Urban Motherhood

A boa constrictor dangles from a lamppost neck.
People gather—not right underneath.
Hands raised as if in prayer take pictures.
A wise guy yells, “Jump!” Aunt Susie
steps forward. “Don’t talk to her that way.
That’s a loved reptile. I can tell. I’m a cat person.”
“I can tell that you’re a cat person,” he says.
She hisses at him, hand a claw scratching the air.

With slow, measured steps toward the snake,
she educates the crowd. “Snakes are escape artists.
Any crack will do. Even zoos lose them.”
The w.g.: “A cockroach died in my winter boots.
You should’ve dropped by and talked it out.”
She doesn’t look back. “It’s amazing how emptiness,
containing all the death that’s ever been,
can fit inside a head the size of a walnut.”

The w.g., pointing at his own head, “You better not be
talking about this,” moves no closer,
for she’s directly under the snake now,
fingers beckoning to it. “It’s okay, baby.
They’re only the chorus. You’re the star.
Come down to Aunt Susie.” Neither hunter nor hunted,
Susie is something mere appetite can’t contain.

On NYC local news, a streaming reporter:
“Modern Eve doesn’t need an Adam.
She can charm the urban beast out of the tree.”
The camera cuts to a bright street corner,
scaffolding shadow clawing at its edge.
Aunt Susie cradles the sleeping serpent in her arms.
The reporter: “Where do you get your courage?”
Susie smiles. “What’s so dangerous about love?”

News of the Missing World War II Flight Officer Comes Home to His Brother

You were happier dying up in the air,
I told myself for sixty-two years.
Please don’t let him have drowned,
I now say to nothing and no one.

Shrunken boots, cracked compass, rusted Zippo lighter.
Where are your peeling ankles and big-knuckled hands?
Your aggressively sprung uncombable hair?
If our sister were still here, she’d say spirits
only return for love. Our sister
believed in other worlds.

We battled with elbows up and down hills
to the metal bridge over the river.
I jumped. You, recklessly, dove.
The water dropped us quick, cold, and deep.
We came up wiggling eels toward the light.

When I thought you had disappeared midair,
I kept you beclouded in my mind,
your plane gently disappearing
piece by jigsaw piece.
Now that I know you sat rusting on the ocean floor,
I’m waiting here for you to tell me
the secrets of another world.

View from the Other World

My bladder stone loomed too large to pass.
The urologist said blast it with a laser.
I wasn’t looking forward to it. He was.
“It’s where the fun is.” His athletically-
trim-in-blue-scrubs self straightened up
out of its distracted slouch. “I snake the wire in,
aim on the screen and shoot. I never miss.”
He’d hunt in a world called me.

Coming out of the anesthesia in the hospital,
I muttered long remembered sonnets,
as if the self were one long sentence
I could gather back together word by word.
A nurse asked me how I felt.
“Here and not here.”
She brought me graham crackers and apple juice.

The catheter I left with had to stay in
twenty-four hours. Not more painful
than passing a stone, but more traumatic:
a snake had been force fed another snake
that attacked from within.

I limped baby-steps into the uro’s office,
braced for pain. He snapped the catheter out
like a lion tamer’s whip. Only relief.
The other side of the hunt felt like an accomplishment.
“If you don’t urinate in a couple of hours, I’ll reinsert it.”
He peeled off his gloves and tracked
each toss into a pail across the room.