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Judy Lane

 

When I see the same split-level ranch,

when I perceive the grass, flat as a week of rain,

when I see the street, laid out plainly as the next

that runs parallel and the ones perpendicular

all the same, all named for sons and daughters

now gone, I see this street in suburbs far

from home and the hills that rise up near

my home and when I see the house, beige

and white as it always was, I feel the same sad

emptiness the house feels now that we have fled

and we carry on as if the textured white walls

meant nothing. The cement heart of the basement,

nothing. The carpet and walls, interchangeable,

the closet doors, rickety and expendable. We

see now that all the doors conceal nothing, our

secrets out in the front yard for everyone to see

like a mattress I lay upon, naked.

Look at me, my body proclaims,

I am just like everybody else.

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The blood red palms of

the Japanese Maple shriek

in the morning breeze

I gape, transfixed by this

visual symbol of our siege

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One More Thing

I sort of loved these kids in the way

they were my son and also some other people

who were not, in fact, my flesh and blood

but don’t get distracted by facts

did you in fact know we were living in a post-

factual word? he asked, slamming the door

 

I was trying to say something

I was trying to say that you

meaning me

can love someone in a glancing off the cuff

casual

kind of way that involves nothing physical

but a kind of emotional proximity

that means for a moment we were in the same

approximate approximation

for example one kid was telling us about a man

who started fire with his hands

 

I’m skeptical

 

but I believe  a person addicted to opiods

can be cured with marijuana

 

who’s to say what is true

 

on the other hand, I walk about the world

in just my skin, as if anything can protect me

 

from feeling this joy

despair

wonder

 

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The History of Cumin

 

I’m seductive, sublime, redolent of pepper and hot desert wind, but common, like salt. I fill the room, a hot, dense fog. No one ignores me. Not everyone loves me, I get that, I’m an acquired taste, like dry wine that tastes of berries and loam. I’m a smokier sort, the kind of woman who enters a room dangling a cigarette from her fingers, eyes blackened with kohl, her voice a thick Turkish coffee. You imagine the Silk Road, dusty paths with caravans of camels. Actually, I traveled with the Spanish, fertile and amorous, spreading my love to all, taking root in rocks and soot. I’m polymorphous; I’ve gone as far as China. But you’ll find me, in the mole, masala, mutaki. I sneak up on you. I’m sly and overpowering. I’m the overtones of the marketplace, the residue of the hearth, the charred remains of game .

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‘as if they [the old songs] were spirits’

we lived in the desert then—it seems
relevant to say so—and my brother and I
spun worlds from dirt and pampas grass,
an improbable stand of bamboo,

the wooden box the piano was shipped in
and the cinder block wall: we were lords,
and yes, there were also friends, but mainly
there were our stories, the ones we told

as we climbed up and stood high
before a jump to the ground: and on
Saturday mornings, our dad woke us
—when we hadn’t woken ourselves

with cartoons while we waited for
the others to pour our cereal and milk—
with tunes he spun on the turntable
fly me to the moon I remember opening

my eyes to that, the voice belonging
to Frank, I think, although we also listened
to the minor crooners, Perry and Andy,
so it might have been one of them: 

and one morning, the sun parting
the venetian blinds with its bright
impatient fingers, a voice from another
room     I left my heart      in San Francisco

a place I’d not yet been and still,
I understood, at eight, that a place
could have your heart, that your love
could be elsewhere, and as light

patterned my bedding and I listened,
the voice telling its unhurried story,
a sound winding through the rooms,
before I dressed, before we took 

the day into our own small hands.

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On (almost) Drowning

Some things, when we try to grasp them, slip past us,

even as we try to hold them more firmly. I fell

through a hole into a blurry daze.

Do not make too much of it.

I am describing my memories of almost

drowning. I was 3. Or 4. I found out later–

much later– that my uncle, my father’s brother,

rescued me from the pool and gave me CPR.

Then the hospital and the doll houses.

So much of life is near misses–

brought back through breath and

a human inclination for genetic survival.

So much is what if or it could have been me.

Do not make too much of it.

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On BBC Radio Six,

On BBC Radio Six,

they’re playing all Prince, all day long
so we’re exchanging our favorite songs

across the Atlantic: hers, the simmering drum
of “I Would Die 4 U,” the keyboard chime,

the song a chant, till his voice breaks
it open, almost,  its confession brash-

hearted. I was more than thirty, too old
for songs to do that to me, to so enthrall,

but for a year I walked my blocks alone
with 1999, then Purple Rain, on my Walkman,

let it be wildness in me, his peacock strut
the figure of daydream, small but perfect.

I imagined this might be music for a dance
I would playlist. This figment was undone

in the song’s first four bars, “Let’s Go
Crazy”: dazzle double time, whirl and flow,

and we were not meet for it, the rhythm
nor its electricity. Then, I needed anarchism,

but today it’s the hesitation, the drum-echo,
electronic and crushing, distant and slow,

the cadence of “The Beautiful Ones,” the bitten
syllables—you were so hard to find—of his diction,

the voice at first light, a sigh, then a riff
leaping into a stratosphere of riff—

a cry, a plea to yield, devotion wail aria
to give, give everything—

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