the hand that makes the aisle says

Editor’s note:This poem was written about the author’s upcoming marriage. Congratulations Chris and Allie!

strange, dear one
to think of the desert
through which we’ve come.
the snakes which twist into shapes
along horizons far away
and sometimes too close.
become fingers sometimes.
how our clothing sticks to us
flapping in the winds of vast
uncertainty and yet we are kept
and go along anyway,
god only knows how or why.
the violent waves and the wheels
of lashing are not
all behind us. voices which demand
to have us now and always,
say we are drowning
even in the sand. and yet
at the edge there is a hand
which knows the dust
below our feet is also
our skin and our bodies,
the feeling that we are nothing more.
the hand speaks to tell us we are made.
makes us story and song and names.
speaks and says there is an aisle
for us to walk along. right through
the hopeless waves. this hand says
he will be in the promise we make
on the other side. and every altar
after that. dear one,
take mine. we’ll watch and touch
until our fingers are like his.
writing pardons into the sand
to keep the stones at bay.
writing our names again and again.
burying each serpent lie
on the shadow of every step and morning.

The copy of Gatsby I gave you

I was a good three rum and Cokes

invested in my sadness

mingling at a party

I can only partially remember.

Except for fifteen minutes.

I stepped out on the tea-lit balcony

looking for the section of sky

I could claim for myself.

My eyes lolled back and forth

along murky currents

of the belting river,

until some spell told me

to look for your street.

No doubt you were not

looking across the same river

at the skyscraping rooftops

for me. I tried not to think

about what you weren’t doing,

weren’t three drinks into missing me,

you weren’t thinking about how poetic

how very Fitzgerald this whole ordeal

sort of is,

what with a body of water between us

and all.

I suppose

you could very well

be pressed against a window

or staring at the soft blue light

of a television screen

with a cold drink

Scotch

near the knot of your wrist.

I wonder if the glass

leaves a ring

on the end table

and if you are laughing

at anyone.

I can start to understand

why longing

to be on the other side

of a body of water

can constitute

the beauty of an entire novel.

I wonder if you are looking

at the copy I gave you.

How I wrote your name inside,

the ink punctuated by rain.

Even now, in the garden

Even now, with bone of my bone
and flesh of my flesh
nearly knocking at the door, milked in some mysterious
way of knowing my voice, altogether new;
Even now, I am haunted by the animals stalking past.
With each, I breathed a name and saw the curved spines,
outstretched paws and knobby beaks. All splendor and rapture,
I smiled a half smile. Not quite. Every year a different species
clawed by bravely for its chance to hear me say:
You are the one.
And each time I sighed to say: not you, not you
You are not my beloved
and leaned on the side of a fruit tree wondering
what to make of this circus parade
and where all my luck had gone.
When you finally glide in, the garden fills
with laughter at a joke I only halfway comprehend:
one part is the hysterical reality of our naked bodies
beautifully fragile, glowing, almost old together already,
and the punch-line much more severe,
we will never nearly be enough
for each other, even after all that,
this strange, unexpected finale
is somehow part of perfection.