The Grocery List


My mind was a grocery list last night
Running through the pantry of
Missing items. Of those staples
Of self I do not have. If I
Take a job offered me (why bother)
I’ll just be the spoiled apple
In the crowd.
I put “good attitude” on the list.
I wanted to join the child of my
Own club, but uh oh.
Put eggs on the list.
Then there are those
Skinny jeans that need
Filling. One-by-one I try
Erasing a bad habit or
Two from the list, the
Late-night snacks, the
One cocktail that goes down like a
Sigh of relief, and then
Reluctantly I add in all awful
Caps EXERCISE, which smells odd and
Tastes plasticy and so it rots
On the shelf every time
I buy it.

After I finished the
List and slumped in
A chair, weeping, I went to put on
My pajamas. Colin, I said, it’s
Not that I hate myself. I don’t.
It’s just that to make the list
Of what I am missing,
Doing wrong, need to fix or
Do better,
I lose the will to see inside
The pantry to all that I already have.
I know what you mean, he said.

Easter Morning Undone


The choir moved like
Cattle from the pews to their
The risers, Easter morning.
Two arms raised and one intake of breath.

That morning however

A soprano stood alone at her
Bathroom mirror, pushing her
Fingers through still-warm
Grey strands. Hot plastic
Beast on the counter top
Lay slowly cooling down
Waiting to be put away. The
Woman tugged her green
Jacket lapel, touched the golden hoop earring
And gazed at the jagged and
Ever-unfamiliar face surrounding
The shock of green eyes
Pooling with memory.

A tenor himself listening to
The Beatles on the way to service
Strokes and strokes his beard again
Like totem. He’s not singing a
Hard days night in this Camry but in a
Beetle that burned out 28 summers ago
And left him stranded on a New Hampshire
Highway, so that he had to walk into
The town with his guitar and his
Duffle found himself in bed that night with the
Stranger who stopped and offered
Him a ride.

The alto shakes. She prefers to think she
Vibrates, but the hand she once used for
Simple tasks — drying a wineglass, sewing skin —
Has broken away from her body’s grasp and gone on out
Its own. She won’t answer you if you ask.
She has not consulted anyone. She
Cares not to know why. She wears
Deep purple today, remembering
Mary Magdalene and her set aside grief.

The bass forgot his reading glasses today. He is
Singing from memory, and seeing the glasses on his
Bedside table, on top of his iPad, next to his
Empty beer bottle. He walks back through the
Room and sees he forgot, too, to make
The bed. The phone rang while he was
Tying the pink tie his dead partner gave him
Three years ago. His mother calling to
Say hello and make sure he is
OK. Yes mom. Love you. Call you later. Click.
He finished tying the tie and lost in
Memory,
Walked out.

Two arms circle. The choir finishes the breath in
G. In steady stream they leave the
Risers, Easter morning undone,
Each gone to find one seat again.

Three Girls

[caption id="attachment_367" align="aligncenter" width="417"]Three Sisters - Near Canmore, AB Faith Hope Charity[/caption]

Our girls are not
Bedrock and limestone.
Take them to the dance and
Pump them full of absinth and
They are yours. But all those
Bruises rush downhill in
An avalanche of destruction,
Coach.
Little man, you are
Pummeling your own
Little girl, your own
Little princess at her
Fifth birthday in the
Bathroom with your hand over
Her mouth saying shhh shhh
Don’t tell. Apologize and
Wallow in your regret; don’t
Worry little man. Another
Misguided sister will bring her
Charlied up compassion to
Bear and around and down again
The story will go until
Your own little man
In short pants and
A mantle of excuses
Centuries-long and heavy
Slams himself inside another
Unconscious
America’s Next Top Victim, cuz
The girl won’t go
Easy but the
Judge will.

My Father-in-Law’s Dishes


I am in a kitchen in Ontario
And the house is packed in
With family and around with
Snow, and even more so by
Farmland and emptiness. It’s
March, my mother-in-law’s birthday
A day we’ve made as a holiday
Because it makes sense to
Celebrate in the middle of
Winter in the middle of the
School year so that all can
Come without interruptions to
Holier days.

And we eat turkey around the
Pool table, with all the
Chairs assembling from the
Scattered bedrooms in this
Rambling affair of a house and
My brothers-in-law Duane and
Greg have puzzled together the
Plywood cover for the table that
Duane built for us to eat on and which
He’ll leave there for
The Duration because,
I’ve noticed, it bothers him how my
Son bangs the balls around.

And we demolish the meal that took Henry
Days to prepare, we demolish it in
20 minutes, which is less time than it took
To make the gravy.
And the kids want to leave the table,
But I don’t let them. They fidget.
I recognize the twitchiness in my
Own memory, eating around the
Brown card table in Granny’s
Icy basement.

Karen and I clear the dishes,
And there’s the scraping into
Compost, and rinsing into
Sink strainer. I prefer my
Garbage disposal at home, but I
Can work with this system.
My father-in-law nibbles on bits
As he packs up the food. There is
Turkey carcass everywhere.

I move the dirties from one, and then
Another area of counter and wipe them clean.
Now a dry towel down here, for the wet dishes, and
Another on my shoulder. And one more, for
Colin to join me.
That counter is dry and no, please,
No more dirty dishes there. I wipe it down again.

The hot water
Fills the sink
And the soap.
I begin with the
Least dirty plates,
Front and back.

By the time I get to the pots and the pan I am really very
Tired and the water is sludge and I thought perhaps I could
Make it on one sink this time but I didn’t so I
Let it all out, the filth,
And rinse the porcelain sides with my hands. Bang the
Basket into the trash.
More hot water.
The leftovers are stored in plastic.
The twins are sitting on Duane.
A dog rushes down the hall after a ball.

The sink fills again and
I keep going on,
Washing my
Father-in-law’s dishes.

The Wind Still Blows

Good morning, again.
I’m still breathing. I’m still
Yours and still I’m unfixed
This Thursday in the middle of
The dregs of winter. Occasionally it
Occurs to me to believe that
This will be the best we get
And that seems awful, and then
Occasionally, after a night
Like last night when
Everything was exactly the
Same as the night before and the
Night before last, except that
The wind still blows this morning
Hard and mean and off the
Sound, I find myself in the
Tunnel pushed from behind and
Then I feel the momentum.

Area Attractions


Google can you spare me a
A chance encounter with
Life? I keep wandering around
Your innards, picking at
Scabs and chewing on old
Gum stuck under old
Search results somehow unable to
Recall what I came here for in the
First place. And, also, no thank you
Bing.

Once I used a thing called a
Guide, which was a book, written by
A person who’d put foot into
Cow shit at a summer fair and
Ate stale sandwiches from a
Museum cafe. And converted then condensed those
Memories into hard-cold paragraphs of nothing and
Symbols you’d flip a key to read.
So what’s the diff, google user? Shouldn’t I just
Succumb to your 4 stars?

Decide, my distant youth calls to me,
The pack getting heavy on her back.
But I have wandered off into
Webbed inertia. What area attractions appeal
To me I cannot say. I can only hear the
Noise of newsless news, the screech of
Baseless fears, and
A death rattle inside
Perfect tasting love minutes
Wasting away.

furnace rumble – small stone

our furnace, remade like
Madonna, oil to gas (and just as
huge), shakes the house
around her so
thrilling
that
every year we
do a white heat dance
she’s still kicking

– part of the 2013 Mindful Writing Challenge on “Writing Our Way Home”