It began with a samba in my chest,
a crow beating its wings
in furious tempo against my rib bones,
an ardent performance that plucked
the breath from my throat.
I ignored him,
blamed the dance on spicy food
and opened a second bottle of wine.
He returned a week later with friends,
a murderous crew
determined to get my attention.
Vengeful beaks tore
at the wires of my heart,
a rampage that shot bolts of electricity
through my back.
I shut my eyes to ward off fear,
a feeble barrier
that crumbled beneath
the fluorescence of panic.
Terror crept around my neck
like the blade of a scythe,
no end to the frenzied dance in sight.
One hour bled into two, then three,
me frantically pacing over the splintered floor,
shaking my hands at the earth,
as if the action would dispel the demon
trapped and blooming in my chest.
I looked at my husband,
helplessness welling up in his eyes,
and told him it was time to go.
The hospital was across town,
a thirty -minute drive
or more, if there was traffic.
There was always traffic.
We clambered into the car,
willing it to creep down Sunset Boulevard,
the best our old green pickup could do.
The truck was a gift from my father,
an offering to keep me safe.
I smiled and pressed my palms
against the chaos in my heart.
My father had also given me the crow,
a time bomb wrapped in a parcel of his blood.
Middle age warps the clock,
folds flesh into my belly
and demolishes my sex drive.
I am a hostage of passing seasons
that crack lines into my face,
pushing unforgiving fingers
through memory and sleep.
I wake up on fire,
a chaos of hormones
burning my skin from the inside,
pooling in the hollow of my throat.
The pillow is saturated
with the reminder
that I am barren, undesirable.
I throw off the stifling covers
and feel my way into the night,
an inferno driving heat
through the tips of my fingers.
Maybe I’ll write a poem
about the ways time
tears women apart.
I keep my ear plugs in
to quiet the ache of the city,
and bury myself in a cocoon of words,
settling into the familiar company of ghosts.
A welcome chill from the blades of a fan
creeps over my shoulders,
until I become so cold,
my fingers shake,
and all I crave
is the warmth of a well-loved blanket.