The Northern Hemisphere leans as far away from the sun as possible. A week ago, a construction worker fell five stories and survived by landing in a dumpster. I watched it happen from our window, propped up in bed purchasing The Clapper, only I mistook the ragged movement of rooftop specks for comradery. Our son wants the promise of no more fumbling through darkness. When we called the Santa hotline, he clapped twice to emphasize his wish. One Clapper reviewer notes that people with memory loss might forget how to press a button but never how to put their hands together. In the account of how the man fell, witnesses report he had unclipped from his gear to go home for the night. I read this as unclapped. I used to think the floors of a building were called stories, as in narrative. Story fifteen: I can now tie my hair under my chin! Story ninety-seven: I pull socks from the dirty hallway pile, too defeated to do laundry! This morning, in remote learning, I overhear the moon has low gravity. I want to ask if a mother can stumble off its crust. I got my tracker number for The Clapper and thought: “How are you so unwilling to touch a switch when you hang on me all the time?” and also: “Please stay little.” Yesterday, I found a lotto card in the snow that wasn’t a winner. It contained the words same and wait but also rowboat. All of the children are asked to unmute and howl at the screen, and after they’re done, I put my hands together.
Originally published in Threadcount
My father carried corn oil into dusk:
the translucent plastic like a lantern
held aloft, the yard pared down
immaculate -- and overrun somehow
with a wild stamina. The light
was just ending. The geese were out,
feeding on the seeded grass. They lunged
the narrow slick of their bills
into the loam, weeded stalks
unmindful of the space between them,
the whites of their chinstraps
impellent, unrehearsed, in rhythm to collective
hunger and inner-directed. Larger
than each bird alone I watched my father:
his stooped shadow, his flannel untucked
like a lake spilling over its banks. He moved
outside their periphery until he was nothing more
than pine, a mere familiar. Then I watched him
unscrew the cap and pour oil onto cloth,
lower into a nest of moss and feathers,
into a clutch of eggs I couldn’t see
but knew was there.
The geese continued to eat.
The eggs absorbed the oil.
I tried to pick out the mother
while my father asphyxiated embryos,
his head turned towards the gaggle in humane
say-so. I’d wanted to feel her bristle.
He’d said she’d be misled into believing
the eggs would develop. That not knowing,
she would tend to them the same.
Originally published in Gulf Coast
THE LAST TRAVEL AGENT
She hides honey in a globe.
Her hair smells of camphor.
Mornings, children scatter
heirlooms. Their fingers work the ash.
Here is a mesh of lace. Here is a rope
of felt. Sometimes the stones become the fragile
cups and saucers she once laid out for friends.
Remember the sky
strewn with paper lanterns?
The moon as anything other
than dread? O bird with one wing
heavier than the other.
Air splinters. Like a Medusa head
the capstan glowers.
Geography is spent.
Line them up, line them up.
How does the fable go again? Enough stones
in the pitcher and the crow can drink.
Originally published in Best New Poets 2015