When you are eating Oreo brand sandwich cookies, and you bite into a piece of ham and realize that in fact you are not eating Oreo brand sandwich cookies, but you are eating a ham sandwich with lettuce and mayo. The coffee pot dings. Or maybe it was the doorbell. You look up and your wife is standing there, coffee mug in hand, laughing. Oh, John. You’re so forgetful after the accident.
The western fence lizard,
black scales against blue sky
flips over on stone
hot with Summer heat
exposing his belly, crystalline and blue,
Scales soft and reflective in the noon sun.
The hawk watches from the tree.
You kept a lizard necklace on,
even when you slept.
I asked you, “Why do you always wear that?”
You said it reminded you of last Summer
when you lived in Pensacola
and worked at Harrison’s Feed Store.
There was a leak that dripped
and made a spot on the floor in the shape
of a lizard in the break room.
I found a
crumpled up letter in
your top drawer while I looked
for my grey Oberlin sweatshirt.
Written on the letter:
"Sarah, keep this letter and this
necklace, even if you never
I will always love you.”
I asked you what you left behind
when you moved to Ohio.
You grabbed your green lizard necklace.
We were laying under a collage
of a mansion in the woods,
guarded by krishna
sitting in a hotrod shooting
reflective flames -
Two mattresses pushed together like life rafts
on a hardwood sea, my body flat and spread
like a starfish, yours straight and pensive
like a pillar candle, waxy, melted
and re-solidified over and over.
I reach for your hand and you pull away,
"This probably isn’t a good idea"
Isn’t necessarily what I had
hoped to hear,
but it was what I needed.
If I was skin on bone,
you were bandaid needed,
but torn away quickly.
UFOs dancing in the rafters,
I fell asleep with my arm across
you, because my thoughts
had aligned two stars
at the wrong time.
Krishna laughing from the wall
could not have guided me.
Being a tourist because of a funeral
can leave you seeing mountains
while your mind is full of piles of dirt
Can a camera hang around your neck
under the palms in California
while thoughts of rosaries hanging from necks,
their beads like black condensation
and rain drops that always fall
move through your head?
Flight attendants bringing
refreshments and neck pillows
as you fly over farms and cities,
like the boat of charon above the living -
The thought of a black hole forming
in the plane and sucking everyone
out, ascending them into the heavens
as if their souls are to be freed
from their bodies.
Rainfall taps on the metal wings.
Sometimes what we remember
is not the same as what we see on photographs
piled in blue suitcases kept in attics -
Men smile and show their teeth
like wolves disguised as sheep -
Grandpa with his sweet smile
as he hugs grandma in 1973.
“Grand Canyon Vacation!”
We do not see the bruises
from when he drank too
much tequila and she
When I was twelve years old,
my dusty yellow labrador found a femur bone in the woods behind my house,
a bone with a little bit of flesh still clinging on,
but dried for the most part.
And I didn’t think anything of it,
when I thought he must have found the leg
of a deer that had died a while ago.
Until two men came to my door wearing suits and holsters,
held up a photograph
and said “Have you seen this person?”
I told them I had not,
and noticed how dry my mouth felt,
like cotton mushed against the roof of my mouth
and against the back and tops of my teeth.
Wedging my foot in the door was not enough
to keep them out,
they would make their way inside,
and they would not find a deer.
There was a cross country runner from Eastern Oregon University,
he wore a gold and black uniform,
the number fifty-nine on the front
that bounces up and down as he steps over branches and leaves.
October 1985 -
He’s running and passes number seventy-four
Whose hair is dried out from the heat,
and lack of moisture,
looking like a tumbleweed
worn as a wig.
Two days before the race,
Space Shuttle Atlantis left Earth for the first time.
Number fifty-nine’s feet lift from the ground
as if they will join Atlantis.
Fifty-nine wins the race.
The Baltic sea spits a bottle out onto the shore
as if it were bitter food.
The musty vessel
picked up by a fisherman,
his hands rough like brown leather.
A postcard inside
with some scribbling -
May 19, 1914
followed by a single line -
"Well, I’m glad that isn’t bottled up anymore"
The fisherman begins to cry.