You Are Welcome
You are welcome to come into my house, sit at my table and eat
the two-pound salmon I prepared with beurre blanc and roasted peppers.
You are welcome to a small portion of my melancholy
– and to a handful of roasted nuts,
maybe even a slice or two of the Irish cheddar that I placed in the center
of that long silver dish I brought back from central Mexico two years ago
and polished before you drove up. You are welcome
to drink Merlot or Malbec from one of my fluted blue glasses,
and ignore the bright color of my walls or my eyes, and of course
you are welcome to complain because you are my guest.
By that measure, you are welcome to leave your hat under my table,
where it will be crushed by one cat or another before morning.
Abecedarian on Getting By
And if you think the things that happen to me are
basic and mundane, let me tell you about the gym –
counting back, it was maybe two weeks ago and I was
dripping sweat from the
elliptical machine I’d been on
for 30 minutes. I’d already moved to free weights when a
gay man I barely know came over and lifted up
his shirt to show a recent scar. He said doctors opened him up, piled
intestines on the counter, fecal matter and small organs, then
jammed everything back in again. Words fluffed out of …
Kevin, I think his name is. I was watching the flat
look on his smooth face, when somehow, he switched from
medical talk to communication problems with his partner, whom I have
never met. Really, you should understand that I have
only ever seen this fairly fit guy doing
pushups and leg curls with his red-haired friend
quietly in the back corner of the fitness
room, and he only talks to me
sometimes, and other times doesn’t notice me. But
that day he clearly wanted to report that he was
uncertain about his attitude at home. “I get
very angry,” he guilted, face chiseled. “Does it happen to you?” he asked,
while I stretched my muscle-weak calves on an
x-tra mat I found behind the long
yellow counter where pristine issues of The Advocate are stored. I wanted to
zone out, but instead told him that I practice saying sorry. Every single day.
Entangled by cold air one frigid night, you don your blue fleece cap like a lid
over long gray hair, and I slide on my mittens. We fumble forward
into a two-sided winter: we are glass and wood, hewn with unlaced chill.
After twenty years, I ask you to tell me how to live, then trace your answer
into my pocket. At the restaurant, you rub my questions in our braided hands
as I slurp your words, all smoke and ginger. Hungry
for coconut and cardamom, we order the thickest bowl of spring, and I swallow
what you might have savored, the peculiar wisdom-spice, spoon-spoon to normal.
I watch your eyes in six bowls of water, the way you echo and expand.
The Purpose of Missing
Day one: she ate ice cream for
lunch and preened at odd hours,
the plump sun at her back,
and a close-up of freedom, but already
day two, her ears buzzed
in the dull noise of usable minutes.
On the third day, birds no longer
conversed. She scattered thin streams
from the hose to the garden.
Nothing to begin but the next day
of nothing. Then, a night map of minutes.
Halfway through the deep space
of exile, only one when was precious.
When he’d come home. She wiped down
the counters, making small noises.
The cats cuddled their cushions.
Day five: she watched the curdle of oil
on a plate of red beets, and she cried.
A stale morning, day six. Long measures
of waiting. A raven flew past.
As leaves fell, she was fragile alone.
The obsolete ache. Repeat, repeat.
If he ever returned, she’d put her lips
on his forehead, her hands in
his pockets. She tries to recall
where he wrote his name on her body.
Each necessary impact, each letter
licked. He’s been missing a minute a year.
She lives in a stone, a woman of mutter,
no meaning, drinking the trace
of his voice. At the airport, day seven,
the sky is exalted and rich. Almonds,
she thinks, are the nicest nut.
She smiles until her hair turns red.
Lauren Camp lives in a farming village in New Mexico. Her first poetry collection, This Business of Wisdom, was published by West End Press. She is the editor of Which Silk Shirt, a blog about poetry, and producer of Notes To Cecil, an evolving installation of spontaneous poetry and composed photographs. She has also guest edited special sections for World Literature Today (on jazz poetry) and for Malpaís Review (on the poetry of Iraq). Her poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in J Journal, Beloit Poetry Journal, Muzzle, and you are here, and she was Co-Winner of The Anna Davidson Rosenberg Poetry Awards 2012. On Sundays, Lauren hosts “Audio Saucepan,” a global music/poetry program on Santa Fe Public Radio.