My neighbor brings a giant crane the day
California shelter begins. Drops down a storage shed
And for days there is buzzing, and sawing, and screwing.
Bees hop in and out of the poppies; there’s cold wind
Some days in the lemon trees and other days the train
Braids hum with the freeway freight trucks.
I scrub my heels with a blue egg. Tar coats my feet
With tiny black balls, my hair comes clean with a whoosh
Of banana shampoo and lavender oil. You would think
Each day might become more credible, the shed growing
Eaves, the foot finally letting loose its ocean muck. But in the
Morning it’s again, the same avocado orchards visible
Stepping the mountain, the dying jasmine, the fretful gnats,
I clean my teeth, pare a fingernail, keep time the smash of grief.
The cardiologist tells me his father is home from surgery. He can’t sleep, I can’t sleep, it’s humid and still and Italy is far away. I’ve got my hands wrapped around a passed instant, he had bit my neck like I was a horse and all went still, I was put into creamery bowls of silence, Roman stone heaving through the walls, his diagram of the heart on a bookshelf, a sporting racket on the floor. I teach him words: avidity, trumpet flower, tempestuous. He walks me to F hospital on a tiny island, points to the cathedral where his parents married, laughs at the Italian I choose for cup. The artichokes are in season. They are closing the Swiss border. The cardiologist is not concerned: Wash your hands, he says. Each night birds scream over the botanical grounds. I hear them from bed, turn like a cold envelope one way, then differently, then each toe finding a hot garden, each careful safeness landsliding away.
*This title comes from George Eliot’s Middlemarch.