Unlearning the language,
her tongue becomes pure muscle, its strength
lies in secrets and silence.
Her eyes have the look of surprise,
the gaze of someone answering a door.
Long past confusing daughter with mother,
or sister with childhood friend,
she waits in a bright blue dress
on her 83rd birthday,
legs crossed at the ankle,
a smile stuck to her lips.
She knows to unwrap the present
her son places on her lap.
Her eyes shine like ribbon.
She is in another childhood
and wants to open every package,
even the gifts of others.
She unwraps herself,
each layer crumpled and torn.
She used to save ribbon, paper,
neat squares of color folded like love letters,
salvaged if not cherished.
She started all stories with
She is an empty box,
her life is in the unwrapping.
—from Rattle #27, Summer 2007
Brent Fisk: “I try to nail down a time and place with words. I want an image to walk down a dark hall with just the tip of a cigarette to let you know it’s coming. I want the right words to rise like moths from the grass. Sometimes when you get close enough to accomplishing that readers tap into a poem. They hear the floorboards creak. They hear the window rattle. They see the moon exactly as I describe it. Getting that close is like finding a wad of money in an old shirt’s pocket.”