The doll above the stove watches
with green, unblinking eyes.
She witnesses a woman's work,
done with these charmed hands.
This is my art upon which her gaze is fixed –
out of reach but she knows – remote
of thread bare fabric stitched –
brushed with the pale sienna tint.
The rose colored hue darkens
and I will sew and ink the poems.
Can she see the words through the tulle?
Can she see the painted flowers?
Does she still remember the child
who used to hold her?
Are these the same eyes
that would blink with joyful news?
This is the doll that used to speak –
and who turned to look at you in the mirror.
He engraved small, copper plates –
a cowboy lifting from the saddle,
two hands folded in prayer.
Did he feel the sun on his face
when he cut the last image?
Did the shock treatments erase?
Did the current applied
to the olive skin temples
numb the wound? –
The singing I heard, years later –
my ear pressed hard into the ground,
near the pine, where he lay.
for my Grandfather
as if the strong hands could know
the carved, oak body.
Witness him in silence,
his first loss –
the second, the third,
the table scraps he was thrown,
the step father who hated him,
who beat him.
Guide him from beneath
the winter porch –
bind the wound the hot poker made,
as if from that day his tears
they could not stem.
Your Tenderness – give –
The sound it made,
the quiet quickly done –
the detached pulse
and the once fierce need,
as if this was mercy –
as if you could forget –
we carry its wounded face
into the tender blinding sun.
As a child I had a morbid fear of the water,
And didn't learn how to swim
Until the age of twenty –
when a lover, very late at night,
taught me at a lake called Tanner's.
I spent a long summer
with the Adirondacks in view,
at Lake George.
I dreamed I would not surface
if I went under.
I dreamed as if the cold
went itself, farther down the spine,
to the disembodied hands.
There is no end to the bottom
I was told, still, a child.
At night, near the shore
the voices said, refuse
the choice to swim, but come closer.
The water said, under you, exhale
everything you want to see.
I saw its face as genderless,
without empathy – its chilled depths –
To the family, winter bound,
and the girl, their daughter,
whose long letters, remain bound
as if the ice, its narrow seam.
I still dream its waters,
of following voices
through the dark, to the shore.
I meet her there,
and she tells me not to panic.
She tells me in fathoms
until the body –
its choice to bear each other's name –
in the cold depths, undisturbed.