This train goes south along the Hudson. You should sit on the right-hand side of the train, that way you see the river. Grab a window seat. It’s alright if someone sits next to you. Just act like you’re really doing them a favor if that happens. I’m in a long-distance relationship; I know how to ride the train. I wear the same sundress every ride. It’s blue, and I’m elegant like a little elf. I love the ride home to Brooklyn. I love goodbye: Matthew waves like a boob from the platform, and I have the luxury of getting smaller and smaller, until I vanish. Every goodbye should be that fun. Your aunts and uncles shrinking until they’re long gone, having a ball. When you want to say hello, you grow like an azalea, out of nowhere. Growing and shrinking out of lives like it’s a habit.
Carlisle is certain of the robbery. Burglary. Theft. He will look up the distinctions later. He thinks that burglary might have to do with breaking and entering, robbery with holding someone up, and theft with—what? Maybe it was taking something against no resistance, like a chocolate-covered peanut from the bin in the grocery, or the dirty pair of earbuds he found the week before, draped over a low-hanging tree branch.
The year I had Novi felt like it must have been the first year when all the women in Los Angeles adopted Christian Science attitudes toward birthing. Not Scientology, mind you—I had spent years getting the two cults or sects or whatever confused. But the one that now was creeping into the thought of dabbling Buddhists, well-educated ethical humanists, and atheists with children who attend Unitarian churches. The one that found divine beauty in kids with scarlet fever and otherwise eradicated diseases. Every other pregnant woman I encountered whispered and spit about interventions, and all of them had a birth-plan. My grandma would have said they were looking the gift horse of western medicine in the mouth, yanking on those perfectly good teeth without even a squirt of novocaine.
“Sergio,” Dean Kippler said, “I’d like you and Dr. Sanchez to head up the trip to Spain this summer.” No small talk. No ‘how you doing?’ Just an announcement phrased as a request. I knew what he was thinking. My selection made perfect sense. After all, I was the university’s only European History professor. However, if he had looked at me, he would have seen that this was not the same as telling me to teach a course outside of my specialization; this was not drafting me to chair a committee that was a colossal waste of my time. He might as well have asked me to walk a bed of hot coals.
The oblong mirror mocks my reddish cape,
the gray hair lying neatly butchered on it.
The tidy barber, a pudgy guy, now shapes
each inch, or so it seems from where I sit.
Some people want to make something creepy
out of ventriloquists, as if their occupation
could legitimately be accosted, whereas funeral
directors get a pass, perhaps because the very
same people who speak ill of the honest thrower
or effort at display
or notice of me except
as I make shadow and motion,
a spider hangs below the soap bar.
The butterfly lands on my hand in an attempt
of curious deconstruction. I stand perfectly still as it explores
my wrist, climbs up my arm curiously, seeking
the source of attraction, some hormonal secretion
or new deodorant that smells like butterfly love.
alone among these houses
empty as summer schoolrooms;
as any fast-abandoned place,
this one by chance or luck
left overlooked for us, cramped
dark, and narrow, filled to overflow
with alabaster oil jars, centuries
dry, tipped sideways and discarded
among overturned furniture;
chisel-marks on unfinished stone:
as if they had forgotten something
small, and easily misplaced
as if they were called, suddenly, away –
Ladders, a small crane,
a wealth of power tools,
on one side
and a tree on the other.
The winner is clear
from the first buzz of a chainsaw.