Maybe you hunkered in your bathtub
when the window kicked in.
Maybe you lurched to your closet
until the wind pried you out.
Maybe your neighbor clothed you naked
no trace of the trailer where you shot up.
Maybe you found your miracle,
that one glass ornament
from your grandmother’s set.
Probably you dropped it.
Certainly, you keep saying
it sounded like a train.
You think you were saved
by God or luck or freak.
And your yellow bruiser
is crucified in a tree.
You can see the sky has fallen into the church
down the street.
Maybe those dopes
now shoot up the sky.
For certain you can see
the tornado track began here
and hugged the skin
for thirty miles.
Look what you have in your hand now
a needle and an open packet of tea.
What is house from the road becomes den as you enter:
a large woman and her dog’s dirt dark hole
in which everything dragged in continues to flit like fleas–
bags, cards, medicines, bones, long canine hair woofing
its thick matting through the weave. And maybe
you do what a good sister thinks she should: put on rubber gloves
and sort unopened envelopes, bills, ads, magazines,
letters from your mother postmarked a decade before she died;
create a small corner of order among the trash. And maybe
as you work, you worry about mouse droppings and disease
and your lungs, and probably you try not to breathe. And maybe
in that spare week with your sister, you undo a bit of her undoing
though you know that once you leave, the trash will return
like stale bread thrown upon the waters, a hundredfold. And maybe
you try not to judge, you with your hope elsewhere, and maybe,
though she asked you to come, she wants you gone, you
with your plucking and feathering, your talk of a past
that now seems only you shared. And now as you stand scouring
the crusted months of skillets and pans, she calls you from the edge
of the bathtub which you worry is falling through her floor,
she wants a towel, and you begin to search through the stacks
of laundry you have done, and she says bring it in, the green one,
she doesn’t mind who sees what anymore, the doctors have seen
all there is to see. And there she is, sitting naked on the toilet,
the mound of her with the light coming through the spectral
bathroom window behind her, and you think of that painting
by Lucien Freud, a monstrously fat man forced into a corner,
though there is something sexless about your sister’s immensity,
the mass of her stomach resting on her thighs, her long white hair
backlit, and her skin pale and wet and almost luminous.
You did not imagine your sister thus–your sister
with her depression and fibromyalgia,
her kidneys and her diabetes, her corrupt ex-husband
and her drugged out kids–you did not imagine your sister
so strangely shimmering in her corporeal grief.
Originally appeared in Mobius
Sea of Appearances
for my daughter
You wore polarized sunglasses to protect your eyes,
to see without being seen,
to spot the signatures of snatch tides.
You knew to stay one hundred feet
from piers and jetties and playful men in Speedos,
you knew that permanent rip currents existed along such seemings.
You paid close attention to children and old folks,
remembering that even in shallow water a random wave could destroy your footing.
And you trained
to swim parallel to shore, to outthink the break that could spoil you under.
And every weatherman
along the coast said, yes, a good time to go swimming.
And now, the rip tide, moving eight feet a second, cleaving you from what you cleaved
to, you, a bit of seaweed flipping in the surf,
and what am I yelling from the shore,
just smile darling,
just grin and bear on out until you find
something to cling to?
All the signs seemed right:
a boy from a temperate marriage,
a boy who wept when he saw you
in your wedding dress. Now he’s the lifeguard, the one shrugging his shoulders,
Where mice are boatmen.
As a cat, that night, the sea— black ribbon water fall, How small we were, tails rowing our bloated bellies in the ink.
Black. Ribbon. Water claws the bank. Our father standing stern, unbowed, our bellies bloated, soon to sink– our mother quaking with the stars.
Father stern and unknowing no port to starboard, no stem unbowed. Our mother still, eyes towed by stars, rustle of leaves, shaggy ripples.
No port to starboard, no star to bow, how small we were, tails floating through a tremor of leaves, shallow laps– as the cat, that night, the sea.