Winter 2012, #18



Self-Portrait as Postscript

You've lost your wedding band.

A tumult of foreign waves sucked
it free, rolled your body powerless
and away, your finger shocked
by its sudden freedom.

Now moving slowly with your head
down, you study a Mediterranean
beach for clues, the small stones
a triage of mirrors pretending
themselves white gold.

The Spanish caretaker tells you
not to worry; he'll vouch to your
wife that you've had lots of
opportunities to be unfaithful
but haven't. Great, you think.
How thoughtful.

But he's right: What crimes
didn't you commit, and which
ones are only on hold? Again
the ocean staggers to its feet and
shatters itself raw, saline arching
in one bright, aluminum cough.

Foam hisses backward, a strand
of black sea kelp pulling around
your ankle like the retreating hair
of a Siren tangled in your loss,
in your need to always be looking
for what you never truly owned.

Water, Fight

Water curls icy from a hose
and falls in sheets bright as
angel wings, breaking across
bare shoulders and hair chuffed
brittle with heat-it scatters all
like a game of here come the
police. Some boys hide behind
the flower beds stringy with morning
glories roping their loose desire
heavenward, while others dip
behind the old Chevy in the
driveway, the doors a passion
of blister and flake, the grill
smashed like silver teeth
hammered free. All ran save
for the one boy who quit, said
he was not playing, that it was
not fair, walking away with neck
glistening, a small brushfire
of dust trailing his Skechers. It is
the same boy whose father had
enough in Iraq: securing the perimeter
of another bombed mosque, scraps
of hair and face hanging from palm
trees like nightmare ornaments,
"No more," he said. "I'm done,"
as he unbuttoned his desert fatigues,
leaving warm piles of clothing in
his wake; a crumpled laundry list
of all the reasons for failure,
until he was finally naked under
the Mesopotamian sun and marching
toward a dream opening on the horizon:
beautiful rainclouds only he could see.

House Arrest

Fearing his parole officer, my
brother walked the property line
carefully, fetching the mail. As I
watched him, Florida heat limped
down from the sky and saturated
everything: the chalky lawn,
the newly abandoned homes,
a few thin palms asterisked
up high against the blue, and
my brother's hand shielding
his eyes, staring back at me fixed
in his picture window, as if his
gaze could apologize for us both.

But there was plenty of beer,
and a horseshoe pit out back.
To heat his pool, he broke
the lock off the propane tank;
the gas bill long overdue. A cedar
fence scuttled with lizards. Through
a hole, we watched a neighbor get
hauled away, white sheet to chin,
the ambulance lights flashing in silence.
"His wife probably stabbed him," my
brother offered. And who was I to argue?

Last day of the visit, booze gone,
we watched a pirated DVD, Martin
Sheen rolling atop his bloody sheets
in Apocalypse Now, looking for a way
out. Both of us knew what that felt
like: the walls closing as a ceiling
fan slowly unwound its blades.