Learning to Fly
After the rape, I took up
with a paraplegic guy
who said he’d gotten high
and jumped off a building,
thinking he could fly.
I wasn’t convinced this
was what really happened.
But his story seemed important,
the kind of truth that might arise
when you’re trying to survive.
We slept on his waterbed,
which was tidal and complicated,
but also peaceful, like when
the wheels of a plane lift off
and you get to be nowhere,
in between places for a while.
We were both damaged.
He had learned to adapt.
I was new to it, noticing
obstacles everywhere. Curbs.
Stairs. Doors that swung out
instead of in. He had to look up
at the liquor-store clerk,
who had to look down
at him. He kept his money
in a canvas bag, its handles
slung over the back of his chair.
He’d ask the clerk, or even
a stranger, to fish his wallet
out, shimmy a six-pack in.
The bottles rattled
when he crossed
the threshold and rolled
down the uneven sidewalk.
He wore racing gloves,
the kind with no fingers,
so he could save his hands.
Sometimes I’d sit on his lap
and we’d tear down
the dark streets
of our college town,
flashing in and out
of pools of light,
past ruined lawns
and palatial houses
where frat boys
passed out drunk
on top of their victims,
no one awake
to see us flying by.
Though I know exactly where you are,
and it’s not far, it seems unlikely
we’ll see each other again. We lived
in a rented house with a kitchen so small
there wasn’t room to change your mind.
Or so you said. But you made sourdough bread
in the creaky oven, omelets in a hinged pan
you could snap shut and flip over an open flame.
You grew catnip in a pot on the porch,
and the cat curled around it to nap in the sun.
We smoked into the night, again in the morning.
Once you spilled the bong on the carpet.
We never did get the smell out. We were young.
I’m not sure we really tried. The garage had doors
nailed together by someone before our time,
scrap wood painted over but still rotten
from the bottom, a hole big enough for a cat
to squeeze through. Ours stood half in, half out
of it the morning after she was hit by a car,
made it home but had to be put down anyway.
I sold my motorbike to pay the bill. I went back
a few years ago, crawled along in my rental car
past the corner store where we walked
to buy a single bottle of beer. The house
was gone, torn down to build something new.
Your eyes were topaz. Strangers in churches
always thought you were the savior.
You’ve taken yourself away from everyone
who knew you then. Sometimes one of them
remembers something, wonders where you are.
I don’t tell. One thing I know is that you
don’t want to be found.
Mothers of Boys
One frosted her hair.
It might have been a wig.
She enjoyed an afternoon martini,
toy poodles arranged
like sofa pillows around her.
She didn’t bother to get up.
Two had a head injury
from a car accident
six months before her wedding,