Friday Apr 19

Tracey Knapp.jpg Tracey Knapp lives in San Francisco, where she works as a graphic designer. Most recently, one of her poems was selected by editor Mark Strand for Best New Poets 2008. Other work has appeared in The Minnesota Review, No Tell Motel, The Carolina Quarterly Emerging Voices Issue and elsewhere.

Another Report

Sometimes I think I’m better off
keeping my mouth shut. Other times
I open up and hope something good
falls in—a sleeping pill, a flower petal
soft as the wing of a moth. I hope for
a moth to fly in through the crack in the glass.
For the glass to uncrack, unrest to surrender.
It’s too late to revive the sheep. I mean to say
I’ve barely slept all week, still thinking
about the fur shell of a dead squirrel
I found in the backyard full of maggots. 
I had to hold the thing,
lift it with a rake and wrap it
in a shopping bag. I threw it in the dumpster,
the body light and warm with stench.

Something parasitic remains in you
when you handle certain matters. 
It makes you want to remove
what lingers and put it in the ground.
I gave the rake to the neighbors,
and avoided the backyard, even after
winter when the crows crowded the trees and cried.
I closed for business. I gave up
whatever I had that felt like it was dying on me—
an old cactus in a teacup, my dumb guitar,
the facial expressions for thanks and I don’t think so.
I left a friend that year. 
I stopped calling my mother
because who needs the same bad advice
you’d already give to yourself?
Once she told me to write it all down
and look where that has gotten me.

I’ve been checking on your cats as you asked,
watering the plants that have since outgrown
their rotting baskets and just today I noticed the skin
of mold on the old pot of coffee.
It reminded me of a field of algae on the pond out back
beyond the ruined railroad ties of this place,
uprooted deer bones and nuzzled each other’s butts
under a dim swarm of bees choking themselves
on pollen­. We used to walk there in the faltering
light and you pretended you were the mother
who let me sleep on the rocks and eat dirt. 
I was always in your context—me, the shy one,
you with the freckled lips, your saggy hand-me-down
swimsuits, how our father loved you so effortlessly. 
Remember when it downpoured and we were still up
in the old oak, the thunder throwing us around?
I might have cried or screamed in fear but there you were,
your large eyes electric with thrill, your fist
holding mine as the wet leaves stuck to our thighs
and we clung to the slippery trunk, laughing like crows. 
How I was just your sister then, not the younger one
reflecting back our differences like a carnival mirror.
Never mind the blackberry thorns still stuck
in my palms from a little shove at the pricker bush. 
Whatever. Nothing could fix my sullen face
like your hand pulling me over the neighbors’ fence,
us both falling backwards into the waist-high grass.
Later, I loved your quiet devotion to my ankle
as you tweezed a drunken tick. Its ballooned body
popped between your fingers and we gasped at the blood.
Sometimes I followed you out back while our parents slept—
your teenage boyfriend hauled the rotting logs
and threw them on the fire. Do you remember lying
down in the leaves and telling me to get lost?
which I always sort of did—your voice
lowly murmuring me away, your hair bright and full,
the light of the shimmering embers, his tan body
arcing over you. Sisters can make you feel so
small sometimes. Older now, and I’m still
exaggerating our differences: your chirpy laugh,
my combat boots. But despite your perfect breasts,
I can still sit out here on the lawn and drink the last
of the beer you left since he slipped you into his white Cadillac,
a giant envelope on softened wheels ripping down
the dirt roads and off into something like a sunset.
I have since waited for you past the stars rising and the days
have dropped down before me, asked me knee-bent:
what do I own and who owns my life? I beg myself
for something other than my own words to answer: the crickets
cyclic hymn, your hands braiding my hair behind me.
On Loss

I have been thinking too much about the blue cap I lost, somewhere between
your house and the fountain in front of City Hall where a blind woman washed
her feet that day in late March. When the soap slipped out of her hands, we didn't
say anything, which is probably why I lost my hat if you believe in that karmic
crap, which is probably why I lost grasp of your hand during the parade,
there were so many other people in pirate costumes. One pirate’s loss,
another pirate’s chest of coins. Blackbeard once left his favorite
bandolier on a bucket outside a bar in Charleston, but the boy watching
him pee against the hitching post didn't speak up, pawned the belt
at some pig farm outside town. They both lost big in the end,
just like all of us, another boat cannonballed then seized by the sea.
Everyone watches some ship sink, everyone slows down on the highway
to look  at the crash, the contents of the trunk blowing into the brush,
the paramedics pulling a cart down into the ditch.
Another stranger died today. Another stranger remembered
me as Stacy, bought me an awkward martini. I’m terrible
with names. What have I remembered to deserve that? The mailman
ignores me on Sundays, you remind me to send in my taxes. You
remind me of someone I saw once in Ohio on my way to buy corn.
It was a Sunday, a funeral emerging from the only church
I remember there, the air tightened with frost. There was a horse
in the lawn. The man moved slowly, inspecting the grass, arms shrugged
into his jacket, then lifted something blue— a hat— from a bald shrub,
studied it with all the fingers of both his hands and then carefully set it back.