Visitor

Dreaming awake in the night blackened wet fields,
the aroma of grape blossoms and jasmine,
small shuffling sounds of fawns in the woods.
I run my hand along the slippery grass
and ghostly shadows from the tennis court
that is near and leaking white light above
the soft echo of the ball tossed back
and forth. They have to keep low
to the ground, to keep the sound
going like this for a very long time.
Athleticism and resonating nature.
It happens like this every night.
That serenading, that memory.
That asking of would you like to live
somewhere within the world again
and all that water, all that clay—
the roots and the grains.

***

Closing The Door

My life was euphoric and lonely at once, and so what
to do but dream walk my way through rooms
of the metropolis, reaching city after
city without touch, army green walling along
interstates and transit tunnels to brown brick rowhomes
with rooms of the old way and prayers murmured
from the old countries. Rooms for the baking
of Lithuanian dark rye bread and stirring
of Vietnamese star anise noodles. Then too
there were the international fashion
and furnishing markets that were like
a reimagining of disco in the white stellar-like
new glassy worlds that speak to an unreached time
in the cosmos. And every room a privacy,
a world so sacred to inhale but not belong to me:
the soapy hot waters let in from the open stall
of the pale blue walled locker rooms.
I breathe in the flavored spice of mint,
boiled and lathered but not for candying,
but to wash the sore and bruised muscular skin
and strong black hair of the young and athletic.
Then too, I soak inside of my throat,
the steamed air and more chemical fruit
from soap and shampoo—the juice of pear
without waiting for the unripening and
peeling off skin of the tree that had been made
ready for the offering. And I know what I am
unworthy to hold close in this life, and so I go on,
sleep wanderer of dreams, and afterworld.
I see him, in just white shorts and a tank top,
stick his feet under a faucet and begin
to wash before meeting God in the rooms
of burgundy and gold prayer rugs across
the food mart scented of coffee and
greasy fried cheese and jalapeno rolls.
And from this place, he will join the others,
chanting thanks to the one who has created
creation, in a way that will reach those
passing by in their hearts and veins. And,
also, in their wounds reopening from what
could only come from being made aware
of what remains between earth and Heaven,
body and spirit. And so it is hard to look away
from him as he prepares his tan muscles sore
from wrestling with his strength and bruised
from the hard red ropes of the pool, where I
had just earlier watched from the window
of a room while reading books from the ancient
and the dead, the beauty of him swim back
and forth. Journeyer lost at sea, strengthening
the arms, legs and torso, to find and be found
by the others. Or was that too an act
of wounding to show the glory of Heaven
that awaits the disciplined and devout?
Some sunken light of bronze dimmed
in the blue water—the sun that leaked
through the window all day and then outside
faded within the dusk of shadows
of the chinaberry trees and tan concrete buildings.
Concrete buildings, holding so many rooms
to wander through and to sleep and rest in—
a whole life gone by in the light shades
of the beauty of others’ holiness and strength
changing from one room to the other.

***

Michelle Askin’s poetry and short fiction have appeared in Pleiades, Pennsylvania Literary Journal, 34th Parallel Magazine, Raleigh Review, Off The Coast, and elsewhere. Her work has also been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and twice for Best of the Net.