A Practice of Gestures

Monday, January 14, 2019
When I was thirteen, the girl next door read my palm, taught me to cast spells;
she saw faces in things, futures in tea cups, kissed me as she cast the spell.


The first boy I loved was all lanky hands and cauliflower ears, talisman of tin.
Behind the school, skyclad, studying the speed of clouds, we kissed on the hill.


Cleaning a fish, I flash back: the clink of your dog tags as we cast long lines
and shadows, my ex-Army ex-husband. Do you believe in God anymore? Do tell:


light glinting off the mirror is God, the globe of your watch-face on the ceiling, God, bright 
filament of lightbulb, God, the sun’s burn, in the candle-flame, God, when you cast your spell.


After the accident, you woke speaking soothsayer, truth-teller, grandmother, over and over. 
In another language. Then, there is no father. Then, another heartbeat. Your belly, ashen, swelled.


Your mother, whom I never meet, taps my shoulder in a dream. I am playing the cello, bow hovering, fingers arched. A fallen note. Her voice, cold breath: the time for playing has passed. Dwell.


Where have you left your shadow? In the church basement. On the top bunk. Pressed flat 
as a flower between pages. Thin as grass in a sidewalk crack. What you learn, at last, to quell,


to dissipate, disappear, to shrink, shrivel; you want to be reborn as wraith so we 
drink weak tea, eat wafers thin as skin, stretch our bony foal limbs; we fast well.


Tin twing twang. I hum country songs to keep the spirits calm in the attic of the faith healer’s house.
I drum my fingers, two-step, smug stag dance swing—but really, I am frail, thin-cast as eggshell.


When you die, there is Nothing, no childhood dog to greet you, Nothing, no sweet light, 
no harp, no halo, Nothing, there in the hollow, Nothing, no hungry heaven, no vast hell.


Above your bed, a prayer stitched in sharp squares: thanks be to God’s moon-crested crown, His axe, 
noose, and bell. Clasp your hands, sorceress, and repeat: I repent, repent, I will not cast the spell.
Monday, January 14, 2019