Letter from NY

Mom, my hands are strangling the kitchen faucet and for a while I think of you. It’s another dropped plate on the linoleum; a Saturday with nothing to do but rub at the grease. I’m asking you about retirement. Is there a trip to take at your age? Can I say ‘I’m tired’ before it even starts?

I know the world will turn into bread. But instead of sticking the fish in our mouths, why don’t we wear dungarees and lean against the dock again? Let’s go back to the lake, the old one, before they built the damn and the water drained away. The lake, I told you to take care of it and you did.  Water placing its hands on my legs—Mom, take me back there: the rotten trees, the wind at night that used to scare me asleep. Let’s ride it as if it were laughter, the sound of an alarm, a long walk up a narrow corridor until suddenly I’m stuck in this small apartment again.

What I need now is yellow: squares of light along the wall, a bedspread stamped with stars. I could cry inside your mouth for it, sweep from one end of the room to the other, rise like dust, and put off the sleep.

The broom sounds like wisps of wheat. Like Midwestern fields she’s never seen, where stalks talk above a whisper as another storm rolls in. The rain bends in, sweeping the streets, as houseflies hide under tufts of hair. Anna isn’t in. She’s sweeping the chimneys. She’s building a owl out of scraps of metal.

 

and why did he cried inside my mouth

In that white dust, the red dust,

the rising that happened before.

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