How to be loved
There is your father, who died from a gun he shot in the garage that sat just back from the
road we grew up on. Rot moves in waves off the headstone, a swarm like a low shore I raise
to overlook myself. I remember touching your hair before I knew how much I meant it. Life
dips its tongues in the bloom.
I think of the knit steel that enclosed your porch and the day a butterfly wove itself in, and I
don't know whether a butterfly is more its wings or the part between but I know we couldn't
divide the two rivers of our town. And there are the crossed rivers and the lake, the winter we
dug our skates into the ice to touch a fish there, and how we never reached it, my dog and
your dog, tennis sets, haircuts, coupons, leather seats, your sister sewing a button on, your
brother's swollen eye, the orb we used to blow the flies from, the light breaking in the bath,
how you always got the lead in the school play and how you cried on stage and have cried a
lot since, the boys shaking their grins off at the fences. And you, foolish painter, me, foolish
foolish, he, 56, you, 20, he, 56, you, 23. The raggish petals off a kid's cigarillo. How on
weekends we picked cold cherries and red-bellied plums and felt the color whistle down our
chins, to be young is the glass thinking it is the flower and the dirt, your mother rushing us off
from the tracks but not before you caught your finger on a nail and I wonder if you were able
to walk there after, alone at night, jumping crickets and the solidago, when you were older, if
you feel older now.
I told you once I wouldn't die of old age before a broken heart. And I think you've been
living in Boston but I don't know that you are, and it's best that way because if I saw you
now you would swear you thought you had loved him enough, and I know I would tell you
that he never wanted to be useful in that sort of way.
You are your house
It is morning, I love you, it is morning again. The summer ends and I find I am tired of
the dead. The bridge freezes before the road, frost heaves the rock. The heat fails and we
spend nights on the floor listening to mice on the covered beams above. We smell their death.
She'd dressed the furniture in white sheets. You make some breakfast early in spring. You
swim and freak the birds. I wonder why I live in a city when everything gets so green here.
Sometimes I hope my distrust of us is just innocence like that, forgetting that spring comes
everywhere, and every year the same.
The light seems dry at parties, where I listen in the turning of your arm for the things
I have said so many times to you. I am ready to be convinced of all kinds of things by my
body, though I know not every dying thing is a moth. I am not that young anymore. I tell
my friends that having an affair is like getting language in every sentence, though more like
it's to speak so well of feeling and feel so poorly knowing nothing. I don't say that I still
draw the proof of my own body from the dark hair on your arms. But you walk from room
to room, you take your shirt off at night. My little life is everywhere for her to sweep.
In summer the small gleam off the Spanish tiles brings ghosts to bat at your screen door.
One day in August they will stop coming. And you will paint her walls, you will put flowers
in a vase, wash the dishes I use, insist. I yell your name until I hear her.
Rachel Audrey Hammond is a MFA candidate in poetry at the University of Montana.