The Waiting Room

Once he heard it, he felt relieved.
Not sad, not mad, not even afraid, but relieved.
Relieved that he was finally falling
into this black hole he had been
tiptoeing around for months, not knowing whether
this dull yet ever present pain inside
his body that he dared not touch
or speak of was the beginning
of an end. How many nights has he lain
awake on the cold bathroom tiles, slowly
trailing his fingers to its core, feverish
with doubt, unable to say one true thing about it.
Once or twice, he sensed something, a pulse, a rhythm,
a dark quickening that was unlike life. It was
unlike anything he had ever known. Afterwards
the nurse came out to talk to him, with carefully chosen
words that meant to give him just enough
to go on hoping that he might be the exception,
one in a hard million, a lucky star. It was cruel.
Nevertheless, he listened, and smiled,
almost too cheerfully, at the nurse, while
silently congratulating himself for no longer
having to be burdened with this fear
of falling into the black hole. Now that
the fall has begun, he can just keep on falling
until he meets it at the end. And when there was
nothing more to say, he left the waiting room,
and strode into the crisp autumn afternoon.
The fearless angel and the wicked dragon
alone in the dark wood.

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Vanish

Tonight I baked a raspberry pie
under the poetic moonlight,
washed and dried dirty dishes pretending
they are my blooming peonies,
and I put out a fresh roll of toilet paper
in the kids’ bathroom before lying down to dream
all that could have been
in this pantomime of life
if only I could live my own self
in my own pretty lilac words; never vanish
into a life without making a mess; never yield
to the waning season like the soured crops.
They may have been right all along: sooner or later
the great wind rushes under us all, and winter comes
to take the red fever out of every autumn leaf, but remember my heart
O my heart that has gone soft and blue, like the cratered moon,
once thumped, ached, and burned for a fevered future.

Love Song

When you rest your face
in my arm’s hollow,

all the echoes have stopped.
The world has become quiet since

the eagles returned to the valley.
I try to recall the last time I was so powerless

in the face of something so small
fastened to me like a frightened milk mouse, forever

vulnerable and impossible to hurt,
and I guess I never knew it

until your first feeble cry
raises an answer in me,

so much like love
it must be love.

A Woman’s Villanelle

This is the town with the house with the woman with the fire inside
She arranges her mornings with needles and flowers, becoming quieter
Everyday wishing there is more to life than this great lone pine

They do not talk to her anymore, nor do they visit her with apple pies
The future is a gray seagull, they say, the sun has gone to another
Nameless town with a house with a woman with a fire inside

Over the hills a cruel wind blows, she sits and listens, still as life
The moon usurps the sun in her white gown, killing the last sputters
Everyday wishing there is more to life than this great lone pine

She watches the wind overturn the wheelbarrow and the rusty bike
She rides at night like a golden broom, a naked witch, hunting after
The small town with the house with the woman with the fire inside

When the wind ceases, the sun bobs back with a gold ring and a lie
She buries the old thorns and stitches a new rose out of the guileless feathers
Everyday wishing there is more to life than this great lone pine

Who’s to say she won’t triumph over these tempests that agonize
Her soul, at first a mystery, and then a revelation, spurring her
Everyday to hope for more in life than this great lone pine
In this town with her house with herself with this fire inside

What Remains

I thought of you this morning, dear Josephine. In early spring, the dandelions became alive again in the garden you left behind. White parachutes of fickle seedlings, gone onto the same curving road you took to get away from here. I often wonder where you are, my sweet dandelion. The light’s filling up the blank sky as I am writing this letter to you, thinking of all the bright summers we’ve spent in this town; thinking of your liveliness, your sadness, the knot in your heart and all that gave you scars. Remember we used to run wild in the thick of the field, somehow seeing through the boarded sky that there would be a different life, two pebbles pattering in the palm of an invisible hand, your long hair windswept and struck by moonlight. The monotonous tide didn’t matter. The hunched backs of the fishermen didn’t matter. The cold rain, the wet grass, the wind maliciously tugging at our dresses didn’t matter. We were not afraid, Josephine, of what was beyond, or what came after. When we stood on the black rock cliff to watch the sunrise, a pair of white birds circled over us like impossible love, before diving into nothingness, never to be seen. You said that is how you like to go one day. You dreamt of a world that wanted you in it, that needed your wide teary eyes and tight fists. Years later, some say that this dream was not the right kind of dream, but rather an impish shove against the breakwater that no waves could ever defy. But I want to believe you haven’t given up living a good life wherever you are. Today as I sit under this old willow tree where we used to share tiny secrets, watching leaves fall as they fall without haste, my memory of you, laughing, and holding a shell to hear the sea, is what always remains.