When you are late getting home from work. When you text at 4:36 that you will be home in twenty and then it is 5:23, I slowly but at lightening speed think, “Is this the day that I will lose her?” I seize up like an epileptic, which is something that I’m not. My bones assemble into the steel silhouette of a building that will soon be selling chicken fried rice and pretty cranberry colored but quite itchy sweaters. I sing a little to myself, not at all like a dirge but more like the kind of song I might listen to in the morning while I’m brushing my teeth before work, “So these things happen. Carry on. Pull your muscles out of your pockets.” I will honor your memory and a life beautifully, really, just beautifully lived, and I will make sure sprays of flowers adorn your coffin. I will ask people, please, please don’t speak of her in the past tense. I will push open the screen door into a porch busy with blustery wind, like I am trudging and pushing through a desert- which I am- and I will take glass dishes holding wet piles of chicken and vegetables cut into tiny logs, all mixed up with gelatinous canned soup. I will hold the dishes like sleeping babies and smile graciously. People will ask how I am holding up. I will try not to hand the well wishers a blue lipped smile- you knew my blue lips and they made you worry that I was dead but it is you who is dead- and eyeballs caught up in fine red nets. I will accept hugs from people wearing knee length, loosely belted sweaters. They know how hard this must be. Tears hang off our eyelids like perched skydivers. In the middle of the night, I will vomit into a white toilet bowl. I will leave the lights off because this makes the retching more poignant. The smell of vomit will bloom over the ceramic tiles, and I will think somewhere in my body, look at you. You are grieving. Look at how well you’re doing this. I will crawl across the carpet on my knees, wasted, a snazzy skeleton. I will liken myself to some biblical creature. I will lift myself into our bed like I am a truck bed of cargo, and I will peel away my clothes like shells. I will hear birds in the black trees and I will ride their backs, humping their thin spines to urge them on, away from my frame of bones spread over the sheets that have grown furry without washing since you died three plus weeks ago. By which I mean two months. Four months. We never had it together, but how we turned like one animal in our dirt.
A tree trunk is the wooden bloom of a yellow leaf. You want to eat the leaf, to put it on your tongue and let it dissolve like a tab of acid or the body of Christ. These things are the same really, and in either case, you want to run the color down your throat and through your bowels. This is selfish and you simply can’t do such things.
In winter, squirrels act as suspenders and use their fine toenails to pull up the trees. You don’t believe me because you’re the kind of person who doesn’t believe things. If all squirrels got selfish at once, like we do, and jumped from the trees in a flash mob to grab at nuts rolling in gutters, every single tree would fall at once. I would like to hold a squirrel’s hand, his tiny mitt on the pad of my finger. The trees would crash noiselessly because big things don’t have soundtracks. Anything funereal is strangely quiet, a quiet entirely void of comfort, the quiet of leaving a church on a cold morning lit yellow. You wad a shredded tissue into a hard ball in your damp palm and you do not know where the casket has been taken and the sun is too bright. We are silent soundtracks, preserving wails on mute and snot and tears in amber stones that we finger on dusty summer mornings when the heady smell of cut grass makes our throat ache.
Find something finer than a squirrel’s toenail with its bleeding quick encased in a curved shell. God unfolded me over a map of the Vitruvian man and shot me through with bleeding quicks. I bleed from anywhere and it’s startling.
Another thing to know is that my body is hooked to my bowel, and it’s my ears that keep me standing. Otherwise, well. It would be a noiseless thing. And a ferris wheel, the whole wheel and all the colored carts of it, all of it swings from just one broken lightbulb, its broken quick pinging when the bulb is shaken. It’s the thick black sky that lights up the bulbs that aren’t broken. You think it’s the other way but you’re mistaken. Hang your face in shame, and mean it. This isn’t just for effect. Hole yourself into the dry corner of a library and study things. It’s one line in one book on a plain old blonde haired, blue eyed shelf that keeps the entire library from blowing apart like a flower gone to seed.
Slide your arms into a squeaky raincoat and kneel in your chilly garden while rain turns to snow and back to rain and back to snow. The trees are still held by brown and yellow leaves. It’s that kind of afternoon. Listen to me: your world is full of surprises and you are lucky you can’t see its beauty at once. If you did, your back would split in two and loll in the wet grass, your quick wrinkling like a peach pit. So much is lost on you. You’re not big enough to hold it, and you can certainly not make yourself small enough to protect it. You spend your life scouring your tongue and teeth with sand, rinsing your eyes with bleach, scrubbing out your groin with steel wool. Your fingers are a terribly boring ball in your lap. They are aging into peeling sticks.
Get down in the goddamn garden on your knees. Blink at the icy raindrops shattering across your fat face like birdshot. Your knees are heavy metal saucers. You delight in the cold metal. You could kneel and rock and probably sing Turkish prayers and Icelandic hymns. Turn over wet and heavy clumps of soil with a friendly spade. Lift breaking clods of earth. Dump them. Lift more. Mind the living things. Watch the black earth break into big pieces, like cracked dinner plates. This is how you come to life. [You didn’t forget seeds. Don’t be so ridiculous. You are always so ridiculous, always fretting. No one asked you to plant anything.] It’s already been done. It was done before anyone talked about aspirin in waxy cups at bedtime or fruit cups for train rides. Your naivety makes my fingers flutter, and I could just pinch your round heiney, split like a ripe fruit. You delight me. Etch a locket to say something important, like, for example, You haven’t the foggiest. Wear it. Don’t strangle yourself with it. Just only wear it. It’s meant to make you pretty, not breathlessly dead.
You are so wet inside. Take off your useless raincoat. Toss it to the side. Your quick runs the length of you, and you are longer than you can imagine. You are the Vitruvian man. Lay on your back like an egg. Roll in the snow and make yourself a cold nest. Unfold your legs. Spread your knees. Lift your chin. Open your eyes. The world, the entire wet world, is hanging from your fingertips. You are slick and fine and icy. You are smooth and long and wet. Don’t you dare shake your fingers. You are so wet, and I’ve not ever seen anything so broken open, so fresh and fragrant, so shot through with blood and life.
Rework into something separate: God unfolded me over a map of the Vitruvian man and shot me through with bleeding quicks.
Tree trunk, squirrel, ferris wheel, library, gardening
Driving to Work in March
Red brake lights flash
across long white rails.
The fence blinks like a string
of holiday lights on a morning
gray like undrained bathwater.
The road is torn down the center
like a vivesection, pulled apart
with square houses and mailboxes
hemmed in by broken daffodils.
This is how sadness is.
Your tongue is in your mouth,
floating beside your teeth
like a gray child bobbing
in the full tub. Do you feel it?
You whittle down the hours,
and your tongue isn’t yours.
I tell you, this is how we
hold ourselves together.
Do not bring me a bouquet
of daffodils. I have nothing
to drop at their centers.