The Trouble With Flies

In my kitchen,
next to the sticky fly tape,
deep dried roots cling
to kitchen hooks, sanguine
and purple peppers dangle
from green stems,
garlic heads grip
tuberous roots, some
stray blanched threads loosen.
Remnants of the old garden.
This is––was––our world:
hung and hovering: how
we held each other ransom.
Today, out of nothing,
a tiny baby fly dives alone
toward one spot
of golden tape left, thinking,
this is where my family
lives. Then to watch her
land, barely new to the world
of nectar, to the idea
of being astonished,
barely born of filth,
then to get stuck,
then to see her twitch, wildly,
then to watch her tear off
one hind wing, bits
of her mouth, and,
somehow manage
to break her body apart
and fly off on three
wings, leaving a few
filaments behind.

Mother Love

I entered the world and she wanted nothing
but to be rid of me. It’s a kind of mourning,

like the sky in Paris that turned from sterling
to oyster the day I leaned out her window

and watched the nearby market fill with vendors
selling fruit, vegetables, fish. I had never seen

the ocean, but the smell of salt rising from stands
filled my lungs. I imagined the ocean as wild and full

of hate. By day’s end, all was dismantled, crates
emptied, stacked, shreds left to rot or scavenge.

The homeless––some of them mothers––gleaned
scraps of parsley, bruised tomatoes, shrimp bits––

stuffing what they could into plastic bags. I spit
on their heads like it was a form of speech. Most

didn’t notice, but some looked up and shook
their fists. I was happy to be part of someone

else’s story besides the one my mother refused
to tell. She never spoke; I was her little nuisance.

Instead she studied her face for hours before a pink
vanity that magnified her silver eyes. Every day

she plucked her brows to a tense, drawn arc;
she pouted her lips into a wounded look copied

from French films. I imitated her. Already I saw
the world as full of illusions. Outside her window

the sky glowered and gleamed like the ocean
she brought me to see for the first time. I wanted

to swim but couldn’t. A rip tide was close enough
to kill. Instead I joined a crowd on shore pointing

to a woman who ran in to save a stranded girl.
They both fought against the current, whorls and

funnels dragging their ankles farther and farther out.
The girl was saved but the tides turned and drew

the woman back in when the crowd gasped:
it’s her mother! And it was: it was the girl’s mother.

We stood dumb, watched her wave, bob, and
drown. Then the sun came back, turning

every surface into a brightness so blanched
the air became the color of milk: a thick, white

silence, like nothing left to say, nowhere else to go.
Today I am a room, quiet as the table on which

I write. There is no ocean here. There is a broad
sky, a stand of birch that sways. Shafts of sun

float smoke that rises into leaves. Am I alone?
I hear a voice cry out a name, but it’s not for me.

Who wants to know? There is a mother some-
where. We swim past each other, toward

the surface of things, as if to breathe. Love is
everything. I am drowning beneath these waves.

Swan Story

You said you would never abandon me.
Above us a cerise sky––clouds like stroked,

pulled strands of hair, a ray of light angled
onto the surface of a green moving river

where we wanted to float like two swans.
I meant to write something else just now:

about three o’clock light. When you took off
I meant to write the ultimate Swan Poem.

But swans can’t speak abandon or anything
else. They grunt, snort, whistle; are mute

with pointed open beaks that pinch and poke
the ground. I have a card of a trumpeter

with an arrow pierced through its breast.
I pretend it’s Baudelaire. He was sad too.

Swans don’t drink or smoke; they glide
through currents. They move away,

come closer to shore and away again.
Like this three o’clock pewter light

that enters my window and flattens.
Then I remember flying in a storm.

The clouds turned awful-gray,
my long neck craned to understand,

eyes blinking: why? Baudelaire says
it’s okay to be sad when you’re just a swan.

You’re a symbol of something bigger than
yourself. You’re on a river that moves you.