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May 17, 2016

chocolate chips

It used to be about roses, about slowing down enough to lean in
to a spiral of diaphanous petals, and sniff. When you thought about it,
you could conjure a particular shade of pink and your grandmother's thin wrists
leaving a wake of perfume. In your mind's tinted eye, you could wander
that garden, bring a picnic if you wanted, lean back into the grass
and let yourself grow drowsy with leisure. Now, the timeline
has dwindled. You have the equivalent of 11 minutes, and all you see
is thorns. So instead, you burst into the kitchen for eggs and flour,
turn the oven on 350 as you wait by the phone for the latest news, and the past
disappears and the dough rises and the room fills with a brief but perfect sweetness.


May 10, 2016

crossroads at the railyard

When the phone call comes, I am sitting in a parked car near a train station
in Hudson, New York. "Your father," a woman I don't know says in French,
because she is calling from his house in the middle of Brittany. It is an hour before
I know he is alive and lucid, eating dinner in a hospital bed in Ploermel,
an hour when I am cursing myself for all the words I cannot translate,
when I don't know if I heard the verb tenses right. No train arrives
to drown out the uncertainty. No whistle interrupts the tears. Only the wind
keeps me company, blowing back and forth across the tracks,
rippling the overgrown weeds, making a small chaos of empty paper cups
and spent tissues while I watch, helpless, from the window.


May 3, 2016


When the jackpot edged up to the stratosphere, I couldn't help myself,
stood in line like everyone else in town to play the lottery.
As the numbers tumbled out of their cage like hatched prisoners,
I clutched my tickets and let my heart wander to that impossibly distant island
where luck makes its home, trolling through a series of images made shimmery
by the filmy oasis of fortune. As the odds would have it, my math was all wrong,
and I returned to the plot of my present tense, hauling the recycling
to the curb and putting up a pot of rice on the stove. Still, I moved through the days
squinting at the distance, waiting for the lighthouse wink of a windfall,
which of course was already there at my feet, had I, even once, looked down.


April 26, 2016

don't wanna

The list of unavoidable things keeps growing. Aging and taxes (so certain)
but then there's the crack in the porch ceiling from that bad rain two months ago,
and your older son's grades, tumbling like the laundry he insists
he'll finish later, and the tree opposite the front door uprooting the sidewalk
one micromillimeter at a time, and that covetous sugar-hunger
scratching at your belly at 3 o'clock, and every trifling and terrifying break
you will make in the contract that is your life. How easy to face away from each inevitable
narrative, prop our attentions on the emptiest distraction  - whose turn to take out the trash,
say, or which word will open the book we will write someday, when there's time, which,
of course, we will never quite have enough of when the pen, at last, hits the page.


April 19, 2016

for my mother, who rides horses

Though the animals are long gone and the boots retired for decades, still
the metaphor remains. On our walks in her neighborhood, I've caught
a quarter-moon of calf, taut with memory, and she scans the field across the road
as if it contained the trail back to childhood. As I write this, she is taking photographs
in New Mexico. An eagle's nest. A labyrinth. A table setting. One marked
"Morning view out my window," which gifts me a sliver of pale pink sky,
bare branches, snow. Another is an excerpt from a hallway rug: patterns of
turquoise, burnt orange, bone white. Even from this distance, I can tell she is
squinting through the aperture, index finger light on the shutter, watching the scene
come into focus, squaring her body against the thrill and beauty of it all.