Meeting Her Husband for Lunch
A taste bud is a curious machine:
it knows the stew but not the cook.
“The man in the kitchen…
Who is he?”
How can she know the stew but not the cook?
I answer every time: “Your husband.”
“Who…? Is he-…?
I was married once.”
I’ve answered her every time: “Your husband”
“That’s not him, but
I was married once.”
My grandfather comes in, pills in hand.
“But that’s not him.”
3 hours later, like an alarm clock,
my grandfather comes in, pills in hand:
Water and patience and a smile like forty years together.
3 hours later, like an alarm clock:
“Did I ever tell you how I met my husband?”
Waiting and patient and a smile like a fourth grader,
“You told me, but tell me again. I love hearing it.”
Did I tell you, yet, how I met my husband?”
My grandfather is in the kitchen listening to us,
“You told her, but tell her again. I need to hear it.”
“Well I was the prettiest thing…”
My grandfather is in the kitchen whispering to me,
It is twenty-five years ago and he is telling me the story:
“Well she was the prettiest thing
and she’d say, ‘ good lord, can that boy cook!’”
It is fifteen years ago and he is telling me the truth:
Your grandmother hasn’t been herself lately.
She finishes, “…and, good lord, could that boy cook!
He made the best stew.”
My grandmother hasn’t been herself in fifteen years
but the man in the kitchen
Still makes the best stew.
Her taste bud, at least, is a loyal machine.
A Warning to Boys Who Collect Shrapnel
For Sam White, historian, killed in his garage in 2008
while defusing a cannonball
making him the last casualty of the American Civil War.
A rusty bullet
There is not the
hammer click gunpowder bang
There is not even a hint
of bodies dancing like red capes
begging for the charge
nothing left of the in-through-out of ill-fated organs
and boys playing at war.
Do not doubt the metal
do not believe the rust.
It is a killing thing
and you are made of breath and beating
all muscle and bone.
A bullet is pierce and rupture
is blink and instant.
This sad thing is a soldier after a war
when killing is not quite a memory
but not a purpose either.
It is almost useless
like a warning to boys
who collect things
and imagine they have no past
Remember how, as a boy, you raced home
how you begged for the metal detector
how you followed its song.
How the fields murmured old secrets
and coughed up bullets.
There are things you cannot dodge.
This bullet has been moving towards you for 148 years.
When a bullet leaves a gun it never looks back.
If the marksman is good or lucky
the chipped bones that scatter
the exit, unceremonious and quick
the after, the dirt and the waiting,
a boy with curious and uncalloused hands.
Holding the rusted metal,
you finger groove and time
dent and destiny
This is epitaph
etched down the sides of its body.
The kiss from the barrel
is just as must past
as much made of yesterdays
as your ex-wife’s hands
or the uniform, much too small now,
hidden in dustiest closet of your home.
Everything has a history,
even the dirt
falling from the bullet
into to your hands.
Everything has a future
moving slowly towards it.
Even now your body is busy writing itself,
becoming less flesh
more dirt and ashes with every breath.
Remember how, as a boy, you held every bullet like a secret
how you thought war was made of stories and battlefields
how you imagined your body would endure
How the rust from someone else’s history
made your hands bloody
When My Newborn Daughter Holds My Grandfather’s Index Finger as I Did Thirty-three Years Ago
I wonder when the days will stop pulling at my sweater
and let me be,
when I will mistake the steady decay of my body
for the calm of my living room chair,
when my grandchildren and great-grandchildren will stop asking my age
and file me under old:
that flat and static town
made of pictures and stories,
that precursor to unsurprising funerals,
that permission to marvel at the young
as if I had never lived there.
Today I wear my hair up
with a red tie
so you know I’m half hussy,
half great idea.
This my mama’s dress
so I’m nothing new, either.
You can decide which is your favorite part;
I already know what
I like best.
I’m outside the house
waiting on a car
so you already know
I make bad choices. But at least I make something
My dress red, too –
like my hair tie
and my lip stick
and these panties, got for $2 out a of a bin
at a store where everything is cheap including the clothes.
I don’t even like red
but if you surrendering, you raise a white flag.
Don’t matter none if you don’t like white.