I went through a trunk of your old cards
last week in an effort to prod
the open wound of my memory,
my hands like a tongue
absently seeking out the raw pulp
of a shattered tooth.
Even then, I couldn’t read them,
just stare at your handwriting.
I know what they say, the fat, loping
letters suggesting the girlish brightness
of a note from a pen pal, or a childless aunt
instead of a mother I never talked to.
After the personality breakdowns
of your half dozen cats, the complaints about
your heating bill, comes the obvious admission
that you’ve been thinking about me
I should call, I should write.
But I can’t now,
whose fault is that?
Yesterday I received a box of Christmas presents
that were returned to you, unclaimed by me
and re-sent by your sister after you died.
A dozen small packages wrapped
in red foil, patterned tissue
tied with ribbons run-through with wire.
I unwrapped them in my apartment
windows open to the spring,
and made myself read the tiny notes attached
“Dear Sarah,” said one
“I hope this keeps you warm.”
Exit the Void
“I don’t want to give you relationship advice,
but you should trust people more.”
he said after dumping me
for his yoga teacher.
I’d seen this coming.
For my birthday he took me
to a three-hour movie
that featured a close up
of an aborted fetus in a Petri dish.
It was romantic. The fetus
looked like a J. Crew model,
and halfway through it fell in love
with its boss at the fashion magazine
who decided they should be together
even though he had a girlfriend.
The fetus looked like a fetus.
It did not fall in love.
It did not do anything, but lie
in a pool of congealed blood.
Two months before, I had a boyfriend
someone who carried me up the stairs
when I broke my foot,
smelled my clothes when I was gone,
tried to believe me
when I said I wouldn’t leave,
begged me not to when I did
for someone we both knew wouldn’t last.
After the scene, I felt like I had been assaulted,
like someone had run their fingernails
over the bloody plum of my heart
peeled back the skin.
“Comfort me,” I said.
“I am,” he kissed my cheek.
I stared at the gory mass
on the screen and wondered
where can it go from here?
The Theory of Everything
Now, I’m sober all the time.
Without drugs, I don’t know
how to feel about this.
I say that it’s okay for you
to leave me here.
What I really mean is,
nothing will be okay again
so what’s the difference.
If tragedy strikes
don’t wait for flowers,
cards of condolence.
Take all the comfort you can
from useless things;
antique ink wells,
platters with grooves for
a dozen deviled eggs,
brass ashtrays with handles,
because someday this will
all be different.
Someday we will live in a loft
on Greene St., own purebred cats
that are named after exotic fruit
and eat only raw foods
to treat their defective hearts.