Dear Melissa: [I wish you]

I wish you (my mother once told me—mother of my child-
hood—even though water is water-weary—what is prayer if not quiet
who has made me—what hands you become when you touch—
who laid down on whose body—whose face and whose shoulders

worth shaking—what will I not hear when I look back
at you—who is not the mother of a daughter—who is not
the mother of a man—we are right to be afraid of our bodies—wind
is carried by what is upright and still moves what has) had

(been buried deep enough in the ground to be called roots—
when will this be the world where you stop—whatever broke 
into you was torn by the contact—a face wears a face it can see—
what is alive is unrecognizable—need it be—who is my mother,

mother—no one—who hasn’t killed herself by
growing into someone—I’m sorry you have) never been born

More by TC Tolbert

Dear Melissa: [a curve billed thrasher]

a curve billed thrasher
is cleaning its beak on the ground—
we are closer now than ever—sitting
in shadow—I never want to scare
anyone—not really—I have a friend
who loves people who come out
suddenly—in the dark—
                                    pleasure
is the same distance as pain from here—
that’s my skin on your sweater—both hands
stripped now—I know I am someone
to you I am entirely—practicing
Spanish on the computer—gesturing to
the neighbor instead of speaking—
                                    to sharpen
the body is never an accident—someone
I know I am not—letters are inseparable
from loss—moving what can be still
moved—one is sweeping the mouth—
what ever isn’t skin—take it off—

felo-de-se—Melissa

physicists say we change an object simply by turning 
our attention to it—really I am a grandson
only when we are eating at Panera—one of us is lying
always about her particular hunger—I love the children outside of me
counting to 30 while covering their eyes—whose body
will we sacrifice to be in the company of another—each
day across my ongoing—I haul the husk of her—fire
towers are designed for distance viewing—and I am right
here—mothering you into the next life—call me cover
when you don’t know who I could be—time’s
psychologic and legal assault—no one is listening to
ice become water—burying you to keep us alive—

This Is What You Are

missing Melissa – dust turned to waves
in the desert – okra coming up two months
too late – a forward breaking gate opening
into someone else’s field – I walk by
a window and I do not understand how little I see
you – but so clearly the wasp backing out
of a hole inside a long dead
tree – when we were children we lived
with our grandparents and I remember without
sadness mostly the sound of tires screaming into
the street – the porchlight welcomes
whatever intercepts it – I praise
insistence – I kiss
my love because our best friend died
when we were 5 years old – a brain tumor –
and then again at 7, 11, 17…43 – bodies
killing themselves by growing
beyond their own capacity – I am building
a bed for our visitors – it is infuriating how little
I understand about re-joining wood already broken
piece by piece – anticipate everything
I hear God saying to no one – I am still listening
when you stop, for a moment, breathing
in your sleep – I am recognizable
now as a part of the man who made me –
every man is a suspect – inside my own mouth
I am annoyed by who I cannot seem to be –
do you miss this Melissa – every part of our body
is ash aching to be reminded it is ash – unlike fire
reaching through the face of every forest
in order to be incited by wind or offered
some relief – I’ve learned to flinch
by standing absolutely still – it isn’t death exactly living
without you – the purpose of a rope
is to borrow someone else’s strength – that’s why
I’m calling you – when I pray I hear nothing
so clearly as our new voice
singe-scoured and full of disbelief –

 

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