I served salmon with capers and lemon zest,
little buds in pollen butter,
pink and blossoming apart on the dish
just as I imagined
though slightly overdone
(he wasn’t quite on time).
I was thinking
buds dodging raindrops,
that he was late,
and that thing at work,
and work all weekend.
Buds and just
spring and all. [Williams]
I recited May for him,
and he liked it except
the bulbous bees and dead Mayflies. [Komunyakaa]
And we went for a walk
because I promised, You’ll see,
it’s all budding again.
And I wanted to do
what spring does with the cherry trees. [Neruda]
But, I could see he didn’t want to.
it was nothing but failure,
the bouquet spitting its pollen already,
though I cut the stems slant under water
and used the packet of flower food.
No buddy, you didn’t do it.
but damn the just a day
busting in heavy,
serving its promises each year.
Most buds burst into pollen before long,
only a few fertilize a new plant.
Overdone day, we mark time with it,
a notch on a club.
Tomorrow, he will sprinkle pollen
in my hair like a summer bumblebee.
Today, the anniversary
of maybe, but, almost.
from a place I have not been,
Venir: Come. last gift
from a lover I never had.
red dog roses on her blue apron,
call it cerulean, though it is ice.
gilded petals do not quite
find their line across the crevice
where the doll twists open to
a sequence of five identical but smaller dolls.
the lathe’s grooves rap the interior of each
where the air smells of sawdust,
soft linden wood, aniline dye.
five enraptured lacquered smiles,
if only the smallest within me
fit so well. if I folded so comfortably
into myself, folded so small
I could be packed in a suitcase
like a memory. remember: do not
trace the fold of shirt over bicep.
to cut a perfect heart, fold the paper,
half it. quartered to fit in my husband’s
shirt drawer. I blunder with
the folds he learned
at a military academy,
and he does the laundry
each Sunday to give me the day.
and I give him little perhaps
but my love for this other.
doll within a doll within,
could each size of me love another,
and his smile be the same?
no, the jostle inside a suitcase
paled the paint from the tiniest doll face
where my skin feels creased against my eyes.
no, he’s never asked for a smile
or a perfectly folded shirt.
how to explain, say sorry?
with all the words within words?
Remember – ember – cerulean
and lean rule, rap of
enraptured and red lacquered
smile, dent but identical,
it of military and suitcase,
ice to sacrifice and bicep,
another, not her,
ear of the heart,
under the blunder,
yes of the eyes,
sorry, so, or,
Forget your shoulder, he says,
the wrist and hand already know how to do it,
How can I practice forgetting?
My dance teacher once told me,
Stop looking at your feet,
you won’t leave them behind.
My feet know the tombé pas-de-bourré,
standard three-step preparation for a leap.
Feet know how to gather
themselves, catch the fall,
but I learned to stop
looking for them, never forgot.
Approach but don’t touch the water,
he suggests, and his casting draws a parabola
in the air around him, an asymptote
lies on the water before and after,
like two lovers I may approach
to infinity but never reach.
What to learn? How to forget him,
and the ripples from my last bad cast
unhooking themselves from the surface.
At the first swing, I knew my hand
could never forget the reel,
line, tangle, bow.
He pulls them in,
water pearls on the line
strung through mouth and gills.
I catch only one fish on the fly,
sequined, hook curving nonchalant
as a cigarette
Should I throw him back?
He tells me, Keep him or forget him,
if you like.
tosses a grapefruit to me.
I get out two bowls, sugar, a knife.
No sugar. No halves. Gouge in with
fingernails, hit pulp with the first dig.
She tears back the rind.
The scraps curl on the countertop.
No bowl. Love the mess of it.
Gets down to the talcum pith.
Do not eat the bitters,
so easily stripped away.
Separates each section,
eases them open,
arcs them into crescents,
tears the pulp out with her teeth.
Juice streams down her face, forearms,
as she leans over a tangle of pulp
yellow zest, white albedo,
once held together.
Sometimes she has seemed to section
us all by hand.
But she is not thinking of my father,
or how soon I’m leaving.
I think she tastes each drip of pulp,
each with its own burst,
drenching her mouth.
Rinse the stick, but don't forget,
the scent of citrus grove tucked
beneath your nails all afternoon.
in the steaming gardens of Ginkakuji
Kyoto, preserved on the list
that fell elsewhere.*
He was on two-week leave
from soldiering in South Japan.
I was a tourist. Love led us
for two weeks through moss,
clapping small green-haired hands
for the stomp of cool feet.
We were transplants, too large there,
but we learned to step lightly
together for a ways. I stopped
following, took a job
a continent away. The nights
grew cold as their numbers fell.
He took my feet between
his moist-haired legs
to warm them.
I bought bonsai at a Japanese
Tea Garden. Not for the stunted pine,
pruned roots and limbs, but for the moss
he must water daily when I’m gone.
We who refuse
to follow love, for whom love
was never enough, give gifts
that must be cared for.
* Kyoto’s many temples and ancient moss and rock gardens were preserved from the U.S. bombings that destroyed other Japanese cities, not due to its cultural significance, but because it was the original choice of the Manhattan Project’s “Target Committee.” The committee was advised that given the Air Force’s rate of attacks, “it is expected to complete strategic bombing of Japan by 1 Jan 46 so availability of future [A-bomb] targets will be a problem.” Kyoto was therefore removed from the Air Force list of general targets. Committee testimony is quoted by Bernstein in “Atomic Bombings Reconsidered,” Foreign Affairs, Jan/Feb 1995.
CARRIE JEAN PRESTON teaches literature and women's studies at Boston University. Her chapbook “Lake Effect 8” was published by Paper Airplane Press (2003), and the poems appearing in LOCUSPOINT are from her new manuscript “Airfoils.”