Suburban Summer

Deep lawns,
fireflies’ flash and crickets’ song
fuzzes the greypurple light of dusk.
The birch silvers the evening.
I bite the tip off my lime sherbet cone.

We sail on our training-wheeled bikes
through empty streets.
Shannondale pool beckons
in the heavy, thirsty air.
We will spend all day, pruning
in the blue and sun.

Pickup baseball in the gravel-lined streets:
only occasional shouts of “Car!” interrupt.

Dark falls so late.
We wait
on the screened-in porch,
safe from mosquitoes,
for lights out
to sneak off into the night
to Amberly Elementary’s playground,
or across the highway,
or just to a friend’s house
where we will whisper through the screen
in the glow of the streetlight.

We climb the cathedral.
Though the wall is a ladder of bricks,
the way a friend gets swallowed up into the dark
as she ascends and straddles over the lip of the roof
forty feet up
makes my stomach go hollow.


Sestina: Tin Can Call

The summer I turned sixteen, I learned
the burning that happens when contact
is made: flesh and mouths, a new kind of touch.
Kids really, trying to smash ourselves together,
atoms mingling, heeding the old call
looking for The Other who would hear—

The low buzzing we made, like bees, hear
not just our desires but everything we’d learned
about desire—that birth is a call
to the universe; from conception we have contact.
We only survive when we are together.
We learn from being touched what it is to touch.

Hands, eyes, lips, hearts, touch
and understand. Without speaking, we hear:
all that our ancestors have learned
to cultivate society, not just sex as contact
but contact that issues forth the greater call.

String stretched taut, tin can call:
We twin sisters sleep at night, while parents forget to touch.
The line is in place, but loss of contact,
not even scratchy murmurings—hear
vestigial sighs and moans that have become unlearned,
aloneness now safer than being together.

How hard it is to hold together
when our atoms buzz about in empty space, call
to one another only through cosmic forces we can never learn.
And yet, I risk this cosmic touch
of forever, in another, and now hear
the heart beat growing inside me, this impossible yet mundane contact

of creation, of birth—contact
that challenges all notions of aloneness. Together:
on a brilliant night of unexpected lightning. We heard
the call of love, heard the call
that defies sound waves. Our touch
something both old and new but within us, cosmically learned:

We dance the dance of contact, all our being calling,
reaching for togetherness and psychic touch.
I hear without hearing all the universe has learned.

Paradox: Nicaragua

Heavy air thick with humidity and smog,
a lake of human waste,
rivers of garbage,
rain in rivers from the tiled roofs,
and a sun that wilts all.

But also: lightning that crackles the sky,
volcanic ash black and soft,
rich: the wealth of green growing,
mangos drop heavy and sweet.

Yet children beg in la Plaza de la Revolución,
banana workers wait in shantytowns, dying
and another sugarcane worker gets sick
while the government pays street thugs
to graffiti catchphrases of revolution.

Children play here like anywhere:
hopscotch, soccer; the girls braid hair,
their families gone away to seek work elsewhere.

León is full of murals of revolution,
celebrates its martyrs.
One man says he fought for his country
and all he has to show for it is a damaged brain.
Still he waits for visitors to the museum
to pass on the stories.


Laguna de Apoyo

All Language Is Translation

I dreamt I was translating a poem.  It was in Greek.  It was in Czech.  I had lenses that I put on which allowed me to see the words in English, though some of it I understood anyway.  The light had to be just right for the lenses, so I had to adjust and squint.  I was at the beach near my hometown.  I was on a Mediterranean island where I’ve never been.  I was an adolescent.  I was an adult.  Boys were teasing me; they’d stolen my translator glasses.  I was an expert, an English teacher.  I went diving in the waves and surfaced, disoriented and laughing.  When I awoke from the dream, I knew the poem had been about childhood and summer and innocence and love, but I don’t remember any of the words.