On Bags Now
The following poems by Anna Weaver were selected as the grand prize winner of the 2014 Holiday Writing Contest. You can read these poems on the bags that accompany our holiday gift baskets.
You see them in parking lots
often enough, but something’s different
here, something more than the way
she permits him for this moment
to be taller. Her arms hooked through his,
she grips his shoulder underhand,
pulls her mouth up to reach him.
(You can tell her goodnight kisses
have always been athletic.)
Like every first kiss, space around them closes,
pulling the whole of their bodies
into one new mouth. By the urgency
you can tell this is no beginning.
This kiss is its own finished truth—
told in secret tongues—and you can’t help
but listen in. He swears there’s nowhere
else he’d rather be. The tilt of her hips
against the car declares she has no need
to go anywhere from here. And that’s
the difference: this kiss has roots
deep in the dark richness behind closed eyes.
Nothing between them reaches for light.
Nothing is seeded. Nothing opens or grows.
No innocence to slow them, these two
kiss like an ambush, armed to the teeth
and unafraid of what is not to come.
I know I said I loved you,
but that afternoon I also said
I loved the chicken salad,
which I didn’t know yet
would leave me retching
for two days. I’m better now,
of course, but not the same.
For one thing, I’ve stopped
ordering chicken salad at diners.
My hair is longer—only a fraction
of an inch, but I can tell—
and all the skin I was wearing
that day is gone, brushed off
between there and here, replaced
with new. My harmonica skills
are coming along nicely, enough
that someone might say, hey,
you're a fine harmonica player,
which would be a first, because
until now it's never been true.
The nights are shorter. The moon
has shrunk away from both of us,
same as the glaciers.
So much has happened.
So yes, I said I loved you,
I did. But don’t you see,
since then, it's rained.
We walked on sidewalks
heaved by roots, stepping
over the cracks with the quick feet
of people who have forgotten
they should not fall in love,
and he named for me each
of the trees. He traced the patterns
in leaves and bark, took my hand
and said, gently, that heartwood
is bad at defending itself. He taught
me the signs that a dead limb
needed to be cut and where
to set the teeth of a saw
to allow a callus to grow, a thickening
that might protect the sound
wood inside. A wounded tree,
he said, is not able to heal.
It wants only closure.
I’ve done this before: Let my hands
go hunting over the body of tonight’s
lover, feeling for the bones of one lost
to me—for a familiar fit between new arms.
Something old is calling—a dark, rough
thing pressed down and away, made small
from years of not quite forgetting,
a suddenly now-glittering thing that flashes
through dark air. It’s faint but undeniable—
a shadowy ticking that promises, that calls—
like a clock counting small hours only the sleepless
can hear or a heart pinned by the weight
of my head. By the sound, he’s close. Close
enough to tuck my cheek into the little depression
I left in his chest. Our edges frayed now and soft,
surely we’d make a better fit...but the sound fades,
the hunt slows, and my hands come up empty.
Finished with me for the night, my new lover
rolls over, leaving me to trace contours
in the fresh sweat on his shoulder—a shining map,
a line of dashes, and there,
for this moment, this man: an X.