In her living room dimmed with drapes,
inside a green house brimming with
flowerboxes—humid, tiny, the buzzing
of lawns—stiff-lipped, crossing our legs,
we sip tea out of mismatched cups.
It is late summer in Pitman, New Jersey,
smell of marigolds, carrots pulled from dirt,
warm milk sloshing in pails.
In front of me,
outline of a defunct spinning wheel
against the bay window.
tufted couch cushions & a folded quilt
of crocheted roses.
To my right, a small stool
where I place my cup,
to my left, long slab
of empty sofa.
Beneath my feet, Ada’s hand-
braided rug, a gift on her wedding night.
Above me, a wavering ring of light.
Beyond the bay window, baby oaks
eclipse a dirt road ploughed in furrows,
a lesson in geometry.
Beyond the couch cushions,
plaster partitions the yellow kitchen, egg yolks
separated from whites in two bowls.
Beyond to my right, a fireplace, stained glass,
Beyond to my left, doubters
& zealots, a penny for your thoughts & Jesus
loves you, the entrance to a vacant bedroom.
Beyond below, the roller rink when Ruth
was 16, her pregnant unwed mother
& begonias that bloom even when overwatered.
wood floors & closed doors, cupboards stocked
with Joy, the shuttered heat of day.
Beyond this summer,
peaches ripen in a ceramic bowl
& lazy July continuously unfolds
with the surprise of lollipops sucked
to nubs of gum hidden inside & sherbet hand towels
mimic peach fuzz.
Downstairs, I want to ask
if where we’re from ties down our lives but she
turns to face the Grandfather clock, which begins
to chime, counting us into a new
sleek hour, so familiar & grainy.
Write them on skins, with joined-up letters
flooded like rivers. Do not craft them
on something as ordinary as napkins.
Sing them operatic to martini glasses
quaking on sills, their shivered stalks
a chain of mislaid commas, he said,
he said. If you happen to write down what she
remembers in cold November, first layer
her tongue with salt, then chase it with Cuervo
& lime. It will taste like kisses on an ocean
crusted night, her newborn legs thumping
to a succession of waves calmly
shushing & erasing what she said.
“Throat pearls, yes, must be banished for their rounded sameness/constriction."
—fromThe Lost Translations of Mirabai1
a greasy spoon’s sidewalk littered with
cigarette butts smashed bubble gum stained black
pitter pat is what is expected not
zebra stripes hand-painted on crosswalks
nor constellations tracing any shape
decide what to exclude what fingers draw
sky-slash-ocean somewhere between midnight-
slash-winedark because Homer had no word
for blue spake daybreak’s un/steady constant/
inconstant sun glitter mimics negative space
of pigeons pecking crumbs an ever-changing ink blot
lost in mornings of heavy rain brooms scraping
against curbs static shushing my words
dewdrops-slash-beads of sweat adorn my/her neck
1The book cited, The Lost Translations of Mirabai, is fictional, wished into existence, as are the lines quoted.
All day watching sky.
It’s like breathing
you say, lost
in the mangroves
from vines or
the petrified remains
A maze of twigs
set against sky.
At certain times
opposing twigs bisect
my aperture like
examining my own nose
cross-eyed. Glued to
the heavens, I always
& you circle yourself
in my nonexistent