You are gone when I slog to the kitchen, slosh coffee from the pot
into yesterday’s cup. I berate myself for hating that you didn’t leave a note,
as if that’s what counts. As if that’s love. I wash. I dress. I cube
the russet potatoes I’ve peeled, bury them beneath a cut of chuck
and some Lipton’s onion soup. The wedding gift slow cooker I set to low.
By five o’clock things will feel tender.
I pick up a six of Miller on my way home from work; I know you’re out
since I killed the last can last night, late, waiting on the stoop, leaden clouds
enshrouding a suet moon. You still aren’t here when I kick off my pumps.
I check the roast, consider browning broth for gravy. Instead I put away laundry:
socks rolled like dung beetles, your blue chino pants.
Hoping you will be here soon I spoon meat and vegetables onto two plates,
set ketchup and Parkay on the table. I picture us chuckling over dinner–about Carl
in accounting, about the Barkers’ Halloween skeletons still sprawled on the lawn
in June. You’ll complain about too little salt, about gristle. I press my thumb
into a carrot stub as soft as rotted flesh. I am not hungry.
At eight I scrape the plates into an ice cream tub we emptied back in May,
then dump the mess in the alleyway which flanks our yard–a meal
for the mongrel dog that haunts Wayne’s Tire and Garage. I figure the city
will call me again, warn me not to encourage strays, stress that neighbors
get annoyed. But what can I do? I hope you don’t mind, Harlan,
that I’ve given him your name.
I’ve given him your name and when I call to him he comes.
* * * * * * * * *
A Long December
"...and there’s reason to believe
maybe this year will be better than the last."
I know I am not suicidal because I’m buying Christmas wrap half price
at the after-holiday sale. When the safety rail of the causeway bridge
is slick with condensation, when riptides tease my ankles
with insistent invitation, such markers are important.
It isn’t that remarkable to see Jesus in scorched toast. To the faithful
God is everywhere: in the delicate venation of a sweetgum leaf,
the deeply muscled flanks of a quarter horse, a sleeping toddler’s
ruddy cheeks, flushed from hours of play.
I’d wager my atheist daughter forgets being christened
into the Christian church at barely six weeks old--how subversive
the insurance taken out on her soul. Despite her obdurate
disbelief, I still can trace God’s thumbprint in the whorls of her hair.
The ocean is bright like mica in the late December sun. If I behold
Jesus in this dazzling light, beckoning me to his tiny boat, if waves cinch
like a glassine bag around my waist, around my neck, isn’t each step I take
a prayer? Whatever shape or size, whatever name we ascribe, this gift
we open is salvation. Chill waters spill across my head--a baptism,
a satin bow. The sea bed shifts. Yes, I say. Enough. Amen.