A Handful of Bees – 1994

Burying Dolls

The camps have long stopped burning
when Mother toasts my birth with cognac;
Father films; the dog sniffs my crib.

Barbie is sent to work camp in my closet.
The officers like her pony tail.
Ask Mother.
Ask her how they’ll come at night
to choose their women.

My children will bury
dolls in the garden,
whisper masses for processions of shoe boxes.
I’ll tell them: women have to look strong
to stay alive.

Ask Grandmother.
Watch her every morning
lightly slap her face
to give it color.

The Grotto at Lourdes

I dip my fingers into the font,
lightly touching the water

as if the face
of God slept there

and couldn’t be disturbed.
The earth too

waits to be touched.
We’re grateful to dip

into the river,
the reflection of trees.

Inside the cathedral,
prayers released,

we expose ourselves
deformed, insane,

then sign the cross three times,
as if sewing ourselves up,

as if only one stitch
wouldn’t be strong enough

In Winter

Grandpa’s penis hung,
a withered mushroom
from balls still sprouting
a few white hairs.
His ass was a courier’s
weathered leather bag—
empty of mail.

Not that I have proof.
But it had to be true—
the way Grandma spit
whenever he came near.

Yet, in winter,
when the stove went out,
she’d undress, her nipples
dark, sad as prunes,
and she’d turn toward him
remembering how coal was once
worth freezing her hands to find.