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bond

young enough when we wed my body
not yet fully itself, I was slim as a girl,

the waist of that white dress in satin
and tulle a strait between water

and water, our vows a treaty between
our two peoples to observe feasts

and sorrows where the generations
could still be found, or where they

had disappeared: my hands and ankles
swollen with the first, then the second

child, the ring on my finger a ribbon
in gold, to tell that we were bound

one to another and to our compact:
this crowd of children, each coming

dead winter, life and squall when we
could only dream of a new garden,

the old one so thoroughly frozen:
we named one another, we wrote

the story: 

and when I left, the gold
had eaten its signature into the flesh:

the jeweler, inserted the saw,
impossibly fine, between the ring

and finger, sang until the band gave,
until I held it in my palm, a broken thing: 

it still had so much force, I could
never let it unguarded into the world,

this emblem, stripe on our family’s
banner, the bindle on which I carried 

everything I ever had or made: the mark
it left on me only the years could finish.

The old house

where I wrote in a room with no
ceiling, just studs and insulation,
and the box of my device that
kept the memory of my lines,

my revisions and restorations:
where the big dog turned
in a circle around and around
to curl himself into the shape 

of a dog, sleeping: where
we planted a nectarine tree
and said dog ate the one
nectarine it ever bore:

but the cherry tree grew
broad, tall, strong enough
to hold children, where they
ate the cherries and told 

their confidences:
where I grew the first garden
I ever loved, roses
and larkspur and cosmos:

this house I drive past
on the same no-name street,
small on its lot, the poplar
we planted, grown so fast

it was visible for miles,
now gone: what sweetness
that house held, and then
what grief, and the whole of that

gone too: we packed it
with the box of photos now lost,
and the books, so many,
we had to find shelves for:

unboxing it in a new house,
where a road still a dream ran
dirt-surfaced past the apricot:
house that, despite its two stories

and many more bedrooms,
despite the bed of roses,
despite the plum trees,
would not hold what we brought:

there are things that a house
simply cannot do, I thought,
as I drove past that little
box where once we lived.

I used her, she used me
neither one cared
we were getting our share

I saw you with a new love, in photos taken
in Poland, where you were helping to feed
refugees, cabbage soup and pierogis,
and thought, not for the first time, how glad
I am to see you happy and also how glad
it still makes me all these years later to know
that we meant something to each other

I’ve said, you were a window, helping me
see into a new life, and the metaphor 
right now sticks: were you an instrument,
is that it? a factor in the complex equation
that got me from there to here? 
I was at the very end of my youth, of that

particular beauty, you in the full flush of yours:
I remember you baking little potatoes
arranging them, hot, on your forearm,
the butter melted and steaming:
I don’t want to make a fetish of those details
but they will probably be with me even
at the end, how your skin smelled

the squalor of where you lived but the care
you took with the new saute pan
how you fried cakes made of 
ramen noodles and beaten egg
I don’t miss you so much as that I
have not forgotten who I was then,

trying to leave one life with some grace
and imagine a new one, one of which
I knew you would not be a part, and also 
that I would remember you forever
I do not dream of you but you were
the glass through which I looked
to dream myself

Please forgive that I needed you
to be a window, that I needed you
to be glass. I remember your arms,
I remember what you wrote.
I remember finding you asleep
when I arrived, I remember bringing you coffee.
You, your very self, I remember you.

the call

in the dream, it was someone she trusted
who handed her the phone, old style
a phone attached to a wall, the voice
delivered through wires, and she heard

his voice–him, to whom she had not 
spoken since the entire catastrophe–
and even in the dream she was glad it was
a dream–to know that the call was

hypothetical: what would she say when he
said hello, hesitant, but a witty trope
on hesitation–or maybe it was real: maybe he
wondered, even in a dream, what she would say

after more than a year. She, too, wonders
what she would say if she saw him at
the grocery, picking pears or bread or olives,
if she saw him at the bookstore buying

Hass’s translation of Milosz–
it’s been long enough that it would
have to be uneasy: she’d think about
turning away, walking out as if she had found

everything she needed and needed look
no more, her heart pounding
now even as she considers it: in the dream
there was only the hello, and she

thought, who handed me this phone?
with a strong whiff of betrayal, and though 
she wanted to hang up, she readied herself 
to return the greeting, as if amends were fathomable

or possible.

the window is an always open eye watches the road behind the field even when we are sleeping I don’t know where the horse or horses are at night but just two days ago we saw      tall in the saddle a man on a gold horse     with hat on head and reins in hand       for what reason who knows   maybe I was thinking about him just before I woke up     about the field and whatever he’ll plant there some years corn others years alfalfa     and the pheasants we sometimes see there and the hawks and sometimes more horses I don’t know what the actual dream-thought was just before I got up the sky still gray but also lighter than when I finally closed my book and my eyes I think the field may be the dream its goings on soaked in water from the irrigation ditch the American flag that whips in all weather     across the road     at my grocery store also   holding its residue only sleepwalking into the bathroom back to my side of the bed with its glass of water   its few stems of lavender allows me to see into it   my dream-life the acre the crop the animal the plow.

In the Dark

Rise in the dark.

It is always

dark.

First, make coffee.

Look about mournfully.

Drink the coffee.

For some reason, the sun

Shines. Each morning you watch the sun

Rise and you cannot explain.

Innumerable things you cannot explain:

Gravity, viruses, what makes something funny.

Stop trying to explain.

The world keeps spinning, it won’t stop.

Why should it? The world cares nothing

For you or your desires.

To stop working, to stop worrying,

To stop the incessant chatter of your mind.

But you can’t. You worry

A thought until it erupts, your mind

A dervish creating its own gravity,

Its own self-contained orbit.

You are self-contained, need

No one. No one sees you, judges

Your infinite, desperate, desires.

During this time, your time alone

You’ve had to judge yourself:

Your worst fear, your best face, your

Infinite solitude. The harsh icescapes

Between you and every other person.

Listen: we are each alone,

emerging from frozen soil

like a crocus, our dumb heads lolling.

None of us knows what we’re doing.

We are each alone

In the dark.

I will be curious about what it has picked to wear
I will ask it, what are you doing here? are you

hungry, or thirsty? I will have prepared
a list of what I’ve been reading,

most of it electronic, so, sadly,
judgement will not be able to flick

through the pages or lift the books.
I assume that judgement will want to see

each room in my house, so I might ask
where would you like to start?  I will

of course have taken a nap if at all
possible before its arrival, because

I will want to be well rested,
since a visit from judgement is probably

exhausting: on the other hand,
I wonder if judgement will have

extended me the small courtesy of asking
for an appointment? or will it assume

that I have time no matter when
it sets foot on my doorstep?

No, judgement, I no longer keep
regular hours, and when you drop by

I may have taken myself away,
away to the Okefenokee Swamp,

as I’ve longed to do; or I may have
assembled the best of road snacks

to travel the length of the Mississippi,
stopping in river towns to see

just how the water flows. When judgement
drops in, I will certainly be watching

daffodils unfold themselves from
their papery jackets, I will be taking part  

in the annual blossom census,
I will be drinking rose tea with

granddaughters. What I am saying
is that judgement will have to wait

its turn for a spot on my agenda.
What I am saying is, judgement,

please call my people to see
when the next convenient opening is

for an embattlement: all I am saying is,
I will have time for that never.

Rowe Sanctuary, Gibbon, NE

in the tree, or was it a shrub, a thrill
of two dozen blackbirds, their short
sharp beaks, the trill multiplying

as if they had gathered to
discuss the migration 
in progress on the river

all of it stilling as we stepped
our measured, quiet steps
closer to see: were they

what, any ordinary blackbird?
we stopped, they resumed,
puffed their shoulders

and there, blaze of red: 
we stopped, they resumed, 
trilled and discussed: where 

shall we gather for grain? 
with the starlings again? 
what about these slow-

steppers, are they anything 
to worry about? and filled
the bush with their red chatter. 

Sonnet for Cal Newport

Sir, I’m distracted. Please take my phone.

These notifications won’t leave me alone.

I’m whirring and stirring these loose data bits.

My mind is a jumble, my wits are unknit.

The personas I follow are polished and new,

but my pictures are blurry, my likes far too few

to make me feel noticed, important, alive.

In this digital world, how will I survive?

I’ll return to my landline when I need to call,

I will look at real photos and shop at the mall.

I will talk to live humans and look in their eyes.

I will consult ancient texts on how to be wise.

These I do promise and promise to keep

in order to do the work that is deep.

the patio was crowded, people
in sleeveless shirts and sunnies,
a leashed dog, two, maybe three:

the reward of dark cherry
the bit of pistachio, a sharp
hit of lemon, and the tiny

spoon in hand to eat it
thoughtfully, with an
appreciation for each taste:

we drove past as we went 
to the bookstore, then walked
past after the reading,

our hunger as specific
as a hypothetical
order, as diffuse as 

when and where 
will we eat? I want
every tree with blossom

to hold forth, I want
a spring that does not
hesitate to declare 

for sun, for warmth, I want
to sit with my beloved,
to eat icy sweets

in the vernal, the equi-
noctial atmosphere,
unviral, of April.