Thursday, December 3, 2009

Heading for the River

On these walls ancestors gather—
wasp-waisted women,
one dark-hatted man—
staring down the years,
suspicious eyes, cat-slitted.
The young girl in white moves
in sepia pantomime—
now with bonnet and beau, next
with babe in arms, on and on
to the final funereal waltz.
A formal dance of daguerreotypes
whose names
even our parents
have forgotten.

      They whisper
in my dreams—
incessant crickets
cracking the quiet:
We wait for you.

You can chase down morning,
wave the thin red light of reason,
secure as anyone can be
in an Einsteinian now
but who do we really fool
with these bits of paper
and the ink poured out as black
as the corruption of oil
on doomed water?

        In the end we
will still be eaten by the dark,
left to sleep with stones and shadows
that lick slender fingers,
pull at the treacle moon high
above that Stygian flow where passage
is only two pennies for the asking.

this poem was originally published in The Coachella Review Fall 2009

The House is Always White

I still think of those houses, with their white
sideboards, thin wooden tables, the glass in the windows
beveled, reflecting clouds. But there was water

in the basement. It came up over wire shelves loaded
with canned goods, bottles of bleach, and discarded
board games of our childhood. We could no longer see

the workbench, only wrenches swaying like silver seaweed
on their pegboards, clinking underwater like the bells
of a drowned city. There were rows and rows

of hooks as well; but no matter where we hung keys,
they turned to rust. Even our carpets were
made of moss. Men came, took apart the stairs

and drained it all. When it was gone—we, too, moved.
The new house was also white: big rooms, more furniture,
quite luxurious, except for plates and cups that had

cracked, not much, a little chippage at the edges. I was
embarrassed and could not offer the salad around.
Never mind, the aunts said, while men carried in new lumber,

several yards of pipe: In case this one floods, too. No one
would stay. Some of the family had reserved hotels, though I
wouldn’t hear it. We have many beds, I told them.

And we did. Nice, if a bit worn. All with coverlets
of watered silk, sea green, storm cloud dark. Still,
even the children left without saying goodbye.

this poem was originally published in The Coachella Review Fall 2009