Be the Air You Want to Breathe, and Other Foolish Holidays (working title)
Sitting on the side of your bed, trying to breathe
you say, “It’s good to see you.” I see your chest
shudder (trapped moths) beneath your white undershirt.
for both of us. I see your hair is not combed (spider webs).
tendrils of smoke from a neighbor’s chimney.
I see your empty water bottle, tissues like white mice on the floor.
Each time they ask, I breathe
for your lungs–twin beggars.
I see a host of gold ladybugs flank your watery blue
eyes, or is that the patina of lived long enough?
having looked into them or not quite at the pair
for so many years it is hard to see what is new
what is old. Only the painter hired to rip cabbage
roses from the front bedroom sees the peeling paper,
only the roofer shimmying past flaking slate sees the holes
beneath the tar paper—the rest of us too busy mopping
rainwater, trying to remember which one tried to fly
from the second story pitch with an umbrella in one hand.
I open the door as the stretcher breezes in and I see blue sky,
the tips of forsythia trying to take in enough resurrection
enough of what this day has to offer, to push their yellow
eyes past shelter’s thin shell
into oxygen’s invisible embrace.
This morning the dog
peeled back her short-haired underbelly
to reveal a giant S. No zipper, no stitching
no sexy pull like a stripper losing magic pants
just an opening up—think first date, third beer
the time of night when details float from the cup
of a stranger’s open mouth
as moths circle a bare bulb.
So, the dog. Have you had your suspicions?
Best friend, loyal companion. Just pet your dog,
the martial arts instructor said. He was from Hawaii
wore flowered shirts, sandals. He had toes the color
of dark lager—five of them could kill you with one swift strike.
The dog. Superhero? Black and white mutt,
part Collie, herding me day after day in circles,
always leading me home.
Would she save me from a burning building?
Swoop in at the right moment
to spirit me away from the man—he seemed pleasant enough–
about to kidnap/maim/violate her hapless human?
I’ve never called her a bitch, though she wears
a pink collar, has the scar proving she could have been
a mother, if the universe hadn’t had other plans for her.
It’s all been done before, I tell her. Keep your power
to yourself. Lesson one for lonely women
and superheroes: Never reveal your true identity.
After my reincarnation
I went to the cemetery to brag
laughter doesn’t go over
well at the burial site
I move on, head to the local gin joint
slow dance with a stiff
whisper in his moldy ear
you can’t believe the freedom
my arms melt when I ask them
I order my dreams sunny
-side up, the monsters come alive
in shades of cream and sugar
(think coffee poured into a clear glass mug)
I am no longer afraid.
Well, the man I chose to dance with
that old stiff, he gets a little jealous
smashes my dream with the rubber mallet
he keeps in his pick-up truck.
It was just a dream.
Mother always told me just turn
your pillow over
to the good dream side.
There was this one night when I turned my face
to the good side. That was the night I felt
the air leave my lungs in one slow swell.
Here I am today,
come back as a dragonfly
or is it a moth?
Either way, please don’t touch my wings.