Tonight St. Remy paints itself.
I see markings in the clouds,
the wind trails scratch marks in swirls.
Stars spin and tumble
like bright children rolling down
a hillside. The air is thick and slow
like breathing glue. Each rooftop pierces
the sky—cuts without blood, every shade
of purple in a bruise.
I’ve run out of blue paint,
and it seems the only pigment
beyond this window is blue—
from steeple shadow to the low bellies
of thunderheads, to the deep thatched rows
in the vineyards.
I want to drag my brush
through the sky, steal sticky stars
for this canvas, now awash
with last strokes of indigo. I want
to swallow this night like a true, black elixir,
a whole ripe plum, or my own tongue.
The bottles you sent by post are empty brown,
the color of dead stems. I poured them
into the base of my hydrangea, now grown
wild, without bloom.
I would write paper a letter,
mix the language into scribbles
of a vernacular that made sense,
except the paper is gone.
Where did we go wrong?
Was it the indiscriminate origami,
hundreds of folded swans
fading on my windowsill?
Was it the paper footballs,
callously flicked across the desk,
in boredom? And who decided
to turn paper into work?
The endless forms, the dead horses
painted on the flaps of envelopes,
the infinite rows of trees,
milled and pressed, each with their own
rings of stories, of forest nights
and chainsaws, of snow breaks,
and bear claw climbs, of fire wind
and pine needle silence.
Paper, forgive us,
for the picnic plates and cheap
napkins, for the stench
of ink in printers, for the abusive
light of copy machines, for the soft
bound books we throw in our bags, keep
on our nightstands, drop
in our bathtubs.
I cannot believe that this is the end.
Who will I crumple now?
My tears run like blue fountain pen ink,
like words streaming down a page, in a poem
about pauses and absence,
written on what is blank and flat,
now stained with a colored needle
below a canvas of skin.
Is the asking
more important than the question? What if
you forget to raise your voice
at the end of the sentence, like
a heavy kite tail, over-tied with ribbons,
no wind in the meadow?
If you had only asked me, if I
had only said, Is this a question?
Instead, the statement sat on the table
between us, a tiny, tarnished
trophy, both sets of our hands on its base.
What does the plaque say? Who wins
Just ask me.
And if I say yes, or nod, I will still
ask you to repeat the question. I like
the tones in your throat, the threads you
string the words on, and saying things
over makes them real.
Say it again.
I can’t even think
of the letters that spell
no when I hear your voice.
Once she had been able to tell time
by the tone of their bleating.
Five goats in a pen, siblings, bought for her
to be raised for 4-H. As kids, they were loud
and long. Maxine and her sister dressed them
in baby clothes, named them after their mother’s favorite
soap opera characters. They would eat anything.
Each day the girls would bring something new
to try—buttermilk soap, pencils, shoestrings,
hunks of liver, foil candy wrappers, fingernail clippings.
The goats entertained in their simple goat way.
They would not fetch a tennis ball, or curl up
on the screened porch bed for a nap with Maxine. One day
the goats were in the house, chewing the paper snowflakes
hung from fishing line across the hearth, a scattering of red
and green Monopoly houses, handfuls of dryer lint. They were wearing
Maxine’s old dresses, now too small, even for her sister,
their floral patterns faded from hand-me-down existence.
At this moment, for the first time, Maxine could imagine herself
as a mother. That is until her own mother returned,
early from the market, finding goat shit
on the kitchen linoleum, and Erica Kane
swallowing a five dollar bill from a bowl by the front door.
Soon after, the goats were gone, sold to a neighbor,
Maxine realized that she liked only the idea of goats,
I know you think that I am just another melancholy poem,
written in a blue-painted room, at a wooden desk, by moonlight.
When the truth is, I was written outside, on a bus stop bench at noon,
while the poet ate a salted pretzel from a street vendor’s cart.
Don’t judge me if my cicada won’t sing mournfully, it isn’t up to you
to decide what I’ve lost (my keys) or who I am missing (my dog.)
And maybe it isn’t raining, the windows of this cottage are not crying.
Maybe today I am just sad without reason—because I had a dream
about a boy in a plaid shirt, because I didn’t walk through the yellow leaves,
because it smells like wet soil and ashes outside.
But you still get to misplace your sadness onto mine. What better way
to be sad than to read a poem, this downturn of letters on a page
that run like tears, always pointing towards the last word?