The Way Light Begins to Fold on Itself
The way light begins to fold on itself,
an accordion of white and gray.
A late morning between storms,
but it could be near dusk.
That was the color of the air.
The hour between one lashing rain and the next.
You could smell the uncertainty,
a bitter nut or bark peeling, saffron or something unnamable.
No one would be surprised if a spouse
walked out the door, clicking it shut and not returning.
Soon a hiss announced the next storm’s entrance.
You could imagine the lifted bows of a string section
waiting for the conductor: the first measures tentative
before the curtain opens with the hefty soprano rooted
The taunting mockingbirds on the phone wire
dared any other creature to remain outside.
The lamps shuddered in warning,
enough so you knew to be afraid.
How perfectly he has mastered
the car alarm, jangling us from sleep.
Later his staccato scatters smaller birds
that landed on the wire beside him.
Perhaps the key to success
is imitation, not originality.
Once when the cat slinked up
the orange tree and snatched a hatchling,
the mockingbird turned on us,
marked us for revenge.
For two whole weeks he dive bombed
whenever I ventured out the screen door
lured by his call: first tricked into thinking
the soft coo was a mourning dove courting,
next drawn by the war cry of a far larger animal.
He swooped from one splintered eve, his mate from the other,
aiming to peck out my eyes, to wrestle
the baby from my arms, to do God knows what
with that newborn.
That the moon has always hung
by a thread expecting to be snipped
is a given. Your daughter
will call when she is ready.
There is no need for hysteria.
A beach ball held under water
will always shoot into the crackling air.
No one can stop it.
While you wait, feed the plumeria,
even if its awning is bolted shut for the winter.
You’ve got to believe in something.
You could do worse than to have faith
in the unfurling of petals.
Nothing can brighten this laundromat,
not the fake ivy strung like a clothesline
across its middle, washers on one side,
dryers on the other, nor the framed
jigsaw puzzles under smeared glass.
Germanic villages with steepled churches
and quaint squares tucked sleepily
against the chards of mountains.
Tiles broken and missing, as if the
floor had hosted dance parties after the doors
were locked, the machines’ lids lowered.
The twirling stilettos wore it down.
In this giant room on the last Sunday of the year
Guatemalan grandmothers with impossibly
long braids stuff their clothes into the machines,
a locked determination on their faces,
one more obstacle to fight.
While their children watch cartoons,
squeezed into tiny apartments, as the men
drag home without finding work.
I look around, tall in contrast to the other women.
The washers and dryers chatter noisily,
firing up, shaking their hips, flinging wide their mouths.
Oh the stories they could tell,
if only someone would stop to listen.
Poems from Between Storms