Nine Steps That Might Ease Despair
Let the sun tip a sea of blue
from the hood of your car
to your open eyes. Touch
the sticky needles of pitch pines.
Watch light fill the tree caught
as the sun slips from the sky.
Bring water from the river.
Let skin remember: you learned
to float, flutter kick, dive
from the low board and
jump from the high one. You
rode the warm lid of the river
as night rolled over you: clouds,
planets, smoking trails of falling stars.
Choose a chair that feels protected
and play the death game, electronic
distraction your friend’s children
taught you when she took months
to die, hospital bed parked
in her living room, red chair
for a guest. Lift your shoulders,
relax your back. Breathe.
Death is nightfall, afterimage,
silhouette cut from the clouds.
You think you know who the woman is—the rabbi
who walks before day begins, praying for
her favorite professor, humming a simple song.
Or is she the woman released from jail?
She did her time and returned to us
crusted with salt, her knowledge held close
to her body. A third woman lies on a white bed
in a white bedroom, a washcloth pressed to
her eyes. She ticks through a rubric of sorrow.
You think you know the hero story—the damsel,
the crone. And as always, the unforgiving sky.
“How are you?” you call down a corridor
to a colleague. “Can’t get a man,” she answers.
Her feet are small in teal heels, ankles neat, hair
puffed and tinted. Who are the men who drive out
with her by day and back by day and then go home
to wives? The point is: Who are you? You wait
as the stray dog waits, unsure of whether to stay or go.
You and the dog are both muddied, both too tired
to be frantic. Apparently time is bending,
warping. Apparently it’s snowing in the hills.