Margaret E. DiVito
It is hard for him to remember the string
of women. None of them mother. None of them
childhood. Not names, just different colors of lipstick,
lasting only until the mouths were worn
back to their natural shades. Their unmentionables
they left behind from the shove out the door.
His memories are shaped by streams of light
sneaking through windows, between blind slats,
glinting off dust particles, and he tries to imagine
his father, now cremated, a good man.
He wants to remember his father and fishing trips
but not the deeply etched smile spreading
across his features as he tore away the egg sacs.
Thousands of pink micro-beads spotted his sandy boots.
The smear of slime and stink ate through newspapers.
Without the handle’s whack to the head,
his blade would sink into the belly first.
Loss is a permanent acquaintance. He doesn’t need
the empty pages in his phone book to remind him.
He thinks of the women before they fled.
His mother, trapped in the shed, scraping up dirt,
believed she could tunnel her way out.
Nights he still sees her eyes, blackened and wild through the swelling,
her hair, more grey than blond, fallen from its frayed green ribbon,
and the layers of dried soil caking each knuckle crease
as her fingertips broke through earth. She scratched at the surface,
her wide gaze frozen to shovels and shattered bits of clay.
His sister, shrinking, given over to nights of endless walking
to steady her legs. The quick quiver of kneecaps as they slip
in and out under tight, dark denim lets her drop easily
beneath the weight of strange men. She has lost herself in need,
must feel her body straight with all its pieces in painless place.
No more running, just a steady stagnation,
her eyes emptied of wildness and everything but Christmas
beatings and beer-can decorations and a cold, hard floor.
Each night he sits for hours, the ball in his stomach not fire
but hunger for where they are and who they should have been by now.
Sifting through the stories, he tries to reshape the middle, the end.
He writes them into fairytales; the crumpled sheets of paper
push them further from truth, further from him. He sees them
through the haze of bottles, under different streams of light, artificial
and constant, their possibilities limited only by the rising sun.
© 2007 University of North Carolina Greensboro