Whatever I am near, she reads,
you are nearer. Then she looks up,
a small boy and page in her lap,
each there at a reader’s distance,
the sweet spot of the not too far.
This closet heart, the one that keeps
such dark, unreliable time—
is that where I am closest, locked,
in this thing I never see or hope to.
Or there, she says, in this breath
I take, this space that makes a word
a word, where if not here, where.
Perhaps this tongue, could it be
any closer than the mind
it slithers out of, or the word
in turn that slithers from the tongue.
Am I cloaked in the fog of streets
I walk, in the tooth I shine,
the glass I empty. Go away,
says the glass. Away for now.
Am I footprint after footprint,
the falling ribbon of attention.
Or here, she says, am I the roof
above my bed, the sound of rain
that falls where the rain leaves off.
And with that the boy yawns
opening wide as the pages
close their eyes. He slips farther
from the mother’s questions, it’s true,
though deeper into the wilderness
of sleep, its ribbons and snakes.
A night rain begins to fall. It’s
raining, she whispers over him,
as if the many drops were one thing,
their steady pour around the house
a house of rain. Tell me, she says,
what is stranger than the sound
of your own voice, your own full name
you cut in two to name a child.
—from Rattle #31, Summer 2009