Josephine Yu

Trying Not to Cry Before Dinner



The backyard is frozen
in patches of mud and silver grass,
a garden of broken TVs and rotting lumber.
You promised to build a tool shed
but the planks have sunk into the mud.
The kitchen is filling with steam.
Corn silk clogs the disposal, the stems
of mushrooms and broccoli float in the sink.
I count TVs through the window
as a thin fog rises from the piles
of parts of things that are no longer useful.
The fog climbs the clapboards,
tendrils creep up the window, a ghost of ivy.
You test the air like tasting soup,
using a low word like a spoon.
You clear your throat,
say you have felt me turn cold
like a voice after a long pause on the telephone.
You turn the corn with a fork
as the water boils.
You say to the corn, “Don’t cry, don’t cry.”
A sudden, invisible rain begins pushing the fog back,
pushing the fog down off the window,
flooding the tires and the ditches you dug
for tulip bulbs and golf.
I tell you I am going to sit on the porch.
I hold very still in the porch swing and wait
for you to come outside and light a cigarette,
small comfort against the rain
and the temperature dropping
like a hand after a wave.