A Poem to My Husband in Case I Go First

Get a beer and take some notes.
Oh, sorry: go to the dining-room;
pads of paper are in the antique cabinet,
bottom left drawer. There are pens there too.
Don't use the cloisonné fountain pen though –
it leaks, but I could never throw it away.

Now – there's a special screwdriver for fixing the garbage disposal,
I keep it taped under the sink so it's handy.
You'll have to use it about once a month –
watch your knuckles; it's a knuckle blood magnet;
I don't know why I never got rid of it.

There's a yellow plastic toolbox
behind the flowered storage crate
under my vanity in our closet.
I bought the box at a yard sale when I was nineteen.
It has new spools of thread and needles of all sizes.
I know I never sewed, but I loved the idea
that if I wanted to, I could.

You father's blue-handled hammer is in a cabinet
next to the backdoor. My award for winning
an oyster-eating contest is there too.
The oyster came off the wood, but I kept it anyway.

There's a drunken love letter you wrote me from Italy
in my favorite book of poems;
a picture of you when you were eight,
boy scout smile, cow-licked head, satellite-dish ears –
it's in my Bible.
A plastic bag of coins is in a box marked good gold shoes,
coins we collected when we traveled,
romantic money I planned to make into necklaces, rings, I don't know –
Christmas ornaments.

Look around, then get rid of it all:
the sketch pad under my side of the bed
filled with poor pencil drawings of you sleeping;
my box of slides and proof sheets in the basement;
the book I never finished;
my collection of glass jars and vases;
college applications I never sent.
Put pictures of me in a chest or an empty carton,
kiss me goodbye, put me away.

You don't even have to keep my poems.

Then, if you want to,
find a woman you love as well as you did me,
a woman with secrets of her own.

Wait – on second thought,
keep the poems.

North Stairs
(From The Station poems)

Billy B. moves closer to the station's wall, he knows the words:
'People who see flat live in silence'; 'memory lives in marrow'.

'Wind bites less in this corner'.

Little Mary emerges from beneath the pile
at his feet, the rags remind him of a painting
he's seen, or one he painted.

He can't recall.

He touches Mary's hand, lets her know
she's in company. Mary glares, stares at his knuckles,
at the dirt coating his fingers. She prays for him,

for everyone, rests her hands on her belly,
protects the child that will save them.
It may take years. She knows – the Angel told her:

it told her in a Deli on 49th;
she was eating an onion bagel.

Billy B. found her later that day shivering,
her back pressed against cold alley brick,
half-eaten bread still in her hand.
He offered sweet wine.

Little Mary holds a marker in her hand; it's thick and red;
she worries it will dry too soon.

'I'm hiding from God', she writes.

Billy reads the new words and thinks,
"So am I, so am I."

Vera's Garden Grew

In an orange caftan with bright blue paisley spirals
Vera danced in the bean field with her hoe-in-the-hand partner.
Everyone stopped, watched her huge breasts
swing, wide sweeping pendulums keeping time.

She shimmied, seduced both stalk and pole
as she vine-stepped down each row.
Her shoes, kicked free, tongues laughing in the air,
nailed the outhouse soundly. We gathered on the porch,
near the well, rested rakes and shovels,
and I swear we heard her music,
as we watched those bean sprouts grow