They say the best lies have bits of truth.
When my parents asked me the name
of my new friend, I told them “Laura”
because she is a friend, and of course
you are not Laura, but my throat
tightened when I went to say your name,
and I feared that they would know
by the light in my eyes and the smile
curving at my lips without my knowledge,
and the flush in my cheeks,
this most profound name
which I must protect.
He keeps us in
his dirty drawers
like little bits
You never know
what you’ll find
among glass and
She’d break a plate
but then fashion a mosaic
out of the shards.
I carry the memory on my keychain, itself a silver weight
around my wrist. It dangles next to the key my parents gave me,
suggesting, always, a safer shelter, one I stumbled back to after
those long weekends. Still, as they promised, God is everywhere
once He is in your heart; maybe that is why it ached there.
So, on my chain, dull from resting in my dark purse, the two
keys rattle against one another, reminding me of failures,
of a hundred lies to cover up my visits to the other house.
Here I am again, navigating the street in a slow patrol.
I meant to drive past with a quick glance; but then,
I tend to linger here.
Chimney swifts glide up from the roof, then down
as if considering departure, but each follow
some leader back. Their circles do not end.
The waning moon reflects off a splintered wine glass
that peeks up from the weeds. A car honks behind me;
I turn and park in the abandoned lot next door.
Across the street, some new resident has moved in,
but surely they have seen me here before.
Surely they remember my pale frame, limping
across the street. This place remembers me, at least,
for its familiar shadows stretch to hide me, even now.
Can I inch closer, closer towards the door?
The shadows and I, we wait together,
and shrink in the shade of the oak—
hovering forever on the brink between here and there.
The door creaks open; a grey-haired woman peers out.
She cannot know my finger sketches circles on the stone.
Is it irrevocable? Can I really not turn the key
that weighs down my chain? Can I not retrieve each piece
of glass from the yard, the earring I left on the bookcase,
every echo of myself still resonating there?
If only it could slip from my memory, forgotten
as a dream is forgotten. I scrape the slabs on the wall,
and wish I could erase them. I wish that I could take it all
out, brick by brick. I wish I were not like the chimney swifts
soaring away, then spiraling back down again.
the one who shares his bed with me
whispers German in his sleep,
and first it startled me awake—
but now reminds me of my father
reading aloud from his torn-up
German Bible; while cleaning house,
they all turn up the TV
and sing at the top of their lungs
like my sisters; sometimes
they sit around the piano
and play the tunes on the radio
like when I drove the streets
of my old home for the last time,
the songs my brother strummed
on his guitar though perhaps
he still does; and the one who shares
his bed with me doesn’t raise his voice
like my mother when he lectures,
and he tells me
that he loves me before we hang up
the phone like they all did;
even the door squeaking open
when he comes home from work,
and soon after the cork popping
out of the wine bottle;
even the glass shattering
on the floor after too many
and our hands can’t grasp
the edges any longer;
even the muttered threats—
“You will not leave, you must not—”