Foundation

Foundation

Before dressing in layers of cotton, a dozen women stand or sit around in undies. Some dispense with a bra in favor of a white T-shirt. The air fills with chatting: a prickly why-are-you-tying-your-obi-that-way or cranky I-hope-you-made-an-effort-there’s-no-toilet. The older women agree in Japanese—soh nee. The air smells like hairspray and hair wax. Anyone older than...
The Voice of Things

The Voice of Things

My wife and I moved a short while back from our crowded and lair-like house outside Boston to an abruptly more open and airy place in Amherst. Over a month in, I’m still gaping at new space and different light. The move came after thirty years in the house that most of our lives had...
Bone & Skin

Bone & Skin

1. I tell you I’m getting a tattoo to cover my scars. Some kind of tree, perhaps, the branches reaching across one scar, the roots wrapped around another. A living thing. An ancient bristlecone, a saguaro, a juniper, purple with berries. “You’re allergic to juniper,” you say, and I nod. I do not ask, “But...
The Old Phrases

The Old Phrases

Billie Holiday’s 1944 recording of “I’ll Be Seeing You” was the final transmission sent by NASA to the Opportunity rover on Mars when its mission ended on February 13, 2019. At the Center My father’s friend Harry, a man whose memory has perished before him, says, Are you from the neighborhood? Are you here to take me home?...
Against an Apocalyptic Vision

Against an Apocalyptic Vision

In those falling years, we hiked often to one cabin or another, all crumbling into ruin. We’d eat our lunch with legs dangling out an empty window frame. I always liked when we could open a closet and see the bright bird and flower wallpaper that had once decorated all of these gray and yellowing...
Friendship

Friendship

I spent the first half of my high school’s homecoming football game in the bleacher seats stoned and sucking on Starbursts, trying to convince my salivary glands to produce any kind of moisture. The game didn’t make any sense. Sitting in the bleachers, bra strap hanging down my arm, I shivered, although it wasn’t cold...
Watershed

Watershed

My grandmother sent me to bed those days at last light, leaving the dark to adults on the cabin’s front porch. The sound of the creek made me sleep, but not before I counted its dozen voices over stone and pictured gnats balled in their ellipses, like cartoon atoms, over the roil. My grandmother sat...
The Sweet and Fleshy Product of a Tree or Other Plant

The Sweet and Fleshy Product of a Tree or Other Plant

My sixth-grade teacher’s grandmother held a grudge against bananas. When she immigrated from Poland, someone at Ellis Island handed her one, but didn’t show her how to eat it. She choked the whole thing down, peel and all.  What kind of fruit makes the best filling for a pie graph? Globally, only 55 percent of...
Future Care Instructions for Your Wife with Multiple Sclerosis

Future Care Instructions for Your Wife with Multiple Sclerosis

When I can no longer grasp the tweezers to pull at the fine, blond blades between my eyebrows, please look closely. Pluck them all—imagine them as the weeds in the garden we never got to, the sumac growing up through the rhododendron. The mole on my left cheek—if you see me run my fingers over...
Anyone He Pleased

Anyone He Pleased

The man in the Hawaiian shirt had just been seated in the booth. The dining-car host directed me next to him. He and I on our side with a husband and wife already on the other. We all said hello, and she grabbed a pen from a plastic cup on the table. An artificial sunflower...
Weeks After the Pulse Nightclub Massacre, I Hold Miguel’s Hand in Los Angeles

Weeks After the Pulse Nightclub Massacre, I Hold Miguel’s Hand in Los Angeles

—and I like how it feels, his hand, a little thick. The way it spreads my fingers open to make space for itself. How we have similar heat and feel familiar in our touch. His soft skin. How in between our palms we hold a feeling. Words we haven’t yet said. —on a slow night...
Something to Lie About

Something to Lie About

My fourteen-year-old sister electrocuted herself in the bathtub in the Bicentennial year, 1976. She had memorized the Declaration of Independence; she had crocheted granny squares in red, white, and blue. We lied for decades, saying “accident” and “carelessness” to explain how the blow dryer got into the tub. The lie blurred the explicit nature of...
No Intrusions

No Intrusions

Every time my child gets dressed, I give him a choice between two different color shirts. One of them has a mermaid on it. Every time I help my child pick their clothes, I want to give them anything but blue even though blue was the first color word they could say, and all their...
Kindness and Sorrow

Kindness and Sorrow

“Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside, you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.” ~ Naomi Shihab Nye When my husband was freshly dead, I felt as if I had been cut open for surgery and my veins and arteries cauterized so that I wouldn’t bleed all over the pavement leading...
A Lesson

A Lesson

I learned how to cook, really cook, when I was with X. Sometimes when I’m dicing aromatics, my brain will conjure him. I have to stop what I’m doing when this happens; I’ve nicked myself more than once, even sliced off a good part of a nail. My memories of him are like fat carpenter...
Me vs. Slugs: Pandemic Edition

Me vs. Slugs: Pandemic Edition

When the terrible virus was unleashed and our lives screeched to a halt, I planted a garden. My first. I tended it zealously, with the darting eyes of a suicide bomber. This was March, April, May, the world hijacked by hysteria. I could have watered my garden with tears after returning from the store rumored...
It Is Difficult / to Get the News from Poems

It Is Difficult / to Get the News from Poems

January 7, 2021 This morning I woke up remembering newspaper sticks—the old-fashioned ingenuity of their form, the honey-colored gleam of the polished wood. Does anyone still use them? My freshman year in college I worked ten hours a week in the periodicals department, and that’s when I learned there even was such a thing—they looked,...
Sabbath

Sabbath

Our apartment in German Colony was only a ten-minute walk to the gardens that overlooked the old city. To the left stood the high limestone walls of Jerusalem, to the right Mt. Zion itself with its trees and tiers of white buildings, the blue cone roof of Dormition Abbey, beside it the white bell tower....