L. I. Henley


Winter's Hill or Summer's Lawn

Grandfather & I     we made guns

out of anything we could find

shot Cypress     hedges     cedar fences

 

Flying me in the two-seater plane he built

himself he would take his hands off the controls

& put them behind his head

to give me a little lick of death

 

In the home now—Winter’s Hill

or is it Summer’s Lawn?

some name with a season & a land mass—

my grandfather wears his flight jacket

over a uniform of navy-blue pajamas

 

The nurse pricks his finger

he winces     sucks in air   

 

says he wants to watch the other people eat cake     

We watch them eat it

 

In the courtyard:

 

What’s holding all this up? he asks about the sky

 

A small plane overhead

coming into one of Redlands’ private hangers

& he cups both ears with his hands to listen

 

I think I might have flown that plane

 

No I say as I always say It was a P-47

 

My grandfather makes his hands look like guns

points them at the sky

 

What kind of friend is the brain?

 

Pow pow pow he whispers

& then just as quietly

bang     bang     bang


Living Alone

Living alone is currently second popular

to cohabitation.

 

But the gap is narrowing and soon, alone,

you will be in good company.

 

There is nothing new about living alone—in fact,

the first person on earth lived alone.

 

It is hard to say what life was like for that single person,

or if that person was in fact alone,

 

as that was a very long time ago

and there were no cameras.

 

We can only imagine. Imagining is one thing that people

who live alone can become particularly good at.

 

Some Fun Imagining Ideas:

 

            1. Your work clothes have a life of their own,

            and when you put them on

            they touch you all over.

            When you tell them to stop they say, “Sure thing.”

            But you can tell by how they said it,

            it will happen again tomorrow.

 

            2. Your morning cup of coffee was made by a cute barista.

            When you go back to the counter to ask for the Wi-Fi password,

            he/she gives you a look that says, “I might be interested.”

           

            This will give you something to think about at work.

            But do not tell anyone about the barista, because the barista is imaginary

            and you must not forget this.

           

Some Helpful Reminders:      

 

            1. The key to your door is the only one.

            If you are locked out, it won’t matter how hard you knock

            or how loudly you call, no one will undo the latch

            and let you in, a towel around their waist, saying,

            “I’m sorry, I didn’t hear you—I was in the shower,”

            and then kiss you on the neck.

 

            2. If you hear a sound that scares you,

            it’s just your circadian hum—

            your billion cells changing shape,

            the rapid division of hair follicles,

            the plasma oozing in your blood.

            It can take up to a month

            for your ears to finally adjust.

 

            3. Most importantly, do not stop cooking for yourself

            as that may lead to:

            not flushing the toilet, not locking up, not turning on a light

            when you enter a dark room.

 

If you are currently surrounded by pizza boxes

and empty cans of soup, pay attention:

 

You must make yourself a cake from scratch.

You must sift the flour and soften the butter, make the icing too.

 

Use the icing to write your own name in cursive,

put some edible flowers on top, or a Matchbox car.

 

Light a candle. Play a song on your guitar. Sing.

Now cut a piece of cake and hold it to your lips.

 

Smile. Wait for the gentle nibble, the tongue

that will find your fingers, the warm mouth. See where it leads…

 

come on, you need this.


Reasons to write a letter

(Circle one or more of the following)

 

1) Taking your last breaths in a four-poster bed,

candle wax dripping down window frames,

meditating on the follicle of an eyelash

that you found in your gruel

and how it reminds you of your middle son, Ray,

his lightness,

 

the way he floats about and falls into things,

how you dreamed he’d win medals

but he became artistic instead, and supposedly

he’s into bondage now—

or so you heard from the youngest, Moira, who’s no better,

crystal ball in her closet with lights that make her teeth glow—

 

you are convinced you are dying,

and out of guilt and something like love

you ask the nurse to prop you up and get some paper.

 

2) You are in love. Your head is full

of balloon animals all squeaking at once

and you want to write about it

in a meaningful way.

 

3) Or maybe you’d like a pen pal.

 

You were in the slammer for three years

and didn’t meet anyone you could gel with.

 

But then, on a bus from Solano to Fresno the day of your release,

you meet Pete, who’s also just been released,

and holy shit he was a level II

and you were a level III,

you both have a mother who isn’t well

and a bachelor’s in Sociology, but Pete is going

all the way to Huntington Beach

and neither of you have a car or money to visit the other.

 

You borrow a pen and write his mother’s address

on the back of a receipt.

 

You will never see each other again, never have

a secret handshake, never meet his daughter, Tailer,

who Pete says has eyes like water

you’ll never see his uncle’s ranch

in Sanger, and you’ll never have him over for a potluck dinner…

but you will have postcards,

you will have letters,

you will say Dear Pete and Dear Pen Pal

and Dear Friend ‘til the End,

you will sign off with your full name

or just your initials or just

Me.


Since we aren't Sleeping, Let Me Remind You Why

We chose an apartment

twenty feet from the freeway,

because we wanted to feel

the heat of headlights

in our eyes, the screeching of tires

in the curves

of our spines. We wanted majesty,

but rushed—an ocean of engines

with waves that never rise.

We wanted to kiss

goodbye and not goodnight,

every night,

so we could wake up

every morning

surprised. We wanted

 to grow vigilant,

poised as a nun’s candle,

to cultivate a suspicion

of gravity, to handle our love

with a glassblower’s touch—sleep lightly,

dream lightly, grip lightly—

aware of the three-ton bullets

always speeding past us.

Let me remind you

what we told each other,

hand in hand, hiking that

washed out road

in the heat of Gamma Gulch:

too much space. Too much silence,

wearing us like

our grandparents’ coats.

You can drop something in a wide

open space and nothing will happen,

nothing will break, 

you can handle every poppy or sage leaf

or lover with dumb, earthy hands,

throw elbows and spin kicks,

roll yourself out completely, like a carpet,

and it’s doubtful anything 

will shatter you. That’s why we live here,

by the freeway, ready to catch

what’s pitched to us,

ready to catch

with our teeth. 


Bio

L.I. Henley's chapbooks, Desert with a Cabin View and The Finding are available through Orange Monkey Publishing. Born and raised in Joshua Tree, California, her imagination runs with coyotes and jackrabbits. She and her husband, poet Jonathan Maule, edit an online journal called Aperçus Quarterly.