Where I Don’t Live
Tiny squares, triangles and hexagons
arranged in a window pane, illuminated
by the sun, a colorful flower pattern—
daisies, maybe lilies, maybe both.
The house is chocolate brown. It’s not
the window where I watched lightning split a tree
or where a stranger watched me sleep.
Children crawl up the stairs, rainbow colors
highlight their bouncing hair,
memories they’ll share with their children.
Outside, autumn leaves scattered at my feet
turn to stone—I stumble among their teetering
under my weight; the stroller
wobbling left and right and back until
we turn towards home, his eyes still closed,
face relaxed so the lips are slightly parted,
leaves again falling. I walk slow.
The ground smoothes as I cross the bridge
stopping to listen for the water’s surface, the way
it pushes around the rocks, always moving toward
something, but also moving away from where it’s been.
I thumb through boxes, 65, 19, 37,
piece together, organize, reshuffle.
Each file rubs against the other,
reveals old faded transmittals, contracts,
and photos of when beam and stud
first fit together. He preferred drawing
on Saturdays when the phone didn’t ring,
alone with his Barcelona chair, ancient
African pottery and Hakuin’s Ebisu —
the strokes of his red wax pencil
curling circles for trees, sharp back and forth lines
searching depth and spatial fluidity,
like his office where I now close drawings
into their resting place, a handrail of history.
He used to come downstairs and sit across from me
saying only, “don’t let me bother you,” as he
stared into his courtyard garden, the crimson
Japanese maple sweeping its branches toward pine
straw, the water lily floating in the trickling fountain,
carpeted ivy covering the old stone brick.
We sat in silence until he asked for something
to read and then commented, as if he had just decided,
about pouring a glass of wine, would I like one too.
“Where is the architecture?” he would ask
as we sipped in the simple open-beamed building,
a backdrop to our movement, stuffed now inside boxes 25, 26, 27.
The Physicality of Learning
It comes from hurrying to fill sweet tea for a young couple
feeding sweet-n-low to their toddler through a pixie stick.
It’s running head first into the night, clothes blackening,
skin deepening, your translucent figure turning into darkness.
It’s snorting when you laugh
and looking into the mirror of yourself.
It becomes a childhood blanket tucked
into a hope chest for one more secure day.
Like the Buddhist monk who sits and melts
the earth’s white canvas. It takes nothing for granted.
It took all my grandmother’s strength
to open and close her curtains weighted
with polyester and years of Price is Right.
The seamless movement of dawn and dusk
filtered through the living room casting
shadows where I would sometimes sleep
under an orangecicle-colored afghan on the couch.
She played solitaire and ate homemade chicken soup.
I never heard the hum of her vacuum.
There was time to sit around the table
eating salad out of a bowl while dinner sat on a plate.
The longest I ever lived in one house was visits to my grandmother.
When I was barely an adult I took care of her after bronchitis
flared the emphysema, she trailed a tube around
the house that attached her life to her breath,
floating, like in a dream, attached by the silver chord.
There was a science to divvying the pills
into their compartments, everyday of the week,
every four hours per day. I would do a few dishes, she would want
to reheat soup, I would heat some for us both, and she would rest
in her chair, an oxygen machine whirring her to sleep before I satacross the room on her couch, both of us breathing and not breathing.