before the beginning
Infinity stands in 8 familiar positions
facing the sun and one prayer:
please find all my oranges.
I last saw them asleep on a sailboat
peeling their skins in the sun.
When I turned to leave they said,
Watch for monsters. You’re safe
in our laps, in the sun. I couldn’t stay.
I followed the milkweed to shore
to the islands. I didn’t want winter
to find me. The milkweed,
they whispered, are dead spider souls
making their way to the sun.
A procession. Lila. Monks
Sins: just missing
the marks. How did we get (anything and)
to this point We rode here.
Past that field past the field
of right and wrongdoing to this
field. The one with the de-
robed monks. The field
with two young sisters
Lila and Jennifer
a blonde and curly summer winding down
It’s almost there she said and softly stayed
a word that spilled and sounded as it should
We pushed a wooden wheel through fields of hay
and halos silos balancing
a mood and unused toboggan in my arms
I like your shoes she said.
But the day did not stop. The sun had
just paused reminding us to re-assess our accumulation
of life particularly in the form of
footwear, hoses (coiled on the porch
serpentine, re-generative Norse
slithering, demon) undergarments. Locks
of hair, un-hemmed threads wrapped around our fingers
(so we didn’t forget) “The hose is expanding!” Jenny cried
“There are tufts of milkweed in my eyes! I can’t find my lifeline!
Did I already die?” No water. We lay in the field and tried to imagine
dead. “There couldn’t be darkness,” Lila said. “There would be no
space for it to exist in. Imagine
Mine is a plastic spool
without the thread.
Someone unwound the thread
and used it to make a trail while
wandering to the ends of the universe.
But since the universe has no ends,
the thread ran out and whoever it was
who’d been looking for the edges
became horribly lost.
in the desert
in a bucket
A tiny spider
tossed in the ocean
The artifact that isn’t there:
Mom sold her rocking chair and left for the Cayman
Islands two days before Easter Sunday.
Tumbling! In the Easter grass
She melted our crayons in the sun. A chocolate bu-
unny. “Ice the lamb cake,” she said.
Grab the devil by the horns and ride
The elusive flutter
of Gabriel’s wings
(graspable, too) and imagine!
What makes the more accomplished
life: to have never ridden never fell, or to re-
rise triumphantly from below (thighs squeezing
the juice) on the devil’s back,
bloody red horns grasped. A conquistador!
Michael’s dirty feathers stuck between
your teeth. (He’s in a heap!) To wrest with one
is to wrest with the whole familiar
congregation. You know the posse rides
like that, together like that. Protecting and sinking
Who else did Daddy kill
on the hills in Fu Bai How many
women did he rape along the path
to My Lai Sick with Malaria.
Malaria. Malaria. Aiming his gun
at the sun. “I really stepped on my dick
this time Sarge,” G said. Daddy carried G back
They left his legs behind. “I fear we’ll never find
my oranges now,” G gargled the rain.
“I’m sorry,” I told Jenny when I left that day.
“I have to find the man who stole my thread. You
have to stay with Daddy.”
“I don’t think it was a man,” Jenny said. “I think
Mom took it with her.”
She runs to Grandma and asks to trace the scar.
Grandma lifts her blouse, allows Jen to poke the place
where her breast once rested above the navel.
“Don’t forget the songs your Mother played
on the high keys of the piano.”
The moon fell behind the mountains
and G hugged a stick of butter. “It feels
like being hugged by Jesus,” he said.
“If I make it back to Jackson County,
I’m becoming a crossing guard. Melt the butter
around me before I die, Sarge.”
Lila finds her father in the park, teeing off inside a sandbox.
She drags him back. “This is home,” she says.
He follows her to the kitchen and waits as she stains the bread
yellow with mustard. “You’re old,”
she says. “Disguised by the sun.”
Daddy falls, embraces her legs, embraces her knees.
“Mom ruined my crayons!” Jenny cries.
Daddy spits out wet bread.
“I hope that cunt dies of cancer,” he says.
But Mom doesn’t die. She continues
to melt the primary colors. The chocolate
bunnies. The paper airplanes. Miniature brass
clippings. We didn’t know felt melted.
Keep it moving, the crossing guard says.
He motions with the windmill
in his hand (a whistle in his mouth so we do not pause
to wave at the passengers in the cars.) Keep it moving.
Daddy pulls a toolbox from the garage and heaves it towards the Jeep in the driveway crushing ants into unrecognizable ink.
At the tire’s edge he selects a wrench, changes his mind, removes a hammer
lifts his arms (the maker of a first great tool!)
He tries his courage
against the rubber beast.
Lila pulls Jenny in a wagon through the field
until they come to an orange tree at the edge of the highway.
Dad has promised a dime for every orange truck
they count while Mom is away. They keep a tally
on a piece of cardboard, stuck to the wagon with gum.
8, says Jen, but she writes it on its side.
Infinity, says Lila. That’s at least a million dollars.
This could go on forever if Mom never comes back.
What happens if we’re right about Mom’s permanent flight, and she never comes home again? Then we’re left with two possibilities: 1) We don’t wait, and we get on with our lives, losing nothing more than the original loss (0). Or, 2) We wait, and we’re left waiting under this tree forever, and we rot away into the dirt, waiting, and we become orange tree fertilizer, waiting, then oranges, waiting, then maggots and who knows what else. It keeps going. Outcome: negative infinity.
½ a chance of us not waiting and mom never comes back:
½ x 0 = 0
½ a chance of us waiting forever and mom never comes back:
½ x -∞ = -∞
A negative infinity? Jenny tilts her head.
I don’t like it either, Lila says.
Don’t leave my lap.
We watch the sky
peeling the skins off our oranges
We set sail on paper boats.
Are we going to the ocean? Jenny asks.
Yes, Lila says. Everything goes to the ocean.
We’re going to probably maybe pass Mom on the way?
Don’t talk about Mom anymore, okay?
Jenny considers this. Sometimes I can’t help it. My head says I hate God.
Don’t worry, Lila tells her. God doesn’t get offended. I can’t sail anymore. I have to do my homework now.
Why do you have to do that?
To stay in 99th percentile.
I don’t really know, but Dad likes it when I’m there.
Jenny pulls a finger-puppet over her index finger. Why aren’t you in the 100th percentile?
It’s impossible, Lila tells her, for anyone to be there.
Jenny scrunches her face and tilts her head But it’s better, the finger puppet says.
The monks tell us this:
It’s hard to play with a zero denominator.
Mathematicians don’t like to do it. “The answer comes so close to zero… and never reaches it!”
one is infinitely receptive
││ an absence
a hollow bamboo ││
(a hollow bunny breaks
at its limits too. )
The crossing guard
shuffles. Polypropylene limbs.
(He thought he was born
in Bethlehem. He was
born in Biloxi.) We scattered his ashes
in Tulsa. A regenerative compromise.
The segments might have grown back into
windmills and stop signs if he’d only let us chop
him up, but
He must have been at peace with death, yet still
so unsure of his timely appearance and
“Oh come on,” he’d said
challenging the gun. “I already exist
in all possible worlds. Shoot me you fucking
gook.” But the gook didn’t shoot.
G tripped on a line
and Daddy ciphered the pulp
out of all natural causes.
We know even nectar
so we run through the plain
in approximate ellipticals
squishing the soggy grass over the same
places over again until
we drill a hole
through the center
to the other side where we find
Ø a null set.
A field that
was never there. The whole set:
these phantom stop signs
tufts of hair, chambered
nautical shells, Salerno butter
cookies, the center of the tire where
the oranges have become orange
orange Julius how terrible this
collection of numbers, this cold-hearted cluster
of real integers
all in a set that doesn’t exist.
(our fingers bulge deep pink
except where we poke them jaundice
above the threads)
your hair is so soft
The high keys
are so countable.