PULLING UP THE CORNERS
after Linda Gregg
said you don't love me. He was sitting
in a flannel chair, the gray behind him hardly
a kind of light. I said
B/c how could I be first?
Not his fault I couldn't run to keep up
with myself, flying
On my chest a ribbon bloomed.
Italicize honorable for him.
Allow this parenthetical:
Meanwhile my watch continued
to break and we'd been waiting there how long.
Underline how long love.
Who is it he loves?
I'm not who I was.
Our breaths quickened as if in a race.
He said don't? but it was a question. Question
the light in the room, the chair, where
I was standing.
Make stand bold,
but I wasn't. I broke down. He held
the baby, edge and center of everything.
They seemed so far away.
Note the distance between points.
BREAD TO CLOCKS
The meaning of clock in dreams runs out
at the end of 21— "The dreamer
may be objecting," it says, then leaves off,
and I object since without the next page
I'm made frozen. Dreamt of, a clock
with hands still is death; with hands racing
is time running (out). The warning of the alarm
is also mentioned, but cuckoo must be
on the page following, and what does bird
mean in dreams, I wonder? Flight, maybe.
To teeter on a cliff signals a spiritual
fall—watch for men named Clifford.
Car is on this page ("see vehicles chapter"—
and I don't have that). Thoughtfully here
they've included catastrophes, cemeteries,
cannibals and certain cards which might mean
death, especially if spades. It's in the cards,
play your cards right. 21 is a carrousel of death
("see merry-go-round"), going around in
circles. Candy could be a warning.
LEAVING THE BODY
for Michael (1972-1983)
I won't imagine what I know: surgeons
cracked your breastbone, found
a heart like a bird's, small,
missing one chamber.
room where the voice hears an echo.
Someone will ask, how many brothers?
I rattle, not knowing
how to count or claim you—
Say one, that's a lie.
Not the truth to say two.
But I can't say you're not alive.
Our father sat far in the deep wing chair
and could not speak.
A pail full of water dropped
from an upstairs window. I was awake.
I was asleep. I was asleep.
My arms make a brittle nest
to hold you. Your bones
feel almost hollow—
I hear a sound in them
like wind. I cover
your mouth with my mouth
to breathe. The family says,
put him down, put him down.
But then what would I own?
One brother, one
brother and the fracture
"Pulling Up the Corners" centers on an intense emotional experience and takes as its model Linda Gregg's poem "Stuff," in which she repeats the editorial direction "circle": "Circle that.// Circle facts." The idea was to keep shifting the angle of perception. Thanks to Kary Wayson for the impetus to write this.
"Bread to Clocks": One evening I attended The Ruby Group, a writer's collective, and was handed pp. 20 and 21 of The Dream Dictionary as an exercise suggestion. Page 20 began with the entry BREAD and 21 ended with CLOCK. The poem was a gift.
"Leaving the Body" is the oldest poem of the group, one that I've been working on for literally more than a decade. The event of the poem is my younger brother's death, and that underwater, dream-like state of survival following. It's one of the hardest pieces I've ever written, and one of the hardest to get right.