My son works
in June’s yard, among her wilting peonies. June teaches him
the names of what she calls “the undesirables.”
Purslane and lesser celandine.
The first time the spirits came for him, my son
was three. He flailed and screamed and clung to me. Fátima
peeled him from my body, whisper-sung to him
in Portuguese. Does God’s pleasure consist in secrecy?
On the sidewalk, I make a limp pile of undesireables,
crouch between the gladiolus and the grass, listen
to Ram Dass telling me desire is a trap and
the body is gross. Telling me the guru subsists on
a single glass of milk a day. Since my lover has returned
to Istanbul, I am trying to convert
my sexual energy into something finer—silk
or breath or glowing text. The guru eats arsenic
and LSD, stays upright and unmoved as milkweed.
The second time the spirits came, my son knew
he could not resist. Seventeen years ago,
he left my body. Starless, dark with milk.
Does God’s pleasure consist
in alchemy? On the porch of the old
stone house in Germantown, June
holds her fiddle atilt.

Backgammon, July

You like to dress up for me, he said. Say it.
It was storming. He stood behind me,
watching the storm through the plate glass
window. You look in the mirror and imagine me
looking, he said. There was no
guardrail. He was quick with a turn
of phrase. He made a fool of me
at backgammon. I arrived punctually, once
a week. I arrived, as Spenser said
of The Faerie Queene, “cloudily enwrapped
in Allegorical devices.” As I had been walking
from the train station, my son called.
Take shelter, he said. The sky
was darkening. I arrived already
wet from the downpour, all my
Allegorical devices soaked. Tell me,
he said. Tell me that on the train you
uncross your legs and the city rushing
past enters you. He considered
the probabilities of each move. He
broke me. Yes, I said. Each dark
reflective surface clicked
against the other. Each
nub of skull or femur burned into
nitrogen ash and bone black.

Lesser Celandine

Sometimes I skip a pill so I can feel a little blue.
It’s springtime in Pennsylvania. Cold rain-light. Lesser celandine.

Sometimes I call an old lover so we can climb back into a past fight.

Together on the screen, we watch the live bear cam.
The mother bear is trying to sleep. Her cubs are restless, and trying to
wake her up.

Every week my ex-husband calls me with a different metaphor. He is
convinced that if we find the exact right metaphor or TED Talk, our son
who is almost seventeen will understand what we are trying to tell him.

You never watch the bears unless I make you, my old lover says.
Hurt covers the miles between us with little yellow flowers.

What we are trying to tell our almost seventeen-year old son is the same
thing all the parents are trying to tell their kids: this is how the world is.
Listen to me. This is how to live in the world.

I bet that bear is regretting her life choices, my old lover says.

If I had a daughter I would name her Lesser Celandine.

Like my sons, she would need me and hate me, or not need me and pity
She would grow tall and knit me a green shroud.

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