The Visit

Jason Shinder - 1955-2008
My only mother, who lost sixty pounds, tried to stand up in the bathroom 

and fell backwards on the white linoleum floor in the first hour of the morning 
and was carried to the bed in the nurse's arms and then abruptly 

opened her eyes, later, the room dark, and twisted the needles in her arms 

and talked to her dead friend, Rosie, and heard the doorbell ring 
as though in the kitchen in the old place deciding if she should answer, 

rubbing the circle on her finger where the wedding ring once was 

while slipping downward on the sheets like a body without limbs and I slid 
my good arms beneath her arm-pits and pulled her bony body up 

against the two thin pillows. And then, when she was asleep again, 

I walked down the hallway's arc of yellow light, ghosts hovering 
on either side of the doors of rooms where the strange sickness 

of being alive was the last thing between dreaming and eternity 

which closes like the ocean closes over the blue-starry body 
and does not stop, and I understood again that we never come back, 

and upright, with everything that takes its life seriously, I returned to my mother. 

More by Jason Shinder

The One Secret That Has Carried

Irene loves a man
      who is afraid of sex-- 
            she's attended

to everything,
      said it was okay,
            held me until I slept.

She says, Why don't you just
      not think about it?
            But I want to know

every sensation,
      nothing untouched,
            though I pull my hand away

once she's found it
      I can't be around a woman
            too long,

too much.
      I say, I was mistreated.
            She says, A cup of tea?

I say, I can't start a thing
      and then
            describe the kind

of thing I'd start.
      We talk about ballrooms,
            long sleeves and sashes,

say someday 
      we should go somewhere
            though we can't think

of anywhere
      and then I say abruptly,
            I've never loved

hard enough
      to be loved back.
            I say it as if I've had enough

of the whole goddamn
      world and will never
            be satisfied.

I'm looking
      at the wall.
            She's looking out

the window because
      she needs 
            to be somewhere.

Later, I leave a note:
      Sorry for the difficulties.
            Meaning: how come

you don't leave?
      I've never told this story.
            Even at the moment
			
of dying, 
      I would say
            it was someone else's.

Jacksonville, Vermont

Because I am not married, I have the skin of an orange 

that has spent its life in the dark. Inside the orange 
I am blind. I cannot tell when a hand reaches in 

and breaks the atoms of the blood. Sometimes
 
a blackbird will bring the wind into my hair. 
Or the yellow clouds falling on the cold floor are animals 

beginning to fight each other out of their drifting misery. 

All the women I have known have been ruined by fog 
and the deer crossing the field at night. 

Little America

My friend says she is like an empty drawer 

being pulled out of the earth. 
I am the long neck of the giraffe coming down 

to see what she doesn't have. 

What holds us chained to the same cold river, 
where we are surprised by the circles 

we make in the ice? When we talk about the past

it is like pushing stones back into the earth. 
Sometimes she digs her nails into her leather bag 

to find out where my heart is. The white sleeves

of her shirt are bright with waves when I visit. 
When we lie, we live a little longer—

which is unbelievable. If you love 

someone, the water moves up from the well.