In the grocery store
buying beer and a poinsettia
I meet a deaf woman
she is old and her hair is white and gray
I am overacting at the hands
her husband has deep wrinkles
and the beard of a homeless man
going out at the ends in wisps of smoke
she points to a sticker
50% off on the bag of dog food
now rolling down the blackness
toward glowing hands
I set the plastic bar
between our items
she smiles at the sticker
and I give her a cartoon
and the sensor stops
is there nothing I can do
sneaking through this world
in the first half
of every aisle
woman from the store
and your husband I saw
bent at the waist
studying the whisky
tell me what I can do
the poinsettia is expanding
in my very hands
red as my heart
that doesn’t know
I looked for you today.
Thought maybe you could unghost
and we could get drunk enough.
I was so much trouble
that all I want is to never be trouble again.
I don't know if I can do it, write poems,
because truth is all hair-mussing,
accidental touches, lachrymose alarm.
Everything I gave you was
a wound on your palm.
A freckle appeared on mine suddenly
where the lifeline and heart line meet.
I know we both live here now
in the arm-crook of Washington State,
something to be delivered,
a new soft book we pray
will undo this plodding hardness.
The last thing you ever wrote to me: No beginnings.
The thing I could really give you.
A long sweet hurting, a secret kind of forever-hurting
as common and necessary as coffee,
instead of the long gold cut that we had been.
You are the sore of my back,
a dull always-ache, that is as unnoticed now
as a heartbeat. You show up in my dreams,
kind as a kind little girl, forgiven and forgiving,
touching my face over and over,
gathering the world around you like cotton candy.
You stopped writing poems,
but I believe you still think them while you walk,
that they still go out and alter the air.
I think they find me sometimes, brush my arm like a moth.
I am suddenly struck by something:
the way the light hits this anything,
and that's the way this all doesn't matter.
Christ, I like your orange halo, how it sits behind your head and emphasizes your face rather than simply hovering above it like a ring-toss ring, frozen in time. You always look so sad, so absolutely tired. I like to imagine, in your silent teenaged years, that there were points when a wisp of a woman's hair sent your whole body electric and someone held back yours while you puked in the morning after. Maybe you took up painting once on pieces of wood you found leaning up against walls because you were tired of talking. Maybe you showed your mother one and she made a comment that stopped the whole project in a single, cold second and maybe you went to lie in the hay after and cry. Maybe a spider crawled across your leg and you shot up with a breathy exclamation and accidentally crushed half its body it when you brushed it off. Maybe you questioned the existence of good and evil and said so over dinner in an over-dramatic monologue and then accidentally dropped your plate in front of everyone. Maybe you didn't want to be the son of God, maybe you wanted to keep building shelves next to Joseph. Maybe you wanted to kiss that girl after pointing out a constellation, maybe you planned it out too specifically and she could tell. Maybe she laughed and put her forehead to your shoulder. Maybe that was it. Maybe you shone in a way that made her nervous and she went away. Maybe God said something to her. Christ, I like seeing you as a baby kissing your mother's cheek. I hope it's okay where you are. I hope you don't secretly wish you could have just died like everyone else. I hope you didn't grab at the walls of the cave as you were pulled up, up; I hope it wasn't like slipping off the edge of a cliff in reverse.
Chelsey Weber-Smith also writes country music and rambles around the United States building campfires and hoping for the best. She is a graduate of the University of Virginia's MFA program in poetry and has written and self-published two chapbooks, a travel memoir, and two full-length folk/country albums, and was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her work has been published in BOAAT, Transom, Matter, Wu-Wei Fashion Mag, the James Franco Review, and Miracle Monocle. She currently lives in Seattle.