it is just past Christmas,
and the air smells strangely like salt,
as if we were the sea, or had been
crying for days.
fog steams from the folds
and valleys of my father’s house; we
rake gravels back
into the drive—
the hard little memories
of snowploughs past—
tidying up edges, sweeping
aside leaf mould and the damp
with calloused hands.
isn’t this always
how it is at year’s end?
i am almost listening
for the squawk
of some new thing
wherein i grow cozy in the glow of lies,
my skin safe, my breath a purr even
as fall falls, the skies deepening their blue:
cornflower, cobalt, sapphire; darken
to the slate of reckoning season, & i
have counted these shades before—
they are a luck charm to hang
over the headboard, a warding like the spray
bottle i use on the cat. our river spills
its tears over burnt summer
banks, burying the rocks in their sea-dreaming,
making bitter waterfalls of our riverpaths.
the gutters overflow, seeping into the walls,
leaving stains in the corners around the bed
where i watch the season change by the fade
of its tan lines.
the shallow wading pool of past, its pink
mermaid-clad collapsible sides filled
with dead grapevine Mom wrestled
from the cage-wire fence & sunk
in its bathwater depths to be made more
pliant for the working. Once I buried
a burn there, dip’t surreptitiously
from a showoff jump on Old Miss Judy’s
just-rid bike, my shiny white shin in stark
relief to the gap-black teeth of her red-
haired grandson. I remember, too, the stains
of walnuts that fell like dull tennis balls
all around the pool’s pressed grass;
a quarter a bucket all Indian summer long
while Mom cut & shaped & dried
under the shade of the bitter leaves.
I keep one of those wreaths cornered
in the utility closet under winter coats,
still, dusting its thick ribbon & fluffing
up the bow after every first frost has passed.