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Late Spring Rites of The Middle-Aged Apostate

I brush my teeth like there’s god in it, split
my medications into morning & evening
prayers. Offer a word for the ambulance drivers,
another for the small squirrels & lizards
that they might outrun the dog. I am learning
to make & hold eye contact. To practice asking
people what do you mean by that? & waiting. I am
making small talk. I think the cat is having a crisis
of faith, I say. What I mean is there’s an orthodoxy
to keeping & eating leftovers & it feels
like penance. Like socks that are too tight
at the toes but good enough & why am I

When I submerge myself
in water, alone, or my daughter still climbing in
uninvited, I am thinking of salt
& buoyancy, of eucalyptus. Wondering
when I began to ache
for a good scrub. When I let go
of shame, I started buying
& wrapping gifts for myself:
long, fingerless gloves, pens
with smooth ink & no caps (I love caps
but I lose them & I’m practicing
radical honesty).

At the store where I buy
sturdy discount shoes, all the ladies have silver
hair & good gold watches. May we all guard
our mouths in plastic at night, amen. My husband
rubs hemp oil into my calves & near sleep I recite
the litany of calendaring to him: specialist,
vet, specialist, car repair, dentist, tree

A few houses from the traffic light
where the bar burned down, my neighbor
with greying facial hair tends a black tree,
a dead tree in the center
of his yard, climbs the winter ladder
with a chainsaw. He’s been doing it
for years. I say good morning
when I see him,
though I still don’t know
his name. He waves.

I confess a gluttony
of blackened fish tacos, avoidance
of highways unless I’ll be driving them
all day. I’m a sucker
for sunk cost, full commitment
when I’m alone. All the jasmine
I gave over to the yard on my knees
has vanished. The potted one
is blooming.

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