A Poem Is a Binding Spell
First, fall headfirst into a hole that is
so perfectly fitted to your heart that
you will never again be free of it.
Always have your tools with you.
Never let a moment go without a glance.
Roll in the scent like a pack of dogs and
carry it back to your den.
Take that rare color, the gem of a sound,
the shoes that you noticed side by side in
the grass, the feel of the tube down your throat,
and smear them on paper as fast as you can.
Don’t think. See without eyes.
But look. Notice the way a human is hung on
the bones, the sound of mist escaping from flesh,
the moist rapid beat carried under the rib.
Tack that notice to the church door.
Look at the map you’ve drawn with three eyes,
trace your finger along the lines, decide where
you plan to take us. Make us hold that place
in mind while you measure the distance to shore.
Your language is image, comparison, memory,
the clear ting of the doorbell to hell. The senses
are the way another heart hears you, so say
what your skin and your ears and your glands know.
Tell us the temperature and weight of desire, the scent
of the chase, the color of light.
Choose your own best reader, the one who digests
your truth. And lies. Speak into their chest
with a megaphone, a feather, a rich dark whisper,
depending on your style and prevailing mood.
Go back to the top and start again and again, smoothing
and soothing and dressing your thoughts in all of the
people you are. Don’t use lazy tricks. Pluck out extra words.
Turn all clichés on their heads. Don’t be afraid to cut.
My Sister’s Notebook
One year, one month, twenty-four days
(depending on whether you went before or after
midnight) I sit in this spot with your
book in my hand waiting for time to start up
again, waiting for the planet to creak and
shudder and start down its tracks like before.
But nothing will ever be the same without
your blue yip of laugh, your red tangle of hair,
that pinched little squint of your smile.
Can you whisper what would bring you back?
I thumb through the scraps, touching what you’ve touched,
tracing with my fingernail the dents your pencil made.
A recipe for dumplings, the mayor of Ficklin,
three apartments under $300 a month.
The number of the boy who cleans the glass,
how to reach Emergency when the switchboard
is dead, how to make a birdhouse from a bottle,
a pinwheel from a placemat, a purse from a sweater
unraveled and re-rolled.
Just whisper what I need.
I got the stone bench with the wording
you wrote, with all your kids’ names in birth order.
Half the family thinks the stone should be turned
to face the east, but who can tell what’s backward?
I am here without you, and that makes nothing right.
Remember the letters of questions we’d write?
Why did you go in the middle of the night?
Did Dean meet you with his heartshot smirk?
Do you remember what’s in that trunk
we buried in the mud of our muddy girlhood?
Are you any bigger than a bird’s bone now?
Where did you get that strength at the end?
Are you leaving the bread crumbs for me?
You see? Just whisper.
I stick my nose in the middle of your book,
bookworm monkeytoes hooknose wooden eye,
not for the words this time but because you’re in there:
your smoky lavender scent in the leaves,
your skin cells a powdery dust on the page.
Now I know why I took it
and why I kept it
and why I opened it today.
Angelique Cain is old and half-wise and @paperbatty on Twitter.