To start from the house of choice
you must keep your hands to yourself, palms up and creased.
You must keep how eagerly you incur debt:
the mustiness of “must,” the strait lace.
You must make good on your present offers first,
embracing, flinging yourself down on them
like a wet mattress left out in the field.
Your imprint must not be enough.
Tulips feather out into the sun and stamens darken above shawls of leaves while the person in the bed—is he shivering? Scratching? Is the TV on, the window open, the tissue rigid, has she been in this morning? What of her contract—
—I unlock the neighbors’ door as promised—
—books on survival roof the bedside table. Pulley the blind, as promised,
leverage the window—
—the gap in their coverage—
—nudge the jug to the roof-edge. Cantilever out. Cool tops of mint and basil but no one could live up here, the sun is coming to drive out this water—
—in the secret brief and moving part, known for raunch and danger, I seed a
future of care where I’m obliged and must cease. I walked right into it. Children, whose house is this?
The sunshine, waxed, sieved, like a young open glance.
You must come to light. Your immediate ancestors are renovating the bathroom.
One of them needs three new teeth and a new phone.
You must listen to the negotiations.
One of them holds in an organ pocket all the other has told her.
To care for her you must distribute this but you mustn’t stop there.
You must not stop at all.
The woman squatting down as if compelled—
—in debt as a pavilion, heavy pack, dry crossing—
—has been married for years to the person in the bed, whose liver has been
replaced. A whole meat liver alive—
—forgive me if I’m startled by this. The woman listening is my mother. She’s how I know this story and come to think of it. Of him as “the person in the bed” although he may not be palmed down anymore.
Cramp, cutoff point, potted plant, recovery.
The sunset making nothing. Eyeing, you must look away.
You must cut your side open.
Must ferment. There’s no one here.
Orange slabs of light fill before they’re stopped.
The mandate, lodged. Do you have anyone waiting? You must.
Naïve on your license: your red heart, your liver, can be called upon.
The craving the body knows and the craving the story knows.
The craving it’s deaf to until one day, until suddenly.
You’re not the same all the time.
So you must add to the time.
All instantly response and flinch and weave.
You must not understand the cell ballet.
Think of the weak now. You must think about them so much.
The rigor bells ringing iron, clapper and tongue, can’t be edited or lit. Where are we in the Mercator projection like dividing cells of seas—
—floating in debt to peel grinning from the branches of this world. I want to learn the best, irreducible care of this world. I invite. The chunk of asphalt I’ve been feeling behind my face in this world, as if pleasure were failed garbage and attention to be paid. I balk at inviting, stand on the trading ground feeling the nightlines stretch out.
Kate Schapira lives in Providence, RI, where she writes, teaches, co-runs the Publicly Complex Reading Series, and offers Climate Anxiety Counseling. She's the author of four full-length books of poetry, most recently The Soft Place (Horse Less Press), and her 10th chapbook, The Motions, will be out this fall with above/ground press.