T.L. Stokes


I set out to write a book for you. First coffee.
The rough plank table off the kitchen
in the English cottage. The window is the only
solid thing. Then there is the fountain,
the hose turned back into itself, bubbling
once again. It is the voice I hunger for.

Planted like that I become a garden. Fingers spindly
and hump-veined, elegant still, roots. My lips.
Where my lips used to be a hole for air and murmur.

Elbow bone branches, shoulders barked
and hair like the willow by the house
in North Bend where the moon slept
cradled and red.

The book opening its virgin limbs.
No name yet nor boundaries.
The sun safely in its cloud nest
has not jumped into the river.

There are some flowers, two dead bees
in the glass water bowl on the back porch
where the border collie chews kibble.

The toaster oven beeps, two raisin muffins
waiting for a slap of butter.
No news of the war, Canadian floods
or nineteen new graves
in Arizona.

Just bare feet in flip flops. Candlesticks
unlit. This is it. I begin to strip the physical plane
from my body. Sit in the one chair
in the universe, the ghost room
made of whalebones.

I'm telling you it's a treasure trove.
Who knows what'll happen next?
I could tell you stories of islander children
and the monsters they ran from,
Indians in log forts drying the salmon
seaweed on bleached tree bones,
the blind walking in watersound
with a driftwood crutch
in the armpit.

Or I could tell you about
learning about sex from books
stolen from the library, read hunched
way down between beach logs,
how the breath hovered there
and the heart got hotter.

Or a story about the tree rope swing
and the neighbor girl and I still don't remember
how we discovered climbing felt so good
between our thighs.

Or maybe two girls squealing,
amused moon and a fishing boat lantern
swept beach, caught naked
playing with lightning bugs of phosphorous,
the green-black waves.

I always thought Steve was my first love
but really it was my friend with that body,
wicked familiar, budding same places.
I could have fallen for that forever
but no one told me I could.

So I could tell you I dove right into it.
Sex with men. Just did what other girls did.
Pretended it was ok and felt good
for tender feet. Two spirited me.

So here I am, telling you a secret. Writing you a book.
A garden with no lips or language yet. No name.
Yes see no name.

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