Disturbance

We linger in the vague, blue hum of another summer. The sudden plummet from the middle dulls our senses and bends our spines closer toward some final ground. Bad decisions, mistakes, hard luck: scar tissue tightens in welts beneath the flesh in wishbone arcs. Deep wounds are always palpable, and blood sport rarely passes without lingering pain. Sparrows dive from the eaves, their love cries filter through the shuttered windows to disturb the white webs we’ve spun like shrouds around our skulls.

In the night kitchen, we pass in silence as televisions flicker, ghostly in the empty rooms beyond. Each morning breaks its fingers against the granite of our prison; no light enters here. Leaves hang from red oaks, quiver in surrender, a dusty patina settles over each moisture-starved vein. Tendons curl inward on themselves, and still the cleansing rain denies us relief. Yellow weeds choke garden space. There will be weeds next year, too.

We scavenge for crumbs in a world that rejects us, subsist side-by-side in a house of separation, crouch over screens in dark rooms, painting our pain into cartoon frameworks. Our lips recoil from touch. Tongues lie flat and silent through the hours. Necessary words flutter and fall like broken wings from our mouths. Unspoken, words like touch and kiss and love lie trapped between the curving bone while barbed words catch and pull at the air to carve more space between us.

Each blue grows muted within these walls, while outside, a red desert descends. The arm of a flagpole furls no flag, a dog run is undogged, a man buys a country, his currency the face of fear, another buys an arsenal to camouflage his impotence.

A June bug struggles on its back, its legs wave, frantic to climb the ladder of sun. A small boy tilts a magnifying glass over its fumbling trunk, his face passive in the numbness of this mossy age. The bronze carapace cracks and bubbles beneath the glitter that beams from his unforgiving hand. Lips spread in a death’s-head grin, the boy wanders off to seek another game to play.

A windlass creaks over a half empty well, its water wafts a lonely, brackish smell. I finger the pennies singing in my pocket. I close my eyes. I toss them in.

First published at Pithead Chapel, 2012: http://pitheadchapel.com/jp-reese/

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2008, What I Wanted

I wanted it to be 2007, before my husband lost
his white collar and our nest egg broke its shell against
the blind windows of Wall Street. I wanted not to feel
the clench in my guts every time the bills came due.
I wanted to believe my son, almost grown, would head
to college and enjoy the life my parents provided me.
It is 2011. My son works overnights. Mornings at seven,
I hear him climb the stairs toward his day’s rest.
If I am quick, I may catch a trace of his boy’s smile,
testing itself against an older, stranger’s face.

Published at Wilderness House Literary Review, 2012

Reprinted in Poets on the Great Recession, 2012: http://poetsonrecession.blogspot.com/2012/01/jp-reese.html
©JP Reese 2011