“And I'll Love You Forever” -a bookstore in Western Mass. You left and took the city with you went out for cigarettes and became smoke. And so to stay both more lonely and less lonely I went inside the used bookstore to live with the broken-spined, the ditched classics, and drug money first editions, books who'd burn apart if they'd just be held. Goldenrod and suicidal, a wan line pulls me through the stacks, has my hands in Leaves of Grass, 1855. The cover catches my thumb and 2/11/89 Janice, Happy 24th Birthday! Just want to say you're a very beautiful person and you are very special to me. I hope you enjoy this book. I love you Janice. Frank Wondering in and out of lives, my hands brushing over each gleam, matte. How we sell back. How we let things go, how we revise and revise. What thoughts of you this night, Walt Whitman, your whole fruit crates full of splinters and dedications, where's your beard supposed to point me now? Because I'm dog-eared and flower-crushed, laid open. And Janice is out there in the amber rim of some cigarette and she doesn't need her book back. The Vaccine The needle is unexplained. I keep kicking my little legs out towards the ambient walls desperate to activate anything—some switch, an alarm so stop, just stop for a second, I can't move I'm hooked into my father's thick unbreakable forearms with a blanket of his hot, smokey breath on my neck he's pleading be brave be brave in a sweat over and over and always this inevitable, ringing sharp point coming at me second upon inch upon second... Some years later I still won't be able to tell if my father was holding me down or holding me still or if there was a difference for him and if it mattered, I didn't know what “brave” was anymore than I could tell myself why there needed to be this deepening angry pinch forever in the center of my left arm. But this morning I will have to hold my own pair of little legs tight for the needles, there to ensure some incensed pathogens will never find her. And I know she won't recall why but she'll recall me, and she'll recall these arms, and I still don't know how loose, is loose enough to feel brave. Panel Discussion War and Peace Symposium New England College, 1999 I asked them when I shouldn't have, still I asked them because a professor thought I should, and I listened to him because back then there had never been a war for most of us in the auditorium and so it was still as novel to think of one as it was to see a woman at the table lined with other veterans. “Is there any value, anything positive that comes from war?” I asked and she stood, rose up, actually same as the guy who a few minutes ago had said he would never be able to properly explain to his children what it is to have to kill a man with his bare hands. She rose up and asked the crowd, without exactly asking, asked us to think on how she was a nurse gone to Vietnam out of adventure, duty, out of being young in all the opposite ways other men were there to be young and said she knew, before she even left, she knew was positive that she would never have children, ever that she had lost all ability to nurture anything, lost all of it, like how sometimes a limb must be lost, she said she knew, knew then that God must be a man, that no woman could create such a thing as war and the opposite of learning how to nurture. And then she sat down, alone and surrounded, like how she might have walked in, though at that moment we realized not one of us had noticed how she walked in.
December 8, 2015