Thursday, January 31, 2008


The waiting room remains stale, all coffee pots and frayed magazines, the smell and colors not sterile enough. The waiting room doesn't change names when I'm not waiting anymore. The waiting room is for waiting, all nervous handed, for the man with the smooth voice and cookie baking wife you'd met with earlier in the fall. Doctors pass through in their blue and white, and the occupants sit on their own, carpet gazing, avoiding eyes or doorways. The television blares the network news, as if there is a world outside.

It's strange to sit here with my dad growing cold. He is still in a room down the hall with the yellow roses and the window view parking lot. His eyes are closed because a nurse shut them for him, the same nurse with sweet brown eyes who fluffed his pillow and sponged his back. My dad might come walking into the waiting room, IV dragging behind, hospital gown gaping open, lacking all dignity with knees knocking. He can't, but I wouldn't be surprised if he did.

It takes four days to happen. In four days my hair turns dark with oil. In four days I read the same interview in the magazine from April and it is personal and I know the answers behind your vague wording. It's nothing personal, it's publicity, you don't have to say it again. The freckle on your lip has been airbrushed away. The missing band on your finger didn't need to be. It takes four days of little sleep, no eating, my father and I suffering together. It takes four days and then, the morning the sun first breaks and starts to melt the snow.

Cole, when we met you told me the greatest thing about yourself, hiccuping from excess, you said the greatest thing about yourself was that you will never mess up this bridge and then you dove head first into the chorus of the song on the radio, the song for some different girl, one more natural than me. You bellowed the words down the stairwell as I left that night, a voice you only use on new girls. The words, worth repeating. I thought I could say them but you never wanted me to, did you? I look for trace amounts of that voice on the answering machine, our source of contact, but it's not there. This is Cole and Anna, leave a message. By tonight I will be erasing my own voice.

My dad is giving you his guitar, a Hummingbird, and you don't care. I'm in white, a shorter dress for the reception, a back yard bar b q at my parent's ranch. Play a song, Cole, play a song! Faces change from excitement to acceptance and the silence recedes into polite conversation. Instead you play modesty, thank my dad quietly and retreat once more. I think you're shy. He needed it more than you.

My dad's lungs are full of fluid but his eyes still so wide the day you call me from one state away.
"How is he doing?" you ask.
"Not well. I think we're going to the hospital."
"When?" you ask.
"Today. We'll see. He doesn't want to go, but if it's not better this time tomorrow, we have to."
"It's that serious?" you ask. "I didn't know."
"It's happened before and things ended up fine. It's seeing my father like this--he's like a child, I just--" I shutter, on accident, and cover my mouth. My voice comes out next foreign and warbling. "Cole, I just--"
"I'm coming back," you say.
There is silence on my side of the phone. My eyes are shut tight and I'm up against a wall.
"After tonight," you say.

My dad's eyes are closed, but he can feel me watching him through his sleep. I know this because his hand reaches up, weak as it is, and scratches the place on his cheek I am staring at. My back is turned to you, but I can feel you in the door way now, three and a half days late. You place yellow roses in my lap, for him, and I turn my head. I ask you to meet me in the waiting room in just a few minutes, dad's a light sleeper and he just fell asleep for the first time in-- you leave. My eyes shut again, this time not to black. The glare from the window makes everything white, red. My dad's lips are on my eyelids. My dad can feel my eyes moving beneath them, the warmth spilling down my cheeks. I open my eyes and my dad is still there. I open my eyes and my dad is still gone.

In the waiting room the magazine sits in front of you, cover facing down. I imagine:

Cole sits in the waiting room. In the stuffy room he feels itchy around his collar, his cuffs. This morning he put on the sweater Anna bought him but now regrets his choice. What did Cole think, that (even now) she would fawn over him, how the sweater matches his eyes? On the table before him sit magazines for homes and gardens with recipes and diets. He flips through the one magazine for men, months dated. Cole stumbles upon his own article, an interview in a Brooklyn bistro, the source of indigestion. Cole sees his picture doctored at the hand of some waiting person, a small, dark ring drawn around his finger. Cole shuts the magazine and puts it cover down on the table, feels his face burn and looks away.

I lied:
Doctors must learn to speak with non-threatening voices. We're sorry, Anna he says and I thank him, a habit. I place a phone call to the man with a smooth voice and cookie baking wife, let him know the arrangements will be needed in a few days. I return to the now crowded waiting room, sit between you and a stranger reading your interview unknowingly. I see the ring I had drawn on the page days earlier, when my dad was he is, rather than he was. Neither of us say anything. I rest my head on your shoulder.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

work in progress/ a pantoum

It was so kind of him to say we're not safe--
Coney Island sunrise four steps in sand.
The world moves every second.
A year ago I would have remembered.

Coney Island sunrise, four steps in sand.
This is a new world that we cooperate in
(a year ago I would have remembered.)
Make a promise, break it, fingers toward the water.

This is a new world that we cooperate in
so I swallow your secrets compacted in snow.
Make a promise, break it, fingers toward the water.
there's a space under breakers, facing the shore.

So I swallow your secrets compacted in snow
and say how strange the wheel is all covered in white.
There's a space under breakers, facing the shore,
kick hard legs bent against currents need.

Say how strange the wheel is all covered in white.
Now take it now take it now take it I can't
Kick hard legs bent against currents need.
And with what little instinct left: use the light.

Now take it now take it now take it I can't.
I once held you so close and so fragile
and with what little instinct left used the light.
It was the least attractive option available.

It was so kind of him to say we're not safe--
The world moves every second.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

the story, followed shortly by the story I didn't tell

Eight years old my hair was light and my teeth had jagged edges like babies changing to adults. Matt Robert lived on the other side of the fence and my oak tree planted from an acorn would drop leaves into his yard. I stood on the fence splinter palmed and watched the leaf piles build up in late September, imagined falling from the post into them and Matt Robert nowhere to be found. His hair sat stringy and his clothes hung gaping.
There was the bunny pen tucked into the corner, hidden under the thick branches. We had two: one black with a white stripe across the middle and the other white with big black rims around her eyes like make up. In the summer we would freeze water inside two liter bottles and bring them out to the bunnies panting in the heat. September brought relief and thicker coats.
On the fence near the ground was a path tunneled by Bogart the cat before I found him dead in my mother's closet. It went from my yard to Matt Robert's where there were less trees but it was closer to the field so it had more mice. Bogart would bring these mice to our doorstep, sometimes still half breathing, little offerings with big pink ears like paper twitching.
Now Matt Robert would use the hole to poke my ankles with sticks. He'd try to play paper rock scissors but I'd stomp on his hand and yell nuclear warhead I win! Matt Robert was always on my nerves, always breathing down my neck from his seat behind me on the bus, always pulling the bows out of my hair, always looking at me and Janie Causey from his hole in the fence. Olivia Osterhouse swore he gave her a mummified rat. At school he'd make up stories, said he was living in the sewers beneath the streets, thinking about sleeping in the fields once he got friendly enough with the coyotes.
It may have been October or it may have been April. It was a crisp morning--either dew or night time rain making everything wet. I went to feed the bunnies but there was a hole in their pen and only one bunny. The black one with a white stripe had disappeared over night and I ran and told my mother. We searched the entire backyard and found nothing. I don't remember now when I looked, but in the grass on the other side of the fence I found the bunny resting, fur slick, lacking dignity. I reached for her, pulled her back to my yard and held her in my hands. I could feel her skull halved, held together only by skin and fur so soft. I thought maybe she was still breathing, there were two labored gasps but my mother said no, no those are just nerves there's nothing we can do. But the bunny was looking at me, or at the treeline up above. I stroked her little bunny ears now reared, always to be reared.

When I asked Caroline to marry me she said no so I asked why not and she said because Matt Robert you are weird and so then I asked her what I could do to make her want to marry me and she said well maybe if you grew your hair out real, real long, all the way down your back so you could sit on it so the next time my mom tried to cut my hair I ran outside and hid in the field and she gave up I guess because I didn't get another hair cut for a year until one day I heard Caroline and Janie laughing and I wasn't sure why they were or what could be so funny but I don't know it was one of those things where you just know you're the butt of the joke--I was always the butt of the joke with my outie belly button and my grass stained knees-- so that was it and I went inside and found my mom's scissors and I cut all my hair best I could and it fell to the ground in patches that I wanted to take and shove in Caroline's face, fill her throat with them, block out her eyes with them but I didn't I just fell asleep. The next day up before the sun had completely broke through the storm clouds I was in the back yard looking for salamanders when I found Caroline's bunny rabbit and I'm not sure what happened next-- I remember how calm it was (didn't run, only quivered with its nose and little lungs) and I remember reaching a point where I couldn't stop and couldn't go back I was just pushing it's face into the grass and it's little body struggled against me but my hands were bigger and my face was hot and there were no tears in my eyes and then it just cracked like something so fragile and everything was easy after that.
I circle the house from my room in my sleep. Morning will bring pale blue light and a toe tapped kitchen, floor warm by the pipes and my mother in her robe.

I circle impatient the halls and the yards. I write your initials on book spines, put your name on my thigh before kneeling in prayer.

I circled the block four times to stop smiling five years ago. I didn't want my mother to know you had kissed me. She could smell your hands on mine she could smell your hands in my hair on my waist stop smiling stop smiling.

I circled your lap, your lap, your lap, your lap. I circled your lap when it was the only seat in the house and I knew my bones would hurt your legs and I knew what I felt when it started to rain.

I circled the cents spent and the senseless ways I pick fights and swallow a glass of water waiting beneath a top sheet of ice. The ice hits my teeth and it hurts. The phone doesn't ring and the sun is coming up.

I circled red-cheeked when I couldn't look up. Look up, look up! I didn't look up and you got in your car and you closed the door and you drove home and I laid on the rug in the middle of the room and my mother ran her fingers through my hair.

I circle all day and the paths are run down.

I circle all night above creaking floor boards.

I circle your name in her mouth. I circle your name in her mouth and she swallows it and now it is hers. I circle your name where it used to be mine.

I circle the place where my wrists were so soft.

I circle the place where I am no longer a girl.

I circle my own clumsy hands, dug deep into pockets. My mouth finds no place to sit.

I circle the days and the months since you called. December for you was warmer and bluer. Here the sky is mixed all sleet and gray.

I circled that morning when the horn honked and you squeezed tight, mouth open with sleep and eye lashes too long to be anything but right.

I circle each wave I can see from my window on a train cutting coast. I multiply and divide the distance between each wave, the distance between this island and you.

We circle the zoo and the names and the places we used to. We inch hands closer under sheets in the blue white glow.

You circle your breath in my ear when you lean in and whisper. We say nothing much but it cannot be heard.

I circle oldness and slant the cold. I look for green envelopes. You find red hairs in your car.

We circled the city on a ghost train and settled on the roof of a parking garage. We circled everything but and finished two bottles of water.

We circled Texas and ended with Brooklyn. More bridges, less bar-b-q pits.

I circle your name and swallow it whole.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

if tempted

pelicans will,

the immensity of smallness

Was it rain or dew this morning
turning things too wet for touch,
for holding? I saw the yarn yellow

and fence snared--all flagging
in the wind--untethered over
night, embodying an absence.

The rabbit cage had a hole
and one bunny too few. The
fence had been dug under

and in the grass on the other
side she rested slick, lacking
dignity. When I held her in

my hands I could feel
the skull halved, held together
only by skin and fur (so soft).

Her breaths still came out
labored and she blinked
twice in my lap as I stroked

her bunny ears, now reared
(always to be reared).

When I reached up for your
cheek turned face and felt
your neck strain against

my weight, autumn rolled
back over. There was a
tree bare branched. There

was a tree relieved of
leaves. Weight shifting
in the wind, it did not

bemoan those fallen,
but whistled.