I’d been living alone in my two bedroom
with the balcony overlooking the creek,
and I’d set my palm on the stove
as I waited for my coffee to percolate,
not realizing I’d left the eye on all night,
that I’d absently set the soup pot beside the sink
after the phone rang and I heard.
Now, I kneel before votives in her favorite church in New York,
as she recedes in the hospital.
To my left, a child in a blue dress
lights candle after candle
while her mother kneels in the front pew,
a wide brimmed hat with lace trim seated beside her.
Wilting in her bed, my godmother has lost all vision in one eye
and half the peripheral in the other.
They call the latter a sympathetic loss –
physiologically, there’s no short in the wiring,
but we were meant to see the world with both eyes,
to clasp both hands in prayer,
and it’s with one hand dangling by my thigh
that it strikes me
when it comes to our gods
we hold conversations
where its only the speaker who listens,
and even then with only one ear.
All candles lit, the blue firebug
looks over to me
pouts her lower lip
and blows one flame out.
At the Center of It
Something always keeps things from where they want to be.
Copper sheets keep slugs from gardenias,
nets the birds from the berries, and the roof bays the rain.
In the driveway, a ragged cat sizes up the trash bin –
smells the tuna cans, the scraps of salmon,
rotting chicken, turkey bones.
Every night, she sits and licks her chops, combs
her whiskers with her paw. Sometimes,
she hops to the top, scratches the smooth plastic,
not realizing that her own weight holds it shut,
just as in all things. Lord, how I itch to step forward
and take hold of the railing, to make something happen,
But how I fear that if I do, nothing will.
Until then, the smell of cooling soil under wind
through dandelion stalks, rustle of wisteria leaves.
The soft click of a streetlight dowsing. Electric
buzz slips from the air like thread from a shirt.
The neighbor’s dogs don’t bark. All for me.
Andrew Najberg is the author of the chapbook of poems Easy to Lose (Finishing Line Press 2007), and his work has appeared in North American Review, Artful Dodge, Yemassee, Louisville Review, Nashville Review, Bat City Review and various other journals and anthologies both in print and online. He teaches creative writing and other courses at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.