You Arrive Carrying Apples
Today, in a terrible rainstorm, you arrive,
one great might-have-been, to sweep me out
of my wind-blown cottage, bearing produce
and white chrysanthemums with petals curled.
I am not sure you are still welcome. The holidays
were rather bad, your natural dawdling almost
turned disaster, but now there is abundance in
every direction, nights of red wine, singing.
When a church bell rings, it shakes the rafters,
some lathes and a thin coat of plaster raining down
on our drunken heads. We continue hammering
at the fuzzy places, full of disgust and enthusiasm.
I try to be magnificent, horrible, what you want,
but I am not sure I succeed. We pass out on the floor
littered with apple cores. As we sleep, all the chimneys
come down. We wake and walk amidst the rubble.
Days Go By
Whole blue and gold Maine days
filled with clamming and blueberry
picking, lemonade and macaroons.
Certainly there are trifles where you
live as well – an antique shop full
of old signs, a dwindling pile of coal
beside your little red bungalow. One
begins to see how we are drifting
apart, although the anchor is always
slack. I can remember a night when
I felt half-dying and held your hand –
but that seems a life ago. Sometimes
I miss it, but free will is sewn into
everything we do, and this is what
I have chosen – the lovely, knotted
raveling of a marriage – while you
slip along a smooth thread, dangle
from a hook, ornament to the world.
I Take Pride in Poor Decisions
I have swapped houses with God
for the night, forsaken the carpentry
and clutter of things for creatures
crawling and burrowing in and out
of damp sand and hermit crabs who
break through the crust of the shore
with glowing skulls on their backs.
To sleep outside seems foolish, but
I recognize the signs of storms, know
just when lightning will split the sky.
All the firewood, stacked and fed with
tinder, is wet. I go on striking the flint.
After A Long Silence
It the worst of the rainy season;
pyramids of garbage emit their odor
of corruption. On the road, I encounter
eight orphans, their eyes like sixteen
tiny churches. I draw elaborate designs
for a compound, a whole nursery
for such children, when I remember
that the two of you have had a baby and
must be swirling in a maelstrom of bottles,
diapers, bibs, and scattered wits. How
wonderful and fearful it must be to care
for a thing so delicate when life roars under
every window. I carry my own atmosphere
with me, move with all I need inside
my head. Still, what a gap and blank and
sorrow that you are so far away. I would
like to meet the small, dusky apparition
that I am absolutely sure resembles you.
Views from This Tenement
This has been a weighty
winter, brooding on a red
sofa, half-filled suitcases
piled next to the saggy bed.
I am a saint, a disgrace
beneath the chrome
crucifix left behind by
some previous tenant.
Taunted by lies blue
as neon, I wake to oatmeal
soaked in cold milk, step
out to share a cigarette
with an eager young
missionary just back
from foreign parts,
his eyes lantern slides
of the larger world,
which I miss. I need
to tell you that I need
to leave, must map out
a new course, a better
plan. I practice crossing
that thin, shaky plank
to the other side.
Donna Vorreyer is a Chicago-area author and middle school teacher; she is the author of A House of Many Windows (Sundress Publications, 2013) and five chapbooks, most recently We Build Houses of Our Bodies (dancing girl press, 2013). These poems were inspired by the book Words in Air: The Complete Correspondence of Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell. Words and short phrases from each set of ten letters were noted and then became prompts for the poems, which follow a narrative that very loosely echoes their relationship.
Other poems from this series: