provisional :: catherine bowman

When he procured her, she purveyed
him. When he rationed her out,
she made him provisional. On being

provisional, he made her his trough.
On being a trough, she made him her silo.
At once a silo, he made her his cut. On being a cut,

she made him her utensil. On being
a utensil, he turned her downhill. So being
downhill, she made him her skis.

When she was his stethoscope,
he was her steady beat. From beat
she was dog, from dog he was fetch,

from fetch she was jab, from jab
he was fake. When he was her complex
equation, she was his simple math.

So she turned him into strong evidence,
accessory after the fact. So he turned
her eyes private, made her his man

on the lam. So he became her psalm,
so she became his scrubby tract. When he
became an aesthete, she became his

claw-foot bath. So she made him a rudimentary
fault line; so he made her a volcanic rim.
So she made him her unruly quorum;

so he made her his party whip.
That’s when they both became
mirror, and then both became lips.

From lips she was trumpet, from trumpet
he was mute. Then he made her his margin
of error. Then she made him stet.


the sink :: catherine bowman

She loves to talk on the phone
while washing the dinner dishes,
catching up long distance or
dealing with issues closer to home,
the reconnoitring with the long lost
or a recent so-and-so. She finds it
therapeutic, washing down
the aftermath. And that feeling
she gets in her stomach with a loved one’s
prolonged silence. And under the sink
in the dark among the L-pipes, the confederate
socket wrenches, lost twine, wire lei,
sink funk, steel-wool lemnisci, leitmotifs
of oily sacraments, a broken compass forever
pointing southeast by east, mold codices,
ring-tailed dust motes from days well served,
a fish-shaped flyswatter with blue horns,
fermented lemures, fiery spectres,
embottled spirit vapors swirling in the crude
next to the Soft Scrub, the vinegared
and leistered sealed in tins, delicious with saltines,
gleaned spikelets, used-up votives. . . .
In the back in the corner forgotten
an old coffee can of bacon fat
from a month of sinful Sundays,
a luna moth embossed, rising—a morning star.

spice night :: catherine bowman

It was your best friend’s birthday, 9:00 and late July. By the time
I got there wearing shorts and a T-shirt everyone was pretty spiced
on Corona and Lite. What’s-his-name Ramirez started telling jokes
about German Shepherds and Girl Scouts and then someone hurt a knee
trying to somersault and play volleyball with only the light of the moon
and oh yeah Joe Herder drove his ‘64 Cadillac right over the grass.

I think you had a date but you were sitting with me on the grass
and I didn’t feel guilty, in fact I was worrying about the time
because the night would end soon and I had come just to see you. The moon
was drenching the Balcones Fault Flood Basin with a pollen, a spice,
it happens every twelve years, and that’s when you put your hand on my knee
and that’s when Ramirez started telling a series of dead baby jokes.

Even Joe Herder and his crowd were getting tired of the bad jokes
because they started telling stories about smuggling heroin and grass
up from Mexico and I looked down and your hand was still on my knee
and they were talking about gunrunning, Mayan treasures, and doing time,
and the Hilton in downtown San Salvador as if they were modern day spice
pirates instead of Alamo Heights kids who had been given the moon

and suddenly the sky had changed and I realized that the moon
was using its comic sensibility to fool around, to make a joke,
just by being round and fat, it played up, it complemented the spice
of the lawn, a punchy waltz with the blunt edges of the grass,
without really thinking we were moving our toes, our teeth, in time.
This is when I decided to put my hand on your knee.

So there we were in the yard with our hands on each other’s knees,
watching the party, watching the crowd, and of course the moon.
I was tired but didn’t want to leave so I asked you about the time
your high school class went camping at Big Bend and you made a joke
about people who ask a lot of questions and then we left the grass
and went into Mrs. Schue’s house and down the hall where there was a spice

cabinet filled with, what else, hundreds of unlabeled jars of spices.
We opened all the bottles and played a game, our sweaty knees
shining in the dark. I guessed caraway, tarragon, and lemon grass;
you guessed others as we closed our eyes and inhaled the bottled moons.
Outside the volleyball game continued and the jokes.
We knew we had found that spice cabinet just in time.

Knees. Spice. Jokes. Moon. Grass. Time. Forever and ever. Amen.