That’s us: the bruise on my thigh, a Camel
dangling from your beautiful mouth
and this our favorite wedding picture. The vows:
      (1) Do I take thee Wife
as wedge against the fear

of sleeping alone
in Southeast Asia?

      (2) Do I take thee Husband as solace
for all the girls ever wanted? For the ones kissed

and held by and held.

Twenty years later I am queer as
a happy Monday and you dead from cancer—

lung or liver, I no longer know
anyone to ask and made up the cause, cancer 
I say, because the paper said you died at home.
And that there was a child after besides the one before
and nothing to mark the one 
we washed away.
I dream of her sometimes, little toothless sack of skin.
with something, nothing, something 
swimming inside. 
                                     But more often
I dream of a house I once lived in,

a certain room, a street, its light. I wake 
trying to remember which country, 
what language. Not the house
where we lived and its bodies.
How they come and go

late at night, nearly dawn. I am making 
crepes and coffee and the group from the bar 
can’t believe their luck.
What did we talk about? I am trying to remember
and not trying to remember
how I tried or never tried to love you.

Related Poems

She Didn't Even Wave

for Marilyn Monroe

I buried Mama in her wedding dress
and put gloves on her hands,
but I couldn't do much about her face,
blue-black and swollen,
so I covered it with a silk scarf.
I hike my dress up to my thighs
and rub them,
watching you tip the mortuary fan back and forth.
Hey. Come on over. Cover me all up
like I was never here. Just never.
Come on. I don't know why I talk like that.
It was a real nice funeral. Mama's.
I touch the rhinestone heart pinned to my blouse.
Honey, let's look at it again.
See. It's bright like the lightning that struck her.

I walk outside
and face the empty house.
You put your arms around me. Don't.
Let me wave goodbye.
Mama never got a chance to do it.
She was walking toward the barn
when it struck her. I didn't move;
I just stood at the screen door.
Her whole body was light.
I'd never seen anything so beautiful.

I remember how she cried in the kitchen
a few minutes before.
She said, God. Married.
I don't believe it, Jean, I won't.
He takes and takes and you just give.

At the door, she held out her arms
and I ran to her.
She squeezed me so tight:
I was all short of breath.
And she said, don't do it.
In ten years, your heart will be eaten out
and you'll forgive him, or some other man, even that
and it will kill you.

Then she walked outside.
And I kept saying, I've got to, Mama,
hug me again. Please don't go.

Weep Holes

We build these
into the dream-

house, holes drilled
into window sills,

so rainy days
drain out. No

dream’s complete
without looking

ahead, without
seeing ourselves

looking back
at who—

dreaming—
we’d been.

Wedding

People, far too many people here—
drinking, leaning on the furniture,
congratulating my father
on his new life. Here’s
his young wife, young enough
to be my older sister.
She—if you can’t tell
the whole truth—is nice.
But he slams his glass
onto the table, yells
more now than ever. Unless
I remember wrong. I know
I was afraid. Of him. And so.
I know I played alone
with dolls and that
we roughhoused, hard,
like brothers. What is a father
is a question like what
is home, or love. In the middle of the room
guests on the arms of the awful floral sofa
Mom wouldn’t get up from
when she heard. In the grey bathrobe
for a week, horrid splotches
of pink and purple flowers with green
for stems. Or leaves. I can’t
look at it. There’s something hot
behind my eyes another glass of wine
should take care of.
There are people I should say hello to.