4:40 p.m.
a spiritual crisis
grips me by the throat,
I try to light a candle
and fail.
Children, grandchildren
sit upon the bureau,
everything in my life
an inanimate silence.
Branches and feathers
which yesterday held,
if not great vibrance
some sense of life
It is perhaps
the tendency
to fall into words
like nonetheless,
as though it were a mud hole,
or could it be perhaps
that does it.
If I could avert these language
land mines,
I think my life
would remain more elastic,
able to shrink and stretch
to fit.
Right now it does not.

I peruse the shelves
for what to throw away,
sorting though
my daughter’s Cliff Notes,
overwhelmed with maternal
for the books she did not read.
For the most part, nor did I.
The Odyssey.
The Aenid.
Paradise Lost.
Why, yes, it is indeed.
Quite thoroughly.

My shawl upon the chair,
this is how I am coming
into my shawl time, I say,
spreading my hand
beneath the cloth
to display the shimmering
brass flowers it bears.
A crisis of the spirit
besets me,
emptiness fills me
like a picture removed from its frame.
Beset. Quite thoroughly.
Indeed. Perhaps.
I wear my favorite silk shirt
all day.
Black. To match my mood.
The tomato plants have
collapsed upon their cage,
weeds grow up to the windows
and everything needs watering.
That is how it is in times
of grief,
when at last we cease
neglecting ourselves
and neglect everything else instead.

Hawks cry out, I listen
to a favorite somber song
left over from another
like a casserole
from a company dinner,
and recall how he tried
to articulate
my individuality with,
“your teas in the afternoon,
the way the light came in to your room.”

I think back to a specific pot
of chamomile tea
and a man who, if he came
that day, didn’t stay.

And grandchildren
it seems I am supposed
to claim,
who are not my own.
This tires me
beyond all measure.

I am weary of the truth
being a guilty chore.
I am writing a book of fatigues
and a book of truths.

I think of the spring
I drank lemon grass
in the back of a public room
where the open door
let the sunlight
bathe my bare feet,
resting on the trunk
where the steeping
tea sat,
drenched in the same

Tea in the afternoon,
one of many things
I forgot,
oily herbal flavors,
subtle scents,
somber songs,
the woman I have been
throughout my life.

The prism’s colors
move closer and closer
across the floor.
I rock,
my bare foot upon the table
where my tea cup sits.
It’s hard to know
what to make of time,
of our lives,
and the afternoons
that have built them.
It’s hard to keep
our hands upon
the truth we need to live,
like a teapot lid
we hold,
oh, so graciously,
in place
as we pour.

6/27/96 .