we stand at the cusp of a line
in the yard of a fourth of july,
cradling our babies closer
than an oyster polishing its pearl.
but soon, upon orders, they must sail:
these uncooked chicks, these uncashed
checks, these unhatched desires like a squadron
of stars constellating the evening with the terror
of flight. we hope our partner
who is paces away knows her patience;
the scoop, catch, and glide; the body
and the things that beat there.
thus, through the night
spangled with humidity, flows
the arc of a conversation
that sounds something like prayer:
don't let me fall; don't let me
shatter; pool me in your soft hands
so i may never fly from you again.
all summer long, the wind
is spreading the seeds
of your sneezes, and your eyes
keep on weeping as if
they've seen a god.
no, scratch that—you pop
your antihistamines as if they were
the body of jesus, and you
like a zealot needing
to sniff more of this snuff,
convinced that your wheezing
is leading you somewhere,
such as the garden of sunflowers
that could be—
but aren't quite—elysian.
my wife tends the small garden of her hands:
weeding the edges, soothing the soil.
soon, the flowers of her fingers bloom poppy-red,
then the petals fall off in soft flakes.
the fields of my hands have been kept
by a farmer with an affinity for bourbon.
where the lifeline is furrowed, you can see
where his tractor veered three separate times.
he has not yet cut firewood from the broken trees
of my freckles rotting behind the white hills
of my knuckles. the patchy flax on my fingers
has yet to be harvested, and the joints creak
like rusting springs of his truck.
these january nights, our house is bitter as hay.
my wife keeps the bulbs of her thumbs shooting
in the greenhouse of our electric blanket.
lit by a gray moon, i study my hand, the hangnails
standing like snowmen. my fingernails
are five frozen ponds at the edge of that field.
you can imagine a couple ice-skating there,
carving their curlicues, discussing what
they should grow in the summer: beans, maybe;
red peppers the rabbits will eat; or a child
whose hands they will forever tend together.
curled in the corner of the cul-de-sac
and the scent of sweet august grass,
it stands like the head of a hammer,
ready to bang its telegraphs to the world.
sometimes it raises its red hand,
so excited for the postmaster to call on it;
other times i open its mouth and it yawns
like a lion, bored with three days of no news.
it's a brown trout pregnant with thin fingerlings,
a safe where the stamps glitter like jewels.
in this life, i would like to take whatever
is sent to me, read it in the language
in which it is written, work for days
on the words of my reply. but often
my heart is a wolf with no forwarding address,
tromping through snow, hunting too hard.
o holy barn of my business, o black hole
at the center of the mailman's faith:
let me learn to love my last name;
the zip code of my coats' zippers; and
the omelets i'm making for breakfast:
red peppers in their envelopes of egg
to be mailed in care of my wife
at the dining room table, her bathrobe
wrapped around her like a package
i'm excited to open right there
in the bright post office of morning.
it is a golf shot of god,
a quick line of cocaine,
the eyelash of an angel
burning into a tear.
and so the orphans are amazed,
the cows look up from their cud.
you'd like to catch
that blistering egg
in the empty baskets of your eyes,
but you blink and you miss,
its yolk broken like moonlight
all over your jeans.