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Archive for January, 2014

Had an encounter
with one of your
friends today.
Though, really,
I don’t think
you liked her
any more than
I did. Anyway,
I hoped she
would say
something
about me to
you. I don’t
know what I’m
doing or how
I ended up on
this island.

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You,
without pretense,
are most worthy
of forgiveness.

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Old lovers are
like new tattoos
perennially fading.
If you etched me
in your skin
only showed me
to your closest
friends I might
stay awhile, might
even last a few
more lifetimes.

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Try loving an icecube.

Remember age five,
the time you held
one in your hand
for five minutes
and felt the
quiet burn of
agony in ice,
the red burn
of rejection,
like forcing
a kiss into
the mouth of
a flower.

Try loving an icecube.

Pack a parka for quiet
nights without a
babushka coat, or
even the hint of
a frosty tomb.
You know the feel
of ice in your
beard, this is
blizzard chamber
of death style.

Try loving an icecube.

Peel back your skin and
reveal the hot core of
your soul, I don’t mean
heat. I mean tell them
how you feel and accept
that all of you is
melting away as you
speak.

Try loving an icecube.

Do not regret the
frostbite on your
tongue. It will heal.
It will never look
the same again.

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You wrote your phone
number in the back
of the library
book.

And
here I was
thinking risk taking
was really, truly dead.

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My grandfather is a mountain.
When I was 15 we visited Hawkeye
Point, an Iowa farmboy and
his grandson. He told me
the geography of his
childhood rose from the
earth like a carnation,
that years of planting
had turned his hands
into tree-stumps and
his roots into stone.

When my grandfather and I
looked out from that hill
we saw the same thing, that
is, the wild vision of
nothing. At birth, his
operating room gift to
me was blue cone monochromacy.
Legal blindness and color blindness,
I’m sure now we had no idea how little
we could see of the world.

My mother drove us to Hawkeye Point,
though my grandfather made a point of
pulling the car out of the driveway.
Such was the way of a man who never
had a driver’s license. As a child
his father gave him the task of
clearing out every spider in the
family barn. He stayed in the barn,
shovel in hand, for three days.
I visited the shed that year
and played with his calico
grey cat, Napoleon.

My grandfather was a mountain.
In point of fact, when I was
15 my grandfather broke his hip
and my mother flew to Connecticut
to care for him. When I saw him
in the hospital that summer
he asked me if I was one of the
nurses, and to please adjust
his catheter.

There was no Hawkeye Point,
that is to say, my grandfather
wrote a short story about Iowa
for me when I was eight. Napoleon
was black, if photos are to be
believed, and we stopped leaving
Connecticut after I was thirteen.
He had the more degenerative
version of our eye disorder,
the true gift of genetic dilution.

My father was born on a farm,
that is to say he fled Iowa
for Paris after the war and
buried himself in so many
books his hand would never
touch another plow or
cultivator. It was April,
not August.

After my grandfather died last year,
that is to say, set the plains ablaze,
the gulf between memory and imagination
collapsed inwards like so many
stellar nurseries. The slow decline
of the elderly is such a godforsaken
act of reverse parenting. I do not
know if a false memory can exist
side by side with something
real, or if I will ever see
an Iowa sunset.

My grandfather became a mountain.
Top sliced off and craggy, I take
the first tenacious steps towards
him. Someday I will arrive at his
peak for the first time and know
it as a place I have always been.

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Standing in the bathroom
holding the book I wrote
about you against my chest.
Holding so much pain and
forgiveness against my
ribs.

I wonder if this is the
particular ache of a soul
expanding, I kiss the pages
I wrote about our cleaved
whole. I ask myself how
many different ways you
have taught me to love
better.

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