It's Morning and I'm Trying on the Walls

posted Jan 25, 2011

one arm at a time, trying on the slippery mouth
           and frightened when you rush in
for the kiss.  The picture on our driver's license
           should be liquid and ever changing. 

I have seen you round the burn barrel in our yard
           when it is lit.   So much like the body
you almost want to couple with it, or take it out
           dancing cheek to cheek along the boulevard. 

Children quit dunking your heads in your televisions,
           come see my love and the burn barrel
waltzing past, flames rising from the barrel
           like elegant sleeves. 

Over there's the oak in our yard.  You can't quite
           crank it out of the earth to soft shoe with it. 
It's like that well of loneliness in you
           I can't loop my arms around. 

I have seen you two-stepping with a smokestack
           and tipping it over on the deck of some freighter  
so little coal men tumble out of it laughing
           and smoking their pipes.

There you go twirling kaleidoscope for them,
           sashaying your skirt and rocking your hips
to their chins until the little smoking men
           toss themselves into the sea. 

Now you Tango along the deck with no partner—
           you know I am watching. 
You press your cheek up flush against the sky,
           which has a hunk of fire hanging in its jowls

like some bright chewing tobacco.  I draw the curtain
           slowly over the water, and the great ship
shrinks in the distance until it is no more
           than a little puppet theatre on the sea.

John Rybicki is the author of We Bed Down Into Water, and a contributor to The Best American Poetry 2009. His work has also appeared in Ploughshares, Bomb, Poetry, The North American Review, and others. He teaches at Alma College, changes tires part-time, and works for “Wings of Hope” Hospice teaching poetry writing to children who have been through a trauma or loss.

We’ve published eight more poems by Rybicki: “Smoke,” “Brother,” “Yellow-haired Girl with Spider,” “Julie Ovary Song,” “Two Movements for Martell Epperson,” “Near the Old Packard Plant,” “Night and its Strange Likeness to a Diego Rivera Mural,” and “Some Nights I Catch you Sleepwalk Waltzing.”