Hitching a ride, trusting a partner, marrying the same person three times
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“Hi, it’s just me.” This might be the only phrase I know for sure / was on the years of messages the phone company erased / when they — inexplicably — changed my number. / The messages are gone, but the grief is still there, / ripe, a fullness I’m glad I possess. We think we want grief / to pass, but what would I do if it were gone, / like the messages, irretrievable?
Staying at home with my books and out-of-tune piano / and a cat who loves me only when she’s out of food is nothing new. / I’m OK. Thank you for asking. I have become quite used to sending / thoughts and prayers to those who keep the world going round / while I spin old punk records — Dead Kennedys, Buzzcocks, Crass — / lamenting days long past.
This time my mother got it all right. / The year, the month, and the day. / The president’s name. Where she’s staying. / So she thinks she’s going home. / When I stop by the rehab center, she tells me / to make sure the heat’s turned up, / the cable switched on again, fresh / milk in the fridge.
“How did you make this?” she always asks. “A recipe,” I tell her. No magic trick. No skill. Just buying ingredients, following directions, not varying from what I’m supposed to do.
I held an iPad for Miguel as he lay in his hospital bed / so he could see his family sheltered at home. / He was suffocating, this man who at the worst of times / would only tell his loved ones, Me siento bien. / All around us the equipment of life / and death was buzzing, humming, beeping, / a stubborn choir of mockingbirds.
From the moment Ashlee asked me to be a bridesmaid, / I understood what my wedding gift needed / to be. It wasn’t the set of tumblers / I shipped her from 14th Street, daffodils and dandelions / climbing the sides. It wasn’t helping her angel of a mother / practice her speech, making pencil marks for pauses / and every deep breath. No, my gift / to Ashlee started when she told me Cate from college / would be a bridesmaid, too.
Today in heaven / my father turned 105. / Finally working steady daylight, / he’s got it knocked: / eight to four, / double time and a half, / no asbestos, / no shoveling slag / on the open hearth, / no boss, / thirteen weeks vacation annually, / kingdom come. / The union up here takes zero shit.
It’s dark and I don’t feel / at all well and my mother / will soon arrive to take me / home and the overripe aroma / of the hedges with the tiny / white flowers is making me / want to throw up but I’m / not alone because a fellow / counselor-in-training, / my first friend who is a boy, / has left the camp sleepover / to wait with me
The first was that I was no longer in pain; I could sleep. / The second was that I was finally able to love: all my life I had been more or less shut. / The third was that I lived near a pond. Watching the mallards dunk made me laugh. I was happy looking at dragonflies and even their empty exoskeletons, their shells shaking a little in the wind.
Walking by the lake, I lose an earring / and don’t even notice it at first, / overwhelmed as I am / by the strangeness of everything.