I am writing with my students,
to the silence of snow
on our window. It is the day
after deadline. Hussein believes
God will direct his missiles,
the same God who rode
the horses of the conquistadores
giving them rights to silver and
cities. Now it is land
and oil. Our history chuckles
up its own sleeve.
I watch the wingless direction of snowflakes,
wishing I could convince missiles
to defy gravity. Instead, I tell my students
of blood in poetry. The bullfights
of Lorca ran red. Neruda follows with black
windows, and addresses his own heart. For him
even winter becomes a person, sinister
under white snow.
I lean to cover the table with old newspaper
while my daughter waits, her arms scissoring
through air, experimenting with motion. She drops
her elbows, props her chin in a cradle of fingers, rocking.
Beneath her the chair pivots on two legs
so that 1 want to say, "Sit up or you'll fall."
Outside our window 1 hear the falling
against pavement of a rolled newspaper.
I glimpse the boy peddling away, his legs
moving in circles, knees snipping air like the scissors
my daughter holds, Her fist forms a tiny rock
with silver rings on thumb and index. She drops
brushfuls of orange onto newsprint. The wet drops
float along the words creating miniature waterfalls
running in beads, then penetrating the solid rock
letters into a blur of newspaper
messages. With her left-handed scissors
she cuts a paper doll, holds it to the air with legs
dripping wet orange onto her own legs.
The chair tilts against her weight and she drops
backwards with the brush and scissors
still laced in her fingers as she falls.
Paint jars and newspaper
follow her to the floor like a rock
slide filling road cuts after spring rain. The rock
follows its own weight, buckling like my daughter's legs
beneath her. The open newspaper
brushes my arm. Her paints drop
pigment onto my wrist as 1 reach to break her fall
against the tile, the chair, the scissors.
In her clenched palm the lifelines cross like scissors.
Her silence wafts like dust playing on air after the rock
has settled from the cascaded fall
onto pavement. I bend to touch her leg.
My words, "Are You O.K?" drop
into the tangle of newspaper,
paints, and scissors lying between her legs.
Then she laughs like the little rocks that drop
from mudfalls, crinkling the road into orange newspaper.
From their scaffolding they sometimes howl, yip
in short outbursts loving the sound
of their voices escaping
over the edge
of a fifth-story rooftop.
Their long vowels twist and fall
on my shoulders as I pass
along the concrete sidewalks
It reminds me of coyote,
a wild voice
against the moonful desert.
But this is Vermont,
and only men
against the morning, climbing
with tar buckets and shingles.
against a new day
notice me, I am
here above you,
reconstructing this old roof.
Like square beads, the pints of milk form
a ring on the table. I hold onto mine, denting
its heavy form, then engraving lines
in the warmed wax with my nail. Graham crackers
lie flat and dry next to my palm. When I put
one to my lips, it mixes like clay
between my teeth. Even when I move
to the coloring table, my tongue still works
against itself. The thick crayon
pressed to paper moves in curves
creating my form: arms out, legs down, head round
and full of possible space.
As my line comes back
to itself, connecting two legs, Jennel
leans for a yellow and bumps my elbow. The crayon,
tight in my fist, veers into a new direction.
Along with my sour breath, the picture
is changed. I cannot take new Paper,
so I stare at what I've done, wondering
how to erase colored wax. Then the line
becomes my brother. Smiling
because I know how to fix things, I finish
the curve of his penis. I draw
a chair, piled with clothes, so he can
get dressed. I sketch shoes on the thin
layer of floor beneath it. All these lines
come together, forming my page. "This is my brother
getting dressed," I whisper to Jennel. She tells
me the chair should be brown.
I take my paper to Mrs. Ravy. In her silence,
I know something has been broken. My paper passes,
makes soft airy sounds as it pauses
in the hands of student teachers. They smile,
not open and laughing, but with tight
lines at their mouth. Mrs. Ravy inhales,
like I do when I am about to go under water
at Silver Lake. The words rise
on her exhaling breath, "You shouldn't draw
naked boys." Back at my chair, I dress
my brother, draw heavy pants over his legs
and crotch. I peel back the crayon's paper, scrub
the blues and blacks, trying hard to blend my lines.
From the Gulf
My son brings me this new war in pages. Today it is pale green and folded into angles where his fingers have pressed the creases. I have to peel open the layers, careful not to tear the weak seams, worn from traveling since morning in his camouflage backpack.
At first I see only circles, the sun so large it can't fit the page. Along a thin line of hill a tank moves on eight wheels harnessed by an oval thread. Bullets, wider than the barrel they came from, make a path to the sun.
The man in the tank looks directly out at me, smiling like a sticker for good penmanship. The gun barrel protrudes from his head as if he has one long ear. Among the penciled lines of field grass a body floats horizontal. The eyes have no pupils, like oval eggs. The bullet hole
is round. It is below the neck, about where my son would put his hand during the pledge, a little off-center. A pencil line connects this wound to the hill, like a thin leash of blood waiting to be tied down.