In the break room, he blew a smoke ring
so round and big it carried us out
of the gas station where he’d stack all the creamers
into little castles. He could touch
everything and no one would care, could run
his finger over each pop bottle until he found
just the one he wanted: Dr. Pepper or something
more nostalgic like RC Cola, could stand right
next to a gas pump with a hand rolled cigarette
in his lips. One day we both got out,
rode an exhalation. Across that great circle,
I reached for him and fell into the world
just when he wasn’t looking. He fiddled so much
with the buttons on my sweater, they broke off
in his hand. I was unloosed and choking,
I bought Marlboro Lights to spite him, kept smacking
off the last threads that tied me to the room
where he chose who I’d be: mopping the sticky floor
while he sat watching, telling me how to wear
my hair and which parts of it had gone straight.
I pretended to like Led Zeppelin because it was on
and he liked it, because it was something his father
never liked. In kinetic theory, the continual encountering
of the other makes the particle change direction. All
I ever wanted to do was study movement, be moving
beyond him. I was, a starveling, sweeping gum wrappers
into the sky. This is my chance to learn why
I always was that girl, outlining that man, outlying.
How I am a Whale Shark
I open my mouth
so round it stops looking like a mouth,
suction moving through my body so quickly
I remember being fourteen with a boy’s hand
on the back of my head, pushing me under.
Spellbound as a ship, unmoored and familiar,
I float without coming up for air. What if my face
is another’s face I wear to make you think,
not shark, but whale, majestic breathing
creature of the deep. I can’t breathe
in the way I should. Largest fish
in the ocean, I filter what’s in front
of me: mouth a circular path smaller fish
are drawn to walk, a well they fall into.
Limited evidence suggests I’m kinder
than most sharks or whales, that if you wanted
to touch me, I’d let you, that despite my size
and lack of bones I bend at the waist, will bow
to you, will carry a platter of meat on my head
and not touch one single piece. Observe the soft
of my belly, specimen made in the image
of the whale, shadow of a shark, rows
on rows of teeth dulled to nothing, so docile
you’ll want to catch me, tank me, mate me,
display me. I am hard to keep, too. Want
a bigger ocean, and not you.
On Being Named the Top Community to Live in Ohio by Money Magazine
They built the Ikea in the middle of fields.
If you go far enough past it, you’ll find
the upper Mill Creek Conservation sight
where the ash trees snake into the air,
where my husband and I sometimes walk
with our babies in strollers, feet pounding
the path made through the wetlands.
Now, when it’s cold, we go to the Ikea,
sit in the café on the second floor, up
against the large windows looking out
over the highway, over our exit
which they’ve renamed Union Centre,
swapping the R E to show
just what kind of people live
in the sprawling neighborhoods
of uniform two story mansions, what kind
of schools are tucked into the cul-de-sacs.
Our children play with the Swedish made
toy kitchen set while we watch silent, still,
mouths full of meat. Later, we buy
stainless steal pans. We do what we can
to keep our babies safe. We move to the suburbs.
We build hotels in the middle of nowhere.
Why do they keep building hotels, we ask
every time we pull off the highway, turn
towards home. I tell my children I used to live
in the city, nearer the city, could
see the lights of it from my room, had
walls so thin a train would shake them,
and then, how the night was closer, the ground
closer. I’ve lost my accent. I’ve lost
a sense of the outside as we walk the endless
Ikea aisles, following lit arrows to the warehouse
where the ceiling seems so large
it could almost be sky.