I've been sending out my manuscript Slight Faith for two years now, adding to it, subtracting, rearranging the poems like furniture in a cave, trying to say what I need to say, and hoping with slight faith that someone will fall in love with it and publish it. Trying to be patient. Practicing forbearance. Meanwhile, I wonder if we are ever able to communicate our most intimate understandings. And I suspect the test of success is not in publication, but in some deeper satisfaction of intimacy that I believe (and perhaps this is the crux of my problem) is mythic and unreachable.
Faith is the slight stalk clutching tight the baby tooth
to its root. If it won’t let go, a father might tie a string
and slam the door. A mother might calmly let it fall
among the bedclothes while the child sleeps. Some
find coin beneath a pillow once it is gone.
But what is it that promises another truth will descend
from a hollow mouth to fill the socket?
Most days, I no longer long
for you. The rain has become
my welcome mat.
I soak clothes and skin in it,
bleach these personal stains,
staunch my body's needs.
Nowhere is it fully documented
how terrifying it is to be me.
I dream in haiku
as it taps at my window
in tart syllables.
from Mean Distance from the Sun, Aldrich Press, 2013
Here’s a story of a short-lived friendship with a girl named Debbie. Her family was poor and Catholic, mine lower middle class and Jewish. I’m not even sure how we became friends, I don’t remember her as a school mate, what I do remember is a tin of lard on her kitchen counter. She wet the bed at a sleepover at my house and my mother was very kind, but I was embarrassed for her. Still, she was droll and already edgy at ten and we spent one summer hanging out together. Parents generally left kids to our own devices in those days. We rode our bikes, hung out at a funky gas station where guys would tease us, and where, if we had quarters, we bought an Orange Crush from the soda machine and shared it. In DC, we could catch a city bus and go anywhere; kids’ fare was 10 cents. We went to the Washington monument, called it “the pencil” and climbed to the top to look out over the city. Once we went to the zoo, didn’t have money to go through the gate, so snuck under a fence. One day we went to the National Cathedral where Debbie crossed herself and then proceeded to show me how to take incense sticks and coax dollar bills out of the donation boxes on the walls. Later that evening, her dad drove me home. Debbie and I sat close together in the back seat undoubtedly holding hands and giggling. I remember a hole in the car’s floorboard, near where my feet dangled. I said, “you owe me five dollars” and then we talked about other things. When the car stopped at my house, her dad fished 5 single bills out of his pocket and handed them to me, clearly not happy about it. I didn’t know him well, and this may have been unfair, but I imagined that Debbie got a whipping that night. We didn’t see each other again after that. I knew enough to feel bad about it, but she just couldn’t afford to be friends with me.