How to Tell a Story
We stood on either side and took turns crossing—first, slowly, in a dead hang.
Her father taught me how to ride a bike, holding onto the back of my seat, running beside me.
If she said, He can’t come out, or didn’t say anything at all, you understood as much as you needed to.
We learned to swing from one rung to the next, stretching out in anticipation.
The dog paced the fence. He lay in the sun or circled the yard.
Before long, we could skip a bar and reach the other side faster, which is how you might tell a story.
She kept the Speak Chinese tapes and practiced all spring.
The grass grew longer.
Hello, Goodbye, and Thank you very much.
Kneeling down, we hugged his neck, held his paw to our faces.
You could smell the whole afternoon there.
After You’ve Been Gone a Long Time
There are no rubies here, but saying so brings one to mind. And they aren’t petals as much as one furled bud with a very long stem.
Ants take everything away, little by little, before you know.
You came home briefly, for instance, and I was asleep, so it was as though you hadn’t come at all, but something was missing.
More time, I thought, might be like more water and make it taste less bitter, but only made it more to drink.
Sometimes, I can’t bear waiting. If you were here, you’d see what I mean, someone staring off all the time.
Once, when I fell, my mother gasped, which only made me cry louder, and people gathered around to see fear that looked like pain. That’s what I’m trying to say.
The neighbors mow the yard, and it sounds like a plane overhead where everything is clear.
Still Life with Three Zinnia Elegans
If each bloom is a step in the story, the photograph a point of view, then this flower in the forefront is my fevered son in lamplight, his face lit brightest, who I lay in bed, clearing away the sheets, standing over him.
The stem must have stirred to make the digital glitch, the blossom’s blur.
Too much light, perhaps, too much time exposed to light, so where the petals pull across the frame, there is color, there in the error--blue and yellow.
First, he stiffened. Then shook, eyelids aflutter, and a groan that could have meant my name.
A girl bit the tip of her mother’s finger off, the doctor once warned.
It seemed to go on forever, this argument.
When it ended, it ended at once, his whole self, I thought, leaving his body or sinking deeper into it.
I placed a hand on his chest—his face calm unlike before when all I could do was watch.