The bathtub's full of mussels.
We pulled them off the green-grey rocks.
On the windy hillside in an ocean wind.
Touch them and you taste their salt.
Smooth and slippery like the seals
That shed their satin skins and dance as maidens on the green-grey rocks.
Where rough mussel shells break beneath their feet.
don't quite reach the pedals
of her tricycle, and she shouts with laughter,
reaches out her hand
for a piece of flying time
slanting through the window, and warming my feet
beneath the table where I play for time
behind the curtains. Dad pedals
up to the house, and I know it's time to go. My hand
touches my lips to hide the smile and laughter
ready to burst out from behind my fingers. Sunlight
is growing dummer, and the hand
of the clock is pushing at Dad's feet.
must fly, he thinks--we're running out of time.
Running, jumping, racing, going, racin, racing time,
pushes her fingers aside. She pedals
out of the sunlight
behind the curtain, over Dad's feet,
and up to his outstretched hand.
Will you hand
me my coat please? Time
is running faster than my feet
can go, he says, waiting for her laughter
when she pictures Time, with sunlight
in one hand, and Mad Hatter's hat, scurrying faster than Dad's pedals.
No one pedals
faster than Dad. He gives me a hand
up from my little tricycle to the seat on his handlebars. The sunlight
makes him seem like a giant. How much time
do we have to fly today? Laughter
needs time to sleep too, he says, and you have tired little feet.
Her feet don't quite reach the pedals
yet, but soon her laughter will be as big as Dad's, and her hand
as large. Then she'll be able to go as fast as time and sunlight will allow.
Nutmeg I remember candlelight, a long time ago
compared to other things, and we had a dinner
party. Wine looked beautiful on the table that
night, glowing amber in the heady light of three
I remember watching one burning, and watching
the blue streak at the heart of its flame, and
thinking that people are like candle flames.
Move one room, and several years to the right. I
remember once, a short time ago compared with
other things, when we sat on the floor and mulled
over hot cider and chestnuts, and a smell of
smoky apple wood.
Multiply a candle flame by four and twenty
She still sits beside me with the blue and amber
streak at the center of her flame. Some things
Step through the looking glass,
and when someone sees a twisted tree you can
show them the dryad that dwells within.
Her graceful form is clear through the rough bark.
Part the curtains in the early morning
and see the gentle rose of strawberry peach trees
that grow between the tin cans in the alleyway.
When your bunkbed is a tree house, or the bell of a
cowslip, where you lie at night--your quicksilver
wings at rest--
Who could know, to see the trampled bracken,
that the forest had a dragon passing through?
Look past the reflection of your twin in the water,
look deep into the pool.
Throw a pebble in, and surface ripples. In
the instant you can no longer see my face,
Reach out your hand.
Seven or Eight Things I Know About Him
Bought me buy me pistachio ice cream--
Someday I'll learn to like that dog
that sits on the counter and
Give me gave me
eats bread pudding in a brown tin bowl
packets wrapped with fraying string:
a book on ballet, a photo of the dog.
Start to thank you--want to watch me? Watch me
watch me, wish me
wish me luck now, dancing
to the corner of the old red-flowered couch
I would want to
to think you
wheat bread with butter and the crusts to the dog
taught me how
to make bread pudding
sitting on the counter watch me eat it watch me
watch me watch me
watch me from the corner of
I know you are beloved, Anna--
this one is to the rain between the trees
on yesterday my freeday
and the sixty cents I saved by walking.
Translation: give me five times two is ten cents
for peppermints I can send by courier
to the large kibbutz near Haifa
where you are sleeping curled together hazelnuts~
acorn cups are falling on the ground here.
At lunch I decided that God exists in unspoken
That was in between the chicken salad sandwich and the
I was wrong: I resent the intrusion.
In a letter mailed on saturday sunday sabbath day
what it's like at night in Haifa~
I've been walking through the rain between the trees
whistling on acorn cups
watching crocuses come up
wearing brown boots.
Sixty cents for three blocks walking, so I bought a bag of
wrapped them in a box
sleep tight, and safe, and wrap him round with crocus
Once times ten thousand dandelion wishseeds
They're cleaning out the East River.
Take these Vitamin C (strawberry flavored) tablets for
when you're going
the mountain pass and the mist is curling round the red tree
Take the tablet bottle and a book of Chinese
poetry for lanes and
I put a little box in with the crumpled Kleenex in your right
(why don't you clean it out?)-, and it's for filling up with
needles and small stones when the path is soft and you're
from the Queen Street Coffee Shop
after walking over the East River on the Brooklyn
Bridge and watching green water over the side,
then heading for Arthur Avenue and amaretto cookies.
Shrimp in tidepools scuttleflit
in slimy sand and shreds of seaweed,
tickle her grandfeet where the skin is free
from soft silk stockings and leather laceup shoes
Shrimp in tidepools
kiss her toes while salt wind burrows
in her gray raincoat with a long belt (the end is being
it drags and wets until Kira loops it up)
and underneath a pink dress--Gran, you are looking
the wind is up, blowing in the seagrass,
seareeds bending, roots deep in mud and sand, the tide
is coming in, salt smoothing on her skin--
it's a pity to leave the shrimp.
There is something I am
proud of: I can lace
Gran's shoes up I
can pull them
tight for her I
can wash her hair too
cooking downstairs I
learned to warm a teapot
tea in the morning and brown bread
Rachel said For her--he's doing it for her
when Grandpa woke up and made a piece of toast too
wanted to file his papers in the hanging folders that she
Poughkeepsie, where the sky's been
soft in march
strolling through loam-leaves and still-bare oak branches
on Saturday morning when at 9:00 it felt like 4--
For her we toasted wine and apple cider,
stopped by the river, and watchwaited for a boat to come
underneath the bridge
on the water down below the train tracks
up where no one's laces came untied walking in pine
puffball mushrooms stepslow
such a little breeze and still
The weight of you in green linen,
wrapped in arms, supported by the backs of your
knees and the small of your back
Rocking--no one's held you in so long.
Face buried in his neck, fist pounding on his
back under black leather--
When you shed your father's coat you had a
shape--a body moving under a
light sheathe of green linen--warm back, two
legs, waist bound by skin--
and you jumped into this stranger's arms without
I've been thinking about weight lately,
lying in bed at 2 o'clock in the morning inside
my nightshirt and under two blankets. They say
a mattress that keeps your shape from night to
night--presses up while you press down, and
makes a hollow to support your back.
It is December with electric lights in New York
City, and my mother
is baking maple leaves, and my room is cold at
Tara pins tinsel to her hat, and my father draws
charcoal trees with bare branches.
I wear my father's green cotton t-shirt, and am
aware that I have shoulders
that it hangs from, and a waist it folds around.
I haven't been picked up and held like that since
April 1996, in Central Park
by the lake--by my father in a rough brown
Here's the part you're not going to believe:
when she was fourteen years old, my mother flew.
She was walking on Squibnocket Beach, Martha's
Vineyard on a windy day, and she spread out her
arms like wings and she flew. She was afraid of the
wind blowing her out to sea, but it dropped her
down in the shallows, and she walked home with
wet feet and pants soaked to her knees.
I've never flown. I have dreams about flying
all the time--dreams so real I know how the air
feels beneath an airborne carpet, and how to take off
astride a broomstick. But the truth of the matter is
this: that my mother flew when she was fourteen on
Squibnocket Beach, and I have never flown.
My mother never told me that she flew. I
was borrowing socks from her bureau when I was
ten, and I opened the top drawer where she keeps
her silky scarves to run them over my hands. They
smell like my mother going out in the evening when
she wears blue eyeshadow and leaves her glasses on
the bedside table. Under the silk scarves that smell
like eight o'clock, I found a folder of typed stories
signed with my mother's name.
I borrowed it. I held it in my right hand and
the socks in my left, and I ran to my room, and I
opened it. There were stories and stories, and the
top one began, "When I was fourteen, I flew on
Squibnocket Beach on a windy day in October."
I kept it.