Even at night
the heat comes down from the sky
up from the earth at the same time
to meet in the middle, chest height,
all parts of the body melting into
the center: the heart: beating thickly:
cicadas in the pecan trees, aloe vera,
lush palms and roses tangled in your hair
as you walk by, and by, and
by the bungalows, the trucks strung with
lit bulbs, round and warm,
by the broken glass shimmering in the gutter,
by the sidewalk tabletops, by the roses,
the palms, the roses strong enough to
follow you through the gate,
your heart: beating: submerged
into a pool surrounded by roses,
this middle place between two heats,
your skin like the surface of that still
pool at night: there is a layer that
holds for a moment against penetration
when you dip a hand into that wet
green, lit from beneath, looking for
I have never been to New Mexico
red desert wide, skies high
above the mesa, the plains, soft
dusted cliffs, a black bird
flying miles away.
Consider: rock shale: arroyo:
names of things meant to evoke
dryness and height,
the image of a cracked white
skull nesting near a riverbed that
sees rain once a season.
I learn its strange geology:
Paleozoic and Mesozoic,
layers of minerals colored like
blood and oranges, pressed down,
and down and carved by wind
into mesas and columns where
palomino clouds compete for
I am interested in time.
I want to know how things
change, in the desert.
And I place stars on my ceiling;
with small globs of putty
I build constellations for you
the subject of my affection
to better understand what you see
when you close your eyes,
mine open in the dark,
both seeking something no
longer in front of us, the stars
not real except in the meaning
we care give them: recall a moonless
night in Galisteo, the wind warm
on your bare child skin: recall
stars in the river reflection,
pines, palms, an ocean in the
dark, my memories
now, yours too.
For my little brother
I am teaching you to wash your hands
with foam soap: the special kind that smells
pink and sweet and froths from the nozzle
in airy peaks, a merengue on our small palms.
I am eight, you maybe four.
I have shut the bathroom door and
this makes your shrieks louder when
you laugh at the endless slurps of soap
growing bigger in the sink—
we imagine it overtaking us, filling
the room until we are suspended in it,
sounds muted, the rosy froth buoying
us up, hold us together inside.
I am a cruel sister to you, bitter
with my suspicions: they love you
more than me.
I take every opportunity to
make you cry.
When my mother tells me fifteen
years later about the child she lost
after me—I always wanted you
to have a sister, she said—I knew it was true:
love is not undiscerning.
I do not know why, that day,
I decided to be kind.
It made you so happy to wash
your hands with me.
I wish many things about
our childhood but the most
is that you knew how much
I loved you. I tried so hard to
convince you otherwise.
Is it unfair to blame a ghost
I never knew was there,
a filmy web between us?
It is a relief to have something
to blame. I should not
In the bathroom you could not
reach the sink—I had to take the soap
bottle down for you.
It was afternoon, summertime.
The sun a ripe tangerine low and
heavy in the sky.
I could hear our mother calling
dinner on the stove.
But I kept the door closed
a little longer.
Everything we both wanted
was inside, right there,
there is little wind tonight
brush of cars
enough though to make the wind