Riveting

his face transforms as he stares at me,
a burning recklessness filling his eyes as he leads me into a wind tunnel kiss,
my whole self leaning into the sweeping lost

I become the warmth, the wet,
the tickle, the sting

we can’t let go –
it becomes the writing of a song,
a balancing act of unearthing,
the ferociously visceral sensing of the other as we sway,
back and forth in search of a revelatory harmony

and I realize the only time I feel alive is when he looks at me like that,
riveting me to the moment

Paper Moon

we wake to an odd familiarity,
more said these days than not,
single cup coffees brewing in succession as the morning begins its foreshadowed burn,
the dew’s moist breath hanging the tall oaks with fog,
and the air standing nearly still except for the slow flap of the robins’ wings lifting from the treetops

Ma sits at the old kitchen table,
sipping her coffee while leaning forward in her everyday chair,
telling stories as the sun rises,
some of them her favorites, echoes I’ve heard so many times before,
while others are surprises, custom cut-outs of time that needed somewhere to go,
so I listen, absorbing them through my skin,
nodding all the while

in the afternoon, I busy myself as she rests,
tidying and organizing and cleaning,
doing the shopping and the cooking,
all the things I hope will help ease the day-to-day business of living

at nightfall, we sit in lawn chairs on the back porch watching the squirrels scurry by,
a paper moon appearing faceless in the still cloudless sky,
stretches of blade grass sliced wide open by chain link and asphalt,
the air adorned with a constant, treaded hum,
as the trees lining the property bend to wear the shape of the welcomed wind

we talk about tomorrows and what-ifs or something funny one of the kids did recently,
but some of the time, we just sit

during the quiet times, I can no longer help but notice she seems so tired of arguing with the elements,
not quite fading into the backdrop, but slowly sinking, leaving in her wake small, concentric circles where the whole used to be

it is then that I realize the loneliness of a lifetime of parenting;
a future unknowable to a parent and a past unknowable to a child,
a reluctant knowing that time ticks by with a quickening urgency and you never want to let go

and in the pinky-red glow of the setting of the sun, I know:
soon, I’ll have to say goodbye

Home

There’s a poem in this place,
in the not-quite-silence of the early morning,
in the constant companionship of the ticking of the clock,
and in the furry paw falls across the laminate floor.
It is here where a woman writes a lyric she no longer whispers to say.

There’s a poem in this place,
in its second-hand, blue collar grace,
in its well-worn wooden things and well kept lawn,
and in the backyard garden boxes engineered by her youngest daughter.
It is here where she has planted roots.

There’s a poem in this city,
in these tree-lined, bicycle-ridden streets,
in the laughter that makes its way through the open windows, lighter than the air,
and in the warmth in the smile from the elderly woman across the street.
It is here where her heart became full.

There’s a poem in his eyes, always,
in the way she says his name,
in the history they hold between their hands,
and in the future for which they know only one certainty: together.
It is here where she knows home.

Glass Bottles

you hug her with flippant arms,
kiss her with lips pursed with words lying in wait,
listen with ears that scramble her station unrecognizable;
it may as well be static

and she looks at you with knowing eyes,
her lungs crackling with the laughter of too many ghosts,
your name a promise beaconed by her light and slipped into the glass bottle that is her heart,
knowing there’s a chance it might break

she knows,
even though she wishes she did not;
you love her with a squeaky, newborn heart,
with words that are too large to fit through the close-knit threading of your ego,
protecting a past that fear keeps you from seeing through a microscopic lens,
so the words bury themselves in infertile soil,
never to bloom

maybe she could sacrifice,
maybe she could stay;
you ask her to,
you say you’ll change

she thinks-
maybe I could give up parts of myself for him,
maybe I could go without,
maybe he will really change

but who would she be if she lived her life fishing empty glass bottles from a perpetually low tide?

Inertia

the rains come again,
tap-tapping at the window panes,
a symphony out-of-sync,
not unlike the fearful beating of her own heart

a familiar, creeping terror rises from a place beyond thoughts,
some innermost trap door flying open,
her instinct to leap upon and lean against it with all her might,
to padlock it shut,
but that energy has long ago evaporated

so she murmurs in a rhythm,
uttering age-old phrases that spin-cycle in her mind,
an attempt at talking herself off an unrevealed ledge,
fear pumping off her in virulent, toxic fumes

she isn’t herself,
hasn’t been for a long while;
her very smell like that of imminent winter,
brittle and airless with the heavy inertia of time

why has no one noticed?

Dry Land

I leak from a private, hidden faucet inside,
emotions continuously stroking the fiery thoughts I wish I didn’t have,
the ones I fight like hell to change

head barely above water, I tread,
arms flailing and feet pressing against, against,
against

in the vastness,
I sink down into my body as into a swamp,
where only I know the footing

it’s treacherous ground,
my own territory

as I search for dry land, I know –
I must become the sturdy earth I press my own ear against,
listening for rumors of the future

Seen

he was tall but not too tall,
his lips thin but easy to smile,
deep viridescent eyes set beneath a strong brow,
not brooding exactly,
but very serious,
looking at her with an unexpected sincerity

she’d met him briefly before and seen him around campus over the last few years,
and though she didn’t know him well at all,
this night, she felt a strange pulse of profound recognition

throughout the evening they kept glancing at one another,
their eyes each drawn to the other,
and normally,
she hated being stared at,
but this was somehow very different

it was the oddest, most intense feeling –
she had the sensation that she was being seen,
and she hadn’t even known she’d felt invisible

Guilty

I watch her move through the motions,
real emotion wearing a half-mask,
her eyes telling a story that’s never been spoken,
and probably never will,
seventy plus years of doing the next easiest thing,
not necessarily the next right one

it’s such a long road,
pebbles from our shared path littering my own,
and sometimes I feel guilty as hell for just being able to live my life;
there should be a word for this,
the way it feels to steal something that’s already yours

Moments

they’d loved one another for so long,
and sometimes life began to feel a little rote,
but when they came together,
they forgot the lists and routines,
they forgot who they were and what brought them together

but she didn’t forget he was the most trustworthy, honest, and compassionate human she’d ever known,
the reason she could be who she was in every moment

and he didn’t forget she was the empathic fire at his backside,
a simple woman with a complicated heart,
the beating of his own heart

what happened between them was always unexpected;
in these moments a new future opened wide –
a world where anything could happen and nothing was impossible