A nightmare lingers long afterwards. It can be caught by a glimpse
into dreamtime: a word, a look, a resemblance to hunger, glimpsed.
We stalk one another ceaselessly, as prey. Marriage, married long since.
The tulips shut tight in the yard — we bring them inside for a glimpse.
The ambient temperature causes them to open. For instance,
this: petals falling open in sequence, petals ragged, fallen, pollen-glimpsed.
Envy for the siblings’ well-traveled lives — Paris, Kyoto, rinsed
in sun. Here we occupy leather seats, watch evening news on TV, glimpse
a world locked in war. We see refugees who flee for a glimpse
of peace, a bit of food, cup of water, the kind word, its fragrance, glimpsed.
Of the sun, one winter afternoon —
the sun close to setting, one afternoon
after staring into a star too soon
and long before it disappeared: noon
the time when drought takes one
by surprise. And lessons, afternoons
with father, his solar physics — don’t
stare or you’ll go blind, eclipsed sun,
half sun, quarter sun, sun through pin-
hole camera, after all he was the sun
and the moon together — a web spun
of such sheerness, his disappearance.
Afterimages spring green and red, suns
float against closed eyes and afternoons.
From him — the Pater — must come afternoon.
What is it to be awake, else to mourn the One?
Tasted, smelled, rising from hot asphalt, sweet rain
in the street where a man works on his camper in the rain.
Like desire, felt less often now we are old, the joint pain
and fatigue competing with that other. Sweet rain
rising, lifting the dampened piano that hides its teeth
beneath a lid. Sweet rain, bird song, all the rain-wet
exigencies a house brings to bear. Valence, curtain,
scrubbed porcelain. Perhaps a mouse-brown rain,
pummeling the decking. Or a violet sky shines behind
cloud cover, dense with time. Where shall I go, rain,
how can I recall my only name? The man’s sweat
pays for no one’s poverty. Often I feel jealous, sweet rain,
of brother and sister — gone to Sweden, or France.
That’s the end of the story that began with a father’s rain-sweet
face, poor past, Holocaust. Let the locusts swarm, sweet rain
brings them down out of the dogwood, they die by sweet rain.
Mother can no longer eat from the family of nightshades —
peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, all verboten, nightshades
make arthritis worse, stiffness cumbersome. In Hades
her girls lost half the year, down there, with the shades.
Call her Demeter. Still, mother can no more imbibe
of sunberry than drink a potion from foxglove, nightshade
the color of indigo, ink dripping into her heart. Eradicate
her sadness, her endless griefs, still she refuses nightshades
when the waiter comes in his stiff whites to take her order.
Explaining, as if it were a story, how it started. Nightshades —
once her favorite vegetables, completely gone, the diet
works for her — all is well in the garden of Eden, nightshades
aside. Mother me or what I will become in just two decades.
My own version of mother: her stories, her family, nightshade.
A Wolf in Her Violin
Her teacher once told her she had a wolf
inside the f-hole, beneath the G string, a sylph
note crying out when she played, like a cough
on the lowest line, and she — too young for wolves —
their red fur and strange eyes, believed half-
way through the scales, up and down, that wolf
pulling at meat. Those teeth testing how tough
the ground, how buried a voice might become — safe
enough to walk away from low-growing shrubs of
the sanctuary? Why bother listening for the other wolf,
which was gray? She’d place one note against itself,
try to tell where the animal lived. She believed
it was true, the endangerment. And how, when rough
things happened, as they would, a certain colored wolf
might emerge from the Saint-Saens. Or the bluffed
Paganini, Tchaikovsky, other concertos, riffs
blended like hard liquor, and she a girl or a wolf.
Not sure which — the sly red one, the one harsh woof.
It’s not that he hates everyone.
There are some who understand.
The dog, perhaps, those sad eyes
in its strangely human face. Not that he doesn’t
want to befriend a fellow and hike
those trails where water melts
and falls, a sheer wave down a rock wall.
Stories intrigue him. The one about a plane
smashed right into the Cascades on a clear day.
What was the pilot thinking? Was he
on auto-pilot? These days the TV needs
tweaking to keep its sound on track.
He spends a day wiggling wires,
taking things apart, putting them back together.
There are worse things than afternoon.
Perhaps the pilot mistook his angle of approach.
Science is a delicate field, misunderstood.
Machines, though reliable, can misbehave.
It’s not that the dog can’t understand
the word no. Even parasites learn to love
the suffering of those hides they feed off.