Slumped on the garden step, my father,
his storied hands writ large, is
soothed by the night’s coolness and
harangued by images
of bigger moons.
At his hip, the softs of my feet
twitch; my mouth
sluices his face with questions in quick
What happens if a comet hits the earth tonight?
Where in the world is it tomorrow right now?
Who were you before me?
Perturbed, my father,
says something about skin cells
and every ten years,
meaning I’ve had four fathers
and am a very lucky girl.
Tell me of the first daddy, and the second daddy, I say,
right up ‘til the fourth daddy that had me.
Heavy-lidded, palimpsest skin,
breath the scent of pale fire,
it is suddenly time to eat.
The blue balloons,
inflated to the size of modest goals,
like regular pay, attract people, as
flowers attract bees. They are involved
in the world of invisible forces.
It is a birthday party.
I watch from the window opposite.
Nearly-women and nearly-men arrive
and disappear into the pumping heart
of the apartment.
Suddenly, I am transported
back to Rachel’s eighteenth birthday:
we held a funeral for her youth. We
buried a doll in a shoebox lined with
Eucalyptus tissues. The doll
stared into middle distance
all the way down.
After the grave was
sealed, Rachel emerged from behind
the shed to effervescent music.
She was draped in a white sheet,
a smudge of light growing slowly nearer,
like death from the perspective of the
dying. Her feet arched and fell; her toes
transformed into gentle animals nosing
the ground. We reached for her
through affected tears
and stifled giggles. She was our messiah:
older than the rest of us, schooled in
the secrets of Eros and Thanatos. She
passed cryptic notes in chemistry:
Everyone who loves should spend time
with the periodic table.
Who are we
in the places we occupy? The door
to the apartment opposite opens.
A young woman steps out and folds
over the balcony like laundry. She
slides her weight more fully in my
direction, as if to say I sense here the
limits of my life.
The air makes a sound
as I suck it through my teeth.