Taken for Granted

Hands leave behind more than prints—
the knitting and the ripping, empty
grape stems in a red bowl, a bruise.
When I said engine I meant death.
Grace invites us into itself so consistently,
we can refuse it. Stars uncover their eyes
in the dark. Lightning always seeks
the ground. Morning will find us
still breathing. I never understood
the impulse to carve initials into a tree,
plant my footprint in wet concrete.
Forgetfulness is ecstasy’s cousin.
I’d be lost without the horizon.
Nothing royal about a queen-sized bed.
Twists and turns are the most direct.
Maybe careen is my normal. I need
a mirror to see my face, and even then
it’s on backwards. I’m not you. I’m like
you. I’m nothing but you. Some lotuses
only bloom in moonlight. Sound needs
silence to make sense. When I eat grapes,
I eat the sun. Inside the bruise, my song.

Marie-Elizabeth Mali
Originally published in Union Station Magazine, May 2011

Who Says the Ear Loves Silence

After Patrick Rosal

Doesn’t the ear love the jangling
keys, the lock clicked open,
the beloved coming
home, and the coming
too, the oh, God!
Doesn’t it love, love,
crave that voice. The ear—
after all—begs to dance
a malleus, incus, stapes tango
with air. The ear loves
the peculiar whoosh
of wind and thunder’s holler
jangling bones caught mid-sleep
in a rocking chair. The ear
loves the knock of rain
in a drainpipe, the singing saw’s
threnody in a tiled tunnel,
the all-brass band. But
the ear worries
about what it can’t
hear: the traveling husband
flying, driving, eating, teaching
and in his chest
a ticking bomb.

Marie-Elizabeth Mali
Originally published in Poet Lore, Spring 2011

On Being Left

There’s a woman in me who drinks poison
like water, thinks it’s what she needs
to stay alive. I wish she’d learn to savor
water’s plain taste, enjoy quench and calm.
But give her hurricane and drowned
peony blooms and she smiles, raises
her face to the rain and says, Hit me.

I can’t stand feeling wind on my skin
because it’s not your hands.

I don’t know how not to hand you
the match, how not to let you strike it
and light this house on fire, how not
to relish disappearing into ash,
my bones crumbled, an exploded
plum all that’s left of my heart.

The ground that is not true
ground but spindled grief.

After you’ve swum in the ocean, felt
the current, wave-crash, and depth
that goes deeper, deeper, and darker,
to choose a lake, with its smooth
and silt, no matter how fresh the water,
how relieved the skin to be rid of
the salt’s sting, is to ignore the hunger
of the man brave enough to love the sea.

Marie-Elizabeth Mali
Originally published in Muzzle Magazine, Summer 2013