On Returning to the Vineyard
The rain is not even similar here—
the particular slant,
its lack of urgency.
The buildings don’t obscure the wind
like my windy city.
I am caught and swept away into a faint picture.
I can’t get lost here—
into an obscureness that is me.
To return to where I had my first real kiss
with the new associate named Chuck
on a clean concrete sidewalk
outside of where I drank my first real cocktail,
a Tanqueray and tonic with a twist (my mother’s drink)
and actually wore red heels.
No, that was not like here
where in the ninth grade
Jonathan DiSalvo hurriedly kissed me
behind Mrs. McGee’s bakery,
the hot flour mist invading my nostrils
like a sick love song.
The island holds me hostage.
The city relaxes my judgement.
The island betrays secrets.
My city allows them deliberateness and certainty.
The beauty of the things—steel, glass, concrete
succumbs to marsh, salt, and silt
that swallows me whole like quicksand.
After My Mother’s Funeral
“There is good even in this,” my father declared
after we plodded through a dewy field
in Southbury, Connecticut
filled with afternoon hunger.
Delighted with the possibility of sweetness,
I snatched at those vines
betraying my 4-year-old hands.
I couldn’t stop.
Prickly bee sting bullets
punctuated the flesh.
That fierce vine did not mar the beauty.
“Enough,” my father said
wiping my mouth on his sleeve,
leaving the remaining fruit to rot on the ground
as my balled-up fist crushed that nectar.
Lead Us Not into Temptation
You’ve always been a fidgeter.
Hands in your mouth,
hands in your brown shaggy hair,
hands in mine when you were little.
When were you so little that your hands
fit into mine?
You put your hands on your desk—
one on top of the other,
thinking there is safety
in folding things neatly.
The teacher reminds you that
back in her day,
the nuns would come over and
slap the sin out of those hands.
I know you counted each one in your head—
gluttony, sloth, lust, wrath,
but the bigger ones
around your identity
remain hidden inside
The writhing hypocrisy
invading the answers
on your catechism workbook.
You sit confused,
terrified of a lingering ruler that seems
out of place on the corner of her desk.
You navigate the edges, wonder if the chipped
part of the metal would fracture a knuckle
or rip the flesh from your thumb.
“Mom, what are the sins—the really bad ones?”
You ask me on the way home.
Gripping the steering wheel, I say,
“Love one another.”
“What?” you wonder out loud.
“Just do that, Son, and you will be okay.”
I see you put your hand in your mouth,
and when we turn the corner,
you bite down on your thumb
chipping the red nail polish
clean off the nail.