She lives in a grove cottage, her mossy vapors seeping out the cracked stone door.
She flies around for hours begging me to catch her in my throat.
She is legally blind and wears thick glasses in which the future is inscribed in tintype.
She is a dwarf star with one eye on the moon.
A hired mourner I do not know how to fire.
She keeps a diary of pocket ghosts, spends autumn putting dead leaves back on the trees.
When I look her up in the dictionary, it says: rubicon melting snow emptied egg ornate mercy lo and behold darkling to beckon to muddle
She prefers a collage of the sea instead of the sea.
Occasionally she offers practical advice: forget renovation, a dark horse can do a lot for a lackluster house.
As private as breath, there is no entering another’s grief.
Heavy as a sunken gown, light as a matchstick.
Blueberries in Michigan
A season in time-lapse whisks by wrinkled and wrong where streets veer into distance through unmapped towns and the dusty community church stands like a sentinel next to the freight tracks, searchlight of the diner blinking its worn constellation. What is it to never leave a place— small plot of tumble and grit, tractor rusting in the wheat-- or to arrive here from Mexico, a migrant family stashed in storage shacks to wait out the rise of prized fruit, the coveted hands of children nimble enough to pluck blueberries in noon heat without collapsing ripe skins. When fingerprints are rinsed away in the colander, jam preserved, pies baked and ribboned in town fairs, the workers emerge from hiding in the dying light of August, blue hands in pockets and make their silent exodus from the back of beyond.
For months you heard the insistence of Not-Yet, even tasted it in the bread that took hours to chew. Hold on the voice said. For-a-while. You go on, with the vestiges of your heart. You go on with the ordinary grace of washing your hands when they are dirty, turning off the lights when no one’s in the room. The waiting consumes as you knew it would. You throw figurative things off a cliff. This helps some. Meanwhile the trifold of winter expands to a groundswell. Meanwhile the slipstream. Then the moon is breaking up with you all over again and you knew it was coming but it’s awful all the same. Consequence never seemed a sultry word before, but now the way the q slinks its way toward the soft c, you can hold it in your mouth past noon. You walk a lot. In the vaulted forest you hear barred owls, bullfrogs. Both announce from their whole bodies. Under the sodden leaves you spot something twiggy. Downturned bowl of bird-matter ovoid in your hands. Oh void says the heart. On the windowsill the nest houses a tryst of light. Not-yet-but-soon it says.
Every month I tried to make of my body a home. I was an hourglass made of shell, made of bone. I lay under the Perseids and let the stars
hold up the night. There was me and the idea of you. I saw for both of us— tule elk silent among ferns, sunset lying pink over a field of Dakota corn.
In the museum, I walked through a hall of Buddhas. Felt the cool lotus curve in the half-dark. Granite, terra cotta, bronze. If I could have made you like that—
I would have held the hammer, I would have opened the stone.
Returned to zero after a decade, we hear the Canada geese drain the sky.
I want to go back. To before I knew this would be so hard. To the beginning of us
when I first dreamt our child was a wood sprite we chased through redwood trees.
I winterproof, buy bushels of tomatoes to roast and freeze, place osage oranges in the windowsills
to ward off insects. Everything wants to come in. I hear a bat trapped between the walls
for a week, abide with the knowing, then the silence. Snow falls on the ultrasound.
We search the static for eggs. The needle injects its promise and I am waiting again.
On the porch at midnight, the first shimmer of flakes make a visual music.
Some things I don’t remember from before— when all the leaves have shed, the bare trees are full of nests.
-- Jennifer K. Sweeney’s second poetry collection, How to Live on Bread and Music, received the 2009 James Laughlin Award from the Academy of America Poets and the Perugia Press Prize. Her first book, Salt Memory, won the 2006 Main Street Rag Poetry Award. Her poems have been translated into Turkish and published widely in literary journals including American Poetry Review, Poetry Daily and the 2009 Pushcart Prize anthology. She currently teaches poetry at Kalamazoo College in Kalamazoo, Michigan, where she lives with her husband, poet Chad Sweeney and their son, Liam.