Marie Howe

The Boy

My older brother is walking down the sidewalk into the suburban
    summer night:
white T-shirt, blue jeans— to the field at the end of the street.

Hangers Hideout the boys called it, an undeveloped plot, a pit
    overgrown
with weeds, some old furniture thrown down there,

and some metal hangers clinking in the trees like wind chimes.
He’s running away from home because our father wants to cut his hair.

And in two more days our father will convince me to go to him— you know
where he is— and talk to him: No reprisals. He promised. A small parade
    of kids

in feet pajamas will accompany me, their voices like the first peepers
    in spring.
And my brother will walk ahead of us home, and my father

will shave his head bald, and my brother will not speak to anyone the next
month, not a word, not pass the milk, nothing.

What happened in our house taught my brothers how to leave, how to walk
down a sidewalk without looking back.

I was the girl. What happened taught me to follow him, whoever he was,
calling and calling his name.

- Marie Howe

The Girl

So close to the end of my childbearing life
without children

—if I could remember a day when I was utterly a girl
and not yet a woman—

but I don't think where was a day like that for me.

When I look at the girl I was, dripping in her bathing suit,
or riding her bike, pumping hard down the newly paved street,

she wears a furtive look—
and even if I could go back in time to her as me, the age I am now

she would never come into my arms
without believing that I wanted something.

- Marie Howe

The World

I couldn't tell one song from another,
which bird said what or to whom or for what reason.

The oak tree seemed to be writing something using very few words.
I couldn't decide which door to open--they looked the same, or what

would happen when I did reach out and turn a knob. I thought I was safe,
standing there
but my death remembered its date:

only so many summer nights still stood before me, full moon, waning moon,
October mornings: what to make of them? which door?

I couldn't tell which stars were which or how far away any one of them was,
or which were still burning or not--their light moving through space like a
long

late train--and I've lived on this earth so long--50 winters, 50 springs and
summers,
and all this time stars in the sky--in daylight

when I couldn't see them, and at night when, most nights, I didn't look.

- Marie Howe, from The Kingdom of Ordinary Time

Low Tide, Late August

That last summer when everything was almost always terrible
we waded into the bay one late afternoon as the tide had almost finished
pulling all the way out

and sat down in the waist-deep water,
I floating on his lap facing him, my legs floating around him,
and we quietly coupled,

and stayed, loosely joined like that, not moving,
but being moved by the softly sucking and lapping water,
as the pulling out reached its limit and the tide began to flow slowly back again.

Some children ran after each other, squealing in the shallows, near but not too near.

I rested my chin on his shoulder looking toward the shore.
As he must have been looking over my shoulder, to where the water deepened
and the small boats tugged on their anchors.