My Mother Encounters Celebrities and I Misunderstand


One winter before I was born
my mother stepped into an elevator.
The silent brass doors slid
together too quickly and she toppled,
landing face-first

in Baryshnikov's striped mink coat.
She told me this when I was six
and leaping, a blizzard of tulle
and breathlessness around
her rocking chair. As I remember it,

I say now, He was rude to you.
Did Baryshnikov really push you?

Short, she says, looking over
the Sunday Style section. I didn't say rude.
I said short.

photograph by Chuck Domitrovich


An Appeal to Hestia, on the Eve of My Son's First Semester

I make a fire in my hands and look skyward,
and then look down again; the goddess of what matters
doesn't dally in the clouds. Set the fire
in front of me. This small flame,
this first sacrifice, I offer,
where I can't draw in salt
or burn sweet herbs. Keep him warm.
Keep him safe. May his new home
be a new home and not
just a cold room, a room
too far away.

photograph by Tom


The First Year We Picked Ev's Apples

for Sarah

November fruit falls on its own. The dogs are in the orchard now,
Carrying off the Blushing Goldens that wouldn't fit in the baskets.
Their eyes follow the dirt-dyed crates
As apples tumble into the press. We throw bruised fruit
At the setting sun. My father's hands are branches,
His back a twisted trunk. Cider is hard work.

My hands blister and burn. We stop and wipe our faces
With the backs of sticky hands. The acre beside ours is silent.
When we finish our gallons it is almost dark. My father crosses the lawn,
Rings the widow's doorbell. I can't read yes or no in her face.
My mother calls us for dinner. My father takes his baskets and dogs,
Heads into the widow's yard.

photograph by Eddie McHugh



I. Flame Shoulder

Summer has rolled over
to the damp sheets of August.
The girl with the flame shoulder
starts over, as she must.

II. Heart and Dart

Then one right after another,
he dropped them in the stream:
the flame girl's heart, his broken dart,
and two swift-sinking dreams.

III. True Lover's Knot

In winter, water all is dark
And dreams sleep, muddy, caught;
her bed is cold, his fingers numb
in stiff true lover's knots.

photograph by André Felipe de Medeiros


For Keeps

"You want me to hurt you. You're
asking me to hurt you. To cut you so deep
it leaves a mark?"
The sunlight is clear but far away.
"A gash," he says, and clutches his ribs.
The trees blow kisses. He stops walking.
She is five paces ahead
before she notices.

She kicks a chunk of broken sidewalk.
Dried maple leaves scrape
across the tops of her shoes. Light
through her ring makes rubies
on the pavement.

photograph by Rob Hodnett


The Sundays

Sometimes he'd wake mid-morning and know;
some weeks it wouldn't set in til the sun did.
But weekly, every
the needles found him,
pinched, poked, pulled
his drylip corners
down, down toward the Earth.

She kept to herself
on Sundays, and read
like a prayer the letter
he wrote on every
This isn't me. I love you.

photograph by flickr user Tanya

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