Christmas 1966

The small box is filled with little beasts—
a barn that’s a barge, a boat—the ark’s

ridged sides like boards, a plastic plank,
a deck that drops in fitted slots, but lifted

reveals that zoo of twos—heaped beasts
to be released beneath a glittering tree,

its dove-clipped limbs.  Dad’s asleep
in his reclining seat, and crumpled waves

of paper recede as Mom circles the room.
The humming wheel throws light across the walls.
 

More by Ed Madden

How to Lift Him

Don’t pick him up by the pits,
which seems easiest. You risk

broken bones, bruised skin.
Instead, once he’s eased up, sits,

shoulders hunched, feet slung
over the edge, lean down for the hug,

your arms under his and around,
hands flat against his back, his arms around

you. This is what you do. Then lift him,
his feet between yours, this timid

dance around, this turn. Tell him
to bend his knees as you ease him

down to the chair, its wheels locked,
set him in slow. Kneel in front

as if to receive his blessing.

Lift each foot to its rest. Wrap
a blanket around him—you’re going out.

Stop at the old flat-front desk,
last hiding place for his cigarettes—

why he wanted up, after all. Stop
at the edge of the porch and lock

the wheels. Make sure he’s in the sun.
Stand silent by, he won’t talk much,

though the lonely cat will,
rubbing its back against the wheels.

Sacrifice

When my father bound me, I submitted,

closed my eyes to the lifted knife in his fist.
Even now, the cords still hold my wrists,

rough ropes of love. My chest is bare,
my heart lies open. He loves his god more

than me. I open my eyes, watch my father
raise his fist against a bright and bitter

sky, no angel there to stay his hand.

My husband who is not my husband

His priestly gestures, consecrating the broken eggs,
hands moving over the stove, slabs of meat

skittering in grease, drop biscuits big as a cat’s
head, threaded with cheese.

Him, making the fountain, making lantana, acanthus,
making bloom and ripple, song, making the birds.

My husband, the blue room, the bright room, best china,
best silver lifted from a box in the closet,

its red beds of best silver, put back later for later.
My husband who is not my husband who is still mine.

See him, crying in the Dublin airport—
he doesn’t want you to see. Can you see

the eucomis, its waxy leaves, its stalk blossoming
in the hot sun, pushing up among the marigolds?

Scars from this or that on shin or back, wrist or hand,
the way the garden loves him, the bees.

Him among the lilies, his hands lilies, his mouth
a twist of quince, his scent.

My husband among the lilies.

My husband, sauntering down the aisles. Him, sauntering
down the aisles at the flea market, dust settling

on everything, his small flashlight, his blue eyes,
his sound of geese, a train. Look,

something glitters and is gone. My husband, the gold
in the trees, falling, and him, a coverlet of mulch

across the beds, or asleep, the heat of him,
the hot water bottle of him, the cat purring at our feet.

My husband who is not my husband who is still mine.
The blue walls say so, the orchid deciding to bloom again.