I Have Known You in Your Afterlife

Resting my knees on the red floor, I lift
my head toward the tree, hands welded
together, fingers painted shut. My eyes, once
yours and singing, hold the air breathless. Outside
I fear, wings beating and beating, pulling me
farther into the warmth of Decembers
by the fire, a blanket worn majestically
across our shoulders, steam rising
from our tea with healing and a trumpet solo.

In this spot, knees on red, I first kissed you, the dust
from your lips drying the rain from the air,
streetlights black like your hair, smiling behind
curtained windows. Years before, or days,
you held flowers in your hands, and I moved
them gently to your hair, melting colors into silk and curls.
We were sixteen. My face didn't hold color,
and you thought I was ill. The doctor said nothing into
the clipboard, eyes saying even less as he turned
page after page, and back to the first.

The painters came at four and white
nauseated me until I cried. You stood, sweeping.
You didn't look at me until three days later
as we stood under the marquee, your cheeks charcoaled
with tears, and I didn't know why. I never knew why.
You stood with your hands at your side, and I
lifted mine to the reflected yellow sky. Without
moving my eyes, I looked into yours, my mouth shouting
into the abyss, the miles that separated us.

I walked down the street to your house, a pair of doves
in my hand, petals scattering behind me like the kaleidoscopic
tunnel into a lonely basement, water tip-toeing through
the windows and down the walls. It was there that I stabbed
you four times. You didn't ask why. I painted you a picture
of your screams, and you smiled without wonder.

Still I wait to die. You, dressed in a canary dress,
hold my hand, your own not cold, but cooling mine. I look
down, like I have for years, when I speak. You shoes
like daisies hanging in their place, the tree and a picture frame,
compliment the grass, warm and smiling. I touch your cheek
and feel my heart stop swirling as I drown.

When did you come, you would always ask. When and from
what. Your voice coated the words with burgundy
lace; I choked for answers. It was times like those
that I remembered taking you flowers. And like
a twelve year old seeing a naked woman for the first time,
I hugged my eyes with my fingers, choking
the light from outside the moon's grasping arms. I touched you
with my small finger, your lips trembling, not knowing what it was for.
I don't remember if you laughed or struggled for breath
as my hands wrapped around you. You held flowers
in porcelain hands, painted for the new year, and I slipped them
like cool air into mine before they fell to our feet. Blood

dripped from the thorn, and I lifted my thumb to your forehead, hiding
your tears behind a red mask, holding together the falling apart

of August nights. Headlights spilt down the road
and over us as we slept together on the pavement,
you in your canary dress and I alone.


Resting Hands

Without a family, friends or a home
my nine year old son walks from school,
his back pack hanging from his shoulders
like a great bird waiting to die. Green hands
rub across his shirt and he runs, the shoes,
two sizes too big and two years too old,
cracking like lightning across the street.

Like lightning across the beautiful street,
less than half a mile away and nearing, the neighbor's
wife walks the dog, slowly breathing,
for the night. I see her through the window
mouthing the words again and again:
if I die before I wake.
If I die. Before I wake,
if I die. Before I wake
Lord, my soul, please take. Take me away. From the window
I watch as she cries, my hands pressed gently to the glass,
painting a foggy Monet in transparency. I look into her
heart but I see nothing but the cotton pullover,
patched in the elbows, two sizes too big:
her husband's. Her empty hands shake
from the heat, and tears fall into heaven
for the man who will never comb her
hair through his silent fingers again.

Not a word, not a word, not a word
for her. She sees my son running
like a paper napkin tumbling on the wind
toward her, crying. And he stops. She stops.
Her dog has since walked home, the front door
locked and the lights off. She looks at him
as if from across an ocean, and he, nine years old,
spreads his arms, feathered and ready to fly,
toward tomorrow morning, when he'll wake early
and walk each step of a mile
to school and the girl with freckles who shares
her peanut butter and jelly sandwich with him.

He sees the tears crying out of her, wetting
her cheeks like the sprinklers before recess-
the teacher says don't play on the grass,
it will stain: your pants, your shirt, your hands. He sees
the tears crying out of her, and he picks a dandelion
from the grass- the sun's son, shining everlastingly
and guiding toward a land of flowing waters
where light washes the aching bones free
from every morning's waking, unrested,
in an empty bed, the covers pulled to one side-
stretching it forth toward her, his hands small and green.


Since I Memorized Your Face

Foreign life unfolded into the spring air,
decaying breath, smiling between branches
of the neighbor's poplar. She poured
herself into my eyes, and I drew a bonsai
inside her mother's plaid jacket, the orange
glow escaping from within the third movement,
a modern vesuvius: cold and breathy, aspirated
and alone amidst feeding sparrows, seedlings
uprooted and dire. I stood, the door in my arm,
and waited blind for the mail. And she came with
a bag in hand, an unfolded blanket, a child
hanging from her lips. Crying as the mail came in,
the letters awkwardly addressed to the chinese
girl in my basement, singing
drawing on the walls, making the beautiful my life,
I hugged her while she raised her hand to hide her eyes.

Still and naked I stood, and she typed impressions
upon my skin, pounding and pounding on metal keys,
the piano untuned since 1973, and a rusted bracelet slipped
from her wrist. My naked body stood like a figurine
soldier, and she lifted me, and she dropped me
into the sink, paint washing down her face like the time
we spent all day in bed, playing dead, hammering nails
into each other's hands, driving stakes into each other's
hearts. She would smile often then, her lips open windows
into the turning autumn, red and red and red and red and red and red
until the wilting flowers drooped entirely and she would stand
before me, exposed and barren, forty miles from
the nearest town, dirt in her hair and mine. I would paint
into the night and a mirror, explaining the undesired results
of our first child with soft strokes of a horsehair brush. Dust to dust,
she would say, and I would paint.
I would paint with hands chapped, bleeding, folding the night
into a little package, tied lightly into a bow: she stabbed me for an hour
before I rose into the night. I rose.

And the pale faces on her cheeks laughed in the cold air, her laughter
less and less as she tried to become something that I wasn't and never could be.
She tried for days before the letters came, and the addresses
scribbled with her blood came, sent from the devils. We would open
them like we opened each other, in panoramic beauty, and read
with silent eyes news from her brother, distracted by a war. Alone
she wanted. Alone she stood. Alone I breathed and became her air,
filling her. She would cry sometimes when her skin grew cold,
and we would bow down, raising our hands to the top of the sky,
stretching forth the insignificant figures written on our hands: I do
not want to feel pain. I do not want to feel pain. Together we would pound
nails into one another's hands to stop the bleeding. She screaming.

Until morning she slept. Until morning our child slept, and I rose
in the dark to become her, and we became one flesh, being no more.