> jumping into life.


Poems have been knocking. I've been busy. I sometimes blame him for the times when I do not write, as though he has ever - even once - discouraged me or treated my writing with dismissal. As though I have ever, even once, asserted it as a priority to him in word or deed. Or to myself.

So the poems knock, and I do not answer. I feed the chickens, water the garden, go to work to roll out dough and count money, and come home smelling of fried. The poems stand outside for a while, peering in the window. One or two even try the handle of the door, but it is locked.

The reminder I set myself pops up on the screen: Qarrtsiluni chapbook due 5/30; finish revisions. But I have not begun revisions, even though when I first heard of the contest, the little voice in my heart said, quite clearly, Yes.

Old poems sit patienty in their files and folders, and they do not begrudge me their unfinishedness. They watch me with their single eyes when I have failed to provide them with a second. They watch me with their humpbacked bodies, their blurred and questionable outlines, their occasionally open wounds. One or two sit glowing and their glow fading, and they watch me with their young and perfect bodies and their sad eyes.

Some few have lived their purposes and fully: have been read by the only eyes that matter. Others were complete in the writing and few of either of these have I kept. It would be like keeping a candle or a star that has finished burning. And of course, none of them are mine in the first place.

Still, they come to my door, the door of my heart (the door of that great and four-chambered room, where the paint never dries). They knock (alive or dead, alive or dead?), but I do not answer. They leave me fragments of leaves and flowers, the calling cards of my poems, which all begin outside.

At night I unbolt the door, collect these scraps and read them. Some I can barely decipher, and others cover whole strips of bark, unfurling as I read.

I mow the grass more slowly than others, perhaps,
because I must pause for each rustle and hop,
cup its cold owner in my warm hands and take it
to the marshy spot on the edge of the lawn
the lilac blazes--
I dreamt you did not love me
and in the dream, I was glad
Here, the river-smell of desert --
at home, the mountain-smell of rain
as each moon passes, the yearning also
waxes and wanes. the old woman in the desert tells me
i am a baby myself. she appraises my hips and breasts,
both small, though she says nothing of that aloud.
she tells me i have time and enough of it.
but her eyes too are bright with longing,
bright as the round, full moon.
I walk the dirt road between field and field,
birds splashing up from the grass
with each footstep
& so we step wearily
into that well-trod track,
begin winding the heavy winch,
so heavy because it must close
both our doors at once. we take turns.
he pushes with accusation
and I silence. we make a good team
of mules.

Some I recognize as the arms or legs, the new horizons of my patient waiting-room of poems. I look up quickly out the window, as one does when recieving an unlooked-for letter from a dear friend, as though they might be somehow drawn to the writing by virtue of my reading it, and appear like magic, smiling.

When the propane tank exploded,
it sailed through the pickup and fifty yards up the hill.
They say the neighborhood shook
for whole seconds, so long that the birds stalled
on their branches and the women wiped their hands
and came outside to look.

By then the house was gone.

But the window only reflects my face back to me, and there is no poetry there.


I was wrong about the bird-tree, which sits between our house and our landlady's, hung with feeders. It is not a crabapple; it is a lilac. What do I know of winter trees?

Besides which, I am not so good at being meticulous. Botany and baking are generally the only arenas in which I can be bothered to note all the details, and even then, I tend to throw in more lemon than the recipe calls for. Tend to know my plants by heart, not by the book.

But it becomes clear that if we are going to have a business--and, especially, if we are going to have a business together--I will have to find more attention in my personal budget. I forget to plug in the chicken fence; I forget to water the seedlings; I spend the day searching for a dress to wear to an upcoming wedding and by the time I get around to making that phone call I'm supposed to make, the store is closed. He--botanist because he loves things in order and loves to order them--cannot understand the skittering of my mind. I've not been sitting, of course, and that does much to exacerbate things: my mind always skitters, always has, but at least when I'm sitting I know it. These days I don't notice until he's lost his temper.

But it is spring. The lilac tree will be confused with nothing, now. Its branches are alive with color: cardinals and goldfinches, orioles and bluejays, red-winged blackbirds, jeweled hummingbirds, and the post-modern black-and-white of an assortment of woodpeckers. Bald eagles send the chickens scrambling for their coop; the tulips have almost passed and the big lillies starting to take their places. A fortnight still until last frost, and we have tomato plants with two sets of flowers, ready to go three weeks ago into the greenhouse we decided not to build this year. Rhubarb. Ramps. Peas and potatoes in the ground. Full leaf-out here on the valley floor. Green. Green green green, the earth stepping out into Oz from the dreary Kansas of winter. It's all going to be okay. Spring is here.