Yvonne Higgins Leach
Dead relatives resurrect on scrapbook pages
like re-cut tulips in a vase. My daughters say
we need to stop perpetually mourning our dead,
cease our tiresome trips to the cemetery, traipsing
from grave to grave with store-bought flowers,
hush the aunt whose Christmas toast is a run-on list
of unfamiliar names, and shove the tattered family tree
in a drawer. On her birthday, we send
photos of our dead sister to each other.
The trees outside our windows
in our different cities look different on that day.
A small gesture, really, to stop the dwindling,
or what my daughters slough off as
living in the past. Stories of vacations,
old Thanksgiving recipes, the color
of Grandma’s eyes. And when we don’t even realize we are
playing the game of Remember When,
they put their ear pods in and check their phones.
Real and Imaginary Lovers
My first lover and I embraced
in the neighborhoods of the South Hill,
the dark, quiet streets—
Cedar, Cotta, High Drive,
the green Pontiac hugging the curbside
near some family’s house.
Through the sap-dripping maples,
streetlight flooded the front seat.
We exchanged breath on lips and tongues
and whispered words.
Combing my muscles, tracing my spine,
he said, your back is like
a geological find,
long and hard
like a continent is to God.
My second lover was
in the square room in Scott Hall,
the large windows with pull-one-way drapes,
the desks back-to-back,
the cold, linoleum floor,
beds separated by a shared nightstand.
I remember the beating fluorescent light
perched like a bird on the mirror,
being grateful for the dead bolt
when men’s voices haunted the hallways.
In the crisp sheets he said, stroking my thighs,
they are like riding
the rolling wheat fields of the Palouse.
The lover who comes to me in a dream
is so real, I still look for him.
In the white room with white grass
and the sound of water rushing,
he kneels before me,
cups a breast with one hand,
a hip with the other.
Poised to consume my body
in love, he calls me
by my name.