Pure Products of America
I have this recurring dream I'm pregnant
my sister tells me, and I go to the doctor
and he says, yeah, man, you have like
twelve in there.
She's hurtling through New Jersey
in a Ford minivan this nor'easter's tongue
down to rust, collecting donations for hurricane
survivors, ferrying asthmatic Aidan home
at the batting cage. He can't breathe since she rescued
that litter from under a boxwood hedge.
dull pink. Mold-speckled leaves exhale in a thousand
fragrant heaps at a hundred strategically rounded
curbs in twenty
silent developments in the reclaimed wetlands.
I dreamed once of a poem called "The Autobiography
of New Jersey"
but can't hear the voice. She's an out-of-work
elementary teacher. Her trooper husband's car
is a bubble
of hemoglobin flowing, always flowing
through the hardening arteries of a state
bent at the waist
like a woman. Or, cat's-eye-view, straight
like the rule of sky on ocean, lavender with cold,
ruined. Her Garden State's garden shelters
animals under every scrap of viburnum.
through updrafts of exhaust fumes.
And my kind sister witnesses. Thinks about how
homes for the creatures her brain gave birth to:
mewing handfuls of hungry dirty
adjusts the mirror. She drives the car.
that's Thoreau via Lowell. It may rise higher
this year. The copperheads may writhe on a ledge
of exposed shale lapped by current. An eyebrow-ridge
smacked by little waves. Life surging out
of ducts, seeping from nail-beds, rushing each sheet
of paper, foaming with pollutants. You think
it sounds good, the high life, this water-mark,
but it's messy. What they don't say is how
you ooze from every orifice: that's Amelia,
nobody you should know, on the days
after childbirth. A father's death flows
hard too, spooks the snakes, even when you feel
the world's better off. Your banks torn away.
As plot summary, that's pretty lame, you said. So is
I caught a big fish and I let the fish go. What's interesting
is Elizabeth Bishop in a boat musing on isinglass and rainbows.
My theory, that all poems tell stories, leaks. Some argue
like dinner-party guests. A renku or ghazal has
to keep pivoting: as soon as plum blossoms start
floating downriver the widow's writing a letter or
the yellow moon bobs over the trees, pocked like a
gourd. It shines on how I don't really get ghazals,
though renku have lovely narrative eddies, conversational
currents. Most people raft away from talk about art, distracted
by children hollering from the shore or bosses with wire
leaders in their lips. Plus it's an election year.
The tomato salad gleams. Only a few pole around
for propitious water, stare at their own wobbly
reflections, obsessively test the line. You're the only
fisher who lives in my stanza. I would starve
without you. Still, as the evening washes in, dotted
with petals, I long for other sunburnt, homely salts not
tying up at this dock, not bickering as we stump along
to someone's porch to mourn collectively, isolately,
an immature catch. We hauled up the sun, someone
would say, glittery as beer. You or I or someone else
would empty a glass and retort, then we let it go again.