My words are twisting their hair with twisted fingers, hiding
under the floral skirts of dysfunctional mothers: the delicate
words of the delicatessen worker who doesn’t know English
but knows how to say bagel, of the elderly minister who thinks
he can speak, then realizes he cannot. I’m imagining
my audience fully clothed, wearing wool sweatervests
over striped collared shirts, black slacks and their toes
tapping to the beat of my shallow breath. A subway station
filled with the sound of one thousand and one
tiny taps. Can you see the minister’s eye watering
the flowers with vinegar? His hand spelling it?
The subway train is running late, the sign flashing the words:
“Delay in Both Directions.” Two thousand and two
tiny taps. Above ground, where the wind’s cold
against naked ankles, I feel the asphalt tremble,
stream steam through the slatted vents, making home
for the homeless. Two grey blankets, striped with exhaust,
graphite dust. I’m letting my words take off
their wet boots, wool socks, warm their cold feet
and make home on single sheets of slow-turning paper.
I’m boiling water, spelling steam until my letters open
like sweaty fists unclenching. The correspondence
between a hand and its thumb, between a turquoise ring
and its twisted mother, between a tapping toe
and rising dough.