The Soft Word
is a white butterfly hidden
in a forest
of leaves, a green snake
barely visible on the far side
of a pond.
It’s a girl braiding
her sister’s hair with hands
pale as moonlight on a field,
a bell muffled beneath
a pillow, a child weeping in the snow.
The bullies have moved on
to another block.
From this distance, their voices
could be mistaken for laughter
From here no one can see
their fists or the ragged rage
of eyes gloating, or ice crystals
glistening on their mouths,
or hungry tongues licking at frozen air.
Kissing Your Hands
I met you at the bottom of the hill and there I kissed your hands,
each of your long fingers, one at a time, a ritual from a book
we both read, a sacrament of fragrance and flesh.
You spoke to me then, your voice coming from a long way off,
from behind a waterfall made of ice, from a cave
where someone long ago had marked the walls with red palms.
You told me about the wind, how it traveled through failing lands,
how it always came back smelling of wheat and rain.
There were tears in your eyes. Your mouth quivered like a child’s.
I asked if you were hungry, but the day was rushing past.
Time, you reminded me, is a flood sweeping us toward the ocean.
We struggle to keep that in mind, but it never stops.
You’re writing something on your arm, a tiny text in a black dot
code. Maybe it’s a score, something for our voices to use
in October, as leaves turn feverish and wrens, those little kings,
gather in their brown tribes, singing us to silence as we watch them leave.
For three days
my father bounced a soccer
ball off his head.
The rhythm made me think
of soft cannons in the distance,
beating at walls.
I put him in the corner
so he wouldn’t block the net,
so he couldn’t call in his hoarse voice,
so the neighbors would resist
the urge to pull our roof down in their rage.