After Ellen Doré Watson
I believe in the creeping charlie
that spills across the grass, that it can’t
be a weed if it shrouds the unfledged
baby bird, its naked breast, its
gaping beak held still.
I believe in the ever-empty, in
the nest, in the wine-breath lounge-
eye moment before a kiss
doesn’t manifest. Especially in that.
In the community of silence afterwards.
The coherent understanding. I believe
in the shoulder underneath a hand, and in
the thumb’s mute hesitation. When
it rains, I can sometimes believe
in a roof or in its absence. I believe we
can learn to stop, but not be taught.
For a while, I believed words could splinter
like a shield of laminated glass, held
together in an undulating sheet, but useless
nonetheless. In the long June mornings,
I believe in the persistence of fireflies.
I believe in both burning and
salve. Every word. Each juncture.
But mostly I believe in that absent kiss—
the one where at last you can tell yourself
you were never pliable, not made of
want or waiting to be uprooted.
Pity the crickets—the exuberant lifting
outside this window right now, sawing into
a Saturday night. Pity their serrated wings.
Pity this pair, his courting song drowning
in the stridulation of four dozen other suitors,
her silent admiration, her knee-bent listening.
The crickets made mute in the webs of
spiders and in the salamander mouths.
And the frogs who go hungry tonight, and
the uneaten leaf fall and duff. The woods,
the houses, the destinations and the origins,
the cars on the distant highway, the lights
approaching and receding. The Perseids
falling unnoticed through the unwatched
sky. And this faltering light which comes
from nowhere and everywhere, the small way
in which I see you. Everything but the hand
I use to limn you against the air, everything
but your mouth and where it finds me, my
knee bending attentive and suspended, yes
and, God, yes, everything but this singing.
Come before the ice glosses,
beautiful. Come before
you are blinded, while you
can still drive home.
Last night’s dream, I was
halfway down a well.
A stone grasped my rib,
my thighs shook. I should
not have been running
without a flashlight.
I should have been able
to choose to climb.
I am writing to your mouth
where the dead once lived.
It used to speak for them,
remember? Speak for
both of us now. Tell me
what the dead me would say.
It should be December.
We could be dreaming
August. How desperate I was
to wet my feet. How you
refused to give ground.
How much can I write in a single breath before I watch bubbles rise and what message can I
encase in them, knowing it was meant for the sea, that it uses words the air can’t understand,
that we learned the wrong languages as children?
Write soon. You miss me.
The weather is there. Wish
I were beautiful. Wish.
I want to say something about
the way the moon congeals
on the water tonight. I want it
to be something lovely,
Ruth Foley lives in Massachusetts, where she teaches English for Wheaton College. Her work appears in numerous web and print journals, including Antiphon, The Bellingham Review, The Louisville Review, and Sou’wester. Her chapbook Dear Turquoise is available from Dancing Girl Press. She serves as Managing Editor for Cider Press Review.
Trinh Sari Nguyen is an artist based in Houston, TX. See her full bio here.