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Avra Wing

Tsankawi

 

We take the trail carved in volcanic tuff,

climbing toward the site

of an ancient pueblo

until we’re blocked by rocks,

the rubble of ruined homes,

and I can’t make it past.

The others go on.

I sit on a boulder, wait

among the Jemez Mountains,

the Sangre de Cristo.

Juniper pines scent the air.

The only sound the droning of a bee.

The sun picks out each fleck of mica

sparkling in the stones.

I am alone.

I am the only person in the world.

No one is coming back for me

because there is no one else.

The Anasazi lived here long ago,

but now there are no people.

Such a word doesn’t exist.

I am not human. I do not breathe.

Not dead, but alive only

as the things that live here.

The mesa welcomes me as one of its own.

I am rock, bee, sun, sand, saltbrush, tree.

I have been here forever.

I am the stillness.

And the earth stops turning.

 


Bound Up in the Bond of Life

 

Driving past the cemetery on Ocean Parkway

I vow again to visit my grandfather’s grave.

I never knew him. He died at 40 when my father

was 13. My father didn’t get to know him.

 

Do I owe something to the dead, his dead?

Really, their demands are so modest: Stone on stone.

A lit candle. A prayer. Memories that flash and fade

and float away like Chagall’s brides and horses, rabbis

and roosters, gravity proving too weak to hold them.

 

When my sister died I called Cedar Park to check

if I still owned the plots my father willed me.

It’s not that I thought I would die. Rather, it was like

planning a vacation I never intended to take.

 

Cemeteries leave me cold. I can’t connect the people

with the gravesites. Even though the name and dates

are literally etched in granite as they’ll be

on my sister’s headstone when it’s unveiled this winter.

 

Was I a bad sister? A bad daughter? Am I still?

I can’t comfort anyone, being made partially of stone.

 

My father visited his father’s grave, taking the train

from the Bronx to Brooklyn, until he was 90.

He knew his obligations, or maybe he was reliving

his pain again and again. He didn’t believe in death.

It’s something we share.

 


Fifteen Years Later

 

He said my skirt brought him joy –

the yellow, blue and orange flowered print.

He was in Wilhelmina Park to celebrate a friend’s

15-year sobriety. He’d lived in Minnesota, Barcelona,

Amsterdam, and now sat on a blanket drinking seltzer. 

 

I say “a friend.” I mean my son. I would find

the empty bottles in the drawers beneath his bed.

He went out at night saying it was for pizza.

(The dealer supplied the schoolyard.)

We sent him away.

He said he hated us, and wanted to come home.

He never came home. Our home was poison.

 

The skirt is pretty enough, I guess. Cheap, rayon .

Maybe too young for me, one of those shiny “slip” skirts.

But I liked something about it. I wear it a lot.

It probably will last just one season.

 

We don’t always know when something we do brings joy.

Not to mention sorrow. 

 


At Rusk II

 

And I was afraid that the giant pink balloon

from Nancy—that reminded me of the monstrous

breast chasing after a man in a Woody Allen movie

(this was years ago, when it was okay to talk about

a Woody Allen movie)—would burst and hurt me and

this was also when the excelsior from a gift my cousin

sent was writhing on the bed like maggots and when

I thought the messenger who’d brought the tapes

from Steve and was pissed he’d had trouble finding my

room would come back to get me, and maybe it was

the drugs going from 0 to 60, everything they could

throw at me, or maybe the newly minted initials

after my name like a title, a graduate degree: PTSD

that had bested the chloral hydrate, Benadryl, Valium,

and Tylenol with codeine because it was hard not to think

of the leg looking like undercooked chicken after a meal—

gnawed and red at the bone–and even though I’d kept

my head as if two people at once, deciding not to hire

the housekeeper who broke out in hymns now and then

and worrying Alex wouldn’t do his homework, still

I was drafted into the army of crips in the barracks-like

rehab (and I can say crip, claiming the word) and gradually

added new credentials: EMDR and CBT that reminded me

of the assessment checklist of the shrink at Rusk a week after

the accident—Do you feel as if something awful might happen to you?

and his summing up about the mother’s early death, bad marriage,

the reason I was there—So basically you’ve had a happy life.

And I guess he was right because I couldn’t stop laughing.



Megalodon

 

Hearing the baritone of the nurse in green scrubs

I remembered what Flower had said—

that a woman’s voice is the hardest thing to master—

and how I thought it funny Flower used the word

master to explain. And that I wished she’d talked to me

before naming herself Flower Aurora because Flower

is the skunk in Bambi (which I’ve never watched

because the topic of dead mothers “too soon”

as they say, after 50 years), and Aurora the princess

in Sleeping Beauty, so now she’s double Disney.

 

The nurse asked if I needed a countdown to the shot,

but I’m a big girl (except for certain topics) and went

to Bronx Science where we drew our own blood

not to mention subsequent accidents and surgeries

so, no, no prep needed. A shot less consequential

than the tiniest shark in the picture of three

my young grandson drew—small medium and huge—

to give an idea of perspective, just how gigantic that monster fish is.

He’d seen a video about the ancient megalodon and other sharks—

nurse, whale, tiger. One took a bite out of the narrator.

 

How to measure sorrow? Skin, teeth, blood, bone?

I watched the woman with the metal leg up to her hip—

long, thin and knobbed as a flamingo’s—and wanted to cry.

Chris and Kyle and Alex and Rebecca were showing her

how to fall and how to rise from falling. I learned, too, in rehab.

My hands hit the mat with a slap. Again and again.

Both of us with bites taken out of us, why should I feel sorry,

so many people helping and she determined to walk?

 

Did I feel a middling sadness for her or a big one—

like seeing how my sister looked in the ICU and knowing 

there’s no coming back from that. After, my niece, her mother gone,

stayed in the hospital room, staring out the window.

But it was a grey February day and not much of a view.

 

My grandson lives far away. Last time I saw him he was reading

a Mickey Mouse comic in Dutch and translating to English for me.

Donald shot an arrow and it landed somewhere it shouldn’t have,

(near where the sun don’t shine) which my grandchild, six, thought funny.

I thought the way Donald’s last name was pronounced duke not duck, funny.

Donald Duke. For some reason Daisy’s name was changed to Katrina,

although it hardly matters as she is, to be honest, minor Disney,

except from her perspective. Maybe somebody thought Katrina

was a better name. That she looked more like a Katrina than a Daisy.

Maybe she’s had the wrong name all along.

 

 

Avra Wing’s poetry appeared most recently in I-70 Review, Tipton Poetry Review, Constellations, The American Journal of Poetry, and The Hollins Critic, and is upcoming in Hanging Loose and Pirene’s Fountain. She is the author of two novels, Angie, I Says, a New York Times “notable book” made into the movie Angie, and After Isaac, for young adults. She leads a NY Writers Coalition workshop at the Center for Independence of the Disabled, New York.





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