pine branches scratch
the gibbous moon.
velvetine mouth, the opening dark
I am not the only creature
stirred from sleep: far off,
a grosbeak whistles.
the fragment of winter in me
God, but your patient.
I can’t stand how much you love me, in the grocery store.
You give me so much time,
you know how its hard for me.
But sweetheart, get angry!
Penne or Rigatoni is not a valid stressor
and you don’t need second opinions for cauliflower.
How calm you are while I fuss over fresh herbs
or dried ones--I chalk it up to your lack of experience:
I have, after all, known myself longer,
and I make a mental note to loan you
‘House of Mirth, which you need to read
so you can resent me properly--or at least with authority.
I just want you to hate me like I do
so when it turns out I’m a better cook than a person
you won’t be disappointed. But what if you only
love me more afterwards? Oh, my God, What can I do?
There are 41 types of pasta sauce here
but I only need one.
when your arms are around my waist
when I make coffee in the kitchen
it traces a delicate line around the present.
you never discuss the future with me.
here and now,
not knowing makes me buoyant:
it’s not a thing I’d plan without you
you seem to know the time goes somewhere
but I’m not sure if you’ve seen
the number of future Saturdays
gathering behind my teeth--
our dreams still sleep in separate beds
every task unasks a question
(will your arms circle my waist then and then?
coffee? here, or across oceans? when?)
tomorrows fall upon tomorrows in my soul
suspense, I am always suspended:
a bomb in a spider’s web--
time is building up in me,
will I, I wonder
one day rupture?
I live on a planet that terrifies me.
at night, I imagine a knife slicing open my abdomen
I feel more relaxed with my skin open
my guts remind me of everything.
animals are beautiful on the inside.
I am meat,
and the night is dripping wet--
Stop, please stop that thud, that thud,
I hear your thirst like sand for blood--
O I will bring you water, water,
only beat your breast no longer!
Because I see your prayer becoming
consumptive by its own drumming,
a labyrinth that bears no unthreading.
God, I saw a black bruise spreading
deep within that dreadful cadence--
and his prayer was patience, patience.
“Tell me, please, what I can do
to break you from that death tattoo,”
but all he did was beat and nod
I lost him to an Awful God.
I used to keep my baby teeth in a butterscotch tin.
I guess I was making an investment
in tooth-fairy stock; trying to diversify my easter bunny portfolio.
Quarters: Like chocolate I could feed into a Coinstar and turn to dollar bills
which I could then use to buy more chocolate.
I just, hey, I just remembered that I have a butterscotch tin filled with quarters
sitting in the back of my closet right now. Funny,
when things move in circles like that--I can’t even remember
the last time I ate a butterscotch. Or even how my final tooth
came out, which I’d think would be a milestone.
I was eating an egg-salad sandwich when I lost one of the last ones--
I just took a bite and one tooth stayed behind.
For weeks I couldn’t even look at a sandwich,
I just kept thinking about the disturbing look of blood on mayonnaise.
I wonder if there’s much business for the tooth fairy these days--
my dad, winding blue ribbons around small stacks of quarters so they’d look nice;
my dad, stepping on LEGOs in the dark and stifling swears;
my dad, navigating bedroom geography to make a swift exchange
while I slept and turned a tidy profit, trading old small parts
for riches and a grown-up mouth.
Now I wonder what they did with my wisdom teeth,
after they pulled them out last year.
Were they drilled out, finally, into dust? Or did
a dental surgeon slip some pilfered teeth
beneath his pillow on the sly,
turning one last profit out of my face,
the summer someone noticed
I needed a grown-up mouth?
All I know is that for days
I stayed at home moaning into my pillow,
strung out on percocet and eating anything
that could be sipped through a straw.
(It was only then I discovered the Sonic had stopped
serving butterscotch shakes--years ago, apparently.
You’d think I’d have noticed. But then, you’d think
I’d notice lots of things.)
I wonder how much my teeth would be worth now.
I wonder if the tooth-fairy has adjusted for inflation.
I still get excited over stray quarters,
but now I guess I just have to find them on the street
like everyone else does.
fistfulls of tsampa, butter lamps,
kneeling till my legs are cramped
and feeling less than human here,
where I am but a sightseer--
the things I know of bhodi trees
are what was writ in books for me--
of this fourth summer lunar month:
frayed prayer flags’ silk like amianth
with them do my thoughts most align
at a festival that is not mine.
you read those books where they build girl angels in laboratories
who fall in love with lonely boys.
you like hearing your poems
read back to you in english accents
and you like your accents
licking on your poems
because, if I recall, you’re heart-broken
--no I haven’t forgotten,
yes I remember, you were the
curvaceous queen of unskinned knees;
I was bloody in jeans.
you got partway through Swann’s Way,
but gave up last November,
when I was hitting walls hard.
the last words you read were the last
on your mind, “Happiness is beneficial for the body--”
and you stopped, that was fine enough
for a tattoo. (happy needle,
Well grief taught me, grief bought me,
and I was hitting walls hard.
But straight back for you, to boys kissing boys
and you’re too old for toys and
you think it’s pathetic
how girls go to get it
with silicon and plastic
oh go on, tell me how
you’re a heart-breaker, ha,
because you showed them
your breasts, like an angel.
you like to remind me how skinny you are now,
and you still love to dance.
There is no equivalent factory making boy angels.
1. I have to stop when I catch myself mentally titling poems about how you and I do not belong together.
2. Doomed like your mother, doomed like your father—don’t think it, don’t think it—loneliness is my birthright, loneliness is my bride.
3. This is a mania, this is a phobia. Tag your neuroses and track them, keep track of them.
4. Remember _, think what happened to _.
5. You speak of your friend like she’s dead.
6. She is dead, though, only wakes up now and then to bury herself.
7. What do you mean?
8. I mean she reaches out with one arm from her shallow grave, and she buries herself. Great fistfuls of dirt.
10. But she was not a huntress.
11. And so?
12. And so it got the best of her.
13. Well, you tell me what I ought to see
when I self-perceive
Would you lie to me?
14. No, you’re a truth-teller, heart-sweller.
15. The Age of Huts, man, I never had it in me. I’m all ravens and bell-jars.
color camera filter gel
it's a black tower at tintagel
turns me every shade of dead
when i'm made to lay in bed
last night i fought so violently,
the neighbors left a note for me--
"the walls are thin here; from above
we could hear you two make love."
born too early, slept too late,
crows flocked to their dinner plate,
and i studied aristophanes
amidst a shrill cacophony.
wet and wind in winter's maw
i opened wide, but tigers' claw
caught a vain and made it sing--
heaven hurting, heaven sting
a vessel filling up with sand,
myth and man with mountain hands;
sipping from a fiery flagon,
how i began Year of the Dragon.
she’s only got one arm, but that doesn’t stop her
from playing the piano Tuesdays;
clever girl, she’s got a rig,
three extra pedals to hammer out lower chords,
right hand for the melody.
she thinks often, how convenient for her,
it was her right arm she’d kept,
else she’d have to reach across to play the treble
and that’d make it hardly worth it.
of course, there are some things
what she can’t play perfect, that 's always
but it’s the sort of think you put up with
when you are one-armed
and play piano on Tuesdays.
today, as it happens, is Thursday,
a day when she usually (but does not always) dust the piano.
this Thursday she dusts,
though there is not a lot of dust
because she woke up yesterday thinking it was Thursday
and you know how it goes. still,
she runs her dusting wand across the top of the instrument,
over the keys and raises little clouds, to her satisfaction:
if the dust is in the air, then it’s not on the hammers, the cables,
no, only her fingers, five on the ivory.
depositing the duster in its appropriate space—
she is all about space
and all about appropriateness,
there is (she thinks) some of each
for everyone, even if they’re not symmetrical—
she sweeps her hand against its weight
against the familiar grain, cut across
the slickness of its heart-dark lacquer, she feels what was not there yesterday,
in the wood,
disbelieving, she puts her eye to it, runs her second finger over, over,
a split down the middle
of the damper cover, wide as a split vein
and a millimeter deeper.
an earth spilled you soft
onto meadows of grass
and arms lifted you up
with bottle neck glass
boiling deep foriegn squall
of aluminum shards,
hardened sweat celebrations
strewn over the yard
remember these nets
and this slickness of sands
is strange to you too
a strange set of hands
that pulls the sky from you
and forgets how to breathe
and stills a soft meadow
your mother's bereaved.
I make a jest of your many dimensions
curving our time
and its massive indentions
Reaching for me as a wave, as a particle,
your lightness of limb
you’re the genuine article
Sol invictus, opportune
white hot and yielding sun
you are the cause of my strange perihelion
I felt with one hand in your depths--
fathomless!--for an emblem, an anthem!
No other time but then
did every bright vestige touch my fingers
to be held close,
Only later when I moved to breath did I find
I’d come up with only,
handwritten in ballpoint:
“Mahogany: A color which
may or may not have been
a precise descriptor of your sweater.”
It must be an interloping loyalty that grieves me,
as you claimed never to have been
Yet you brushed my temple with wasp-nest lips!
How sad that your echo exists thus, solely thus;
It is, I think, a paltry token
of a transcendence so complete
that, for once, I did not grope for color,
but had it kissing
my cold hands.
Sometimes I think
That life is a pear
And I sit on the stem
With my speckled skin bare
Sometimes I think
that life bruises too fast,
How it's softened by things
That have already past
Sometimes I believe
I can quiet white noise
And muffle the clutter
That swallows up joys
Sometimes I pretend
That I'm going to die
That the airplane I'm in
Drops out of the sky
Sometimes I think of
How when all else goes out
Then the exit's still bright
And sometimes I think
Of my thin cotton shift
Of the noise that it makes
When I lean for a kiss.
The water in your blood
was once in the blood of dinosaurs,
the blood of bears, the blood of wolves.
Your father came and took you,
dipped your feet into the river,
when you were only two weeks old.
And I am nothing of a carpenter
and even less an engineer
but If I were I'd take a hammer
and I would build a bridge to Canada
New windows for our broken homes
a pathway winding westward from
the wailing ocean tide.
i slept in the heart of the swallow’s breast
in the tire-swing marina
“who do you love best?”
what is the name that I drank in the dark
whose syllables traipsed through the silt
who was the pit of my hunger my thirst
i am a tulip, bloom
ing in reverse
You had a method for testing the fiction
said “God’s not a bad man, but I know you need fixin’
You’re beautiful, you’re underwhelmed, anyway.”
There is a hand in the sky holding flames to your eye
but it’s not hard to tell there’s fresh swell of sighs
on its way to us, expectant, holding sway.
A court of flatterers dolled up in tatters,
I can hardly hear for the sound of their chatter--
the words they say fumble, they lead astray.
Since in the daytime I am soft-spoken and mild,
they’re all convinced I have the soft will of a child
It’s up to you to explain, I must have my way.
See, I’ve got a fine plan for testing the fiction,
God’s a good man when he’s free of restrictions
So trust in me when I say, I will pray.
Talking of sacrament, boy’s got a blessed bent
so he won’t hold me when ma says it’s not prudent--
“It’s not for a girl to say, anyway”
Here’s my hand reaching; I was born a huntress,
Come when I call you, obey when I say undress:
Here’s a test for your holiness, here I lay.
Who fell asleep in
her headphones plugged into
a repeating sequence of ocean swells
on this frequency, smoke signals--
Don't touch that dial
While the land-locked
pulpit-boy's preaching denial;
Push up that skirt,
fashioned out of swans' feathers scattered
over the parson's house
It's hallowed ground you're jumbled upon
bleeding out oceans on the parish lawn.
lover, I fear the future.
I fear you, a century behind me
I fear the lights that appear
under your skin and guide my fingers
down and across
till with an ear against your neck
I feel the shudder of ancient wings.
lover, I fear your insides,
the plum-colored honeycomb
of tissue and pulp,
sympathy and deep hives of unrest,
in the lull I gaze towards the ceiling,
lover, I brave it all when
above my head, hands clasped
like a pilgrim, I rail
against, against, against—
vanilla, teak, tobacco,
I perfume my sheets with you.