One Way or Another

it is you who leaves. So I set out 
to read for signs of imminence, 
the same river twice stepped in.
Morning rises gently on the harbor;
our letters come disguised as life. 
We know the score but fracture 
on fact. We sign a dotted line 
made out of promise—the pipes 
in November clanging on with heat,
the window left at night a little open. 
I love you; then what? Hands 
suddenly alive. I plead with time, 
adamant, remorseless. So we begin 
in earnest; what then? I plead 
with time, adamant, remorseless.
Hands suddenly alive. I love you; 
then what? The pipes in November 
clanging on with heat, the window 
left at night a little open. We sign 
a dotted line made out of promise—
we know the score but fracture 
on fact. Our letters come disguised 
as life; morning rises gently on 
the harbor. So I set out to read 
for signs of imminence, the same 
river twice stepped in. One way 
or another, it is you who leaves.

Letter to Noah’s Wife

You are never mentioned on Ararat
or elsewhere, but I know a woman’s hand
in salvation when I see it. Lately,
I’m torn between despair and ignorance.
I’m not a vegetarian, shop plastic,
use an air conditioner. Is this what happens
before it all goes fluvial? Do the selfish
grow self-conscious by the withering
begonias? Lately, I worry every black dress
will have to be worn to a funeral.
New York a bouillon, eroded filigree.
Anything but illness, I beg the plagues,
but shiny crows or nuclear rain.
Not a drop in London May through June.
I bask in the wilt by golden hour light.
Lately, only lately, it is late. Tucking
our families into the safeties of the past.
My children, will they exist by the time
it’s irreversible? Will they live
astonished at the thought of ice
not pulled from the mouth of a machine?
Which parent will be the one to break
the myth; the Arctic wasn’t Sisyphus’s
snowy hill. Noah’s wife, I am wringing
my hands not knowing how to know
and move forward. Was it you
who gathered flowers once the earth
had dried? How did you explain the light
to all the animals?

Related Poems

Conspiracy to Commit Larceny: A Recipe

Take the man you think you love and his
fabulous lips. Take him from one place
to the next. Let him drive your car. Let him
drive it through the mood-crazed woods
until it overheats. Let the nights feed
from your eyes as you look at him. Do
not turn on the heat. Do not spill
the flavored oils of the heart. Do not
eat from the palm of your hand
a fluid ounce of what you may need.
Do something illegal. You only have to be
there when they bring the contraband in.
You only have to leave yourself behind.
The stars know. The police will prowl
your neighborhood until the plate number
matches and the car checks out.
When they bring you in, you
must remove your shoes and belt.
You must pretend there was no felony.
Then you must confess. Add your past,
a pinch of the rage you feel, and how
you sit until your father bursts in
and asks whether you have been arrested.
Add a mother who tells you she is
ashamed. An expensive lawyer. The way
you remember the taste of his kiss and
how real he was and how he would
drive dark roads at high speeds through
the back woods with the headlights off.
Remember what the stars see. And how
once it is over the lawyer will send
a letter saying he said you knew nothing,
saying he tried to keep you out of it,
though the police said he had given
you up as they made you say his name.

You don't love me, you say, and deflate

You don’t love me, you say, and deflate
our air mattress, meeting me at the fold.
                                        We’re in a bad lesbian performance piece

You don’t eat the sandwich I make you.
I puncture your yoga ball. Or, the dog did
                                                            This is a drawing of the dog.
                                           I meant to watch something and be still
                                                                                 for a long time.

I'm not sure what belongs to me. 
                                      It’s your money
                                                         stop asking me what you mean

Porcelain skunk, perfect Q-tip holder.
Ceramic parrot, good for something.

                  If you don’t trust me with this cup then wrap it yourself.

The dog hasn’t stopped barking in hours—anxious.

                                  I know you can lift the chair, what you can do
                                                                                is not the point.

When You Leave

When you leave it will be empty:
dried leaves on gray-haired limbs,
clumps of gooseberry minus the berries.

Tracks across frozen water will lead
to a frigid channel,
springs seeping away from the source,
snow-covered hills reminding us
of the rolling, frozen sea.

The sun, low and yellow,
will not thaw any ice-covered bridges,
all slipping and falling,
no turtle miraculous emerging
from the snowbank to save me.

When you leave it will be all deer track
and rabbit scat, decayed leaf and prickly ash,
evidence of frantic digging.
Brush continuing a slow choke
over the disconnected sandbar,
little bluestem fighting back.

When you are gone it will be indelible
as a leaf fossil in ice, brief, no answer
in the night to the call of your name,
morning minus the light, forever
non-communion.