Most things come to the country
late, like
microwaves, dishwashers,

and cordless phones. For years,
I sat
tethered to the BellSouth

kitchen wall mount, its cork-
screw cord
pinched through the dining

room door so I could talk
to my girl, who lived way

on the other side of town,
her home
planted in the middle

of rolling pastures and corn,
streams and
woods, where we could park

and strip down to skin, nothing
but skin
between us and the rest

of the wild, changing world,
our every
motion analog

to the theoretically
coupling of stars.

Fact Sheet for Coughs

Fact Sheet for Coughs

Doctors classify coughs by duration,
character, quality, and timing—

like you might rate lovers,
past and present, for better or worse.

Through thick and thin, productive coughs
yield sputum, a giving up

of mucous expectorated from
upper airways. Etymology: Latin

Ex—“out” + pectus, pector—“breast.”
Something you must, so

to speak, get off your chest. But
the best cough also shields,

cleaves, protects—a necessary, almost
paramour, reflex. Blocking

those ubiquitous viral & bacterial agents
of death from your deepest

lungs, where pneumonia—“the old widow’s
friend”—brings such lonely

suffering to a quick, quiet, painless
end. Complications, acute and chronic,

include fainting, burst vessels,
bloodshot eyes, and fatigue fractures

of the lower ribs—proof that we can, over
time, cough until we break.

Frankly, it’s hard to tell
whether each aching, irresistible heave

says—mid-spasm—live, live, give, expel,
hope, hurt, die, or rest.

The Strength in You


The Strength in You

For the lover is forever
trying to strip bare
his beloved.
—Carson McCullers

I found a strand
of your blonde hair
in our bed today,

eased it over my hands
to feel its length,

raised it to my face
to savor the scent
that might remain
on a thing so small,

and then,
as I am prone to do,

gripped both ends
with determined strength
and pulled to break
the thing in two—

but lost my grip
and could not break
the smallest part

of you.