Kelli Russell Agodon
On a day when weather stole every breeze,
Pablo told her he kept bits of his poems
tucked behind the band in his hat.
He opened the windows to nothing
but more heat, asked her to wander with him
down to the beach, see if their bodies
could become waves.
When they returned he placed his hat,
open to sky, in the center of the table.
She filled it with papaya, figs, searched
for scraps of poems beneath the lining.
By evening, the hat was empty
and his typewriter, full
with pages that began something about ocean,
something about fruit.
And they didn't notice the sky, full of tomorrow's
stars or the blue and white swallow
carrying paper in its beak.
They sat outside until the edge of daylight
stretched itself across a new band of morning,
the shadow of a hat washing onto the shore.
Of a Forgetful Sea
Sometimes, I forget the sun
sinking into ocean.
Desert is only a handful of sand
held by my daughter.
In her palm,
she holds small creatures,
tracks an ant, a flea
moving over each grain.
She brings them to places
she thinks are safe:
an island of driftwood,
the knot of a blackberry bush,
a continent of grass.
Fire ants carried on sticks,
potato bugs scooped
into the crease of a newspaper.
She tries to help them
before the patterns of tides
reach their lives.
She knows about families
who fold together like hands,
a horizon of tanks moving forward.
Here war is only newsprint.
How easy it is not to think about it
as we sleep beneath our quiet sky,
slip ourselves into foam, neglectful
waves appearing endless.
Love Song to My Neighborhoods
Sometimes I stroll through forests
just sprayed for the gypsy moths. I throw a rock
into the bushes to distract the hunters. Deer
me. I am writing to my hazards.
Open gutter to the lake, green oil, paint dumpedó
I swam there, cut my foot on a beer bottle
and kept paddling
to years by the power plant, my bed
placed so I could see the voltage through my window,
an evening sparked from metal towers. I was pulsing
beneath an uncharged moon. Still am.
Let me introduce you to the nuclear
sub base, the girl next door. At night, missiles leave
their home on trains, protesters appear on tracks
a day too late. Afternoons, I buzz to the hum
of the generator. I know your lecture in my radioactive
sing organic, vegetarian bliss. But I can afford
to live here. I am a poor it.
Open my wallet and find. . . Moths?
Coins radiating? A small hazmat team? Letís dream
big together. Turn off the lights. Watch my lungs glow.
I know youíd pay to see them.
Copyright © 2005 Kelli Russell Agodon
A Mermaid Questions God
As a girl, she hated the grain of anything
on her fins. Now she is part fire ant, part centipede.
Where dunes stretch into pathways, arteries appear.
Her blood pressure is temperature plus wind speed.
Where religion is a thousand miles of coastline,
she is familiar with moon size, with tide changes.
She wears the cream of waves like a vestment,
knows undertow is imaginary, not something to pray to.
Now her questions involve fairytales, begin
in a garden and lead to hands painted on a chapel's ceiling.
She wants to hold the ribbon grass, the shadow of angels
across the shore. She steals a Bible from the Seashore Inn;
she will trust it only if it floats.
In the 70ís, I Confused Macram? and Macabre
I wanted the macabre plant holder
hanging in Janet and Chrissyís apartment.
My friend said her cousin tried to kill himself
by putting his head through the patterns
of in his motherís spiderplant hanger, but
the hook broke from the ceiling and he fell
knocking over their lava lamp, their 8-track player.
His brother almost died a week later when
he became tangled in the milfoil at Echo Lake.
I said it could have been a very
macram? summer for that family.
When I looked outside for sticks to make a Godís Eye
to hang my bedroom wall, I found a mouse
flattened, its white spine stretching past its tail.
And a few feet away from that,
a dead bird with an open chest.
Its veins wrapped tightly together.
This neighborhood with its macram? details
crushed into the street. I wanted
my mother to console me, remind me
that sometimes we escape.
But when I returned to my house
it was empty, except for the macabre owl
my mother had almost finished, its body left
on the kitchen table, while she ran out to buy more beads.
Snapshot of a Lump
I imagine Nice and topless beaches,
women smoking and reading novels in the sun.
I pretend I am comfortable undressing
in front of men who go home to their wives,
in front of women who have seen
twenty pairs of breasts today,
in front of silent ghosts who walked
through these same doors before me,
who hoped doctors would find it soon enough,
that surgery, pills and chemo could save them.
Today, they target my lump
with a small round sticker, a metal capsule
embedded beneath clear plastic.
I am asked to wash off my deodorant,
wrap a lead apron around my waist,
pose for the nurse, for the white walls-
one arm resting on the mammogram machine,
that "come hither" look in my eyes.
This is my first time being photographed topless.
I tell the nurse, Will I be the centerfold
or just another playmate?
My breast is pressed flat - a torpedo,
a pyramid, a triangle, a rocket on this altar;
this can't be good for anyone.
Finally, the nurse, winded
from fumbling, smiles,
says, "Don't breathe or move."
A flash and my breast is free,
but only for a moment.
In the waiting room, I sit between magazines,
an article on Venice,
health charts, people in white.
I pretend I am comfortable watching
other women escorted off to a side room,
where results are given with condolences.
I imagine leaving here
with negative results and returned lives.
I imagine future trips to France,
to novels I will write and days spent
beneath a blue and white sun umbrella,
waves washing against the shore like promises.