Your mum always wears that apron (even I know it); that blue and grey apron with the braided strings. The colours are as familiar as the taste of spaghetti and the feel of its fabric is the smell of tea and dad’s-home dinner. It has always been tied in the back with a tight little bow. Almost always; those strings were the first you twisted round and formed into rabbits’ ears and hills for tongues to twist under. Even before your kindergarten shoes you were deposited on the counter beside the dishfull sink and your mum turned her back to you and waited for your little curious fingers to run along the knobbled lengths of the cords until you found their ends, to navigate with your tongue between your teeth, and at last leave hanging in a mess of loops that you pretended was a tight little bow just like you knew your mum liked. You knew those strings.
When you got your kindergarten shoes you practiced with those until you could make the tongue tight against your foot and stay there and you rushed to your mum and tied her apron, standing on your kindergarten shoe tiptoes.
Later on that tight little bow was as easy as breathing and just as memorable and you laced up for middle school and tennis practice and in the kitchen to secure your own apron, with smooth red cords, where you added thyme to the sauce as your mum drained the spaghetti.
You have to tug sharply to undo the laces of your adventuring shoes, left and right; those tight bows have never left you. You deposit your car keys in your bag as you step sock silent up the stairs, shoes in hand, when you are arrested by the sight of your mum standing in the kitchen, still and turned towards the evening window. Her apron is undone and the grey and blue braids brush the linoleum.
–I made spaghetti, she says, and there’s leftovers in the fridge. You thank her, but–I’ve had dinner out today; french fries . . . and a salad, don’t worry. She says it’s okay–I forgot to add thyme to the sauce, anyway. You hesitate by the entrance to the kitchen. –Mum, you say, your apron has come undone. She turns to you and her eyes are sad. –I think I tied the bow too loose, she sighs. Won’t you cook with me tomorrow and tie it for me?
–Oh Mum, you laugh, these aren’t the strings that connect me to you anymore, and as you step behind her and take up the cords, crossing one over the other, the sun coming through the window hits your back and your shadows are one across the kitchen floor.
In the Autumn, my feet crunch on death and decay,
a long carpet of leaves in a fiery array
of dark reds and rust oranges, yellows and browns,
in a funeral path of old life, fallen down;
but when white winter carpet, exquisite and cold,
stretches out over earth that has taken to hold
all the dead things, all joined by the rains and by time;
when the morning brings newness in pure white design,
and my feet crunch on crystals of heavenly dew,
then the hope of green life in the spring, fresh and new–
all my worries erased by the frost, all my fears–
hope is painted on canvas renewed for the year.
already planning for Christmas
because this season is happening at a bad time.
The holidays won’t wait for me,
and I understand–
I can’t wait either
even though it’s everything
I can’t wait
for a future
I don’t believe in.
though . . .
I think that’ll be nice.
when they should be saying,
“I am understanding,
or trying to
This winter does not limit us; you’re not
a seasonal delight:
Oh, let us harvest
love forever; in all weathers, times,
and seasons. You and I, together.
I want you; all of you. I want to take
you to the top of mountains and proclaim
my love is mine until the thunder echoes
me and lightning paints your name upon
the clouds. I want you in my heart; I want
you in my bones; I want you in my past
and present, future, too; I want you here;
I want you everywhere I am. Dear god,
I need you to be mine; won’t you be mine?
You are a hidden city, lost beneath
the waves of sapphire seas, each drop a gem,
but you more precious and more plentiful
in beauty, even where you lie upon
the ocean’s deepest valley where the sun
has never shone. I’ve seen you in my dreams,
my home, I’ve seen you in the sand and salt,
and I am coming.
Help me understand
your alleyways and spires. How will I see,
how will I breathe? The water stings my eyes;
I close them. Water fills my lungs; I breathe
it in. I panic, lost, I cannot see;
the darkness blankets me, the ocean pulls
and crushes me.
I feel your colour on
my eyelids, soft and sweet. I taste your breath,
its intake draws me, exhale cleans me, voice
of sapphires in your sighs. Now drowned, I see
your city open up before my touch.
May I explore? May I know more? I will
not fight your earthquakes, I will ride their backs
and watch the towers dance and strengthen in
Your city needs no visitor,
so I will stay; and since the sun cannot,
I will illuminate your beauty.
You are a vintage when I miss you, rich
red heady wine, a rush of softness in
my mind, my inhibitions falling fast
asleep or diving headlong into vein
and pulse to pound against my heart. “Go forth,”
they cry to tears, “go forth and kiss his lips,
remind him of the touch of warmth he dreams
of always touching.” Oh, the longer you
are gone the richer pours the wine, the darker
falls the grape, the thicker fall my tears
until they taste of ecstasy and pain,
when oh, I wish they tasted more like you.