There’s no telling
my aunt would say,
meaning, of course,
the outcome of the subject
was anyone’s guess:
a field of knee-high grass
on a sky-blue summer day
might conceal a hidden well;
a dip in the lovely pond,
cool and sweet on your young back,
might end in your lonely drowning;
any minute walking this earth
could be your last.
I loved the way no telling hinted
how nothing existed
before spoken into life:
in the beginning was the word,
that silver-tongued sword,
as though birdsong
emerged from lyrics,
as though even this poem
could push you—
stunned and blinking—
into the light.
There’s no predicting where it will go,
the physical therapist says. All those photos
of beautiful muscles in textbooks—
no one really looks like that.
We are pushing my knee, newly released
from tightening webs, trying to outpace
any new spread of healing gone wrong.
Outside the walls of this room
the world reels from pandemic and hate,
all ills that won’t heal unscathed—
every Garden of Eden riven and divided
by its snake, imperfection’s patchwork
stitched snug, callus and keloid
pocked over beauty’s terrain.
Ode to My First Mother-in-Law
who attacked a world full of pending hurt
with scrub brushes, down on her knees,
purging dirt and germs from every surface,
pushing back black worry that dogged
her days: the aquarium stand pinned
to the floor so the baby couldn’t topple
weight of water and glass. The cookie tin
she ruined, convinced the dark coating
was baked-on fat she punished
with oven cleaner, stripped to bare shine.
The endless calls we had to make
so she could sleep, assuring her
we continued intact. The way she claimed us
as hers to protect, every dog and cat
we ever owned knowing the sound
of her car coming up our street, bearing
their grandma, too, her arms weighed down
with cans of tuna and meaty bones.