Posts Tagged ‘My Neighbor Totoro’

Crowded in and headed down,
a sample from the throng below,
all rushed enough to sigh at every
stop at every floor, makes room

until, fifteen to go,
doors drift apart
to show us Totoro,
(less ears and leaf)
waiting there to board.

A moment then of disbelief,
half for the sight, half for the slightness
of the space within, too small
to let his grey plush bulk inside.

I step aside,
take to the hall, hearing,
as I reach the stairs, “Now, squat and bend.
One step ahead. That’s right.”

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This poem should be a novel, but I have no
novel in me, just a memory: fading Christmas tree
against chain-link fence in snow, my mother –
whose hands had painted the aurora, shucked and silked
cords of corn, combed fleas from the gray tabby cat
I’d rescued by the swing set at age five – finding a better

use for a dying tree than dying. She resurrected the storm, better
hands and fingers shaking limbs until no
drifts still clung to avalanche upon me. The cat
was still a kitten then, but when we went in she scaled a tree
a story from backyard to side porch, like a silk
assassin. Inside, my hair snarled from the toboggan, my mother

told me stories of her mother’s stepmother,
of forks and tangled hair, and how I had it better,
while I cried and she brushed my hair to silk.
In summer I kicked off my sandals, ran until my feet were black, put no
thought to combs and tangles, carried a radio up a tree
to listen while I coaxed the cat

to join me in the redbud’s fork. The cat
was never anything but a wondrous cat, but my mother
made believe, played guitar, palmed snowy spirits into trees,
crafted my bed into a boat, read books made better
by turns and voices. Her afternoons held no
patience, but once the kettle quieted, she smoothed our sorrow to silk.

Grown, in my own home, in my threadbare silk
pajama bottoms, brushing the fur from my own cats,
I remember calling weekly until no
words were left, but before my father had to hold the phone to my mother’s
ear, their endless autumn dwindling like drying husks, never better
than the morning spent shouting a snowstorm from the tree.

There is no spirit waiting in the trees,
no drug to draw neurons out like new-spun silk,
no ear of corn to make her better,
no magic to craft a bus from a cat
to take me to when my mother
had hands and a voice, no

dream, anymore, as I sleep with feet tucked under cat,
of seeing resurrected health as I comb the beach with my mother.
Now dreaming, lucid, I ask, “Am I awake?” And I answer, “No.”

Liner note

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