A man at the glass door. A woman next door stands inside then screams. She shows the cop: he was here, then he hopped the wall. My mother retells it or she’s telling me about being there at breakfast when a coyote, look at him, just going across the wall. A streak or a scudding near the ribs.
Then he dropped into the neighbors. When Paul sees the lizard pressing his heart to our floor he says I think he came in to die.
Lime-green. Then, another day, looking up at me for anything—his color going wrong. Someone stopped getting out of bed. When this happened, when the hospice nurse said it was happening, a mother called her sons to say it’s time. We got on a plane. Then a car. Then in the room where his father was Paul stayed there.
His brothers too. They took turns lifting him, shifting his limbs. Oxygen ran down in a clear tube. The opening near the socket where our son after a while needed to crawl. In the wall to my parents there’s a hole to the wash: the quail use it, endless, for moving the family back and forth. Paul’s father asked how much the rent would be on our new place, sending out for a hard number as his hand combed through Paul, me, his grandson (get the baby up to him again).
Then I can’t find him. Every night apart from everything we do and have to do tomorrow I feel someone next to me adult, knifed. Then sudden, skylit at the roof. He came in to die says Paul.
Down the tree to my landlord to his gun to his girlfriend. Then the low coastal shadow through their house. Bent there, she told me one afternoon she was leaving. No dissolve: he quickened from his unmarked car and back.
In the back the tree, rising, produced a hard green stage. I turned in the same poem. Someone in my workshop pointed to the space between two stanzas and said you could drop a 747 here.
Workshop agreed. I drew a creepy vine around it. Take care of each other said one of our teachers the way a father does where he knows he can’t. Populated in them, reading their poems, how this functioned like indifference. Expected into a version of what I always said. My landlord every morning crossing the yard to unlock where he kept his guns.
The Buddhists call this being asleep. Another teacher lived in Ojai, awake for writing most of the night. He said, call and I’ll call right back. It had to be a substantial reason. He didn’t say this. We knew from his poems: one could be loved and interrupting. We would be reading what he was writing in another year. I would be gone by then. The first plane would hit. The second. This singed the room where we talked about the line, the sentence, the line. My landlord’s girlfriend extending one for laundry. Splitting his house, the opening, a dark-stained floor in California where this went.
I meet my half-brother. He decides I’m okay, leads me into the garage after dinner. He opens the freezer filled with cuts of elk, one he shot this year and every year takes down from the mountain to the flatland where his young sons wait. His wife is a generosity I can’t begin to get around. He keeps trying to give me more, my father clouded there, his mother, the way he is a father, a long black road from the Springs.
I open my eyes in the smokehouse. The eel keeper is showing us last year’s bodies, salted and silver—not silver anymore, cured in black air. A sign in Japanese, a sign in English, disappearing in the road. It took so long get here, freshwater where their parents swam, a pain they must have known in the ocean. Those plates distributing blue, green, too much feeling and heat. They turned. They turn. What does this look like? But I’ve turned away.
My half-brother pulls over when he sees the cop, standing by something struck in the road. One of his sons with him. He has a camera or they go back for it; he gets a permit to remove the deer. My father opens an email and there they are: my half-brother kneeling, his son looking just like him. Then interior to everyone in our family saying this.
Closer to the ground the buck’s eyes are glass. The head with its hard branching. They’ll split the body. My father clicks on something else, another forward. He’s saved the poem I sent. When I ask him if I got things right he says he doesn’t think he can talk about it. There are four poems here, he says, you wrote one.
I was saying I was better then I was. Kristen stroked my back. It's trauma, she said. Or Paul said it, or we repeated the word.
Then a woman in the bed next to my friend in the maternity ward slips into pink sweats spelling “Juicy” across the ass. My friend watches her go, waves, sinks. More time when we are inlet to others: when I put on a bathing suit and went flat in the backyard. I had him, a new dividing in me. Deer on the other side of the house.
When I knew, when Paul and I knew for sure, and I carried our child for us. We woke up ready one morning to check Paul into the hospital. It was time. All of them arrived and prepped. I flipped through a magazine in the first waiting room. A patch of green there. Paul’s eyes bright, walking back to me in a paper gown, shaved for the incisions. One for the camera, another for air, another to fish his kidney out.
It was too early to feel anything about a baby being inside. I scanned the second waiting room for the recipient’s family. Where they would be, strangers, when I pressed Paul’s skin: missing. I coursed the halls for them, even though they told us from the start they keep donors and recipients separate. But how? Everyone had to go down to the basement for food.
Eat, said the body. And the bodies went down.
One day one of us will not wake up. Or blindsided, disappear. Once we fought and he said something blackening into a syrup I pour when I remember. I slid my sweatpants on while he rocked him, newborn. I walked to the park. Pushed into good clip, then the rest caved between my legs. That must of been some walk, said Kristen when I called to describe the clot.
Afterward they called me in. Paul was awake, a salt-spiral kind of waking, widening to touch. How was the one who got his kidney, how was our friend? All they could tell us around our connecting there was that it was progressing. Active rooms and rooms beeping. They moved Paul to a stable floor. This is what I don’t remember: walking west alone with you out of the hospital block. The next day I found Paul in a corridor stiff around his body’s new gulf. Another donor hobbled against his parents or his wife—we kept passing them. Nodding. It’s good to walk. It hurts. Our child’s inside, I didn’t say.
Our son’s inside. But the floor was going to close. The head nurse was firm despite the parade gathering downtown. She wouldn’t stall or speed things up. Then we made it out in a cab through the village, Paul wincing, in time. I watched the pop singer’s head from the apartment above.
No one on the sidewalks could move. But there was space deepening, pressed into each outlying block. I could point them there. As if they wanted somewhere else to go. Then in a class for new moms, a row of us on mats holding on. She’s tying a scarf around our hips for support. A scarf? Where the muscles are lost. How do I get them back? She says no, you don’t do anything. I’m showing you how.
You can still turn around, he said to his daughter on his arm up the aisle. The groom waiting. My cousin already born, caught with his hand in the cake at the reception. The album open on my lap as a kid perplexed that my cousin could have touched my mother’s white dress there. Then we go out to play in the yard.
Christina comes over like she always does but this time something doesn’t mix. She runs home. Then her mother drags her up to our front door to shame us. You can still turn around—someone could be set aside, hurt, or motioned out. My father waits for my mother at the end of the aisle. Then clutches her when her father, a brass vase, lowers into the ground. Our front door near the gardenia fractured to give us places to cut, float in a glass bowl.
Sentenced into space, jilted as water into each new disintegrating shelf. I open my teacher’s poems again. What happened to us that we can enter such a thing and be apprehended? Christina at our door behind her mother’s furious color. I ask our neighbor what this is, tangled everywhere and he says my kind of plant. It grows without anything.
Tradescantia pallida. Lengthening from the root, each movement above ground repeating its bruise in the shape of a flame to the house. Covering and recovering. Something about our neighbor. I tell him about my revised dream house: forest-green with this trained around. Yes, he says, why not.
Someone takes apart the shooting on the radio again. The families of the dead come out, make a statement, and fold back. The shooter, caught, channels through rooms set for him. His father chased him off the driveway. The son caught a cab, rented a room. Spent all night stroking, cocked. Photographing himself there.
When a ball lands in their yard the ball stays in the mind. Then seeps. A woman approaches my car, tells me she’s been sleeping out in her son’s tent this month. She blesses me then she’s gone: crossing back to the motel lots.
I knew my mother would clean my room and find my angry notebook open. Someone walking in the desert the day after discovers a black duffel bag the shooter dropped. Or didn’t need after his father saw him heave it from the truck. After I hand the woman some cash she’s gone. I get in my car, try to trace her through a line of cars until she flaps near her smile like don’t keep me.
The same week I ask my students to take Emerson apart, dividing them into smaller numbers. Some of them surface adamant about nature, stars. Or look to me for what I want. Or don’t go in. Or go in and out. One says: he thinks he has all the answers. Another student lives inland, outside of town, and hasn’t heard. We fill him in: a Congresswoman shot, a judge, a child, her neighbors gathered in front of a Safeway in an Arizona town.
We sound like the news. The Safeway reopens. A young mother packs groceries in her car. Another woman watches, studies before she darts. We dive down. Emerson talks about ‘The Poet’; who is this? Silence in the room again. The security guard steps between our cars in the lot. Juliusz would you read the paragraph for us out loud.