KATE RUTELEDGE JAFFE
Backward, to the old house with the pear tree
where bats flit the sky like fingernail clippings
and the chimney cracked a porch-side brick.
And wallpaper bleeding daisies into dampening liners
flaked its batter to a purple mess after the rain.
When you said, “Let’s throw a party.”
We were never waspy then, there were no
family holdbacks, we made our teacakes for ourselves
and ate them whole. That night
I grew huge in the thicket. Unraveled
like a morning glory, I crept between the palings,
watched The Paella King crack land snails
into a Valencian pan, set fire to our balsawood, stir
its sunspots, and me, petal-faced, a mole rat
maybe circled by the tutored hawks yet happily
moored to that yard, that night not yet carried away
from dark to dark. When no one showed
you called those worms intestines, those fishes voles.
If I could reach you now, I would say, Wherever
were the wormholes then? And how did we not
riddle through that pocked soil?
I would say, Remember how warm
a ravine feels just before the fall, a rumble
of brambles, a turned-down creek bed?
Let us buoy in that tepid crick, that gulf
of silt. Let us make pancakes out of the absent faces
of strangers. We were never vacant.
There were eyes in every Anjou, in every horsetail
a spread of spores for later. You said a spawning salmon
wiggles, a hedgehog curls
its peached belt upward. A finger’s as good as anything.
The King prepared his soup. We cut the sandwiches
and called out, “Anyone?”
TO KNOW A DOOR
But it’s true, right? We all dream about the end of the world? How it
would feel to walk between these brittle houses stretching out our arms,
each step a stagger across a swaying ship. Abandonment can be no
prettier to us, can fasten no truer ties to our hearts and rip them free.
And if we stopped believing? Four walls around us and the floor’s a
nothing? Then what a relief to sink.
Everyone knows everything about doors. But what about the wind-
pressed potential – a motion to the closedness of a room? A trap door in
the skin; a wiretapped glass-bottomed box? We press our fingers out,
each bone a-canting, hand-on-hand a paper plane. Our hands can hold a
sliver, a corncob, can bend around the body of an animal. Our hands
can peel their fingers back to touch wood.
Apocalypse is a big-lipped word, but at night don’t we all want to climb
inside the finger of a glove? Don’t we daydream about ponds lined with
coat hangers and plastic bags, rubble and a dog-dead roll of fish bones,
of trash kites caught in trees? And the sky’s a candy corn orange, and the
mountains bite at it with capped enamel teeth. And to the mountains, we
are barely a cluster of brown potatoes, a rip in a tree trunk somewhere.
Our travel quiet like heat through a vent.