I kept my life in a small room
with pale blue walls
and brought it back
little presents from the world

This is for you I would say
This is for you

Sometimes the gifts
died in my hands
and often I could not pay
the price of their redemption

I could never be sure
they were appreciated or how much
they wanted to be in the place
where I had brought them

The room filled with less and less
space to breathe so instead of gifts
I began to bring stories
that did not end but slipped away
around corners and over horizons

I brought premonitions
and resistance to closure and left
at the end of each day
looking for more

Related Poems

Everything That Ever Was

Like a wide wake, rippling
Infinitely into the distance, everything

That ever was still is, somewhere,
Floating near the surface, nursing
Its hunger for you and me

And the now we’ve named
And made a place of.

Like groundswell sometimes
It surges up, claiming a little piece
Of where we stand.

Like the wind the rains ride in on,
It sweeps across the leaves,

Pushing in past the windows
We didn’t slam quickly enough.
Dark water it will take days to drain.

It surprised us last night in my sleep.
Brought food, a gift. Stood squarely

There between us, while your eyes
Danced toward mine, and my hands
Sat working a thread in my lap.

Up close, it was so thin. And when finally
You reached for me, it backed away,

Bereft, but not vanquished, Today,
Whatever it was seems slight, a trail
Of cloud rising up like smoke.

And the trees that watch as I write
Sway in the breeze, as if all that stirs

Under the soil is a little tickle of knowledge
The great blind roots will tease through
And push eventually past.

A Known Fact

You could smell the day’s heat even before the day began. 
Constant trickle, endless green trees flanking the highway: 
summer had come back. Scattered trash 
on the apartment landing. Everyone passed by it. Everyone felt
it belonged to someone else. 

Grey fog, blue sunlight, stones like big footprints
in a wavering line across a lawn.
Everyone was talking about a new song 
in relation to the old: the same volume
but with no feeling. Standing on the porch 
just before the drizzle, 
fiercely missing my sister, how we used to take the bag 
of cut grass from the lawnmower 
and empty it over our bodies like rain.  

Days lost between the clock and my phone: I made coffee,
I brushed the cat, I went to work, I knew the time it took
to go from one room to another 
to collect my ironed shirt. I kept looking back 
to isolate individual moments, asking why
didn’t I give myself more fully to that 
friend, that stranger, that drinking, those
days. I remembered Kira and Chicago, 
leaving our apartment in the middle of the night, so hot even the moon 
looked hurt. I watched a chained dog strain
at every passerby. I thought, it must be hard
to have that much desire. 

Meanwhile, I’d gotten older. I’d grown 
accustomed to my body. 
I could sit with my shirt off
on a hot day and not think about
how my body looked 
or how I felt inside it. 
Cutting my hair the barber said, 
heat rises, that’s a known fact.
I liked her phrasing. I walked forever.
I was trying not to revise history
to make my present life
make sense. Raised voices; faded t-shirts
left in boxes on the street. 
Such strange intimacies. 
The telephones ringing 
in the houses as I passed. 

The Watch

At night, my husband takes it off
puts it on the dresser beside his wallet and keys
laying down, for a moment, the accoutrements of manhood.
Sometimes, when he’s not looking, I pick it up
savor the weight, the dark face, ticked with silver
the brown, ostrich leather band with its little goosebumps
raised as the flesh is raised in pleasure.
He had wanted a watch and was pleased when I gave it to him.
And since we’ve been together ten years
it seemed like the occasion for the gift of a watch
a recognition of the intricate achievements
of marriage, its many negotiations and nameless triumphs.
But tonight, when I saw it lying there among
his crumpled receipts and scattered pennies
I thought of my brother’s wife coming home
from the coroner carrying his rings, his watch
in a clear, ziplock bag, and how we sat at the table
and emptied them into our palms
their slight pressure all that remained of him.
How odd the way a watch keeps going
even after the heart has stopped. My grandfather
was a watchmaker and spent his life in Holland
leaning over a clean, well-lit table, a surgeon of time
attending to the inner workings: spring,
escapement, balance wheel. I can’t take it back,
the way the man I love is already disappearing
into this mechanism of metal and hide,
this accountant of hours
that holds, with such precise indifference,
all the minutes of his life.