In the kitchen, she presses the phone
to her ear with one hand, wooden spoon
in the other. She grills fajita meat.
Her brother in prison is on that phone. Her son draws with a teal crayon,
gets bored, finds me in the office, climbs
four times onto my knee. Don’t know if I’m allowed to touch or let him sit, so I keep
lifting him, laughing, back
to the floor. He sees dangling keys
that go to my car. He says “beepbeep.” He wants to play
computer. Picture of fire truck. Picture of monkey.
The way he looks up at me. He is two. Language has come to him lately, new,
asking of everything, “What is that? What’s that?”
He saw his mother’s eye socket
crushed like a powder of broken pearls
under his father’s boot. He is two.
That, and another injury she didn’t tell me. What would justice be? What shape
will his dreams take, a cartoon steam engine?
Please let her make a second escape—the one they don’t always make—before
his list of words grows, before
he forms these memories: this house, ten kids at table
or running, six mommies, four singles
and twenty security cameras, a video feed where I am paid to watch
them try to sleep.
American Sign Language Lesson
You’ve been gone for six months with the Peace Corps and your hearing has finally disappeared.
Your frantic hands dance in synch with livid lips
while I question you,
hand slicing a blank hemisphere: What?
is the question that makes you shake, relive the violation.
I make a little hook at my lips and you answer:
Wag my finger back and forth and you say: His hotel room.
I don’t need to tickle my temple
to ask why you called me to DC to meet you in this holding cell of a government hotel where you’ve been sent, snatched back
to the states as soon as they heard the word of accusation.
When is a sign I can never recall so I don’t know how soon
I can bring you home. We stay inside
the door to a balcony with views of a thousand tan balconies, squares and bars lined up
against a blank winter sky.
We drink water. Room temperature. No desire for anything else, no monuments,
grave sites, libraries.
After we speak in this way
we spoon in bed, returning: traveler
to lover, blossom to bloom. And I wonder how you wake from soundless sleep
into a soundless world. I ask the darkness: my two fists, clasped, twist left and right.
And then I remember,
When: the right index finger circles the left
until they meet.
Anthony DiPietro is a New England native who has worked for 12 years in the nonprofit sector on issues such as violence, abuse, and income inequality. He recently moved to Eastern Long Island and joined Stony Brook University as a candidate for an MFA in poetry.
cover photo: Vinita Agrawal