Darkening, Then Brightening

Kim Addonizio - 1954-

The sky keeps lying to the farmhouse,
lining up its heavy clouds
above the blue table umbrella,
then launching them over the river. 
And the day feels hopeless
until it notices a few trees
dropping delicately their white petals
on the grass beside the birdhouse
perched on its wooden post,
the blinking fledglings stuffed inside
like clothes in a tiny suitcase. At first
you wandered lonely through the yard
and it was no help knowing Wordsworth
felt the same, but then Whitman
comforted you a little, and you saw
the grass as uncut hair, yearning
for the product to make it shine.
Now you lie on the couch beneath the skylight,
the sky starting to come clean,
mixing its cocktail of sadness and dazzle,
a deluge and then a digging out
and then enough time for one more
dance or kiss before it starts again,
darkening, then brightening.
You listen to the tall wooden clock
in the kitchen: its pendulum clicks
back and forth all day, and it chimes
with a pure sound, every hour on the hour,
though it always mistakes the hour.

More by Kim Addonizio

Mermaid Song

         for Aya at fifteen

Damp-haired from the bath, you drape yourself 
upside down across the sofa, reading, 
one hand idly sunk into a bowl
of crackers, goldfish with smiles stamped on. 
I think they are growing gills, swimming 
up the sweet air to reach you. Small girl, 
my slim miracle, they multiply.
In the black hours when I lie sleepless, 
near drowning, dread-heavy, your face 
is the bright lure I look for, love's hook 
piercing me, hauling me cleanly up.

Salmon

In this shallow creek
they flop and writhe forward as the dead 
float back toward them. Oh, I know

what I should say: fierce burning in the body 
as her eggs burst free, milky cloud 
of sperm as he quickens them. I should stand

on the bridge with my camera, 
frame the white froth of rapids where one 
arcs up for an instant in its final grace.

But I have to go down among 
the rocks the glacier left 
and squat at the edge of the water

where a stinking pile of them lies, 
where one crow balances and sinks 
its beak into a gelid eye.

I have to study the small holes 
gouged into their skin, their useless gills, 
their gowns of black flies. I can't

make them sing. I want to, 
but all they do is open 
their mouths a little wider

so the water pours in 
until I feel like I'm drowning. 
On the bridge the tour bus waits

and someone waves, and calls down 
It's time, and the current keeps lifting 
dirt from the bottom to cover the eggs.

"What Do Women Want?"

I want a red dress. 
I want it flimsy and cheap, 
I want it too tight, I want to wear it 
until someone tears it off me. 
I want it sleeveless and backless, 
this dress, so no one has to guess 
what's underneath. I want to walk down
the street past Thrifty's and the hardware store 
with all those keys glittering in the window, 
past Mr. and Mrs. Wong selling day-old 
donuts in their café, past the Guerra brothers 
slinging pigs from the truck and onto the dolly, 
hoisting the slick snouts over their shoulders. 
I want to walk like I'm the only 
woman on earth and I can have my pick. 
I want that red dress bad.
I want it to confirm 
your worst fears about me, 
to show you how little I care about you 
or anything except what 
I want. When I find it, I'll pull that garment 
from its hanger like I'm choosing a body 
to carry me into this world, through 
the birth-cries and the love-cries too, 
and I'll wear it like bones, like skin, 
it'll be the goddamned 
dress they bury me in.