Here is the kingdom of irregulars,
land of no-two-alike,
I hunt furiously
useful towels. Closets simmering with
terry, linen, beach or tea
can never be full
enough to stop these sprees.
Hoarding is relative
to love or fear, but not to need. Mother stockpiled
soap in step-on cans.
When the lid snapped back,
instead of grinds, grease, skins, it was good
to get a whiff
of the bars, neat and brightly wrapped as gifts.
Waving us off on dates, she'd yell "Be back by twelve
and don't come home
if you get killed." But I wasn't killed,
easy as that seemed. I hadn't figured on
how the breath and pulse are triggered by a hardwon
inability to unexist. How death is
tightfisted. I thought
at first there'd been a car crash: my voice soared, brilliant
and bubbling with drugs: oh, that that too too
stutter should be mine!
Then, with a coziness worse than constraint, they
spoke of the cerebral pinch I'd been in, praised
the luck that chucked me
back to sanitized light. Where towels absorb their weight
in chaos. Where I am serene.
Like those damn orchids—
vivid, blizzardy sprays Tom and I trucked
out West that time, and, one by one, heat or dark
got them: my brainwaves.
The last was that dendrobium...or is
that my medication? See? Last week I went
and rang the wrong bell
after twenty-odd years of visiting
my beaming, well-meaning sister.
I worry now
about another sister who manages neither
smiles nor meaning. Those years I coaxed her through
if not for her thanks or love, then what?
Nothing...but the nothing I've received
has me shuddering.
Rage makes my blood astringent as witch hazel.
I'll pretend not to see them pretend not to
see my infirmities:
My restless hands. Idling. Pilling the spread.
Of course, you can get killed at home and that's something
Mother never mentioned. My mind drifts
to my friend Miriam, that deadly fire—I see again
her pleasant, stocky face. "Mada, we're sharp
as ever," she said last time,
but she was fooled. With luck she slept right through.
Outside snowflakes lift, float sideways, and seem
to say "ground has nothing
to do with me!" But this is silly.
Though I can't trace one among the calm bustle
of shoppers, I tell myself
they are falling, they do touch earth, and they
never rise at all.