The Return

What do you say when you've forgotten
how the grass smells,
married to the dark
soil crumbling in your hands?
When the sun makes a bed for you to lie in?
When a voice you've never heard
has missed you,
singing down your bones--
it's taken so long to get here.

Now I'm breathing in the mountains
as if I'd never left.
And when I go inside
I'm surprised to see a lime green worm
has landed on my shorts,
inching his way across a strange white country.

He stops and rises,
leaning out of himself--
a tiny periscope
peering from the glow of the underdream
where there are no symbols for death.

He looks around.

I place my index finger
at the tip of what I guess to be his head,
though I don't see an eye or an ear,
or the infinitesimal feet
as he crawls across my palm--
a warmer planet.

Lately I've wondered
what hand guides my way when I am lost.

I can't feel him
though I see him rise again,
survey the future, flat
and broken into five dead ends.
I curl my fingers to make a cup
and carry him like a blessing to the garden--

What will happen next is a mystery--
to be so light in the world, to leave no tracks.

More by Frances Richey

Letters

1

Before he left for combat,
he took care of everything:
someone to plow the driveway,
cut the grass.
And the letter he wrote me,
just in case, sealed,
somewhere, in a drawer;
can't be opened,
must be opened
if he doesn't return.
I feel for my keys, 
hear his voice:
Less is better. Late
for work, still,
I linger
at the window of the Century
Florist, a bowl of peonies,
my face among the tulips.

2

Last Mother's Day, when
he was incommunicado,
nothing came.
Three days later, a message
in my box; a package,
the mail room closed.
I went out into the lobby,
banged my fist against 
the desk. When they 
gave it to me, I clutched it
to my chest, sobbing 
like an animal.
I spoke to no one,
did not apologize.
I didn't care about the gift.
It was the note I wanted,
the salt from his hand,
the words.