For the Body
On the television a winsome news anchor is relating some facts about a body in the harbor as we argue at the door until he leaves. I go to the vanity mirror straight away, as if to check my reaction. I look like expected, a runaway at a book market, more loneliness and imagination than preferred. I flip the lights throughout the house, touching the cactus buds rotting loose before they bloom. In our bed, the pillowcase holds his latest stain, a howling ugly I take off and leave for the laundry. I settle with poems on his side with my pillow. Beneath the bed, the cat snores erratically. I lean over the ledge and toss her a beef treat to watch her spine prick.
* * *
Fruit or Blooms
I took a job at a garden center in the nursery, cleaning for spider nests under the trays, wiping the fibrous mounds with a muddy sponge. The long hours in the humid greenhouse muffled a lot of who I intended to be and kept the parts that ached. I wanted to quit but then what would I do? A younger version of someone I knew from the city stalked the aisles with the sprayer, collapsing my impression that he knew a thing about the cultivation of fruit or blooms. The kid looked like mud came naturally from his pores. His eyes two Grecian olives on the vine. We passed each other in the aisle and colluded to exchange duties.
* * *
Gracious and Lonely and a Smoker
That summer the hostas grew mutant. Acid rain producing bizarre vegetables I harvested for the glass bowl on the counter by the cottage phone. I talked first, saying what I thought the shapes were like. Two-headed snakes. A spiny. He was a man at the other end who, like it was predestined, had my fathers long distance telephone number. I spoke at length because he was gracious and lonely and a smoker too. I said, What do you usually do at night? He said, Watch TV or go through things. Like old papers? I asked. Different things, he said. Like me, he was nostalgic and long-winded when vulnerable. I get absorbed, he said. Same thing here, I said, slicing eggplant for the insignificant mound of Parmesan.
* * *
He prefers to sit on benches. The ground leaves a filthy mess on his pants. I would rather be embarrassed later if I can smell the worms and minerals so close to me now. Maybe well get lucky and eventually come to terms. I say the closer I can get to the center, even by these small degrees, the closer I get to buried parts of myself, photographic memories of stashes of country leaves, orange peel, his buttons, twine jewelry, a soft moss beneath us. How is it that in every memory he is but two inches from my face? Library books advised relentless exploration, taking up a new hobby. So, we sit on our bench, eating our sandwiches, sharing our cashews, and later, after a strenuous climb, I discover a hollow infested with butterflies of a variety I have never known, all of the wings heartbreakingly thin.
* * *
He Called Out for the Driver
It was the kind of weather you would find salamanders and worms swum up to the surface. We checked the weather channel then went for a walk in between the patterns. We thought we had trouble, but he was remorseful and picked me a wet lavender bouquet. We made up. We were like children in that we threw stuff at each others hair. But after all of the laughter and puddles, my boots disgusted me, the soft muck getting in my toes. On the return, we came upon a jeep, the passengers side door open, a grocery bag on the seat. He called out for the driver a number of times. I put my bouquet on a rock and looked. Inside of the bag I found lettuce, avocado, tomatoes, napkins, a panicky white rat. The hood steamed.
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