When he asked for my hand,
I grew sunflowers in each palm.
He said he would have and hold them,
and he did, so gentle that not
a single fragile petal fell.
He held my fingertips, and my nails
became snail shells. He let them
creep over his knuckles.
He thought I was caressing him. He said,
“Just put your arms around me,”
but my arms were branches. My hair
grew long and draped his chest
in great swaths of Spanish moss,
but still he would have me.
He would have me.
My eyes became cardinals’ wings
when he gazed at me, asking nothing but
the brush of my lips, a black and white butterfly.
For Our Daughter, Should She Ask How She Was Made
You were not conceived in Italy,
though once, in Florence, in clear moonlight,
your father came to me,
my mind so full of art and love, slowly
it spilled into my body, a holy rite.
I could conceive of perfection in Italy,
a child of marble, made wholly
of passion and memory—not you, bright
girl. You might have come to me
at home, the first day in the empty
apartment—bare walls, bare floors, and light
from west-facing windows. In Italy
it was autumn, but here still summer. We
felt a true homecoming, and how right
it would be if you had come to me
then, a yellow-haired child with his easy
smile. I imagined but never got it right.
I conceived of nothing new in Italy.
I don’t know how you came to me.
On the porch with my old dog at sunrise,
I gaze east where trees obscure the sun,
and a bank of altocumulus clouds
glows with an unbelievable radiance,
like the white-gold fire of a raku kiln
ready to pull, and, for a moment,
I remember how it felt
to believe in heaven.
The sun shifts, the clouds turn gray
and white with a little rose—pretty but
no longer transcendent. The birds appear.
I count my losses, sing my own praise song
for the clouds, the sun, the door facing east,
the dog who won’t live another year,
the awe-inspiring physics of light