it’s my birthday. when i wake up i can’t remember my dream. i get out of bed and find a note i left myself last night, pink sharpie scrap paper, leaning on the ledge under the bathroom mirror. happy birthday! i love you. my hair is a mess. L leaves a message later in the morning- happy birthday. i love you! he has a way of being everywhere. i spend some of the morning wondering if R will call, and knowing that he won’t. he reminds me of home. i decide to go out. in the botanical garden, i watch a fat man feed peanuts to a fat squirrel. two ladies stand up the path a little, looking alarmed. he looks up and his face is sad and crooked, like a painting with a snag in it. i walk up 9th ave. looking for an ice cream parlor i went to with S once, and can’t find it, so i turn around and go back. he had a different sense of direction than me. when i go back i watch a thin man read a book on a wooden walkway over a small pond in the moon veiwing garden. i can see the moon all day long, it looks frozen in the blue sky like a lopsided scoop of ice cream. it’s the same moon i looked at last year, i think. i wonder if R is going to call.
in the meso american cloud forest, a man in a wheelchair is taking a nap. he is wearing the orange sun on his shoulder like a sash for autumn. it’s almost thanksgiving. i am going to make an apple pie for sure, i decide. i touch the yellow bellflowers that look like bent wishes. L leaves me another message. it’s about a dream he just had where we were in a back yard sitting on rocks and watching snow fall on the city. in the dream he tells me happy birthday! and i say i’m sad because no one is as weird as he is. happy birthday! he says, and i say goodbye and abandon him in the back yard. it’s the same moon i was looking at last year and i wonder if R will call but i know that he won’t. i get older and younger at the same time, wondering.
late in the night it’s almost not my birthday anymore. i go downstairs to take out the recycling. it seems heavier than usual and i wonder what’s in there, and what they do with all of it, and if it’s true that nothing can come from nothing, and that nothing ever changes or disappears, it just changes into something else. the moon hangs fat and crooked, an egg dreaming of itself. when i turn to go back i notice a seashell sleeping in the shadow of the doorframe. i crouch to touch it, the wrinkle between my eyebrows deeper than last year, getting deeper still. because of things like seashells in doorframes, and everything changing into something else. there’s a note on the seashell. happy birthday, it says. i recognize the handwriting as S. “thanks,” i say to the recycling. i wonder if R will call. it’s almost not my birthday. maybe he’s looking at the same moon i am, but maybe he’s not.
when you call
when you call, i'll be knitting a hat for an elephant. droopy, gray. gigantic.
when you call, i'll be making lasagna in a quiet kitchen listening to my voice in my head. i'll be just beginning my fall pledge-drive, trying to raise the vibe, or the roof, or the stakes. someone sad will call in and pledge their thirst or their art or their love, and i'll accept.
when you call, i'll be in the bathtub filled with ice. i run so much my legs are like lamp-posts. because i can't keep my feet still. because someone is always around threatening a game of tag. because i want to be faster than everyone, just in case.
when you call, i'll be writing a jacob-poem. a poem like jacob would write. or i'll write a matthew-poem. a leaf-poem. a dave or vaughan or tully poem. the only one who writes poetry i think is actually jacob. it's nice poetry, too. about sweat and love and loneliness. all these women.
when you call, i'll be sleeping.
when you call, i'll be eating a peach in silence. i mean slices.
when you call, i'll be trying, lying, spying on the doctorman in green scrubs who lives in the building next to mine. his bonsai needs water. he sets it on a paper towel and gives it a bath. looks at me funny.
when you call, i'll be peeing in the tiny bathroom, investigating my fun-house facial reflection in the silver faucet. my eyes are so goddamned big sometimes. no wonder.
when you call, i'll be banging out something on the typewriter. it'll say "when you call, i'll be angry. when you call, i'll be trying to be so angry," and it won't work.
when you call, i'll be a pacifist.
when you call, i'll be a buddhist.when you call, i'll be a waitress. thanks very much. hope you enjoyed yourself. come back soon.