I see a dog that is maybe a wolf.
I see a woman that is maybe a man. Just in case, I practice for poverty. Just in case, I
walk nowhere very slowly. Once, on a bad day I went for a long walk looking for
trouble. When I was 24 I wouldn’t kiss a guy because his gums were bleeding. When I
was 24 I went to Buenos Aires, and in a French bistro I locked eyes with a dapper
gentleman, but nothing came of it. When I was 24 I wandered with pleasure through a
Japanese garden, where I felt a window swing open inside me, to admit the powdery
Geisha-light and the seductive, decaying scent of fish and roses.
I don’t do volunteer work because afterward I tend to treat myself too well. I have
stomachaches. I go to movies alone. I like a dog’s fine trotting legs. I secretly admire
men and women who ration their smiles.
I used to wonder if my father slept with my mother’s friends. Once, driving into the
mountains, my father asked if I had a girlfriend, and I said no, then, nervously, he asked
if I had a boyfriend, and again, I said no. My parents used to look at me like they were
looking at a lake and wondering how deep it was. I remember my mother explaining
Atheism, and my father proudly announcing that he was an Atheist.
Then my sister stopped reminding us to pray before dinner. My best friend broke his
neck in a car crash at sunset. My mother cried at her desk and said there just wasn’t
enough money to pay the bills. Light skipped in across a swimming pool. Our pet
iguana went missing and we found him weeks later, high up in the Christmas tree, his
skin like green silk on his bones.
A lot of people are afraid of New York City, said the woman, a lot of people come here
and they’re afraid the entire time.
I live next to an elementary school, and my building’s laundry is accessed on a flight of
outdoor stairs; recently, retrieving a load of clean clothes, a little girl on the school
playground spotted me and remarked to her friends, “Look, there’s a man going back to
I don’t blame my good friend for killing herself. I don’t blame anyone for making use of
that luxury, but I wish I could tell her what I know now: that we can’t have all of the
beauty all of the time. That a starfish will lose a leg and grow a new one, and sometimes
even, the severed leg will grow a whole new starfish. I would tell her that I’m always
waiting for it, I wait, and wait, and wait, and … Tah-Dah, the beauty arrives, sails into the
room like a crème brulee under a silver-lidded platter, and again, I am convinced of this
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