Your Husband

July 4, 2011

Even the mud must be thinking how it no longer can
comply with the new restrictions, for not
all rivers flow, not in Panama, not in 1945,
and not on the July 4th holiday. Surveillance planes
still land from out of nowhere, and the kids still throw
their dying sparklers out into the calm canal.
Yesterday he went swimming in a lake teeming with crocodiles.
He and his buddies caught a toucan and put it in a cage.
But he can’t write this in a letter home;
I miss you all, he writes to my mother. Enjoy
the 4th. I will love you forever. Your husband.

The parade starts at 10 and lasts to almost noon.
I get a burrito for lunch at Chipotle;
I stop by our Barnes and Noble to read again
the beginning lines of Paradise Lost. …the fruit
of that forbidden tree whose mortal taste
brought death into the world, and all our woe—

like paradise is something to spoon on
hot cereal for breakfast. Like—a cup of woe to go.

Then I drop by my parent’s empty house.
We’re going through their stuff. Upstairs I find
a picture of my mother and father
from 1947. My father is sitting on
a rock in a river with his pants rolled up to his knees.
My mother’s standing next to him.
She leans down to touch his hair.
They look down into the river
like they can see their whole life out there
finally free from the rocks and stones.
They both look absurdly happy.
It’s like every crocodile is poised forever
on the edge of every swamp. And
the toucans, which are trapped, are
all trapped by the daylight.

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