I imagine today just like yesterday—
I will spend the morning writing and then,
when the tide recedes, I’ll trip along drift lines
searching. Yesterday I found an entire sand dollar
and four amber sea agates. The day before—
a red plastic heart stuck in driftwood. But

Anne,     what I really want to find

is a buoy. A fine glass fishing buoy, like the one
you brought to our third-grade show-and-tell
in 1982. A perfect glass bauble, wrapped in brown
hemp. Mint green, cerulean, sparkling, and you,
Anne, gleaming, cradling the globe, in small,
flawless hands. You illumed, Anne, in front of the class,
teaching us what your Grandma taught you
about glassblowing and fishing nets and the tide
that carried that buoy all the way from Japan
to the Oregon Coast, so far from our landlocked
Colorado town, so far from anywhere
our imaginations had yet taken us. Even those of us
in the back row could see. Anne,
tall and gangly, shy and anxious, you traveled
to the sea and brought back a flawless
glass buoy. Even those who teased you hardest
felt the weight of envy. “Be careful,”

you begged us, hinting finally toward fragility, rarity.

Yet these years later I am still searching the wrack
lines, my hands begging back that unbroken
weight, as if by finding my own buoy I might know something
about…     Anne,

please forgive me, I held on too loose—
what do ten-year-old hands know of mortality or the way
lives can be shattered on coasts? What
does this forty-nine-year-old heart understand
about the mechanics of staying afloat, of netting a life
and not letting go?

Related Poems

The sun rears

The sun rears her unlikely head
In this late spring,
I walk past rubber black boots decorated
With brightly colored umbrellas
In a useless attempt to block the rain.

Up the subway to 14th street
Around the corner to 12th
I climb to the tenth or the eighth floor
Depending on your bodily condition.

I keep vigil over this resting.
My body is a candle, glowing
Until you make the transition
Back into or out of this life.

This is among the things that could happen.
This is among the things that happened.
For now, you reside in imposed silence.
Dying is just another commodity and

The soul wants routine.
The soul wants sameness, boredom.
The soul wants letting go.

Over us, the palmed stars.

The Book of Lamenting

begins on edges of highways

where the sun raises its swollen belly,
grasses outgrow themselves,
vineyards wither their nerves.

The sun cracks the dashboard,
slithers between rows of eucalyptus, juniper,
rolls along the wheels of trucks.

Past crows that caw, pod atop railroad crossings,
the engine cranks its monotonous pulse, distracts me
from posted signs, the yellow snake that guides me along.

This is where I find reasons to question the living,

my father’s face held
in his hands, his brows etched
in the stained glass of the missions,

my mother’s sacrifice dwelling
in deserted turnpikes, her eyes
gazing from overgrown orchards.

Trees disappear. Dried brush crumbles
into camel’s fur. In the distance, no horizon,
but tumbleweed large as sheep.

This is where I am when the world has closed its ears,

alongside rusted tractors, abandoned fruit stands,
roaming for hours, nothing but barbed-wire fences,
nothing but the smells of harvest and gasoline.

The road matters more than the earth,
more than those on the road, it turns
into a spine, ladder of teeth and bone.

In the passenger seat, my grandmother’s ghost
holds a palm full of seeds, scatters them
skyward for the crows to eat.

All of it behind us now. She tells me
not to tangle my nerves, not to stop
the creed of the open road—

nothing that runs can stay the same.

Half Measures

It’s been years, now, since she left and even
still he sleeps on just half the bed. After all,

it really is easier to make that way, quicker
to hide all evidence of dreaming, like souvenirs

hastily put back up on the shelf. He has become
the tenant of fractioned closets, of half-portioned

recipes, of refracted light. He sometimes tells
himself, like time, there is managing in measure,

absence held in the handspan, the half heart,
the hair’s breadth. For comfort, he remembers

seeing the great Dutch paintings—Dou, sometimes
Vermeer—the immeasurable lives made so nearly

bearable in the frame, slightness like a bird’s
body in a plastic bag. As a child, he used to

count miles on telephone poles while, in front,
his parents spoke in weather-leveled voices.

When he’d told her this she pitied him. When
he would add up all the countries he wanted to

show her, she’d tell him that numbers are such
a man’s way of holding the world, but, when

women love, they love innumerably. Softly,
he’d said he only wanted to hold her. He’d never

admit how, against her body, he felt so desperately
proportionate, how sometimes he would lie

along the bathroom tiles as though the seams
and scale would make him somehow bearable

as a painting, would hold him. Not because
he needed holding, but maybe just to know loss

could be traveled, as he watched planes scrawl
across the unbound blue through the window.

So often, these days, he thinks of grief in terms
of distance. Carefully plotting out the lengths

involved in the longing, he imagines himself some
ancient philosopher slowly dividing the distance

toward home, thinking of a child’s hands, still
sticky with the juice of a poorly sectioned fruit.

How impossibly small it all can seem, small
like distance, halved, and halved, and halved again.