*Image: “Sheath” by Carol Wisker, 6” x 6” x 6” Recycled textile and fiber, wood box, 2010 (Photo credit: Howard A. Brunner)
When was the last time I kissed him,
my eldest son, on the mouth?
I can’t remember. When did I start
turning away and offering cheek
instead of lips? Somewhere between
our last kiss and today’s awkwardness
we forgot the words to an old song.
How long before we turn not only cheeks
but backs to our affection, as I did
with my father? In the beginning,
my mouth was wet with infant kisses
from lips that couldn’t speak, a tongue
that knew nothing but milk. Today,
I shake his hand. And in the end, love
will stand between us like slabs of stone.
What we owned was piled on the bed
and warmed the room with the smell
of bodies, bleach, and dryer sheets.
You, on one side, folded the colors
and I, on the other, the whites. Between us,
years, children, holes in the knees, stains.
What you folded became gifts, wrapped,
too beautiful to open. I watched you work
as I took sock after sock and married them.
We knew that most of what we did
would be undone, but it kept us coming back
to the same bed, the same warm room.
Deer Hunter in Victoria’s Secret
Does this come in camo? he asks.
Strangely, it does. He’d meant it as a joke
to stave off the awkwardness of wandering
through aisles of pink lace and lavender silks,
padded bras, and fabrics priced by weight:
the less they weigh the more they cost.
But now the pretty employee (of the month?)
is showing him the camo outfit, holding it up
to her own body for comparison. Do they call it
an outfit? For him, an outfit is his rig, his truck.
Last night it hauled home a mule deer buck,
a sexy four point, thirty inches wide, good mass,
would score over 200 Boone & Crocket. Now,
he’s come to get a gift for his pregnant wife,
who stays home with three kids while he hunts.
Same situation every year: he gets a buck;
she gets a gift. Blood, almost black now,
has dried at the edges of his fingernails. He picks
at it to avoid eying the sales associate.
I’ll take it, he says. She wraps it in a pink box.
At her request, he holds his stained trigger finger
on the silky ribbon, so she can tie a perfect bow.
Issue of Blood at the Amusement Park
. . . I perceive that virtue is gone out of me. Luke 8:46
She boards the mouse-faced, jerky car
with the padded bar across her lap, husband
and children in front and behind her,
screams and laughter. Damned by joy,
the river of her quandary rises in her heart.
Option one: menorrhagia; a week of life
each month less than life, an embarrassing,
open wound that won’t clot, a red ball
and chain, a worry that drips in her mind
till her head is full and her neck aches.
She squeezes mustard into cartons
for corn dogs, cleans little fingers with wipes.
Option two: pregnancy. She already has
and loves her children, each of which cost her flush
after flush of bile through the throat,
months where taste was torture.
Unless an angel appears and commands her—
even then she’s likely to burst
with incredulous laughter. In the funhouse
children appear and disappear around
corners. Ejaculations of air spurt up from the floor
and into her shorts. Option three: IUD.
This is her current choice. She loves
the freedom of love, and how it stops
her period, hates
the gloomy ghosts of hormonal clowns
that possess her every few weeks, haunt
the love she has for those around her, kill
her security, and reflect a fright
in the mirror. Who touched me? She looks
over her shoulder. No one is there.
When you check me, look deep.
I lost something in all that darkness.
When you examine my ears
fine tune the small bones for music.
I want to hear the trunks of trees chant
and the open sky belt its blues.
I want to catch the croon of muddy rivers.
And when you take my blood
replace it with a shot of moonlight,
enough to make me glow for a while
like a field of snow on a clear night.