Once, there was nothing I would not say to you. Now, I lean
away from the words, the only things I have to let fly.
I am careful. I think: please, leave well
enough alone. Why tell you in this present tense
that I never conjugated the verb? Why say that, for me, nothing
will make love past now that it’s been dredged up, uncorked?
I have other things to attend to: genies to cork,
food for the week to cook, a boy to get to bed, a life to lean
into in which you appear, then vanish. Nothing
solves this. Should I—what?—fly
your way, say it all? It would be tense;
it would yield nothing. I want put you well
enough away from me. I’ll have to drown it again, a well
the only answer. I can get it back in the bottle, if I trust the cork
to contain it. Now is a matter of thinking of what tense
I choose to know you in. Are you the past that happens to lean
into the present? Are you here now, racing to me, a fly
that lands and alights, and comes, finally, to make no sense, nothing
following a pattern? I can force this back into the bottle, into nothing.
As easy as it was to remember how I love you, what grace to be well
rid of you again. Habit makes things possible. There is the world you fly
through, not slowing to see whom you touch. Then you cork
it, learn what was done can be done again. One only has lean
memories of who mattered and why. One only sees the tense
tighten around the word to constrict it, to circumscribe it. Tense
is only a matter of thinking: I loved you. That’s all. It’s nothing
anymore. Back in the bottle with you, wicked genie. I lean
toward myself, toward self-preservation. I can learn this well and
finally. I can make a habit of this. I can take the cork
and stop it. Here is the bottle, just a container. Here, it flies
from my hands. Here, a well for safekeeping, it flies
to the bottom and falls below the echo of the splash. Tense,
the air comes up around it to leave me without a cork,
without a bottle, without a thought of what is lost, knowing nothing
is lost. Nothing. Knowing it is only a matter of thinking well enough
of myself to say, that which I cannot have I lean
away from. What does not yield is nothing,
who does not love me enough is nothing. Leave well
enough alone. Leave everything you might call lean
to those who don’t want more, for whom lean
is enough, for whom there is no feast. Well,
for whom there is no feast, there is no love, there’s nothing.
So often I think of everything I cannot tell
you, everything that will not translate across time.
If there is a camera, let it catch us, so you may see something
of this story that you are in when you are outside of it.
Let whatever it catches show you how you were loved,
a still of you, pulled up onto my lap, laughing.
In raising you, I track back. Over my shoulder, I see
the whole country behind me as I beat out a new path.
My mother tells me about after they’d all been taken away,
how her mother came to the schoolyard fence,
and Aunt Jan stopped short, said,
Better not. There’ll be trouble.
My grandmother, looking at the backs of her girls
receding, her heart walking out of her chest.
And now, all the time, mine’s broken
and mended, broken and mended,
I do not understand. But know this:
everything that I want for you is for you alone.
Bring me back with a kiss, my sweet boy.
There is this love. No other.
What stunned me was to learn that to love you
I had to ask for better, then to make it,
then better what I had bettered.
This doesn’t stop.
I pull you up because you ask me Up,
and up up up I will pull you.
She could always imagine the child,
and now it hovers inside, betrays its surprise.
Since June, her body has shown outside
what she wanted to contain. Her body is a window
closed first by fear, then boredom, now suddenly
opening—It has her, all right. She marshals toward the day.
Better to be a different sort of woman, she thinks. One day
she might get there, embrace it all, resist nothing, hold the child.
But for now, it’s too sudden. They see it as an opening:
now the fix is in, now she will stop with the surprises.
They cannot wait to tamp her down, even as she opens the windows
that could ghost her away, even though there is an outside
they want her to forget. The apartment collapses outside
in, the plates and cups leaning away from the light of day.
Give that girl something to hold on to as she leans out the window
to see the tops of trees, all the while feeling the child
coming. Her husband says nothing’s a surprise;
this was what they wanted. For him it’s an opening,
but for her, it’s a door she can never shut. She marvels at the opening,
what it lets out. She wants what she thinks is outside
her, to trust herself and welcome the surprise—
But her head drags through the day,
and she cannot lift it, though she wants to say, Here, child.
to reassure it, herself. The blinds come down over the windows.
Alone, the city alights over the trees, windows
framing the solitude where once for her opening
seemed the only way. Now she folds her arms, thinks of the child
that will fill them, tries to remember when outside
was as full as what she found in her day.
She bequeaths this love to the boy—a boy!—the surprise
of it. What does she know about boys? Surprise!
She dares him to wonder at how each window
frames another brightness, how each day contains
boxes within boxes, each opening
to reveal a new delight. She stands outside
him, now a protector and not a child,
the surprises ever opening
windows to the world outside
into which every day, child, you must go.