by Lisa Lewis

When he wobbled near I knew
I was going to fall slow
From the tall trees where I
Grazed like a giraffe. He caught me
Standing on all my legs.
He caught me making the most
Of the blue between earth
And my friends, all girls those days,
Young women at college
Though it was no use calling us
Women because the men
Had lived longer and they named
Names. If we offered to help
They said Oh, no, we don’t need
Help. We think you need help.
So when he circled near me
I glimpsed the question in his eyes
Sharpened on need like the tacks you use
To nail carpet to old drenched wood,
And I looked down at my body
In case need leaked.
I could stop the leak if I saw
The trail in time. I could make
A getaway on my buggy legs
And crackly knees. But girls
Can be slow–as the men
Reminded us, fishing us back
By our tatty hems. This is how
It works: he says he is my new teacher.
My friends back away nodding
Like donkeys, because this is our pact,
Leave at the smell of man,
We long to be abandoned. He says
He wants to lie under a canopy’s clock
And examine me on poetry.
I say I have never written poetry
And he says he heard different–
He is not free to repeat the stories.
I refuse the very idea of a tree
As I refused the idea of poetry,
But he insists on finding my room,
And once we are standing like trees
Under a roof kinked with knots
Hewn from planks, he sings
The first lesson, accompanying
Himself on a piano scaled
On graph paper. One hand
On black keys. Other hand up
My shirt. And me swaying
As if there were no door
And no hallway and no feet
For the roots of my legs.
Me looking down as if I always
Wore my shirt like a noose
For hanging. There they were,
Idiot breasts, and him shrunken,
Trilling like a cat in a saucer.
This is why I blame them
For the later wrongs,
The love story about him
Screaming gorgeous gorgeous
Like a guinea hen and me
Throwing down ugly ugly
And him reading it on paper
And me burning it on coal,
Him catching me sunbathing,
My crown at the tree’s golden
Crest, praising my doneness,
Me the charred hen, my fallow
Saucers crumbling like clay
Out the disappointed slots
Of my bikini. Something about
The beauty of those breasts
Wasn’t true. Always moving
Before me the way they dared–
I have not been able to teach them
The names of real dreams–
To this day I accuse them, fat,
Smug, stuck on me not at all
The way they were stuck on him.
Out front sending their signals,
Whether I believe them
Not even a question
They can answer. You’ve
Heard about malignancy.
There’s a seed sprouting
If you squint that far,
And it grew in his body first,
Singing, playing, reciting,
All its little skills banging
Like skulls inside him and me
Also poisoned, the hard way,
Knuckles scraped raw
Tugging a scrap of torn
Lace from my hollow
Heart’s bloody hands
As if I dropped from a treetop
And bark scraped my palms
All the long sky to alone.