At Cousin Doug's house, nine years old
Cigarette smoke-he smokes them unfiltered-hangs
air like my brother's toy airplanes, clings
to clothes that will
later have to be washed.
I can tell Dad is getting antsy,
coughing and looking out
the window. Doug is pacing, fingering a
string of Mardi Gras beads.
Before we went into his
house, a quick warning in the car
in his driveway-remember
that he isn't allowed to be alone
with any of you. Cousin Doug is
sick, and sometimes
he can't help telling lies. Like his dog,
but Mom says it's really a girl.
colored glass-teal, cranberry, apple green-litter
waiting for him to fuse them together
into more of his art. Old
wine bottles sit heavy
with dust on his shelves, pieces of
string, dried up pens,
his slow sarcastic voice spinning stories
my little sister doesn't believe. He hands me a can of
and a book of Russian poems, whispers in my
you'll thank me later.
My mother cried when we found out
that Anna was hiding
her period, when I realized
she had been stealing my tampons.
Two months her cycle followed ours,
the center of her
body moving heavily
down, the edges of things blurring
the dull thrumming bass note
of our familiar ache, and we had no
Because we expect to sense these things.
Because how can
you bleed for five days,
curl into yourself with that dark
and still be the same?
My mother never knew I saved
from my last ear infection
for when I really needed
She never knew that Anna
wrapped her breasts tightly
But she knew that we understood.
sometimes we put away the painkillers,
let the warm ache
in our bodies. How we still keep it
down deep, like a
how we bleed, and bleed,
but do not
She always wakes up
into a corner of the mattress.
Outside her window
the crickets sing
their shrill song and intrude
on her dreams.
They are louder
this fall, perhaps desperate
as the twenty
sparrows who fight
over her offered sunflower seeds.
today, a clear metallic chirp,
a stroke of red at the
driving away the cluster of squabbling
The cardinal is molting,
his red feathers dulling to the
of brown clay for winter, but he reaches
for the seed
and feeds it
to his modest, homely mate.
lays the same patterns quietly down
on her carpet,
the sky drifts
toward the horizon,
the crows provoke smaller
The dappled leaf shadows waver
on the surface of her
Burying Mary Alice
I wasn't there. Instead, my brother
wore a suit and crunched over
the dry needles of the monkey tree out back,
shouldered the casket past slim cedars.
The last time I was there was a Georgia January,
mild as butter, the camellias starting to open.
We played gin rummy in the living room.
Her hands never shook.
I never saw her pecan trees with leaves.
They were bare gray, their limbs meandering
slowly up toward the still clouds.
We drank tea from the family crystal.
Her eyes were full of cataracts.
Nobody plants trees there now.
Her cat paces the front porch,
never stepping on the cracks
in the floorboards.
It was so fast.
My sisters' weeping faces
Four days spent counting the winds.
Documenting the friction
of nothing over my skin
which was no longer mine,
no longer skin.
It was not a tunnel.
It was not a white light.
It was not a nothing.
It was--a body made
of marsh lights, gypsum.
Sand dunes and sycamore.
Swimming without breathing.
But then his tall voice
piercing, the rolling away
and the coalescing,
the healing and the slow
push of blood again,
the smell of myrrh.
No lingering green,
no embracing basalt.
And I am already forgetting.