch mothers, brothers, sisters, fathers and their pithy chlorophyll descend
finally to where we are.

Dear stranger, I have to thank you
for not kicking me or turning a green eye, cold.
I have to thank you, for dancing when I wish to pull the land around me, with all of its twiggy crusts.
And, dear stranger, I am sure now
there is no such thing as being lost, but
we must not let ourselves hollow away.

off-white

“We don’t belong there”
My dad admits
“Walking along as if
I owned the place”
But Dad!

When did we stop fitting?
I want to live
both, I think from a rock,
the pond coppery below.
He was scared by a rattlesnake.

“the thing was huge, it stood
and hissed like this!”
His tan hand curled.
I turn on the rock, into leaves.
A deer jolts away.

I just, I just, I am not-
I try to fit both.
black birds warn me, and stop.
Only mosquitoes aren’t picky,
sometimes

but it really takes a housefly
or a rock dove or a dog
on a leash; we’re not alone.
Chipmunks in the garden,
obese squirrels on the feeder.

I close the door to the off-white house.
My dad is fixing something.
it’s all decay and dust
at some point,
I think.

the American standard

the American standard functions like
the left hand is on the wheel
and the right hand is on the stick,
the left foot is on the clutch
and the right is on the gas
but
there are no more hands
no more stray elbows
to hang out of the left window
of a handy pickup.
at least it is maneuvered
skillfully and independently
of an automatic transmission.

Do Not Fear the Pencil

I say it again;
do not fear the pencil.

The earth is around me,
I am in a bowl.
I wanted to write everything.

There is so much,
but start small.
When I walk closer to the door,
I hear running water
crush

Or today, when I cleared my mind,
raindrops and stray globules fell
plodding and patting leathery leaves
behind me,
I almost climbed a dead tree
to sit in the seat is offered

but it was slippery from rain
and the wood was weak,
so I pushed my legs back into the wind.

Write only honestly,
do not lie about your thoughts.
It shows.

So, you may wonder what you are doing
a few times every month
as your mind settles and clears,

But keep pushing the lead
away from your heart
Although it moves more slowly
than the return to the next line,
this is what you have decided to do.

You may not wear a mask,
you may not write for fame,
nor for beauty, nor fluidity.
It is you writing you,
the pencil suspended in your hand.

Or, write the lies
you live as well,
it’s all elegant truth.

still

Rainfall, trees and sky: they are precious, but they are not mine.
What happened to kickball, lace trimmed socks and the taste of earwax?
My neighbors must have taken them when I stood still, with my head tilted back to watch the heat lightning.
I held the kickball in both hands and my eyes to the clouds.
Maybe I left them there, when Mom’s lavender still bloomed by the side of the house, where the cement foundation shown gray.
This is where the chipmunks lived, the ones the cat watches all day. She waits for me to drive back and ask her name. Her window watches my world.
They are all precious, but they are not mine.
I don’t remember the colors of our shirts or our kickball, and maybe it wasn’t even lavender that bloomed against august nights.
I have no flowers. I have no house.
I am warm and you are glass, somewhere in the past.

I remember just who I was

Watching the road bounce up and down before me with the glazed morning sky unfolding, I let everything be what it wants. From the side I see everybody in their back to school rush. I remember just how that felt.
I was the smell of the inside of a new lunchbox, nicely hung uniforms and waiting at the bus stop, I was timid, blue, frightened of the new teacher, scared into silence, maybe I’d disappear. I was that top button always buttoned, hot recess sun and plastic chairs, spelling books and flashcards. I was jumpers, skorts, shorts and stressed parents, new beginnings and the start of a long year. I was a migrant, a pair of eyes without a mouth, a body for granted, thinking about my cat at home, I was applesauce and turkey rolls, macaroni and cheese, new black shoes, button downs, and wishing for the window seats. I was the face in the window of the school bus, ordinary time, the rut of a routine, smiling face, empty heart and dirty fingernails. I was a little backpack with just one book, a note, a name, and a number, I was had to pee, a coin in a wishing well, and wondering about my sister.