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Three poems from Chartreuse

I’ll Call This Death Chartreuse, Her Favorite Color


She fought. Stabbing tiny slivers of watermelon with one chopstick
long after her body had given up on all matter.
For this, I don't blame her.
She took first to wearing no underwear, then to wearing no clothes,
her body the bars on her window, her body the door swinging open.
She never paused between hours.
For this, I don't fault her.
She didn’t know she was hurrying toward death
when she was hurrying so, her long strides swallowing kilometers
miles meters feet inches then not moving at all
She waited out her death in the jungle she’d planted, the jungle
paramedics hacked their way through the night we called them.
For this, I forgive her.
In the name of her avocados, I forgive her--
heavy fruit that fell on her tile roof like bowling balls
dropped from an airplane, like angels thrown out of Heaven,
like my heart--that scarred, that bruised.
Until nearly the end,
she wrestled the skinny Miami squirrels for every one of them--
squirrels that stirred only when she stirred.
The sound of her front door their signal to run.
Then cancer took her breath.
Then cancer closed her throat.
Then she stirred haplessly or not at all.
The squirrels, puzzled, watched the closed door, the yard full of avocados,
as they waited for her to race them to the finish like always.
The Finish--her heart buckled and bunched.
Her lungs, velvet, tore open.
For this, we wept--faulting her for all those Winstons and Camels.
The ashes of her body those ashes.
For this, in the end, we forgave her.
For this, in the end, we shut her green door behind us.
Her world a lush robe--far too heavy to wear.




The Half-Life of Grief


I know now why they say grief struck--
like it was being thrown down
& stepped on        because it is.
Like being filled with a howling blue wind.

I guess I thought grief passed like a season long drought
or hard luck with hail.
Instead all night in your shrine in my memory       
            a terrible light shines

& there is such a wailing & gnashing of teeth.

My teeth.     Me wailing.     O God
I thought love was the meaning of heaven.
Now, it turns out,

death holds the only damn key.

Today I found a wasp’s nest blown down--
dry as dust--
& all I could think about was you dying dying dying

as if death were the endless
house of paper rooms

        I cradled in one hand.



A House is Never Empty


The dog fur, sprouting potatoes, stale donuts on the counter
--are occupants
when I’m not here
when my dog is at the kennel
when my children are at school
when my husband is wherever husbands go
The house a wrapper we forgot to throw away
that unloved
that lovely
At any rate I imagine
the furniture--table, bed, sofa, vacuum cleaner--as leading secret lives
surely they gossip, stretch, scratch each other’s backs
when we are not around
when the dishes in the sink have dried
when the stove is cold and waiting
then my corroded pipes, may sing, may herald truth:
that God is in the freezer or God is that which nibbles at the mouse trap
The words on the refrigerator are from God. The heat that blows
unbidden from the furnace is His kind gift
By the broom's mother, by the dog’s kibble the house swears--
it is easier for an appliance to enter heaven than a camel
Or a mother
busy as I am
I think this morning I may stay at home. Send everyone off, wave goodbye
then go back to bed if not to sleep
I need to hear my house speak
I need to hear my rooms sing
I go soft thinking about the exaltation of recliners
the glory glory glory of the worn rugs that grace my floor
But how could I kiss the dish rack and not seem mad?
How could I kiss the screen door
left propped open all winter and be convincing
and sincere?
My house is as close to me as any love
but how could I kiss my humans after a day spent talking
to the shingles on my roof?
The house knows
the house forgives
the house takes us in
sinners and saints alike
no matter our muddy shoes
no matter our dirty hands
no matter we leave the lights on
leave the doors unlocked
let the paint peel in the back hall
do not sweep the steps
If I flew above humanity
what I would see below but
houses & more houses?
As if humans were turtles who shared shells
As if humans were birds huddled in square nests
I might see bats who have made loose siding their abode
I might see wasps papering their homes hanging from dry eaves
I might see barn swallows who have become city dwellers
dipping over & under phone lines
See asphalt, tile, wood, tin or copper roofs
I might see that divorce equivalent--a house up for sale or abandoned
Is anything more sad?
I think it is the houses that will save the world
I think it is the houses that are the mothers of mothers
If I could fill my heart with anything
it would be the warm stretch of open rooms
it would be my crowded closets
it would be my sticky kitchen floor
and then I would open the secret door
in my heart
and let the world move in--children, mice, dust mites, spiders
But is that possible
in a life so short with one of these three endings ?
A. in which I die in this house with my children near my bed
B. in which I die far from this house which is my home
C. in which I die alone
Please God could it be in this house? Or some beloved other?
Please God not in a room identified by number. Here, let it be here--
in the end, let my house sink down and bear me with it to the ground