Minus Forty Is Minus Forty (No Matter What)

She reads the wrong books
in a corridor
everyone has forgotten.

A cardinal rests
on a bare branch
outside a window she cannot see.

She reads people
recover from Nor’easters
in different ways.

When it’s deadly, some don’t.
If a bird, not a human, dies,
it’s still deadly

despite what the official record
says. Baleful conveys
the wrong tone, she reads

in one of those wrong books.
She reads about bridges
under water, and the stench

of decaying fish
fills the nostrils
of her imagination

(as if the imagination
could breathe
without her knowledge.)

She reads the temperature
in Celsius
aloud in a minor key

and warms
to March ambivalence
with a knit cap, no gloves.

She reads too much
into his woeful eyes
and learns the wrong way

to comfort a stranger.
He’s not a stranger
to the woman

who loves him
no matter what.
No matter what, she reads,

erases consequences
like sidewalk hopscotch boards
in the rain, or

the messages she leaves in red
dirt with a rusty jackknife
far from home.

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