Shower Songs

Shower Songs

When we were twenty-three, I gave my twin brother a shower for the last time. “Lift with your legs,” my mother always said, but I never did. My brother Danny also had an electric lift, a hydraulic crane that cradled him in the air, but I never used it. I stood over his bed, wedged...
Letter to Marjorie

Letter to Marjorie

Dear Marjorie, I’m on the floor in our spot by the window playing cards with your ghost. I had such nightmares about us last night. Buildings all over the earth were shedding their clothes. It kept raining metal and glass, drywall and bricks, until all that was left was a skeletal world of I-beam steal....
Lick

Lick

What is already history: Waking in the dark. Dressing in the dark. Reviewing the checklist of things to remember. Driving on icy roads. Unloading the luggage, kissing goodbye. Showing identification, checking bags. Removing coat, removing shoes, watch, jewelry. Aimless browsing in airport shops, hoping a snack might look appealing at 6 a.m. or a magazine...
Summer Missionary

Summer Missionary

With our third foster baby I begin dreaming of bruised women, women I have to help up the stairs, their egos battered, terrible mothers, until I notice that they are not the birthmothers, they are me. I think of something the church people used to say when I was growing up: be grateful for what...
Consciousness

Consciousness

Quick as a cut, darkness came to the afternoon, to the nursery where I sat cross-legged on the floor, a white raft of a blanket under us. My newborn sucked her fingers while clumped in the crooks of my arms. We both squinted toward the window, trying to make sense of it all: the sudden...
Dog’s Search for Meaning

Dog’s Search for Meaning

I grab the walker and pull myself out of bed. I rub the six-inch surgery scar on my back and test my feet on the hardwood floors. They work today. The room is too quiet. The dog bed is empty. I walk to the living room and scan the back yard for Sheldon. He is...
Crossings

Crossings

When Mom got sick I quit my job and moved back West, where the wide roads were choked with cars and no combination of busses and trains could get me from the neighborhood of old bungalows and new construction sites to the big hospital north of town in under two hours. Denver had exploded while...
Ode to Me

Ode to Me

1 It’s true, in certain instances, I am better than others. I’m better than people who start their sentences with “no offense.” I’m better than people who don’t like many kinds of vegetables. I’m better than people who do not properly greet the mailman, even though given the chance, he will get your phone number...
The End of a Story

The End of a Story

Lately, there has been a barred owl in the park across the street. Walking the dog after work, we noticed him on the ground. When he saw the dog, he spread his wings, mottled brown and white, and swooped up into a tree. He perched himself on a branch, looking down at us as we...
Wings

Wings

It is the early eighties, the start of the civil war in El Salvador, and Maira is a child of the raindrops that come early in the summer. Thousands of raindrops. Maybe millions. Las lluvias. Desperate raindrops that smash into the mountains and the treetops, prod the soil and also the pebbles and flores, the earth forced...
The Lunch Lady and Her Three-Headed Dogs

The Lunch Lady and Her Three-Headed Dogs

I raise my arm to write on the chalkboard, and the skin draped over bone and muscle swings in contrapuntal melody. I am ashamed to be caught in the act of living in skin. I hope my students are not hypnotized by the distracting motion. I hope no one sees this hammock of flesh and...
Toledo, Ohio 1977

Toledo, Ohio 1977

Fried chicken and sweet potato pie. Blatz beer on our father’s breath. That autumn Michael and I bagged leaves and burned weed with Anthony, walking house to house with a rake, ringing the doorbell and not running. He taught us how to ask for what we would be owed. We raked and mowed the small...
Salvage

Salvage

Tommy’s parents wave from the porch as our minivan pulls up. His dad smiles, and that’s when I see he’s missing about half of his teeth. Before retiring a few years back, Gerald had been a mechanic. During high school, he’d apprenticed at his uncle’s garage, then serviced army vehicles while stationed in Germany, then...
Symbolum Apostolorum: The Apostles’ Creed

Symbolum Apostolorum: The Apostles’ Creed

In my high school, where God was king and country and girls were not, everything teetered on the tightrope of treason. We knelt like mendicants while nuns used their wooden rules to measure the distance between the immaculate floor and the hems of our box-pleated mini-skirts. Because length and sexual proclivity were intertwined in the...
Are Now All That Remain

Are Now All That Remain

The way he slid Dylan from its cover and fingered the vinyl onto the platter. The way he picked up the needle, more than once, to make sure we heard the sizzle before the song. The way he shuffled into the kitchen in his socks. The hardwood floor of his living room dull and dark....
Typos

Typos

“Maybe we’ll go wind tasting” Perhaps, but only if there’s time. We’ll sample many varietals: breeze, whisper, gale. Winds assume the flavor of the land in which they originate—a terroir—and vary by how long they’ve aged. Cup them first in your palms. Take your time (though I know your time is fleeting). Smell the nuances:...
Letter to Jim Harrison

Letter to Jim Harrison

So here’s this semester’s news: I jump the fence and run the track madly at night, in some fear of university police. The bushes and trees sigh in the wind. Inky blurred figures. At the pond, in the glow of streetlight, I see a grass carp the size of a watermelon, and many bass, and...
Holy

Holy

My mother worries about my soul. She tells me so at her kitchen table, 6 a.m. We’re making nut-roll, even though it’s not a holiday, nothing to celebrate. My mother believes bread rises only in the morning. I’m not good with mornings. Last night I stayed up late, reading, worrying. “Ruining your eyes,” my mother...