Study of Proportions
You spent your life with a man,
first you were kids together,
and then you had to mark things off
with an X: voting cards, moving boxes,
finally his name, like an honorific.
He became an X in a sketched ring,
like Leonardo’s beautiful nudes.
You could understand
why someone would want to
sketch naked men all day,
in between inventing things.
If you touch a beautiful man,
you have just invented the universe,
that alternate one, in which you laugh
and are kind to children and sway
on Ferris wheels and moral questions;
or you become another kind of inventor,
brilliant and windblown in the wilderness,
pigmenting the canvas with the fallout,
your great work, destroyer of worlds.
Butterflies Instead of Snow
I watch the skin on my hands
ripple under the dryer air.
(Hand can also mean writing:
her impeccable schoolteacher’s hand.)
I am in a truckstop, growing older,
driving a dead woman’s car, drying out.
She would say things like, You are a winter,
which meant, You suit your funeral clothes.
Every time, somewhere in the coffin
circumference, the orbiting crudites
and crustless egg-salad sandwiches, Oh does it
suit you. Isn’t she a winter, Marg?
Yes, Glor. She’s a winter.
I must be a winter.
The trains, seemingly, are running
backwards. Science! Peanuts are passed
from hand to hand. A sign shouts Napanee
and a number. It’s terrific. Let’s all shout
Napanee and a number. I am shouting
right now, on mute, and the highway is also
running backwards and my memory,
sixteen winters long, is racing to greet it.
A knot of cowboys lights its smokes
outside the funeral home. Somewhere inside,
ladies are crushing hardboiled eggs
with grinning steel blades, slitting the
brown dye off of the edges of white
squares of bread, letting the mayonnaise
settle. A cowboy’s wife wonders aloud, Is
the ground soft enough, do you think?
Her husband has been answering
these questions all their life.
The ground is the least of our worries.
Oh shit, yeah, he says.
* * *
In the morning, the suddenness of light is so bright
it could be summer. The light is owning the kitchen
window. We stare together at the lake, the spring pallor.
I make tea, say Wow, point. The day after
your wife is dead, there is still a view. He says, I’m going
to pretend those are butterflies, instead of snow.