Lice

 

 

We have seen the enemy—she on the tip

of her pencil when she scratched her head,

I, in the school nurse’s office. Now, in a sunlit

corner of the kitchen, we spread

 

the poison through her hair. I won’t tell her 

of the egg sacs, fat with young, stuck fast

to the strands, the gray nits swarming

in the down behind her ears where flesh is softest.

 

Like an executioner I lay the dead out

side by side on the counter tiles. She eyes my

little morgue. She is having second thoughts:

what about their mommies? Hush, I say.

 

At her temples the fine veins pattern in the sun.

She will be host to nothing, to no one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Notes from a Salt Flat Prisoner

 

Bonaire

 

 

On this island, love, there is nothing but black

and white—the sea’s flat back that keeps us,

bleak shards of coral honed sharp as knives

by tireless wavelets. And the salt—vast,

blinding pans for us to rake. It galls

our wrists and shins like manacles.

 

Nothing grows here but these crystals. Even

the dark seaweed swirling in the inlets

rises on spindly legs as if to swim

away. Small black lizards whisper

names of home against the dry rocks 

and we boil them for it. We are sick

 

of fish. All day the sun’s blanched eye  

seeks us, and not one rock

big enough to hide under. I am changed

by this place—like Lot’s wife

I look back, reconfigure

the purple shadows in the struts of your

 

ribs, your tongue in my mouth like pure fire.

Here there is no holy water or sin.

Each night we bathe ourselves in brine,

lie under a black collar of sky, the spume

of white salt stars, the salt white moon,

the sting of crystals blooming on our skin.

 

 

 

 

 

Crows

 

 

What is it the crows know this first real day of fall

when the sky's gone vacuous and the air thins?

They bark on the lawn in their raucous code,

 

plumage blue-black smoke of a city

smoldering. Already they have performed

their daily harassment of the owl,

 

old hunchback in his snag in the backyard oak,

have communicated the exact coordinates

of the buff-colored cat and patrolled

 

the bedraggled roses where our best dogs

are buried. They wing in from Indian mounds

down in the woods, the back pasture

 

where slaves’ headstones list in the fescue.

Last week I found a black widow fisted

and gleaming in the sandbox—scarlet hourglass

 

against black carapace—and this morning

over the bubbling of oatmeal, the low drone

of war on the television set, I felt it again:

 

that pang that comes with the changing

leaves, frail unease as the world tilts again

into winter—some forgotten drumming

 

in the marrow that should have me filling

the woodpile and rasping the axe.

The crows call in threes:

 

Watch, watch, watch. Shadows of wings,

they say, and gather the seeds.

Count the children again.