How I Got Lost So Close to Home
The cover art is by the amazing feminist artist Nancy Spero, from her series about the Egyptian sky goddess Nut. I am so grateful to her for letting me use the image and being completely undiva-ish about it, as the reproduction really doesn’t do justice to the work.
Scroll down for a few poems from the book. These were written pre-children, so there’s lots of angst and bad behavior on MY part, not theirs:
Today Everything Hurts
Especially the man holding open The Rent-A-Center door
for his wife, and her white vinyl purse.
The shining hair of the clerk who will greet them.
The woman in a souvenir sweatshirt wheeling
an empty cart.
The baby seat in the back of the van.
The man in the green compact driving his mother.
How they both look straight ahead.
The pink display of little girls’ bikes
tipped precisely on their kickstands
like a line of Rockettes.
The Rockettes would hurt, too, if they were here.
Like that woman’s feet must hurt
standing outside the drug store with a cigarette
waiting who knows how long for her ride
in those cheap shoes.
It looks like she can’t.
The music piped-in to the parking lot.
The woman trying not to shake the screaming child.
The child’s older sister trying to keep out of the way.
How I Got Lost So Close To Home
Fear pushes me into the rowboat and tells me to row.
The oars are worn, bruised by the locks, poor handling, repetition, salt.
Meanwhile, my mother rolls out the crust for another apple pie,
pushing down on the widening circle. She’s figured out
how to keep the dough from tearing, and I will learn this
from her, as with everything else, through observation.
She’s too busy for lessons. And I lose something in translation,
or distance. Is fear rolling pin or dough? Force or substance?
What transforms the room at night? What snuffs the lamps?
Fears says I do. We argue, but I keep rowing. I am in love with fear
and fear knows it. I want to climb into fear’s lap, unbutton his shirt,
put my face against his chest. I know it’s warm there. Fear knows
I don’t mean this, brays, shows his yellow teeth to remind me
he’s an ass. You expected Cary Grant, maybe? my mother asks,
shakes her head, wipes her hands on a dish towel.
I open the oven door and check the pie so she can’t see
how the light has gone out of my face. Wasn’t it she
who introduced us? How could I imagine she’d want anything less
for me, anything other than the best? Fear smiles,
now you’re talking, he says, now we’re cooking with gas.
For Your Excellent Service
Thanks for filling my tank.
Thanks for smiling.
Thanks for hearing the exact words I said.
Thanks for responding.
Thanks for making a joke that was not at my expense.
Thanks for making it with me.
Thanks for looking at me close up,
for seeing all the way through to the elemental
lining of my dark gray cloud.
Thanks for wanting it to rain.
Thanks for praying to get soaked.
Thanks for not covering up, not taking shelter, not watching
from a safe, dry spot.
Thanks for getting wet with me.
Thanks for drying me off, for pulling the rubber squeegee
across my windshield at just the right angle
and shaking off the dross.
Thanks for wiping the length of the soft blade
with a dry chamois cloth,
then convincing me to slide my hand down
under the dash and release the latch,
so you could check my oil.
Thanks for finding the spot where the slender rod props the hood
without my having to show you.
Thanks for showing me the space between the optimum fill line
and where my oil glistened,
and recommending I put in a quart or two,
just to be sure.
Thanks for writing it all up on a tissuey carbon for me to autograph,
tearing off my copy, keeping one for yourself,
and holding the pen I’d just held in my hand
in your mouth, as I drove away.
They say home’s where the heart is, but what if it’s only a place
to put your stuff? Like the toothbrush you chose
for its extra hard bristle, but also because in the morning
you like to see the purple stem in your cup. Or those flowery
soaps you buy to make a shower more than sloughing off
debris from another ordinary day. Or maybe the day wasn’t
so ordinary, you didn’t just push the wheelbarrow:
empty-full, full-empty. You had one of those moments
you know you’re alive,
or older than you thought you’d ever get,
or living with somebody you’re not sure you love.
But maybe you’ve had enough of introspection.
You’re afraid you spend too much time alone,
not just alone-alone, but alone-in-the-world, and you’re not
bumping up against enough people, people that might
scare you, or you wouldn’t want to have dinner with them,
or maybe you would, maybe you’d like to
snatch the food right off their plates.
You’re thinking it’s a long time since you rode the subway.
Does something begin to rust shut? Soften? Maybe it’s too late.
Like everyone else you stood outside night after night
to catch sight of the comet. You learned to see the tail
without looking right at it. You almost got bored
until you remembered how important it was. Sort of
like the first time you saw a taco: seventh grade, Levy Junior High,
Clare Ehling has two on her lunch tray. You ask
what they are and she acts like you’ve been living in a shoe.
Maybe she’s right. You can’t even find time to paint the bathroom,
what about Tuscany, Bach, fame, childbirth?
Maybe home’s an oversized tackle box
bursting with what you can’t give away: a myth
of bliss and slow-running sap. You’ve swallowed it all.
You should’ve got while the getting was good.
Your ankle’s developing an anchor
a whole lot faster than your eye’s cultivating
a rakish black patch. That parrot on your epaulette
you’ve been parading–it’s probably a crow.
Which explains why no one understands her. It makes you wonder:
how many leaks can one boat spring?
(Originally published in the New England Review)