These gorgeous kids
all dirty-faced and smart-mouthed
begging for Sprite and shoving
more garbage, more candy money under their beds
while beside the pool breathing warm chlorine
you are daydreaming about tea parties
and the inner workings of men
who wear silk slippers and powdered wigs.
I’ve decided not to spend the day studying the wallpaper.
I already know how it goes
it goes yellow stripe flower spray flower spray
flower spray yellow stripe
and to treat myself to the act of cleaning up with trash bags
instead of Q-Tips.
I’m enjoying the smell of my own sweat.
We don’t fill enough trash bags, smell enough sweat.
There is no connected center.
See over there: That goldfish has been doing laps in solitary
for almost three years now but he’s fine.
That woman on the bus talked too loud
and every word meant something
in Chinese except when it meant something in English.
She went something something something
West Side something something
bar mitzvah something something something temple
but we were connected to her
we were straining to hear
hoping she would say Disneyland, Charles Dickens, Filet-o-Fish, IUD
as long as it wasn’t more on the imagery of ecstatic motherhood.
Beyond these walls between the houses
stretch unshoveled sidewalks and
telephone lines that I would like to describe as silvery
but they’re not pretty and we don’t even need them anymore.
We’ve hung our satellites and
made cell-phone towers look like trees
and somehow we all know our places, past and present:
Your chair, my end of the couch
My lime, my sad guitar
your Beethoven, your aliens, my séance, our Bigfoot.
My grandmother’s cheap white coffee cup
chipped saucer, cheery Pall Mall box
type dropped to white on red, its own blessing
Per aspera ad astra, in hoc signo vinces.
Any of us can tell at a glance: my burrito.
We all know what to do:
You call I answer I call you answer
You call I never answer
You don’t call I don’t answer.