Rusted iron circular staircase delivery

From the rooftop on Cannon
we broke jokes like eggs,
begged shingles to hold,
avoided sagging dips.
The moon wasn’t full
felt incomplete. I wanted
the stars to be brighter,
wanted streetlights dimmed
and a better view of my bungalow
three blocks away on Percy, wanted
something better to say. Words
swirled like smoke, rings above us
and out into the city. Three
heartbeats high and open.

When they buried you

I was ten. Service started
in the mausoleum, cold in August, dry
in Charleston. My face was swollen
blooming in red— crying still doesn’t suit me.
Men I didn’t know in sharp uniform
draped a flag over your casket
as if it was an honor. It would be
an honor to hear your laugh
crack and wheeze. Mourners lined up
in six prim rows split
down the middle. Men in sharp uniform
marched through glass doors into sunlight,
rifles on shoulders. More lines.
Some mechanism, invisible strings, prompted
them to lift and switch and snap, rifles
more lines, 70 degree angle held tight.
Those were the first shots I heard
since you… since you… since you…
My shoes were off, bare blistered feet
on marble, pads only pumping
to the opposite wall. All glass and names.
I watched from the dark
hands over ears and the shots
kept coming. My navy blue dress itched
inside and out.

Women with strollers

Women with strollers pause languidly
in front of my front windows— panes
like chromatic stained glass, panes
that love light like an invisible oil spill.
The heat slows them. There is never a cry
from the covered strollers. There is never a cry
from them.

Women with strollers stalk the sidewalks
of my one-street neighborhood, elongated
cul-de-sac lined with brick townhouses
and dormer windows and polyester flags
that read ‘Welcome’ in the same font,
patterns that change with the seasons.
Their eyes are marbles, heads lean
to the left, black wheels crunch the concrete.

Women with strollers are quiet, keep
to their kind. There are no words or looks
exchanged, not even to cross the street to continue
their path or when they break ranks
for the evening. There are no friendly
nods to neighbors, no “Nice day, isn’t it?”s,
no smiles at leashed Golden Retrievers
or smirks at middle aged men wearing socks
with their sandals.

Women with strollers circle like sharks, pass
my windows on the hour. Keeping time.
I peeked into a flat stroller once, a perambulator lying flat, designed for infants,
pushed by a woman with airily sculpted hair,
thin and bright. The stroller was empty.
I peek as often as I can. It is always empty.

Ash

When I say she preferred to eat ash,
it’s not black and white.
She filled up on radish and cabbage ash.
Her body craved ash of bone and fat.
She caught cotton candy ash floating
in the air like snowflakes on her tongue.
She withered and grew. Days fluttered
and were consumed, unidentifiable
from each other— ash on the heap.
She slept like a burned log. Delicate.
Warm. When she slept.
She no longer feared the day
she would break in two— as only someone
made of ash could do.

Bandit

You’re the first dog I ever
loved deeply, that I ever
clung to. Long thick fur
the color of coffee with cream,
tail curled and fanning out
behind you– your plumage–
dark chocolate mask, faded
muzzle. I don’t remember who
named you. My last memory
of you alive: I raked the half-acre
October leaves into a mound,
jumped in. You followed, pulled
my hair, my feet, my pants, stood
with one paw on each shoulder,
pinning me. You won before curling
under one arm, almost the size of my
eleven year old body. You slept.
I read my book. My last memory of you:
Halloween. You’d been gone three days,
but that wasn’t unusual. On the bus to
school, we crossed the highway. The
breeze caught your tail, lying in the
middle of the north bound lane, made
you look alive, wagging. I screamed,
face pressed against bus glass. Every
dog since, I’ve wanted to be you.

Watson

My heart still ached from losing Gus,
from losing August, but my need for
a dog, a companion, was too great.
Your ears were plastered back, even
through the glass. Not a Poodle.
Not a Havanese. Brown eyes cast
down. Tail tucked. I held your paw
to guess how large you’d grow. It didn’t
matter. I took you home that hour. You
sat perfectly still in the car, refused
to walk up the open air stairs to
my apartment. I carried you. I laid
on my brown leather couch, and you
laid on my belly, nose to nose,
stretched the length of my body.
I called out of work. Your floppy ears
relaxed, no longer held back. Your
brown and black tail curled next to you,
no longer tucked. Brown eyes explored
the room from the perch on my chest.
Our breath synced. We slept unmoving. Home.

Rainy day trombone

When you were alone,
you played the trombone
and made your cat Yaten groan.
We all understood
that you weren’t very good,
though if you could tell, it is not known.

You packed it away,
your loneliness at bay
and carried on without dismay.
But your thoughts never left it,
we’ve grown to accept it
that you pull it out on rainy days.

Inchworm

I want to be an inchworm, to
crinkle my whole body together
just to move, to accordion myself
just to move. Inch inch.

I want to be that green thread
thinner than a grain of rice
and not much longer. I want the
balance to scrunch just to move,
to arch just to move. Inch inch.

I want to eat my body weight
in leafy cuticle, to have a
never-ending supply of food, if
only I can get to it, if only I
can fold myself in two just to move,
to touch my ends together just to
move. Inch inch.

I want the rain to wash me away
drop by drop, to carry me away
from all I know so I have to
double over just to move, to loop
my whole body just to move. Inch inch.

Isabella

My eyes burn before
my feet do, wrists
bound behind me to
a pole. What have I
done wrong? My nose
runs, I shift my
right foot away from
the smoldering stack.
My back aches. Someone
save me. Save me. Kill
me now. A flame pulls
itself out of the mound.
Another. I feel fevered.
I shift my weight again,
but my lungs ache. I pull
at the rope on my wrists.
Raw. Keep pulling. The fire
growls toward the sky, hissing
with flame teeth, gnashing like
a rabid dog. My heart is a rabbit.
Cornered. What have I done wrong? I
squeeze the pole against my spine, pull
down with my arms, wiggle and stretch upward,
away. I move half as far as a first year cone,
fall down into the blaze. It needs me. It needs
me. My toenails blacken. I scream until my throat
is as raw as my wrists. I smell cooked meat. It’s me.
I know. My calf ruptures. I hear it before I feel it. What
have I done wrong? I don’t forgive you. You cannot be absolved.
Carry me with you. Watch my lashes burn. Save me. Save me. Save me.

Ball Lightning

When my voice is old,
I’d like to sing into a gorge,
into the Marianas Trench.
I want my brow to grow heavy,
bearing peaches, to feel
the weight of decades on
my hips, to own a splintered
fractal of human history.
When my hair is white and
silver, I’ll unleash the stars
of my braid, arthritic
opening to God. My hunched
spine will crack open, wrinkled
skin peeling away, bone
popping and curling until
the husk of
Who I Thought I Was
falls away, blows away, to
reveal the ball of light inside.