Remember when you took us to that bar?
We’d no idea what lived behind that door;
I drank too much, my fiancé went home,
we went upstairs I don’t remember how
I got home later, just suppose somehow. . .
He never asked me why I didn’t come
home with him and I never asked him more--
like why he left us both behind. I just
remember how his clumsy words shocked me
and opened up my own blind eyes: to live
right over Sporter’s, in the evening give
your time at the Gay Men’s Health Center. . .
Wewere friends. I thought that you controlled your lust
much better than the other boys I’d met.
I would have been your lover. My regret.
The Old Men Presiding
In thick gloves and aprons; the organs
laid out, liver purple on the scales, cirrhotic
lumps boiling the surface, kidneys shriveled,
the yellow plaques on the great vessels, unzipped
and uncoiled, the hypertrophied grey-walled
heart—I might have done it—pathology
until I heard the buzz, that buzz that vibrated
my teeth, the saw cutting through sternum, shrill
burning scraps sinew not sawdust, not even the clean
sizzle of bacon, reports too early in the morning.
I choose another course, no cold basement rooms
and yet, there was, there, a wonder, truly.
Hair Wreath, 1865
--with thanks to Don LaBranche
I have let go my braids. Let there be locks
of the living bound with those of the dead—
yours come coiled, wound tight in the broken watch
the boy carried six months from Shiloh, red
bright as all the Thomases, your brother’s,
our son’s, (now a dozen rosebuds twisted
with the gray I make into leaves—mother’s
nearly white now, thinning.) I have let go
my braids. They will grow back for another
spring’s lambing—or fall—your curls made a rose
with mine, mouse brown, dusty brown, dutiful
brown, easily forgotten, that I wove
with yours once, in our meadow, bountiful
my braids, undone, your whisper, beautiful
Every day someone is standing
She’s fifteen years old, 4’11”,
her baby weighs 27 lbs. (a year and a half),
she weighs 87, he screams on her lap,
fights herfights me—the second seizure was Sunday,
there’s a rash on his shoulder, he twists, wild;
I’m afraid he’ll fling off the exam table,
already there’s a scar on his chin
where his eight year old uncle
dropped him; the mother’s a good student
she’s in tenth grade, like my daughter,
her bird-boned neck is pale as a birthday
candle; he has otitis, we’ll need to do an MRI,
and EEG: she needs a note for missing school:
everyday someone is standing on the edge,
her aunt rescued her once, took her into
foster care, can she be rescued again now?
Can she rescue her baby? And me?