Terrible pictures, but you can see the tail end of a grey bird with a black tail that is at the far side of the suet feeder, to the left.
And he sat down on the edge of my jacket,
then looked at me startled when I tugged it out,
the drag of the zipper odd under his khakied thigh.
And then I looked up and his eyes were like does’
and lashes like the edges of burring jimson weed
seed pods but beautiful instead of alien.
And then I was the startled one and said
sorry. And he flinched away from my startlement.
And the Metro driver saved us by stopping
at the next stop and ordering us all out
of the train. And I did not think of him again
until now. And the burr of that fear clings to me.
And I wonder how I frightened him with me
and my middle aged dumpiness and he
young and able to destroy me with a fist.
And his eyes were brown.
I’ll be a witness, someone sobbing out a Perry Mason
fantasy of epiphanies, a gasp of “you!” and the music
goes dun dun dun, someone should scream, her hand
curled shaking around her throat then up to cover her
mouth, her lipstick is red in my head but the real image
is black and white and intense, bright grey. That’s how
I always think I should have found him, should have
stopped, cue a clangor of discordant trumpets, and scream
but it was more a soft huff of breath, was it out or in?
and lips too numb to do more than stay somewhere
on my face. But now, now I am playing at witness, playing
that a preacher asked for one and I stood sobbing and crying
yes, and there I dashed my name down on the paper, dashed
something down on too real rocks like the children of Amalek
but we are playacting, remember. I am a witness and shall play
at groping around in my memory for some forgotten fact,
a date, a time, when I last saw Jimmy, how I knew George
started the fire, bring it all up and out and set it
before the mock jury as I’ve been instructed as I sat
in that murky visitor’s office, the walls with two red holes
and liquid had rolled out and down and froze, and I
could only stare in horror dreaming that here was blood
more than the spots on my tea towels when he died
when I did not scream, when I did not feel anything
but now I will say that I was just a little angry, here,
talking of Jimmy and George, that I was betrayed, but
just a little bit, by a two-timing man. I can’t help
but put a little Hepburn in, a little smug call out
to Jerry the Nipper. What have I seen? What
did I do? Oh, I will be the greatest witness
anyone in mock trials has ever seen. I will make
a mockery of all of it. Can I get an amen?
He likes the detergent pods, but I
wear a shirt after and it smells
of swamp or something tidal, dying
against my skin. Like a dog
chasing my tail I try to turn quickly
enough to catch my own scent, try
to smell nothing long enough to smell
something, I open my mouth and ape
the lions using their tongues as scoops
for air and all those invisible spores
and then I realize that I’m inviting
invisible spores to the porous sponge
of my tongue. I shut my mouth.
Cold/cold then hot. I imagine my jeans
feel like me outside in that aching rain
that destroyed my umbrella, felt more
like a slapping wave with water shooting
up my nose than mere rain, and I couldn’t
see except there was a car’s lights and was
it stopped or moving, the light cascading
down the street on the water. Home,
I slipped down in more water, purposefully
despite the wrinkling of my feet in the cold
slosh of my shoes, and boiled.
You cannot forget the clothes
bounding around in the dryer, not here
with that clanking announcement that it
is starting and stopping, and the occasional
roar that seems related to nothing but might
mean the drum is about to slip its tether
and race down the hall, out the door, become
a hamster wheel for the neighbor’s golden,
and leave me shouting Amana! Come back!
I am satisfied with laundry. There is something
in that hot scent of clothes popped
out like a poptart from a toaster.
The sweater would be blue, grey blue
but blue, if you gathered the soft bundles
of lint we grow here and spun them
into an odd, lumping yarn. You would
snug yourself in, be able to hide
in any store’s denim section, disappear
if you were silhouetted against the soft,
close, raining, lowering sky.
Four hampers. It doesn’t seem
as if we have so many clothes but still
we can fill four hampers between two
of us and our hangers are not empty.
As I was hanging a warm shirt, I thought
I should find another like it, but looked
at my closet’s rail, hidden by dozens
of blouses, sweaters, thought of charity
but knew I would only be giving to make
more room for consumption, some Puritanical
impulse making me vow my next purchase
would be something unflattering and cold.
The sky is closer here. I step outside
and through it parting like a silent crowd
for an Olympic sprint with flames that died.
They are still at it now, praying like mantises,
looking for candidates, sunk like Atlantises,
drunk on self-righteousness, televangelicals
dreaming of dominance, on psychedelicals.
I always wonder if they get a buzz,
or at least a tingle, in their teeth
like chewing foil. One sticks with usb,
but the other gnaws on power cables.
Transformers add a piquant, oaky tone,
or taste of special kibble, something pricy
that goes rancid quickly but when fresh
is crunchy, oily goodness. I have shocked
myself moving a charging laptop off
the dining table, but the cats are not
internally illumined or all charred
like marshmallows left in a radar range,
transmuted into something grey and strange.
He told her he would like to die at home.
She told him that could be arranged. He laughed
but no one there could tell if she were joking
even now. Especially not her.
I got too thirsty, sitting
in the car for that endless trek
across Wyoming or Arizona or Utah,
it didn’t really matter just a big,
dusty state in a big, dusty car
and I got a dime from Mom, it was hot
from a hot pocketbook in a hot car
into my hot, sweating hand. I stood
at the big cooler, my hand along
the cold, crimped caps,
it was the kind with clamps
that released when you put in
your sweaty coin and chose
which bottle to pull. Coke
or Orange Crush, the endless debate,
my fingers trailing from one
to the other, and I put
my coin in clinking
and then the rising greed,
thinking two bottles pulled
at the same time
would fool the stupid
machine into releasing both.
I got neither. There is always
someone one step ahead.
A horde of smokers draped across the planters
sitting in their blue haze in the graceful curve
of the building’s frontage. As I came close,
a freckling tourist laughed and took an iPhone picture
her other hand curled around a bottle of water,
with minerals added for the taste of fresh rocks.
I wondered if she could see what I always tried,
what Wikipedia took pains to mention, that
the architecture is Egyptian Revival. You picture
pyramids and Karnak and the women all wearing strap-on
beards, but there is little to untrained eyes but the odd
static frieze above the door, the eyes migrated to the ears’
edges, the feet oddly heel to toe. A man echo
laughed, his arm a sweep of ember
and trailing grey. ‘Health and Human Services!”
he crowed. “Oh we are a picture!” And the crowd,
their eyes migrating to the north, to the tourist
whose sandals flapped against C Street’s quiet sidewalks,
seemed torn between glaring and laughing, between
anger and joy. And chose joy.