"You are not my mother," she announces as I disarm the security system.
"You have done something horrible to her, and she is never coming home.
Please feed me. The steak is in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator, I like it
lukewarm and fatty this week, and you know where to find the kibble,
which means you know, too, that I won't eat it."
We walk through the garden, the hopeful roses of summer rusting.
She finishes her business and finds five squares of patio to accommodate
her generous backside. "Oh, right here is fine."
"Excuse me, dog? I have places to be, you know."
She does not answer. She is a dog, and I am a woman alone,
standing in a late summer breeze, talking nonsense to a seated dog.
I pull up a chair. We sit for an hour.
Today, August 15, is the Festival of Ghosts in China. Families burn incense and prepare elaborate meals, leaving empty seats at the table for their ancestors. Paper boats and lanterns are dropped in the water and set on fire, that they may illuminate the waterways for the lonely souls at sea and bring them safely home.
You can read more about Ghost Day here.
photograph by Vincent Chung
Thursday now, and clearly I have
done something wrong. You, little hydrangeas ("So blue," do you
remember?), are now the color
of a damp grocery-store circular.
I want a new cart. I want fresh flowers,
a perfect bouquet of wildflowers and a new apartment and a chance
to notice the kitchen is carpeted before
I sign the lease.
It is not your fault, sallow petals, but why
not let go of the stem?
I could cup you in one hand
and we could go out.
Out is good; you want out,
Instead we will stare sadly
at the diffuse decay that surrounds us:
the murky water you sleep in,
the ragged skin around my fingernails;
and pray that on Friday
someone comes along
to take us out.
There are cold moments
in this march when the sun's broad fingers
do not part the clouds, the leaves, the lashes.
We lie to one another with closed eyes
and curled fists. We rub our arms,
try to quiet the hairs on end,
and journey on.
"Fuck you," she snarls, in the lemon yellow
of her darling back. "Fuck you, lady. By the time
I get through with you you gonna wish you had
never been born. Ask that snake over there. He knows."
She sits still as my heavy fingers fumble
on the shutter, a flat silver button
as big as her head.
A slow blink.
"Fuck you, Mami. I told you, don't
touch me, but do you listen?" She addresses
the canopy at large, the sick-smelling pitcher plant,
the butterfly the size of a textbook
that is watching me with interest.
I do not speak Spanish. I do not
speak frog and somehow she knows this,
yet she does not stir as, like the gilded rings
of the Pope, I kiss her
again and again.
photograph from Golden Poison Frog Wikipedia entry
...please excuse my language. There's no polite translation for that protective coloration.
We collapse in the entry way and there find
a bouquet of basil, explosions of Black-eyed Susans. The landlord
has been here. If he only knew
the carnage upstairs--the full, open
boxes; the lilies wilted like old paper,
pressed against the microwave.
We sling the flowers atop the refrigerator
and I touch each blossom in turn.
"Such perfect foxglove," I say.
"And this hydrangea. So blue."
The basil is an island in the shining sink,
and you have set yourself on the floor
where someday the sofa
photograph by flickr user petr19710
The storm recedes; birds find new branches.
There is wind, not wake, from the cars that pass,
and tremulous shadows spread on the walls. Why then,
my love, is your gaze so clouded?
I point out the bedroom window--look, the robins, dripping madly beneath the misted rainbow--
and hear the hoary creak of my own error.
The rain has returned: thunder rolls
She covered her dresses with pockets,
she filled her pockets with stones;
She'd pause at the edge of the midnight streetlight
and peer into the dark, alone.
And reaching into her pocket,
she'd draw forth a handful of weight
And fling it into the blackness,
listening for the sounds it made.
Sometimes it glanced off a trash can lid,
making noises like you might expect
But mostly she stood, ears widened
and waited for it to connect.
photograph by flickr user fishyfish
"Every seven years," she said,
"Not all at once, of course." She was
re-testing her food allergies, sneaking
peanut butter cups past her immune system on a Saturday night.
So far the Reese's had been safe, but the imitation crab meat
on a seaweed salad had meant
five hours in the emergency room.
I thought about the hot spear of your voice
seven years ago, and how if now the sight of you
makes my chest tight,
it's probably only natural.
photograph by Bob Fornal
Paler than me even, she shone like a moth
as she frowned at the ticket machine
in the blinding train station.
I drank in the moon-white of her arms,
so perfectly matched to her crisp blouse,
her cool gold hair. I longed to touch her,
to keep her on my pillow. Instead,
to a dismayed intake of city breath,
she vanished into the morning air.
photograph by John Crowley