When platitudes like time heals all and everything happens
for a reason knock at your door, ignore.
Buy expensive bath tissue. Later, when you turn around
and see blood clots floating in the toilet bowl,
yank a long train of that expensive bath tissue
and wipe. Focus on the soft cotton fibers of three-ply
that you never bought for yourself before.
Everything happens for a reason.
Locate two old bath towels. Layer them
in the middle of your bed. Wear a beat-up t-shirt
and nothing else at night. When you give up
count your own fingers and toes.
Line your underwear with a thick pad,
place a lemon in your coat pocket and leave
the house in broad daylight. Suck in icy air.
Obey stop signs. Look both ways, twice.
Aim to walk aimlessly for half an hour each day.
Stop at a cafe and sit by a dusk-blue wall.
Order nothing, gaze at your faux-fur boots,
and ask the barista if you can borrow a blue pen.
If there is no blue, borrow black.
Treat napkins as a notepad and a manual.
Outline a system of tender rewards. See one friend
and you get to have sushi. See three friends
at the same time and you get to have a Sidecar.
Kill two birds with one stone:
Ask friends to stop
sending cheap platitudes and ask them
to buy you expensive bath tissue,
Egyptian cotton bath towels, and organic linen sheets
the color of alabaster stone.
Pay bus fare and sit in the second row—it is okay
to look at the stroller,
but do not look inside.
When you cannot breathe,
slip the lemon out of your pocket
and place it just under your nose.
Take in the aroma and return lemon to pocket.
Lift your fingers to your ears and let out a sigh
when earbuds feel secure in their place.
When you return home, turn on the hallway light.
Turn on the living room light.
Turn on the kitchen light.
Turn on the bedroom light.
Turn on the bathroom light.
Stand in the middle of your home.
Sob into the new bath towels.
Sob until you kneel and your palms meet the hard floor.
Take in the silence.
Slip into the silence and pass into sleep.
Dream of running down First Avenue,
along the river and bridges and dams,
past the landslide debris on the west bank
from last spring’s month-long storm,
and past the long-gone record store
now replaced by a boulangerie
that smells like flour and browned butter at 6AM
and pears simmering in lemon water at 9AM,
and run into the ice cream store, where you order
hope and you get two scoops of vanilla
drizzled with thin slivers of dark chocolate,
and you snort at the difference
between what you ask for and what you receive
in a city where hope never dies an easy death.
Check the weather report for today.
Bundle of sorrow, bundle up, and go into the wild.
Cast line and bait into a thawing lake.
Crane your head back and look at the old sky.
(winner of the Editors’ Prize in Poetry for issue 26)