for Kelly Caldwell (1988-2020)

After an earthquake, my mother would
rebuild our home, change
her name, give us new

coordinates. See the diamond
on the map, the pull-apart basin,
see the flashing yellow arrows all

along the San Andreas Fault,
see unintegrated scenes over years,
how they fell together only

in how things fell apart. Love, I want you
to know I saw your dead
initials scrawled in dust, but even now,

I hear the mountain goats I sent,
clacking over them at dusk. We spooned
out avocados beside lakes,

I licked pink salt from your nape,
drew the shapes of continents
on your back, sounded out

your new potential names
until we found those syllables
that tasted, you said, like honey—

which tasted, you said, like having
a future. When we became lovers,
you searched my face as if

something there could be enough
to save you. Maybe we believed it
for a while, maybe it was true

for a time. I know your name
gave us years and gave to you
a life to call your own. Now I face the sky

and ache for a different end, a bluer
hue, a better face. Some say my pronouns
should be used for the plural only,

but my dreams
are singular: I see the tectonic
plates shift, a humid gust

slaps me hard: I taste the sweetness
of you on my tongue.


Let me stretch my mouth wide /
as a summer afternoon /
and say it loud, say it sticky /
say the days and their yellow hands / and the air so open / you could walk inside it