| May 2012
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I read yesterday in the news that
as early as a year from now,
and just for a couple of weeks,
there could be two suns in the sky.
A star is going to explode and they don’t know when,
but it could be soon!
We could use two suns.
Imagine the things that would not happen
If there were two suns in the sky.
Weeks without dark; imagine the things people wouldn’t say
to each other under two suns.
Imagine the awe.
We could use the distraction, I think.
When I was a kid, watching from the table that winter morning my father
threw my brother up against the glass door by his throat,
I think I had a bite of cereal in my mouth. Did I swallow it?
I didn’t do anything.
There will be other fathers and other sons, and if this star decides to explode
I think they might be different for a little while.
People will gather outside. Work will be suspended, and men will not have time
to lay hands on their sons or their daughters.
They’ll walk with them and they’ll feel changed.
They’ll try their best to answer their children’s feverish questions,
to remember the thrilling phrasings
of the scientists, and patiently, and feeling like important harbingers
of knowledge bigger than anything they’ve known in their tired and dusty lives,
they’ll try to explain what they can about this sudden and strange new
blanket of light.
Not an Elephant
Yesterday in Jack Kerouac Alley, you laughed at me for taking pictures
because we’re no tourists.
When you’re old, you may want these snapshots:
you coming out of the bookstore to lean for a moment against a blue-washed
wall, your sunbleached smirk and those kaleidoscope murals
telling revolutionary tales to pasta-stuffed trolley enthusiasts.
Daytime North Beach is a summer lightning storm,
heavy with color and the ghosts of poets who didn’t mind
taking up a seat made of concrete. When that very old man
came into Vesuvio, well-dressed, spit-shouting “I’m not an elephant!
I’m not an animal! I’m a human being!” he was greeted
with long hugs and free orange juice by the barkeeps.
We wondered to each other who he was, decided that, yes,
he must be someone.
I’ll keep the pictures.
I’ll look at them and remember that day,
because when I went upstairs to use the bathroom I peeped
down through the window and caught that old man
walking away down the alley in his tailored suit,
hands in his pockets, not stumbling,
just this very slow and careful side of kilter.
I thought that when he hit Grant Avenue he might just disappear,
but I was a little drunk you know,
and I’ll keep the pictures if you don’t mind, because for a second
all of this felt like a very long time ago.
Up north of the city, my dad and I
gather piles of weeds we’ve cut, and load
them into the compost bin. Everywhere
under our feet, olives, hard black beads glinting in the sun.
Up here it’s all yard and air and cold, and the neighbors
noting how fast the latest car drove up the road.
At night you can see the whole sky.
Dad says nobody wants the olives
because they take so long to cure.
They ripen and rot slowly in the cold.
I want them;
and I want to be a person
who cures them,
but I know I won’t. That’s someone different,
or a later me, because now
the wind has wound
its way through the gaps in my scarf and
I’ve already grown
impatient to get back to the city.
Friday night means uncles and card games, a haze of cigarette
smoke in the living room, and she the center,
the warm and surrounded, lifting a finger wordless
like a baby to touch the smooth sky-colored stone that hangs
from Mama’s neck.
In the kitchen, she drinks from the bottle with the brown,
the one that makes her bedroom spin like a ferris wheel
when she closes her eyes.
Daddy in the Pen,
they say, about her sometimes at school, Daddy in the Pen, and so she has taken
to collecting them, swiping ones left unguarded by her classmates, to put
in an old cigar box she keeps under her bed.
Things you keep in boxes under your bed are—
She was going to think, things you keep in boxes under your bed
are things that can save your life,
but she doesn’t think that.
Teacher says pens you can use to write with, but not the difficult things,
because you can’t erase.
She writes the difficult things
and when too much jumbled black and blue mess makes her brain feel
itchy, she tears
the paper and swallows it in tiny pieces,
which is a kind of erasing.
Mama’s bones jut sharp into her own bones, but she’ll stay
on her lap until she is asked not to.
Then, she’ll get into her bed with the door open and use her pens
in the half-light, to write down the way grown men sound
when they laugh.
Melissa Chandler, 32, lives in Russian Hill, but used to fetch Noe residents their morning fixes at the Noe Valley Bakery on 24th Street. Her work can be seen most recently in the Bellevue Literary Review and at TheHairpin.com. She’s also working on a novel.