Discard Pile

Grandma is never too drunk
to play solitaire.
to cook, yes;
to stand, often;
but never too drunk
to scrape the cards
from the top of the deck
with her thumb
watching for a move
without raising her head

Card, card, card. Flip
Card, card, card. Flip
Card, card, card. Flip

Nothing

She pulls the last fortifying drag
from the cigarette
that’s been unraveling into smoke
before she grinds it cold
at the bottom of the ashtray
then gathers the pile, turns it over and
shuffles the way her father taught her,
convinced that Jack of Diamonds
is coming out this time
bringing with him
the key to possibility

A new deal

The aging dog
asleep beneath her chair
starts twitching through a dream.

What To Do With Your Hands After Burying The Bluebirds

Spread them flat
to pat the dirt
one more last time

Wipe them
Wash them
Clasp them
while dropping
your face
into your
anguish

Then thrust them
skyward
spearing heaven
demanding to know
was god watching
while we dug the hole

Finally curl them into stones
that pound the earth
until you snap them off
and what

leave them there
on the ground
in the scuffed dirt
the only mark of
this unremarkable grave

I am
asking
and telling

Grandma Stepping Out

Grandma, If Eulogized Before Marriage

Alice is a ladies-man’s lady
with carved legs that never end
or dangle
but know their place
crossed at the ankle
like at Sunday mass, until
one finds the gumption
to get some attention
by gliding up
and sitting on
the other knee’s shoulder—flirting
her skirt hem
a rippling comber
trailing off her thigh.

And Oh.
the arch of her eyebrow
and pillow of her pout—
the ladies-man’s lady
with a gripping glance over
the ruby stain of her lips
on the rim of a whiskey Highball
sweating in her grasp.

Oh. The fellas, and oh, oh
the pool-players—
regulars in cuffed short sleeves—
elbow each other in agreement
not yet hip to her game.

She’s all catch and release,
throwing them back
at the corner of the bar
all the day long.

Come nightfall
she strays back
to her darkness-dampened duplex,
where she lies
in bed snapping her fingers
to the radio
of neighbor sounds
seeping through the wall.

The Antagonist’s Daughters

One Thursday night
he stands up and shatters himself
into a thousand pieces.

Early the next morning
the phone starts screaming.

Mother first
demanding an explanation
as if I keep an atlas of his brain tucked in my bra.

I just keep on sweeping him up
and tell her, “I don’t know. But I’m sure it will all work out.”
These lies never bother me; I tell them all the time.

I hear the reprimanding anthem of my upbringing
squeeze through her teeth:
You’re just like him, just like your father.

Again I am responsible for the mistake she once made
loving such a dangerous man.   She doesn’t say it
but she suspects somewhere I’ve hidden the blueprints
For all their failed inventions.

Later comes the call
from his name sake and arch enemy.
Wow. yeah. Sad. yeah. Gun? yeah. Bye. yeah.
Another call from a phone booth, I assume,
without enough change. I hang up too.

By the time baby-sister arrives
I’m putting away the mop and pail,
rummaging to make room in the broom closet for
the rumors and legends that
we’ll mail out with our holiday cards
to the cousins next Christmas

Without fanfare she drops an unopened jar of peanut butter
onto the kitchen table, alongside the permission to eat it
entirely, if we choose,
with our trigger fingers.

Remembering My Brother Before He Became a Cult Leader

Didn’t they see
you could only tell the truth
while bouncing a ball.

A boy’s heart
pounding
Thump! Thump!
Thump! Thump!

Up and down the asphalt driveway
across the kitchen linoleum,
off the garage door.

Another window
taken out of your allowance.

So many voices
all shouting
stop it with that ball.

You can't google everything

XII: Nest

Somehow certain of divinity
she kneels at several spots along the trail

Clutching a thankfulness
usually reserved for widowed sisters,
the hushed unborn,
and the newly wicked.

Climbing onto familiar limbs
she straddles branches
at first perpendicular
and then settles into her own nest of faith.

The snapping of twigs below
fails to wake the maiden in repose
drawn into deafness
by the temptation of belief.

Sacrifice

Votive

There’s no way to measure
the length of the blade
by studying the scar

even in braille

but mother
is quick to remind us

self-sacrifice
is always
self serving

Trinity

Trinity

Inspiration is rarely
divined
among the birches

or dogwoods
or gods

It crawls into the circulatory system
of creation
like bishop’s weed

You wake
splayed
gasping

then weep
and pray

groping not for
imagination’s
shallow bloodied roots
but for the
anchoring embrace
of memory

Half Past Nine


Sturdy wingless enviable women
recite their mother’s recipes
and weave in and out of time
without coy over the shoulder glances

Their private worry claws at the earth
not the skies

Still

The days tick by unconcerned

III: Float

The bones of our origin float
weightless
while we sleep
until we dare dream