Across the pond

She imagines him
waking from his U.S. dream
across the ocean.

Lifting his tea cup,
he asks, “What did I forget?
Oh, yes, my poet.”

Sweets

Life is a succession
   of desserts:
Chocolate sundaes,
   and key lime pie,
Fudge brownies and
   peanut butter cookies.
Sugar and caramel and cocoa
   caress my tongue
Leaving only memories
   of their sweetness
And extra calories
   on my stomach
   and thighs.
I wash down the taste
   of lemon and strawberry,
Cinnamon and coconut,
   with black coffee,
Bitter and bracing.

Tattoo

Tonight I walked behind two couples
Striding hand in hand
The men wore rumpled khaki shorts
One tattooed below the knee
And the tattoo encircled his leg with links
Like a fancy bracelet black
I wanted so badly to brush against it
My stomach ached with need
Yet I wasn’t even close enough
To really see his face
Soon they turned the corner, vanished
Leaving my fingers tingling
At the thought of his smooth tanned skin
Well muscled, but not vain
And maybe a similar chest or back
With hidden matching ink
Sadly, my fantasy ended there
With nary a kiss or smile
Only a wish: first my hand upon his leg
And then his hand on mine

In the dark places

Is God only to be found in flowers
And sunsets and smiles and morning lake mist
Or is he also present in the dark places
In the tears and terror and numbness

Perhaps he is there
But I have not been looking

In my despair
As I backed a rental car out of the driveway
And followed a moving van
And all of my earthly possessions
Down the road from my house and husband
And our decade of marriage

Perhaps God was there
But I could not see him
Through the tears in my eyes

In my fear
As I lay on a white-sheeted exam table
Allowing my insides to be probed
And stretched and pulled until I broke
Spilling my blood onto that whiteness
Draining it from my face until I was faint
And the PT fed me yogurt

Perhaps God was there
But I could not hear him
Over the pounding of my heart

In the terror
Of those never-ending moments
Weeping on a plane to Dallas
Reading the only magazine in the seat back
Sounding out words in a language I don’t speak
Body tense for every tremor and bump
While other passengers dreamed of beaches
Or read their frivolous airport novels

Perhaps God was there
But I could not feel him
Put his hand on my shoulder

Words of a wise man say
Welcome the darkness
Embrace it
For it will “sweep your house clean”
Prepare you for better things

If I invite the darkness in
Offer it a chair, a cup of coffee
Will God come with it
Will he be there
If I look and listen closely
To all my dark places

Mood swinging

I must be mood swinging
Because late last night
I twirled on my living room rug
Barefoot
Circling to music
As the cat chased cotton balls
Both of us giddy
For no apparent reason
And I was so euphoric
I hung another picture
With math and measuring tape
On an empty wall
And thought about buying
Those red and black bar stools
With seats that spin
It’s only money after all
And my mood still swung
The next morning
As I walked humming
In the lovely heat of late May
My black skirt flouncing around
My winter white legs
Bouncing into the office
Almost, almost twirling
And then – ever so slowly
Between conference calls
And aggressive emails
Some unknown force
Beat the joyfulness from my heart
Until I felt an overwhelming urge
To fade underneath my desk
Where now is my mood swinging?
I pray it’s only buried
Under millions of Microsoft windows
And that if I go home
And twirl on my rug
I will mood swing again

Pink toenails

Reading in a coffee shop
I catch sight of my fingers
pale against the pages of a book.

My fingernails have been bitten
down to nothing
in moments of anxiety,
which could be any moment –
or every moment – for me.

Usually, I am not bothered –
short nails are practical
good for computer keys
and playing piano,
but sometimes I am sad –
my hands will never boast nails
glittering with color.
Instead, I paint my toenails
and glory in the sandals of summer.

If I could bear the cold and wet
I would go barefoot all year round
and paint my toenails
a different shade of pink every day.

Close to the surface days

Some days the tears flow easily
Close to the surface days
A song, a turn of phrase, a gesture
And I am weeping

Morning
I take deep breaths, turn out my feet
Dip into ballet squats by the bedside
Muscles flexing in time to music
The deep voice of a folk singer tells me
She has heard the voice of God say ‘hold on’
Soon my face runs with more than sweat

Midday
A new mother brings her baby to the office
Coos and awwws ‘round the stroller
Her tall, solid husband reaches down
Softly brushes a hat from dark hair
Gently – so gently – this tall, solid man
Touches his daughter’s cheek
I almost lift my hand to my own face
Tears sting the corners of my eyes

Evening
I sway on the el, watching an elderly black couple
Dressed for a night out, holding hands
Smiling, nudging, moving their bodies
In the way of long-time partners
Familiar with the other’s rhythms and meter
Reading a thought in the lift of an eyebrow
The way she touches her skirt

I look away, let the tears come
Time is against me
There will be no 50th wedding anniversary
No sheet cakes in a church basement
(My grandparents’ faces in a gold frame)
The math is cold and real
Meet and marry now – and live into my 80s
Prophetic how I never pictured us old together

Some days the tears flow easily
Close to the surface days
But I no longer try very hard
To hold them back