I was a tourist from honey-milk land
I was a tourist from honey-milk land,
and Sister heard my question underneath.
She had her own.
“Are you packing?”
That kind of place.
The nun hugged her wizened chest.
She was old then,
dead now, I’m sure, thirty years on.
She hugged, a saint in mufti,
alone as all saints are
— and reaching out
to embrace the violent, the crazy,
the dirty, the dazed and me.
She knew the patter, heard the underneath.
“Belief is neither wispy nor soiled.
The rains come and go.
The clouds hang low.
Strong men fract.
“The voices of the birds clash and shrill.
The bowl shatters.
The spirit is dust and all we have.”
I can hear them. They don’t know. I feel
good to let go my hold on all held in and
out. I am flat on Julia’s narrow chest, her
child’s arms under my butt, my drool on
her dark blue fabric coat, my eyes unfixed,
not seeing what is seen, my ears listening
to my breathing, as I do now, as I hear them,
as I know I will never leave here. I am not
here now. I have stripped off the uniform,
the car, the condo, the people here, the
dozens of missionary envelopes wide-mouthed
like beloved nestlings, awaiting my five-dollar
bills, the memory of her, long gone, left me
with these people who don’t know I listen,
not to them, to the rough breath in and out,
nothing else to do; now I exhale. I ride the
molecules of vapor, atomized, out into this
room, inhaled, blood-streamed by these
people who fail to recognize their inheritance.
The older son noted
the back door of the flat
was always open.
The wordless father wiped
the soapy kitchen floor dry
when the washer overflowed.
On knees he washed
from the dining-room entryway
to the back door never locked.
The older son said,
“I will leave by the kitchen door. “
To the father, he said this.
The father had nothing to say.
The older son
left by the back door and moved
across the face of the landscape
and, after much time, came back
to the apartment where the father
and the younger son still lived.
The father saw the older son
walking up the sidewalk
and returned to his sewing.
No one answered the bell.
The older son, now a man
with a finger ring and a belly,
walked up the back stairs and in
through the back door not locked.
The father looked up, said nothing.
The younger son, later,
came out of the back room
and came to the father
and asked if the back door
was open to leave.
The father said nothing,
went back to his sewing.
The younger son
went back to the back room,
having learned a lesson.