A Friend Who Had a Similar Surgery

comes over unexpectedly
her arrival a herald of her heavy confidence.
When a doctor made her next knee
out of metal and socket,
I left a bag with chocolate,
a magazine, a note scrawled out hastily in her driveway
with portents of get well soon, keep occupied,
nurse your new joint like it were your own.

She, of all, knows how—adopted a son
who was once someone else’s damaged goods.
His brain tumor wrote itself across
a half-slurred child face, a smallness
that placed him alone and in the perpetual front row.
When she says, Man, I wish I had a maid,
and he hears her, he calls from his full-headed bed:
Man, I wish I had a Dad!

She peers over my pink blanket and strokes
my stale hair. I do not offer my scars
for her perusal, because she knows the pain
of not being able to have, of having and losing,
and obtaining something that takes longer
to make your own than your own ever would.
In her softened waddle, I see a hardened warrior,
a steeled surrogate, a reminder that what we call misery

might actually be easy.

Hands

Weird. And what are you?
Folding everything important
except liquid, drenched
with inopportune sweat,
ten digits
like a phone number,
seizing like talons
though we don’t
necessarily find
our own food
or anything really
to hold onto.

My grandma
used mine to
clasp her bra
behind her shingled back,
asked if I could
tie her shoes
when her knuckles
turned to knobs.
These pointed things
on our twisty wrists
are performances
of young and love
and young love.

You can make a swan
on a wall, but what
was that church, steeple,
here’s all the people
song about anyways?
I only noticed
my confused thumbs,
never ever cut my nails.
I guess daily function
wore down
the points.
Have you ever thought
of all the things you do
with your hands?

Have you ever thought
of all the things
you don’t?

On Euterpe (muse of Music)

There are too many kids on the corner to count—
I watch their mothers before the block is awake.

Drug deals play out their beat:
the reticent shuffling song of my street.

A thinskin
sunken cheek creature

preludes her
emaciated mate.

Sometimes the container is a Lean Cuisine box.
Sometimes a too transparent bag.

One woman whistles.
The other’s feet meet her,

like a drumroll, hurtling slowly,
in their unintended percussion.

Amidst this melody of stripped soles,
I peer over a rim of wrought iron

in my canopy of leaves and judgment
studying their musculature and worn bones,

watching white powder
turn women into my morning wonders.

The children, in unknowing orchestration,
fill the silence in this early high song—

the asphalt opera
disjointing two moms—

and I number
eight, no nine

babies waiting, wordless,
to be brought inside.

pisces

we had a water-logged dog
and six chickens
on the road to
burly country men, button-downed,
who bought us shots in Nashville.
we laughed, the levees held,
the morning felt like an index finger
tapping on the wet window
and then the whole wall
was in my mouth.

I don’t really remember
the popped tire,
just the trail of the boat in rearview,
swerving like it would have in waves,
feathers from the truck bed like plumes
decorating our exodus,
some barking, some talking,
some memories of the river,
at peace, in its past afternoons.
I remember: the faint feel of spent revel,
the frayed edges of wet shreds.

when you kill a chicken by decapitation
it really does run
flies actually
ten feet up
spurting blood from its neckspout
onto your mother’s window
and the neighbors’ fenceposts,
but you have to let it go,
can’t hold it down for those last
fleeting flying fighting moments.

never tie my dog up before he dies;
he needs to face east.

and bury me at sea.
fish have no memories.

Subway

So dirty.
Sludge on every rim like chocolate frosting.
It’s not my fault there is an unwrapped condom on the bench next to me.
No one comes near.
They all make eye contact.
One woman says, sneering, “Are you serious?”
I eat salty chips out of a bag.
I’m not serious or kidding.
I didn’t put it there.
I feel guilty
for being able to put indiscretion easily out of mind.
The train sends a warm wave like nausea over us,
and we are thinking worms in a stuffy can.
Nothing is ever over.
We think about each other,
make awkward eye contact,
squirm in close containment.