In the ambulance a child
is turning blue around the edges.
The sweep of time has lifted up her life
and we are a blur of hands trying
to refasten her to it. Two fingers
press a rhythm on her birdcage
chest. The muscle clenched inside
has a hole too wide. Time sweeps by
like wind. We sweep wind into her mouth
and her lips pink up. This allows us
to pretend she is alive. On the highway's
shoulder, doors flash open
to the Crit Team, to the clear bell
of a mother's calling. Our hands do
what they are told. We watch a man drill
a needle through to a small leg's marrow,
hear the chant from our mouths. We are inside
a tiny cell of time, far from the dull hallway
of hours and disbelief that will follow:
a toddler's groin---red, blue, yellow---
splayed open on a table in an airless room,
our hands thundering blanks in our laps,
our tongues so much paper in our mouths.
published in Ploughshares
Glen Cove, 1957
A strawberry shortcake sits breathing sweetness on a cloud
above the curvy cartoon fridge and I am seven climbing
phone books piled on a wobbly chair until the dull silver
radiator looms, then a trickle and someone saying
cracked open. Am I dead? Am I an egg? I hatch out,
bandaged under grapevines near a gullyful of trash.
The wooden lawn chair knits splinters into the backs of my
knees and I will get no shortcake. Am I downcast or
defiant? This and so much else i reach for is gone---
the color of the bulkhead being painted,
the kind of sandwiches my mother hands the splattered
churchmen, and does she know she's pretty?
Rotten apples on spring ground are smeary bittersweet
and I am the age of my daughter who still loves fog.
I hate it. The way last month's huge sadnesses and tiny
triumphs are leaking onto her pillow as she sleeps,
and who knows which moments will get snagged and remain
to point to who she's become once she's forgotten
the rest, her right foot asleep and her daughter
gap-mouthed below her wide with the world.
published in The New Yorker
More Than Anything I Like to Sing But It's Rare
If nothing else, I know how to make a good fuss.
But I didn't want centrifugal force, I wanted
a flowering tree. Of my entire family, I'm the one
who loves red and leaves doors open.
The truth is I stand in awe of the human machine.
I peer into people's bodies in the back of the ambulance.
I sit with my breath and my recipes. I can't speak
for the monochromatic. Excuse the expression,
but there is such a thing as owning, it's just not
about money. I don't know about the arabesques
my limbs have never described. I didn't say flute,
I said cello. Short of wearing a club, joining a uniform,
what do I do with my big noise, to make it
surely music? I am sad without leaves.
And meanwhile, the world turns breezily in its rusty socket.
The trouble with green is it starts yellow
and ends brown. The trouble with green is
it's so dangerously quiet.
published in Agni