wrangling, working, wearing ourselves out of our skins

and into the harnessed spirit of samarbejde/cooperation

in which the melding of individual energies far exceeds the sum of the parts eventually we fed the hungry bog enough wood that our bridge broke the water’s surface like the back of a rising horse we shoveled dirt to fill the interstitial spaces formed a line to pass big rocks hand to hand

body to body

building upon our foundation with weight, sweat, and strength

added more dirt to make the walking easy the researchers led an oxen team across our bridge to test our work and declared our bridge worthy we raised our glasses and axes in salute feasted

showered in cold water

and prepared for our next crossing

commence reentry sequence

space capsule

screaming through the atmosphere heat shield melting, parachutes out, I landed back in the USA after thirteen lifetimes, I mean, months


English didn’t fit right in my mouth det var meget nemmere at tale dansk, mere behagelig

jeg glemte overs?ttninger, hvordan man siger agurker/cucumbers eller erindringer/memories men da jeg genfornede

med min americanske familie the important words finally came back after much hugging and happy tears we sat close together on the couch, my mother constantly tucking a stubborn lock of hair behind my ear

my father’s heavy hand patting my shoulder my sister sitting on the floor, leaning against my knee

you don’t get many perfect moments in life our reunion was one of them next morning, I rode my bike to the high school, July-flying through the miles didn’t have to stand on the pedals up the long, steep hill

my thighs steel-reinforced after a year of riding overseas Summer-break school mostly empty, the halls smelled the same goose-bumpy

in the main office I explained my mission and the secretary opened a drawer, pulled the file with my name on it

my permanent record

removed my diploma and almost gave it to me, but paused to add the grave pomp

called for by the circumstance, she shook my hand

“Congratulations,” she said, formally.

“You have graduated.”

And so began the next chapter in a familiar place where everything was different a well-cloaked alien, I heard my old world filtered through Nords?ens vand / North Sea water and saw it in the light of dansk solskin /

Danish sunshine

separation—AWOL 1

While I was somewhere-the-hell in Denmark, my American family had moved again this time to a small house rented from a guy who made it clear that if my mother slept with him, he’d cut us a deal.

(Instead she worked overtime.) I came home stronger taller

wounds tended and scarred over But my parents had started drinking every morning by eight, instead of waiting for the sunset,

Daddy drank to blur

the steel edge of his failures.

Mommy drank to keep

from killing him. She went to work after gargling and spitting.

Daddy worked a little, walked a lot on the towpath crowded with ghosts. Wrote poetry, cried, contemplating suicide trying to ride out the tide of despair and keep breathing.

One day I came home

to the sound of a hammer

on metal. My mother

roared all the curse words she’d once scrubbed out of my mouth with a bar of Ivory soap.

I crept to the door of my parents’

bedroom, afraid of the bloody body certain to be staining the floor.

Mommy was alone, beating the piss out of their bed frame with a sixteen-ounce hammer.

She looked up,

narrowed her eyes

“Time for separate beds,” she snarled, dragon smoke curling out of her mouth.

“He’s gone to Boston for a while.”

WHAM! She beat a bolt on the bed frame.

“A long while.” WHAM, WHAM!

“Hamburger Helper for dinner,” she added.

“Start browning the meat.”

reunion—AWOL 2

Dad came home nine months

later. He looked better, didn’t drink until four p.m., and only screamed in his sleep a couple nights a week.

I’m still convinced he ran off with a woman, but whatever.

Mom let him back in the door.

The Church did, too. The Church

that had cast him out, her broken son, gave back his dignity, his calling and his God after six years in the wilderness We moved again after his prodigal return this time to a rural church filled with farmers, teachers, and nurses.

I slept that first winter on the floor under the dining room table

because my bedroom didn’t have heat or insulation. A glass of water left there overnight was ice come morning, from Thanksgiving till after Easter.

I found work milking cows.

Dad found some peace mending hearts.

Our mother found a tumor in her left breast.

She never put their beds back together.

hitchhiking with my father

Driving with Daddy was risky, cuz he drove

with one foot on the accelerator and the other on the brake, confident of his superior reflexes

and the power of his smile.

When I was two, he drove us all the way to Florida, me roaming in the back of the station wagon untethered, waving to horrified strangers

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