The Law of Gravity
I shook the bottle of polish. You ironed the mob cap
sobbing. Scuffs on your shoes whitened, apron on,
laces tightened, you left to serve lunch at the fish house.
It was the year I got breasts and had to make supper.
I listened to the hiccups and sobs of jilted soap opera
nurses as I peeled and sliced eggplant in front of the tv.
The child, I stayed behind as you walked across
a narrow two-by-four, kept us above water. You taught me
what love is, to follow the law of gravity, sink down,
weight in my heels, close to the board. How to balance,
arms out even as my legs tremble. You went from fish house
to coffee house, arranged your tip change in small piles.
When I was married I couldn’t open my coat,
fingers raw and chapped, I couldn’t undo the clasps,
reveal the tattered lining of green silk,
couldn’t ask my husband to sit down, hand him a needle
to sew the shreds with small stitches, help me mend.
This winter in a new black coat, satin inside unworn, I don’t say:
Be a body. Be a body. Next to me. The whole night through.
I don’t ask questions. You gave me my own piece of lumber
so I’d come to my own rescue, place foot in front of shaky foot
on a four inch board when it’s time to switch
shores, but I need more, can’t use it just for crossing.
I don’t know how you stood nights alone,
mountains of nights. Sheathed in moss and stone,
when the man who doesn’t love me pulls me close
I’m so grateful for his coarse black hair I get down
on my knees, mouth open, ignore the sirens,
the Sheraton’s neon sign as it shines through the window
flickering red shards of light on the floor.
Caledonia Kearns is the editor of two anthologies of writing by Irish American women, Cabbage and Bones and Motherland. She has an MFA in poetry from Hunter College and her poems have appeared in The New Haven Review, The MOM Egg, Painted Bride Quarterly and a forthcoming issue of Natural Bridge. She lives in Brooklyn with her daughter.