after Mary Ruefle
I too have smuggled my life through every conceivable hour—
heard the doorbell and hid, bitten the salt covered lime and my tongue.
I can’t imagine how I should be.
Sometimes the wind witnesses
tantrums in me. I walk quickly through alleys,
sneer at strollers— those sorts of things.
will not ring if I want it to. I will open
the fridge to an absence of milk. These are certainties
regardless of virtue.
I concede that
I’ve been an unforgivable mistress and write
love letters to men who’ve moved away. They
won’t come back, and what’s it matter?
This is love’s venue anyway.
Do the days watch my figure? Certainly they’ve changed my face.
Every stroke and scar is an Indian summer
I’ll never feel. I don’t think I’ve ever wanted anything.
The seasons are specifying forever, lifting their tattoos.
Memory is not a green raft paddled to the dock’s end. I made myself this way, got in a heavy skin.
We patrolled the tall grasses looking for this bird, that bird, of unspecified breeds. What we found
was a slop bucket of dead beetles. What we wanted was instant love. I could never handle that pond
or swim the dream of creatures so close and in pain. Even you couldn’t touch the bottom. You
could look across the highway to the prison and spin stories of inmates climbing barbed wire to
murder us at night. I’d give you every tantrum. I’d sit in a broken swing, knees sweaty with backs
bitten. One season the earth curled around us and stretched our thoughts beneath it. Birds are not
your letters in a box burned under the Kansas sun.