Friday, July 2, 2010

Arena Township, 1998

When I was fourteen
I lived in honey, suspended
like a petrified bug.
The washed-out gold light
spilled down through the hills
by my piano teacher’s house
the sky dark and enormous
when I came outside later
stars itching like fireflies.

My fingers swarmed
over the clinking piano keys
learning to make them sing sweet
as a woman, tenderly
as a dancer pliés.

Nancy wore lipstick
that clung red to her teeth in places
threw her arms out wide
to measure of the feelings I struggled
to coax into awkward sound.
Her eyes pleaded, thinking
I might not get it.
We didn't talk about boys.

Sometimes, she took me up
the delicious, creaking staircase
to look from the huge windows
at the paint-spattered cows below.
Angels gilded the walls, their silent hands
cool and luminous.

A pot of soup always bubbled
seductively on the stove, a plate
of flower-shaped cookies on the table.
Nancy told me ladies never
licked their fingers or reached
for crumbs even a mouse
might miss.

But in that glowing
old barn of a house, I wanted
everything, my desire sharp as a needle
in the crazy quilt of hills
stitching my dreams
bold as silver.


The men who run our hostel
have sleepy eyes and charge for everything:
blankets, laundry, internet.
They never take a day off
expect us to entertain them
like awkward party guests.

We hear them breathing
the movement of their thoughts
as they sit for hours in front of the small tv
flip-flops shuffling on tile floor
irritable sigh.

I lay in bed drinking
boxed sangria well past noon.
I am not Picasso
I can’t turn a woman
into a thousand inside-out birds.
I grew up on corn, hard work, regret.

We flew across the moody Atlantic
eager to tame our longing, blue and rose.
After three weeks we are sunburned
feet blistered from walking cobbled streets.
At night we watch hordes of English boys
get drunk in fake Irish pubs.

In the hazy afternoon
we spiral up to fairytale Park Güell
perched in purple hills, filled
with pushing teenagers
from every country in the world.
Climb 2,000 steps to see the city spread
beneath us, breathless, laced with fog
hurried catch of minds
falling away to the sea .

In that dreamy darkness
none can avoid
we find our humid longing
impossible to repair, a mosaic
tender beneath our flesh
a treasure we cannot lose.