Poetry In the Margins

Poetry In the Margins

Whoever read this book before me has left their mark—in pale blue ink, a tiny print I struggle to decipher, curious about how they made sense of these poems I often cannot make sense of. I have penned a few black question marks beside passages that confounded me,an enthusiastic yes here and there, but a...
Mothers’ Top Dresser Drawers

Mothers’ Top Dresser Drawers

To rummage there was to be let in on a secret. You whispered. You tiptoed. Among the satin, lace, and letters of my mother’s was a string of pearls I let trickle across my palm. It had clung to the collarbone of her grandmother, my great-grandmother, Anna B, the one who claimed to be born...
The Reincarnation of the Absent Father

The Reincarnation of the Absent Father

“Oh, hi,” I said, holding my newborn son for the first time. I took in his translucent skin, red fuzz, bright baby blues, and…didn’t recognize him. “Who are you?” It hadn’t been like that with my daughter. She’d had the look of my husband at birth so completely that I could only laugh at her...
How I Would Use Time Travel

How I Would Use Time Travel

Tonight I stared full into the eyes of my infant son while I fed him a bottle. Whether from contentedness or exhaustion, his eyes did not, as they often do, flit across the room, discovering everything in the usual infant way, but stayed fixed upon mine. His eyes are livid, tending toward thundercloud gray in...
This Is the Room Where

This Is the Room Where

I keep my keys; where I can watch the guy across the street mow his lawn shirtless; where I learned my niece was having her fourth child; where you can find Gary’s dogeared, underlined, and deeply annotated copy of “The Federalist No. 10,” written by James Madison on November 22, 1787; where I watch Real...
A Small Consolation

A Small Consolation

“Don’t hold your breath, baby. You’ll turn blue,” my mother always said. But my five-year-old daughter inhales. She holds her breath until her skin flushes, her eyes bulge, until I stop clipping her nails. “Okay, okay.” I drop the clippers on the dining room table, zip up her coat, slide the straps of her backpack...
The Dresser

The Dresser

“Look what he’s done.” My grandmother—Greggie—tried to sound annoyed, but her tone came across as affectionate because Papa hadn’t actually done anything wrong. We stood in their bright, airy bedroom discussing the maple furniture with its black and gold accents—I liked the intricate stenciled hearts. Greggie brushed her arthritic fingers over the corner of Papa’s...
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...
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...
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 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...