Annette Oxindine’s poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Willow Springs, Shenandoah, Crab Creek Review, Gulf Coast, Painted Bride Quarterly, Waccamaw, RHINO Poetry, Winter Tangerine Review, and elsewhere. Originally from Maryland, she lives in Ohio and teaches literature at Wright State University.
To call you mother is to set sail
in a quarry, so I head for the ocean.
I made an X for you on an archway
in Madrid, then headed north, away
from the baking of every last thing.
If an ancestor had put flowers here, or here,
in a jar on a windowsill, or carried them, limp,
to Our Lady of Suffering to fall forward
in a pitted urn dark with water splash,
I would have made, in my mouth, a reliquary
of each day’s salt.
Instead I taste the end, again, of rain;
hear the drowned music of silt and clay,
the Thames’s whittle of rusted keys
and pilgrims’ bones; nurse my crooked love
of want-worn cloth and time-worn stone,
names moss-mottled and weathered
to wonder, shadowed by sky glass,
marking the absence of even the rot,
God, more or less beside the point,
but everywhere. Anywhere you
might have been cannot now matter
more than a slice of moon on black water
or the banishment I have made of my body,
A soprano’s voice drowns out sounds
of love. Or murder. It’s that kind of place,
the weak sun straining through shut slats,
scoring your bare back. Operatically,
I wonder, Who will tie whom to the tree, my love,
whose flames lick clean our heresy? Sotto voce,
you tell the cupped receiver, Sorry, dear,
you’ll have to start without me.
It’s a clean cut, the red-line artery
on the metro map. Shady Grove may as well be
Moscow. Home, now, is the hollowed-out space
you have made at the base of my spine.
Dimmed theater lights pool like velvet rain
in your black hair, the four of us, together again.
From two seats away, I feel your throat
constrict as Gabriel insists to the swirling snow,
Better pass boldly into that other world,
in the full glory of some passion . . .
Soon there is snow all over Washington, your scent
fading faintly, faintly fading from my scarf. I leave out
matchbooks that incriminate, chain smoke in the dark,
run the empty dishwasher for the water’s low pounding crash.
Cascades of cherry blossoms mock us as we move
salad around on our plates. We take in their ultimatums
like the spinach and egg we spear with our forks,
as though we know what’s good for us:
Not pine trees combusting in the forest,
not the heretic sizzle and crack.
But what believers behold in resin
saints, the holiness after the rack.
Rx: Anti-Anxiety Visualizations
I conjure children on a frozen lake
just to see them safely home.
But there’s always one
who heads first
down basement stairs
to get his father’s gun.
Unloads because he is afraid.
Reloads because he is afraid.
At night, the thump, thump, the wall,
the well he wished
he’d thrown it down.
What has yet to turn
to heap of bone lies crumpled
in a slit of sun. I banish
the malign with a deft mouse,
a loose brick, old tabby
off her game. I left the last
mumbling grace over dry
pot roast. Now her eyes
dart; she pours lime silt,
sparkling, into the black.
I see a spray of red
frills of carnation
pinned to her blue party dress.