In the past we wore stiff linens

by a contributor

Rebecca Hanssens-Reed

We must invent a new language to discuss the nature of change,
and perhaps wear a uniform as strict as the passing of time, made of stiff linens.
I will pass the perfect sounds around like a loving cup,
like contagious giggling, a bubbling of guffaws and snorting,
clicking tongues and gnashing dentures, tearing eyes –
I need someone to install a light well in my chest. I’m not ready.
As I discuss the nature of change the skin of my eyes very slowly shifts in color,
my hairs turn grey, long, thick blades of grass curl around my ankles,
bees swarm around my wrists and one by one drop to the earth,
the sunset behind me grows a deep purple.
In the background, a kookaburra chants its haunting melody,
becomes a hummingbird, flies backwards.
It is not in my nature to meditate on death, only to fear it.
Today was white and silent. The continent of your birthmark stares
plainly at me as you stand abashedly before the mirror.
Your pale skin murmurs, soft and shallow like a lake.
Listen: the sharp harmony of all the love notes I ripped up
when we were fighting.
And the peach tree in our backyard has given up, twisted itself in spindly stitches.
We greedily watched it growing, little peaches swelling,
stretched our eager white arms to point at the ones we would bite into first.
We were too full of lust,
like an overly ambitious novel (i’m looking at you, DFW).
Now look down, clenched in your soft palm, your grandmother’s locket
containing a photo so old some chemicals have seeped out, glued itself to the frame –
Remember your grandmother’s eyes that were tired and full of skin,
over the gray noise of the television she said: men are shit.
You inherited her eyes and her bitterness. But you swear
she would never wait as eagerly as you do for the peaches.
It makes you never want to get out of bed again (I haven’t yet).
I am eating bread that I am well aware has mould on it.
But today I did the coffee just right
and I’m finally letting my hair go wild.
We share everything to the point that it is tragic. There is a field
of sunflowers growing inside me,
and you and I were dancing like bees that found the richest pollen
in the flowers of ourselves.
Tonight is tart and chewy like a black olive.
The cold change hasn’t come through yet.
Install a light well in my chest. I’m ready.

Rebecca is a writer and translator whose work can be found in Dressing Room Poetry Journal, The Saint Ann’s Review and The Reader. She is currently at work on a translation of Jorge Ángel Pérez’s book of short stories, They’re Not So Elegant in Havana. She works at an organic bakery and is successfully growing her first tomato plant in Northampton, MA.

See more poetry from Rebecca tomorrow.