This is how everything breaks up –
freezer door, septic tank, her car into
a sinkhole. She’' raptured, a trawler
stuck in a mudflat, a pear shedding
animal skin. A Stellar's jay thumps
against the kitchen window.
She shivers, thinking owl.
There is no excuse for all this brilliance,
no way to back out of it sick & burning,
a candle so soft it feels like pig or human
fat. She knows there's going to be trouble
when she forgets where she is,
walking the counterbalance
of Queen Anne Hill, official now,
the slim pink cure in the bottom
of her underwear drawer.
She shouts, yes. The words carry right
out of her mouth, a roulette, a tease,
something spinning and bright enough
to bring the aura of seizure, something
loud enough to let all the wicked
hoodoos run forth.
Every morning his wife leaned over the sink,
scraped burnt toast with the flat of a butter knife,
hips shifting inside a blue bathrobe knotted
tight as a Boy Scout's kerchief.
Schrack, schrack, schrack, schrack.
The noise cracked his skin. First, a blister
back of his knees, then his thighs splotched.
Crimson bloomed to groin, belly, palms, face.
He bathed in colloidal oats, slathered cortisone
and talc into the soft folds of his body.
The rash grew like a carapace; even the tiny curves
between his toes crusted and split.
He needed a poultice: sheets damped in river water,
milk-soaked bread twined to his trunk with gauze,
another skin against his, a great molting.
She said, I can smell you from the other room, pushed
his scaly hand from her breast, walked to the kitchen,
to her cups, bowls, spoons and plates, her sink
with its gleaming spigot, her slick, white oven.
for Sally Mann
When the greyhound, Eva, died, Sally skinned the dog,
buried the body under a pear tree. After fourteen months
she parted the soil with her hands, lifted the dog's bones.
The land, she said, knows how
to tend the dead.
Sally arranged the rib cage in the shape of a boat.
A tibia standing alone absorbed light. She stroked
the narrow skull, scapula, femur, folded the hide,
the toast-point ears, fur limp as flannel. The dog's
nose pointed south, then east, camera swaying
on its tripod, heavy with wet colloid plates.
When the photographs were finished, Sally buried the bones.
Eva became part of the farm again, a trace of lean leg chasing
rabbit, snout lifted to catch the scent of falling snow.
The spider bite slings red into everything –
plum tomatoes dented, bent against
their stake, geranium blossom thick
with foamy bugs, the leather covered
Bible her father gave her at confirmation,
her name in gold, Christ's words in red.
She fingers the disk raised
under her left breast, a scarlet
throbbing coin. Her cotton shirt
rubs and rubs when she walks.
Perhaps a hot compress, ice, antiseptic,
a mouth pressed to the flamed edges
to suck, to soothe the heat, tongue licking,
licking, an animal cure.
The welt grows tight and perfectly round.
It is all she can think about—skin stretching
to accommodate, her fever, how the body
welcomes and closes around
what is given.
AT THE LUCKY DAY LAUNDROMAT
Six turquoise chairs were welded
at the hip. The whole row moved
when Margaret nudged it with her foot.
She sat on the floor by a dryer,
watched the circle and fall of a striped
sock, rocked a bit, hugging her knees,
breathed the antiseptic scent of fabric
softener, bleach, shirts spread
like cormorants on green hangers,
the basket's tussle and squeak
as the attendant wheeled by scraping
lint from mesh screens.
Margaret wanted to burrow in warm
clothes; sheets, towels, trousers,
the shed skins of children.
She pressed her cheek against
the plastic door, then her mouth, flush
and open. She swallowed the servo hum,
ate motor, churn, cog and oil, the ping
of coins sliding home.