by Lauren Camp
Fixed in the yearbook of self, she says
she’s never mattered. I go to her house, empty-
handed; leave with cash, maybe some peas
or a lamp. Friday again—again we begin
writing her life. In the careful geometry
of kitchen and desk, I watch her eyes
stay gray. From thin lips, she shakes out
conceits, the worries
that hide between morning
and Ambien. Through pages and heat,
she hobbles, says fuck grasped by grief.
All of it only on Fridays. The house stays
balanced and low; her forsythia, squared
and productive. I begin to know everything:
each boney-white room and the crunch
of her carpet, how her smiles meander
and get small, each miniscule
fragment of foot and its fusing, refusing
to bend, 40 years from her crash.
She hangs found objects on paragraphs
we rehearse and remodel.
Her life is as much as she needs,
and empty with remnants. Fridays, I listen
for shortage. Old verbs lurch toward me,
sleighting the present.
When she laughs, my throat feels tangy.
I want her to let me let go of the knowing.
Sometimes she softens by the door,
touches her cane, and thanks me double
before I walk out.
No one is waiting. There isn’t time.
What she loves is moved into boxes. We snap back
to supper: split pea with ham;
clean the kitchen—again. Silence, the defiance
of wine. We hardly argue attachments:
there are many blank moments.
She hasn’t gone but knowing,
we put affairs in order, ask for numbers,
doctors, scars. There is always a chance
to see shadows inside the lamenting. The blue
March air nibbles at our perspective. What was
temporarily buried, the grasses and light,
seeps into the flatland. We cannot understand
the cure, but the effort helps us touch each other
one evening, another—and give what we figure
as protection just when we need it.
Dear One Who Stays
I’ve gone away before—
even while I slept
by your side. I’ve laced
other fingers, drank another
man’s thoughts from multiple tables, four beds.
I’m sorry. I had mistaken my heart
through the junipers.
For months, no pen took to its subject without blackening
the weft of the paper. I had the expense
of my memory and you let me spend it
far into debt.
Our life was range and its stresses. Back then, we listened
to the sharp tongues of finches,
the sheets as they twisted, the side door with its finish.
I’ve already shown you I won’t stay away. I’ve truthed out the dangers.