The Boiler

Ruth Foley

ROUNDS

The invisible tattoo his fingers inked
                around my wrist, how long it lingered,
                                the way I wish it held his scent.

The ache in my chest is a stone—no
                jut, no angle, just weight. Weight,
                                curve and expansion.

The hours I wait are round, even if
                my clock no longer is.

I have started writing this upside-down
                and need to turn it around if you
                                 are meant to read it.

His mouth isn’t round, but I think
                of it so. My hip would round under
                                  his hand.

The way we circumnavigate—first around
                 each other, then away and back.

Buttons, his thumb working them.

Fists, the completion of the movement.
                 There’s a reason it’s called
                                  a roundhouse.

Zeros, of course, if you write them
                  the way I do.

Singing, layered and wheeling, voices
                  that never manage to meet up,
                                   the pull of the oar through water
                  and out to the air, gently, merrily.

Ice cream before it melts, the coins
                  that might purchase it.

The spiderweb that hung in front
                   of the kitchen window. The spider
                                    in the center. I’d like to say they both
                   survived the storm, drops of rain
                                    taking everything. It was already
                   too late for the unidentifiable
                                    bundle.

His ring spinning on the table,
                   its surface: all edges, no corners.

Birds at the sea, ballooning and
                   splitting above the shoaling
                                     forage fish. The billow of the school.

The truth might be round, or curling
                   over itself like a whitecap or a roller.
                                     Sometimes there is no choice but
                   to duck under and hope.

Not a child’s galaxy of stars, but
                    our actual stars—everything that
                                     orbits us or is orbited, some orbits.

My back at the edge of the bed.
                      Even the shaking feels round.

Tires against the pavement or retracting
                       into the belly of a plane. The plane’s
                                       belly. Mine.

The arc of earth that separates us.

Emptiness is round, I think. I am built
                       of hollows.

The lake, its edges, the well-fed
                       fish, the snail. The spaces in between
                                        the sand, the surface of the pail, the lenses
                       of the sunglasses balanced on my head,
                                        my head, which would press round
                       to his palm. It would.


VOLUNTARY

           After Claire Bateman

The hand that pushes the shovel,
the shoulder moving the arm.
Praise the lift and sweep, praise
the love of clearing the second car
and the sleeping man who doesn’t
know yet. Praise the passing
of salt, praise the stamp of boots,
the brush against the dust
that chalks my long wool coat.
I praise the lifting of my face
to a struggling sun, praise again
the stretch of back.

                                         This morning
everyone I love could be asleep,
given over to whatever brings them
home. This morning, I am thinking
of the ones who do not choose
to think of me, the hand that will
not lift to my jaw or trace
the streak of sun across my cheek.
Praise my own fingers and the tuck
of hair behind my ear. Praise
the solitude and uneven footing.
Praise the stubborn heart,
the way I will its beating,
praise the almost inevitable breath.

______________________

Ruth Foley lives in Massachusetts, where she teaches English for Wheaton College. Her work appears in numerous web and print journals, including Antiphon, The Bellingham Review, and Sou’wester. She is the author of two chapbooks, Dear Turquoise (dancing girl press) and Creature Feature (ELJ Publications), and serves as Managing Editor for Cider Press Review.