Wednesday, October 31, 2012


a gust of wind. leaves eddy around me.

wait, no. can you believe it? they're hundred dollar bills. flying at me from all sides. i'm in a tornado of them. oxygen inflates my lungs to bursting. my hair whips in my eyes. i grab and grasp and stuff and clutch -- how much can i hoard before time runs out? i spin and leap, almost ridiculous. a frantic ballet. but -- don't laugh. you would too, i know it.

the wind dies. the paper settles to the ground and disappears. anything i'm holding remains material.

i unfold a wrinkled bill. it's not money after all. but this one says: healthy children. and that one says: a supportive spouse (who changes diapers and puts kids to bed and kisses you goodnight no matter what). and here: job(s) you like. and on and on: a home. friends who have your back (even from a thousand miles away). sisters who are friends and parents who still think you can reach the moon.  and there's more: yoga. morning walks. sunrises. food. hot showers. words to read and write. dreams. and finally: anything you want, really.

I feel like I should put one back. I've been too greedy.

But no. I can't. I want it all. I clutch it all to my chest. I won't let it drop. Not one single thing. I am so so rich it hurts.

Monday, October 29, 2012

fully dressed

i'm not going to change my mind. i'm already dressed. why bother.

    just do it. you'll feel better. i can stay.

but you'll have to wake them up. get them going. and anyway, how long would i have? i hate rushing.

    it's fine. it's enough time. go. 

i never like to give in. but this is a carrot i have to take. he's right, i will feel better. but i won't say that. it'll be less like giving in that way. i like to hang on to my convictions. about showering?

i take everything off that i just put on. (layers.) socks and legwarmers under jeans. long sleeved shirt under sweater. five buttons. all the rest. (it doesn't take long.) (a rumpled pile.) (a second skin.)

the water steams. it taps on my skull, weeps down my spine. i close my eyes and all my skin is gone. i am unformed. water vapor. transparent. a ghost.

but then. crack. i hear their voices. i quiver, dimensional again. their footsteps concentrate my mass. i squeeze my eyes and crank the water to ice. i gasp. involuntary. first breath.

and now. i'm solid. i redress.

Sunday, October 28, 2012


this: not ten feet from me, a conversation. a ventilation -- ten years of talk in ten minutes or less. i have trouble making correct change. blood fills my ears. too many too much too loud too busy. when they leave a great space opens up and i think the market must be empty. they took the crowd with them. but no, they were two not twenty and now it's the usual trickle of customers.  i crinkle and release, folding out again now that it's not shoulder-to-shoulder around here. i breathe. expand. i explain how to cook kale.

and then this: another couple stands near the cauliflower, gesturing. they decide not to buy. they use no words. they drift away from my stand, together in their vacuum of silence, a small bubble floating away in a sea of sound. i follow them with my ears,




Saturday, October 27, 2012

on justifying

I lean over the sink and squint in the mirror. Up all night is doing nothing for my complexion. Well.

Wait. Something moves in my periphery. I step back, look down. A spider (now still) sits in the sink basin. She's large(r than I like). I watch her struggle. Her front legs flail. She slips a little. Closer to the drain. She climbs again, sure-footed for a few steps, then slides.  It's an inch to the edge. I could help her. She has eyes but I can't see them.

I hate what I'm going to do. But first I pretend she's not there. I brush my teeth. She draws her legs around herself when she senses the water running. I shiver.

I replace my toothbrush in the holder. I dry my hands. I crumple a wad of toilet paper and scoop her up and squeeze her tight and toss her in and flush. Her.

She can't live in my house. (And anyway it's freezing outside.)

Thursday, October 25, 2012

on god, or whatever

What's fog?

it's -- clouds. (i hesitate.) thick moisture in the air? hard to see through. look up, at those treetops. how they're hard to see? that's fog. see?

I can tell by the angle of her chin that she's not looking high enough. She sees the tree trunk, not the canopy. But she nods.


I want to touch a cloud, the boy says.

you're walking through one, i laugh. the fog dampens (my voice).

He puts his hands over his head, his fingers stroke the air.

I don't feel anything.


I drive (just above) posted speeds. My cargo sleeps. Clouds scramble across the sky, black just looking over its shoulder to grey, perpendicular to my path. Where are they going? A higher strata seems still, black blankets that bow under the weight of someone laying down. To sleep? On the job? I can feel the pressure on the space between my eyes. I push back with slightly raised eyebrows to keep my eyes open. To watch the road.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


autumn leaves litter our yard. no -- not litter.

start again.

autumn leaves blanket our yard, putting the grass to bed with a second skin. a dead skin. cells sloughed and scattered by the wind. look at the colors, i say. (every leaf is brown). (but look, dark brown light brown russet golden dirt, backsides different from the front sides). (see the veins?)

i want to find a yellow one. it's only oaks around here. i don't see any yellow. (she will be disappointed.)

but then, there. she finds one. tiny. don't step on it. she takes it inside.

here i am at the end of the day. i rethink and rewind and what what what can i write about, all that brown. but there it is. something yellow.

i close my fist around it and take it with me, to bed.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

on reading atwood

I have never read a book like this. Not ever. And I've read quite a few. I really have. Books and books and books, swallowed whole without much chewing, like a person starved. For a story. But this book. These words. Hang in the air like droplets of fog. Move and they condense on my skin. Breathe and they lodge in my lungs. So I walk slowly and inhale completely, pausing pausing pausing before -- just one more moment ---- before exhaling everythinglettinggolookingup. Turning the page.

Oh, oh, to write like that.

Monday, October 22, 2012

good mornings

Morning. She slumps into a kitchen chair. I pour cereal at the counter with my back to her. I wear my plastic smile, the cracked one. She doesn't own such a thing, yet.

She whines. She demands. It starts. My skin crawls and my smile breaks in two. I give her what she asked for and quit the room. The baby is crying.

I disappear in the dark. Sink into the rocker. The door is open and I look out. Backstage.

The hallway is a dim tunnel. A soft light condenses at the other end. He sets his work bag on the floor next to the couch and takes her into his lap. She rests her head on his chest. Wrinkles his shirt. His low voice drifts down the hall. I unclench my teeth. She giggles.

There it is. The part I forgot. Good morning.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

shooting star

Why do they call them shooting stars, mama? She stares out her backseat window.  Why do people say they're lucky? Because they are rare. Bits of dust and rock enter the earth's atmosphere all the time. They burn up. Sometimes, they are large enough for us to see. But it has to be night. And you have to be looking up.

I glance in my rear view mirror. Her upturned face glows in the moonlight. The ground rushes beneath us and the heavens are fixed in place.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

small talk

Dance music. Little girls shrieking, running, spinning, sliding in stocking feet. I squint and tighten my face against it.

A woman speaks to me. I tuck the grimace into my purse but it catches in the zipper. I fumble. I answer.

She can't hear me. I lean closer, grateful at least for the chair under me. I never know how to stand, what to do with my arms. Now our faces are three inches apart. I swallow the bad taste in my mouth but it sticks to my tongue and when I talk I see my breath singeing the air, curls of smoke, black. I wish I had a mint. Gum. Something. My throat blisters and peels.

Sound vibrates in my chest but the air eats my words and I don't know what I'm saying. She smiles and nods.

Friday, October 19, 2012

hi, mom. call me back if you have a chance.

gripping the ledge all day, fingers shaking, debris pelting my upturned face, breathing ragged. don't touch me. i said that aloud.

her voice was a rope for climbing and when we were done talking i looked around, surprised. here i am on the top of the world.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

discard pile

you would think they were dollar bills, or notes from heaven, the way the kids collected them on the way home. one more brilliant than the next, rain dampened leaves, the pavement a quilt of color. a magic carpet.

they deposited their treasure on the kitchen table and dashed off to other caches. their wealth abounds in legos and markers.

now i clear the table for dinner. the leaves are somewhere between wet and dry. starting to curl. dull. i crush them into a ball, open the back door, toss them out into the rain.

no one will notice.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

ripple effect

The knife whispers harshly through the potato. A wet sound. A splitting of flesh, then contact with the cutting board, a dead end. Four cuts lengthwise and as thin as I can in the opposite direction. I grip the handle with my left hand and guide the potato with my right, fingers so so close to the blade. One hiccup, one hesitation, one involuntary twitch and --

Don't think like that. It's done.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

stretched between

She hangs high above our heads, centered in a web of her own weaving. Her legs curl inward, such a fragile claw. I don't see her there at first. But she catches my eye as soon as I start pushing -- this swing higher higher higher, baby pushes for the other one. I think that spider silk must be made of something strong because I see it stretch as the swings move forward and back. The web twists and torques into a third dimension but it does not tear. Not yet. She rides the fabric under her feet, staying centered. I'm terrified she might drop. She might land right in my hair.

Monday, October 15, 2012


her: pink dress with black marker smudges, tucked into her pants, into her undies. milk crusted above her upper lip. mismatched socks, one inside out. overgrown bangs, i really should trim them. tomorrow. she's cold waiting at the bus stop, waiting to wave her sisters goodbye, trying to tuck into my leg but there's no place to hide from the wind so i zip my hoodie around her shoulders. the sleeves brush the ground. the hood falls over her eyes. she can't walk. she laughs.

me: black lounge pants, flour streaked down the left leg. black shirt too because it's the only clean thing. baby drool crusted on my shoulder. socks that won't stay on right, this one keeps spinning around so the heel is on top. annoying. hair lifeless but actually clean today. we walk to the bus stop to pick up the sisters, the yellow-green baby sling is the perfect accessory, compliments all that black and leaves my left hand free to slip into hers as we cross the street. careful. walk the curb. slow. do we don't have time for this? my words in her voice, too big around her shoulders. oh, sweetie, now we do. we came out here early enough today, we don't have to hurry.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

addition facts

If you add them all up, they equal me. In body weight, I mean. 55 plus 35 plus 25 plus 15. I could figure out a way to carry them all, if I had to.

There's a woman I see every week at the market. She has four kids. She always brings them. I get a little pang every time I see her -- she's so calm and flanked and whole. Her kids are older than mine and she's still walking around on this earth and her hair is black not white. But when they all stand still for a second I see that they take up quite a bit of space. A couple of them are taller than the woman. I think she must be mighty strong. And she carries around a lot of invisible weight. Or maybe one and one and one and one really doesn't equal four. 

Saturday, October 13, 2012


Someone pulls the plug. There's a sucking sound and even a small whirlpool dancing around the drain as everything surges toward the exit. The liquid level goes down down down and a frothy residue clings to the basin walls, evidence of boiling or stirring or something washed clean.

But then someone shouts in the other room. The pressure changes, the flow reverses, consciousness rushes back into me.

I wake up.

Friday, October 12, 2012


Mama, look at the sky. Is that your favorite color? I look up at a blue that's deep and soft at the same time, so cold my teeth ache, so close I could wrap it around my shoulders. I'd shiver and smile. Yes, that's exactly it. I look into her face. She's gotten so tall.

I want to ask her, do you remember when I held you in the crook of my arm and you looked behind my eyes and I wondered how many of my features you could make out?

Now she can see better than I can.

Thursday, October 11, 2012


I only see him for a second. A split one. A glance through the right side of my windshield as my car hugs the roundabout and steadies into a straight line.

He walks two dogs. His hair is gray. His coat is unzipped and his head is uncovered. The wind gusts and the leaves skitter under his feet and one of the dogs trots just ahead, nose raised to the breeze. He looks up.

My ship passes.

Maybe his kids are both in college. Maybe he lost one in infancy. Maybe his wife passed years ago. Maybe she's making him lunch. Maybe he refuses to retire. Maybe he hates his job. Maybe he's writing a book. Maybe he's not.

Maybe those dogs are all he has.

I look in my rear view mirror. Leaves kick up behind me, yellow and golden brown. They must fall to the pavement but I don't see it happen and I'll never know for sure. She sings to herself in the backseat.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


She cries. I go to her. My eyes are still computer-screen blind so I see no shadows. No dimensions. No textures. Just black, flat and deep. I plunge my hands through the night, feeling for her form. Here she is. Her cheeks are cold.

I sit in the rocker with her body perpendicular to mine and curled into me. A soft C, like in center, like a sigh.

I could reach for my phone, find something to read. I often do. But I don't feel like ingesting anything. Instead, I close my eyes and tip my chin to the ceiling, counterposing the day.

And there they are, bits of thought spinning in slow motion all around me. Dust motes in the sun, in the dark. I reach up to press one between my thumb and forefinger but my motion exhales it end over end across the room.

I let it go and lower my hand to rest on her head, fingers running through her hair.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

plank in the eye

Crust in the corner of the eye. Here's cold water to rinse it clear. Note: a small rip in the left contact. Force it in anyway. Mild pinching. Ignore it into the background with all the rest: the grit between the neck vertebra, teeth in hollow sockets that tunnel through the sinuses and into the space behind the eyes. Fine.

The pinching takes on some heat and each blink speaks with a scratch. It has to go. Fold the contact out of the eye, half blind. Crumple the plastic and let it fall. Dry out. Stick to a sock, serve no one.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

milk, for strong bones

She brings along two books for the car ride (always an extra because you just never know). They're both books she's already read once, twice, three times. I ask her but what about the book she was reading last night -- the new one from the library. I don't feel like reading that one. I ask her why not. Something really sad happens. What? So sad that I don't want to tell you about it. Oh, I reply. I see. I start explaining rising action and climax and resolution -- wah wah wah, I even hear it that way myself. Here she goes again. But I want her to understand that even if something sad happens, the story will end in some kind of resolution. Not always happy, but some way to see the world. It keeps right on turning. When we get there I see she's been reading the library book anyway. I ask her if she got any farther. If she found out how Lucy deals with her brother's death. No she says. I ask her why not. She holds up her book, marked very near the beginning. She started over. I wonder aloud if she'll keep going this time when she gets to the sad part or just put it away. She doesn't answer. I wah wah wah again, do you think Lucy just hid under her bed for the rest of her life, do you think Lucy finds a way to feel happy even though this sad thing happened to her? She doesn't know. Think about Lucy, the girl. Did she seem brave? Or like a bowl full of mush?

At home, much later, she approaches me on silent bare feet. She stands next to my chair. She hands me the book. You should read it, she says. You finished it? Yes. Are you glad? Yes.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

at the market

They stand talking, two stones sunk in the center of a stream.  Then, an embrace. One of the women begins to cry. Her mouth forms the shape of something unknowable. Familiar. She doesn't cover her face. People float by on an unseen current, the tops of their heads sparkling in the sun. Pain ripples through space. My fingernails hurt.

Friday, October 5, 2012

sun burst

Topping this stack of sunny days sits a sky that's laundry rinse water grey. It's the unbalanced block that topples the tower, a glass shattering on the kitchen floor.

But when I peel the old sheets off the bed and spread the fresh one with a snap of my wrist, there it is: the scent of dried sun, exploding all over the room. It was here all day, preserved in the laundry basket, shoved in the corner of the room. 

Thursday, October 4, 2012


A bouquet of flowers sits on the table. It's been here for more than a week and the stems still stand straight; the colors still breathe. The blooms could be fake. But their drinking water dips lower each day.

And there it is -- the proof that they're alive.

But underneath that bright crown, brown begins to edge the green. Leaves curl and shrink into themselves. One petaled head trades satin for dry paper and bows out, exhaling something muskier than her sisters. The water is almost gone. They gulp at murk and slime.

I see this but I don't refill the vase. They won't last much longer.

I change the shirt I had been wearing for two straight days, and the night in between.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


I'm on my knees. My eyes are level with hers. My face is wet.

A drop of water waits on my cheekbone for the right moment to fall and another skates the curve of my upper lip. I could taste it if I wanted to but I brush it away with the back of my hand.

It is not gone, though -- just spread out in a streak across my skin. How long until it evaporates into thin air?

She squeals and splashes the bathwater again. I am dripping. I am overcome.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


She asks while I'm signing in, writing my name on the line. #2. We've already said the standard hellos and she's already inquired about my well being, twice: a crease unfolded, paint blobs pressed into the paper, symmetrical.

Hey, I was wondering: you have how many kids again?

I look up. I haven't written the last few letters of my last name so I hover above the paper. Four, I reply. This is a statistic that startles me, still.

And do you mind me asking -- how old are you?

I don't mind. I wonder about this myself sometimes. I see the lines around my mouth, my eyes. There are callouses on my feet, dead skin that I can peel with my fingernails if I dig hard enough. Sometimes I am so, so tired but I can't close my eyes because then another huge chunk of time will pass. I try to breathe evenly.

But I also know how she sees me. And it's not like that. I finish writing my name.

31, I reply.

Really? I would have guessed look so young...which is why I wondered how many kids you have because I thought you said four last time we talked but it just didn't make sense...

We both laugh. I tell her their ages and something about getting married in college and having kids right away, a little unexpected but not unwanted. My mouth keeps moving. She comments about how great it is that I can get away and come to yoga class. I heartily agree.

Now she knows everything about me.

Now she knows nothing about me.

Monday, October 1, 2012

when she can't sleep

I press my forehead into the door frame, one foot in her bedroom, one in the hallway. This is not going as planned.

There's a wall in front of me and I don't see any footholds. It looks slick with precipitation. Or perspiration. Mine? Hers? My eyes are dead in their sockets. I let them rest on the floor.

The light from the living room flows down the hall. The fireplace cuts an angular shadow, a line between light and dark, a branch across the stream.

I don't look up for a long time. What's there to see, anyway? Me, making mistakes. Her, internalizing them.

The wood grain laps at my ankle. My foot sinks into the golden sand.