Editor’s note: Kim Dower’s first poetry collection, “Air Kissing on Mars,” described by the Los Angeles Times as “sensual and evocative, seamlessly combining humor and heartache,” and by Thomas Lux as “a rare and astonishing first book,” was published by Red Hen Press in 2010. Dower’s poems have appeared in Ploughshares, Rattle, and Barrow Street, and Eclipse. Her second collection, “Slice of Moon,” will be published by Red Hen Press in the fall of 2013. She lives in Los Angeles.
They took the mailbox away
on Cahuenga and Clinton.
I know because I wasn’t feeling right,
decided to take a walk, figure things out,
remember why I love the clouds.
Found my rent check still in my purse,
gave me a goal, a project I could complete.
But when I got to the corner it was gone,
just space in the place where the box had been,
where I’ve deposited countless bills,
birthday cards, where once I tossed
a sticky half-eaten ice cream dish.
There was no garbage can in sight.
I gave it some serious thought, but now realize
the mess I made: may have destroyed a young girl’s
last letter to her grandmother, stained a college
application—what did admissions people think
when it arrived with chocolate sprinkles stuck
to the stamps—worse yet a love letter someone
finally had the guts to send smeared with butterscotch
sauce, possibly obscuring the recipient’s address,
sender never knowing it was not received,
when I saw the empty corner
where the mailbox used to be,
granted out of place on that isolated street,
it hit me: the lives I ruined,
the mailman’s soiled hands.
The Coffin Bone
Karen asked me what I thought it means:
The coffin bone
Maybe it means the one part so strong it cannot die
The smooth hard part that stays vibrant forever
hides in our thoughts moves us to tears even in death
Maybe it means the last image we see
in our hungriest nightmare
The murder weapon
The succulent part of the ribs we keep sucking forever
Slang for the best sex we never have or the best sex
after death, the aura around a grave, the way the air
hangs when you look into the face of someone you once
cried for, but then I cheated
I had to know I had to see what the coffin bone really was
The bone enclosed inside a horse’s hoof
The one that will never hurt.
middle of the night, middle of her life
she opens her eyes, one lash at a time
a song sings through her, a memory
her shoulders stones from the bottom of a river
one second until darkness takes her back to sleep