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Office of Institutional Research

Communications & External Affairs

Jen Currin

Collis This poetic trace was used in:
Poem 5: Revenga
Poem 9: Love in the archive
Poems 18 & 19:
Lana Domax, poet from and in this time

Poem 20: done
Poem 21: Response
Poem 28: We
Poem 29: R's
Poem 30: Tautology
Poem 31: Loss
Poem 33: Thespian p*ssycock
Poem 35: Learning machines
Poem 37: Satisfactions are gaps in desire



Chanting Indoors

For the fish are drunk again
in the streets of your city.
It can be hard to find a ring
for every finger.
With the beads and the counting and the indoors.
With the mountain at the back gate.
And where to house the glass star.

It happens in myth
every time a woman looks over her shoulder.
She wants lunch. Points to her elbow.
First salt then boiling water.
Demons soaked in the sink.
It happens wherever we are silent.

For a pilgrim needs water. Weariness.
Two fish saved in a jug.
The pilgrim is a body
poured from cup to mouth.
In the end it will be as when we first shook hands.
Fires near the city.
The mayor rinses her vest.
We look at our legs and ask will they save us.



Your friend and his brothers of coastal address
don’t look good on paper.
In every corner a ghost
falling to its knees,
too much hope at the mouth.
They study English desperately
but won’t remove their shoes.

This is being light.
The best light we can find.
A woman gives a man
her intuition.
He pockets it in a game
called “pass the first jewel on your left.”
And your friends, the whites
of their eyes are blue.
They make our nipples into poems
in neighbourhoods where coffee is roasted.

Even when we are naked
lions caught in traffic,
we stupidly split our lips
A woman kills a man
and he becomes a piano.
The next time we meet
it will be too romantic,
just a few words and a thousand
intricately carved boxes.
Let us breathe into them
until we are dead.


It Was One of Us, Night or Day

I asked to follow the thread and you said,
Have faith and drink water.
Leaning on your language,
I forgot my luggage:
pictures of a many-tiered virginity,
unlikable characters, their battered shoes.

Each tree had to be thanked
so I set to my task.
Some of the spirits were eating candy,
some had apocalyptic faces.
They asked after my bags,
if my brother had given me vitamins.

Dogs named after our distant relatives
dropped bones at my feet.
The spirits urged me to hold up a branch
and act like a magician
but I refused.
Since birth I have been afraid of stories.

It was my mother
who took the oranges to the border,
argued with the guards.
She made appearances in cash only.

We woke frenzied, unable to spell.
It fell from our mouths: We are bridges.
More and more of us resonate.
I can’t remember, but I’m sure it was you
who finally told me
it doesn’t matter if we run toward it
or run away.



It can be had
by friends adult and elderly.
Lonely—a finger without a ring.
In the depths of sobriety
I’m hiding the string
we use to discern a woman’s character.
A train platform in the middle of nowhere.

Travelling south with a bag of licorice,
a tea jar from Japan.
The city is always late and missing
its panties. It’s best to pretend
we don’t know why.
I don’t want you to ever lie
next to someone and not touch her
because of me.
In the dark you have to trust
the stairs.

To be tall and naked
as a tree. Transient—
we’ve already seen the bones.
Two fish cradling the family.
Two sisters and I am
one of them.


Four Bridges

Death speaks like a feather: yellow.
Green: death’s mountain at the foot of your youth.
Red: assume death.
Love: too many poems death would rather forget.
Love: just like a little storm it topples,
making a name for itself.
River: not a thin blanket,
never a narrow
pair of shoes.
Laughter: spilled passport.
Knock: down.
The silver: walls.
If death is speaking
(sunset: specific: pleasant clock)
I’d like it to get to the point:
the boys running into the house
for her glasses.
Later she never wore them
and claimed it was our wish.
Black: as she remembers.
Tremor: you’d think it was her coffin.
Lilacs: where the old kings
are sleeping I heard
eleven ring twice.


Fairy and Folk Tales

A practice of breaking night
over your knee, never lifting
a finger in the larger struggle.

New arrivals lurk outside the candle’s circle.
My clinic is full of intelligent people.
My husband pregnant and no memory.
For facial hair
I use coffee grounds.
The world is very tender;
we are a village together.

Now the tongue our parents spoke of
is proof we are decaying.
Piece together the sweaty children and you
have a concern.
Not really outraged, words
clipped like wings.
We are in a fire of intelligent people
and not one knows

even the word cup will disappear.


The Blood We Meditate

Every sister knows the rats.
A salad to be shared
in the rented kitchen.

Her intent is to be sick in her shoes
and then walk home.
Never to grow and never to be scorned.
For the sun is distant from our table.

We buy a book of propaganda.
A prop horse from a man in robes.
His concern is our lack of.
Are we in town for awhile.
Would we like a free meal.

By betrayal, I mean the waterfall
crying behind us.
Our sides ache from laughing.
How better to deface ourselves.
Surely we are pigeons
performing in the war theater.
Surely the man will publish
his accusatory drawings.
He wants the colour of our eyes,
our hairy vision.
How strange he wants the wind
to forget us—


It Seems

Dear Death,
please tell me it was you
dressed as a dancing girl
listening at the door.
I’m sorry my sisters
whispered so softly.
They had just begun to disappear
like snow on the lower mountains.

I’m sad you’re not someone else,
but who is.
My parents have been skeletons for years.
There’s nothing to be ashamed of.

I have three pairs of pants
with which to drive out the moonlight.
I will leave them at the port
for your seamstress.

If you return me to the seasons
with new claws, I will not remember this
crime. I will wake slowly
as a bee drowns in my coffee.

Dear Death, it is already yesterday
as we board your blue boat.

Shadow / Distinction

Boys of the frog illiterate
lighten our studies
in the man-woman-tiger church.

A willingness to be ourselves—
of little value,
carved from the lap of a god.

Something in their eye. Some man in our ear.
A year from youth
choking on good advice.

We will recognize
their teeth, miserable setting
for a play.

Our fathers dead in the kitchen,
the musicians fighting
in alley tongue.

Light at eight
in April, pigeons grooming
by some other clock.

Someone veiled, weeping
over a homemade broom.

Pulse of a wrist—
another entrance.


Constellations, Creatures with Two Legs

Bluish in the whiskered face of dawn,
I lift my cloak to the sky—
face after farce—April’s marriage
to August. My love who was
the size of a thumb. Bottled
and given to idle phrase-making.
A phantom in a noisy place
before her army slowed its pace.

Now a mermaid tattoo, a blue monkey, a bird
frightened by chance,
seeing a black squirrel
in the car’s shadow. Dogs on film
and no one wants to hold her hand
in exile.

Inscrutably involved, your hands are basil.
You fall into a fugue that could be a garden.
Once upon a forest I cut myself
and claimed I was the knife.
My love who knew the taste of mountains.
Red clover tea. Kiss on the knee.

Sickness was the star sitting too close
on the divan. Vanity sipping the baffled waters.
The dead and living waters
we pour over our heads. Our shoulders
brush. Our spirits will not
marry us.


Topple the Room

We think madness is green and we are yellow.
Shown sideways, our scars gleam
their first warnings
as we go next door with our heartbeats,
our handfuls of rice.

The whole house smells of burning.
It is not the time for headstands yet.
I cannot ask
the you of yesterday
to be the you of today,
for I too once spiked my hair
to appear worthy.

We lived in a thicket,
sleeping back to back
as if married.
Maybe I am sick but I return
to this as if it will never go out.
Night after night,
in the dead light of my blood’s
poorest translation,
I dream in our name.


Finally, Who Is Here with Us?

A man hits his granddaughter with a sock.
We are sinking deeper into the muck.
I stand on one foot like a duck.
All the cats follow me
across the gravel like sugar thieves.

So the wire bird abandons writing.
I give up
my plastic mouse.
The apartment lobby choked with incense,
red leaves piled at the door.
A donkey who loves to drink wine.
A little piece of yellow paper
for your mother on the Sunshine Coast.

I keep falling off the table. What do I know.
Erotic ideals. Orange and a slice of pie.
What do I know. The sun leaves me.
All the children I know are me.

In the desert we go barefoot and pregnant.

Finally, we reach the seventh day.

Finally, we reach the eighth sister.

Silence, I wish you sounded more like rain.


We All Drive Such Cars

No longer myself sing breathlessly
with force short of war.
I picked up a small lisp in that other country.
Lowercase conversations, paragraphs of horses—
it disappoints me
that I see you so rarely.

For days longer we may linger
in doorways, democratically wishing,
indiscriminately locking bicycles to poles.

You use the word path four times
in one sentence. Why?

I am resting, really.
Wearing the garden in my hat,
I promise to make it briefly ours.
Floors everywhere remind me
of your back. Mountainous night,
cats let loose in the lobby.

You once pinched the balcony,
tossed it to the rocks.
Such silences poured over,
had nothing to do with me.
We are all named
after a place
we once lived and I refuse
to weave a part in this biography.
Brutality taught me:
Leaf is a verb.
I am leaving.


The Elephant Lady’s Drawings

We came out of the garden
and there were brides in the trees.
You faked a birdsong.
I had something to say to your mother
but the ancestors are as inconsiderate
as they are deaf.

To the house of sliding panels
we rode optimistically
side by side, downing
the vinegary local wine.
Our anxious friends
had become famous.
Some favoured men; others, women.
They set our places at the table.

It was like a dream of masturbation:
you dipping the artichoke in melted butter.
I wanted to drool
if that was what it meant
to be wild,
but I could only comfort you
as you comforted the wall.

Don’t close my eyes when I die.
I want my body rubbed
with white sand, the strongest teas
imbibed at my grave.
I can settle for little:
a calmness after crying,
honey for the throat.
Because my list is endless—

Almost always I forget

to dream of pigs,
good luck animals advancing
like territories of water and ash.
These tender people in the light of their deaths
studying to protect you
like gold through your nose.
They read the book
from its end
to its beginning.

You call to the money, always small
as your friends. From under
your pseudonym, the festival:
butterfly meets butterfly
on the highway median.
A word taken
up and down until our jackets
are left hanging
in whisper-hands.

Very much like the white bird
you saw me and gave me free
your wooded message—

You, who used to bring me milk
before the war.


To Shrink the River

The ghost chokes
on teeth,
I am hesitant
to make a home
for it.

The cake turning to mountain
in the ghost’s stomach.
To fold an egg into bed.
To take a pill,
blue as it should be.
To make the names
dance hypnotically
in their cribs.

Winter aghast, joining
our howls
in the churning river.
Noise only you notice
as I hoarsely wish
for a place
in the death tank,
shortest day
out of my mouth
like an anonymous egg.


If We Are Able

All night and again
in the morning.
The shorter the shortest breath.
I will listen
with my whole body
while we are still alive.

A flesh and bone house.
A muscle house.
Some still, selfish door.
The snow country of your shirt,
a candle burning invisibly
at midday.


One snake, an eye
at the back of your head.
Three trees, a forest
where the offspring are divided
young from old.

They bring in a cousin
or an aunt to cry,
but no torture.
They deprive us of sleep,
but no torture.
Only a shower
of rice. And we must
say something now
about how hard it is.


Often at Night, Often with Candles

In a jar with my
hush money.

Bomb where I live.

Two ways of saying

If suicide.

If you believe in one small luck.

Only women with the gold pig pendant.

What do they mean to do
with their predictions.

Heavy eye mouth ear.

Nine months out
of the year.

Where the good
spirits live.

How will they.

Little brothers with their bowls
at the window.
In skirts, in pockets
of ash.


The Bridge Melting Behind Us

Give until the glass
is empty, until the sky is salt,
until the self disowns
the self. Give like the wind
and forget what you touch.

And please burn your owls
out of their habits.
Feathers beget eggs.
I want to tell you this
on a piece of onion skin.
You always look bigger standing
in the doorway.

We walk to where tomorrow preens.
Wind-demons belly dance on the bridge.
The gulls make quick confetti
of our words.
Let us say the most shocking thing.

My dear husband/wife, I want to tell you now,
as you are both sleeping beside me
and working on your novel
in the next room. All these years,
I have not been a human being.
All these years I have been a tree.


I Drink To Our Ruined House

Deep breath to begin the sexual pause. A patient grasp on the sentence. Trees let go. They have to. Lean in. As wishbones do. Intact on the windowsill. Wings in our teeth. Breast to breast. We will marry in burnt swaddling clothes. Let it be known in the city of our distraction. In debt like the moon. The phone’s celestial ringing. The piano hushed. Polishing the paragraph of bone. Over breakfasts of blood pastries. We shower in dust. Tune of red ants. If we sleep through the war and wake to find no one.




The Bird

She had the look of winter about her. An inexhaustible redness to her breast. Hunger in the shape of an eye. Crest like a bony crown.

It’s bad luck to give an even amount of flowers. Here are thirteen daffodils. I’d like you to come back, so please leave your face in the mirror by the front door.

I’m not afraid of your nursery-rhyme demons. But who will supply the bath amulets? Some little fellow from the wood stopped me yesterday near his house. See that bird? he asked. See that wizard?


Acrobats Glow in the Dark

If I bend you this way,
you curl like a fiddlehead.
If you twist me quickly, sirens

The mountain raises its shoulder
like an eyebrow. Is not shocked
by our grooming. How we take
a comb to bed and tell
a lover to leave
her pants on the floor
so we may sweep the spirits
from the apartment.

A colony of small red spiders
eats their queen. You cannot domesticate
these plants. The palm drops its fronds
and leaves us with an erection.
We buy shorter legs
for the couch.
We bide our time on a mattress
on the floor.

The halls smell of cumin.
The carnival is a block away.
The brothel where we clip our fingernails
when we are in the mood.


Window Music

Because the red bird says it will know me
if I put a fish whistle in my pocket.
It’s like laughter, how we catch our breath.
Like laughter at three
in the morning.

So I set down my skin. I’m tired.
There is a wall on either side.
A safety pin for an earring.
A lover who picks tomatoes for the ride.

The ceiling drops its plants to the floor.
Dust from the other room.
Drinking paper and brown rice tea.
Drinking gold and olive oil.
I’m seeing stars on the stair.

I doff my cap to the trees.
I drop my list
and start over.

A peach is eaten
while leaning against brick.
Soon I will recognize the sun.


No One Need Know We’re Not Home

We take the first steps to the sea.
A paper bride blows by.
You write a note on my hand
and ask me who wrote it.

Penny-eyed, the seals accuse us.
We have left their brothers
in the bath. We have left
the lights on in the spice cupboard.

And now the ocean’s broken laughter.
I pull the instructions
from a small hourglass.
My gloves are stiff with salt,
every finger a hot stone.

More than once we have been eaten
by the sea. The wind whistles dumber, smarter.
A bit of foam clings to your forehead.
The wind guesses who a flower, who a leaf.


You are spinning, your red pyjama
bunched at the ankles, your spirit
napping in the old nursery.

My shoes turn to seaweed.
The wind forces me to my knees.
I swiftly learn how to crawl.
A shred of a tune tumbles
down the beach like a jailbird kite.

Threads of the sweater I threw away last year
have found their way into your hair.
We go from green to blue to green again,
unable to make up our minds.


Eating the Scraps of Dawn

You take off your powder
and come to know me
as I am,
stairs into water and the sun
in your eyes.

Of all the criers you comfort me most.
You are the only one who takes me for a madman,
who understands my throat
thinks for me.

October sidles up. We’ve been eating phantom money.
And you? Wet haired in your bed.
And you? Smoking in the snow.
We’ve been up this mountain before, bleeding,
thank you for asking.

Still I like the buildings and I still hope
to make a friend from the encounter
before the sky does.
I age much. It must seem
that I like to look over my shoulder.
I’m not so indiscriminate as all that.


The Mountain Highway

My beggar’s spirit and I are one.
We agree to leave
in the morning.
About the time the road begins to whine,
I remember the bottle hidden in the blankets.
We can’t turn back to the year of the dragon
where two treed men
might drop their webs over us,
so we brave the winding path
to the city of blood dancers.
We eat nothing, sing to the small dog
that might be a phantom.
A blossom in the room of my mind wilts slowly.
I cannot remember which coin
is our talisman.
Near the city gates, we join a masked procession
of incarcerated gods.
There is a small chance
we too will end up whistling.


Fortunes for a Two-Bearded Woman

First lick two envelopes. Leave them
unsealed. Then begin mending:
shirts, shoes, pants. Quietly. Merrily.
Fill up the space between your fingers
with hoarse song.

There is a peasant army hiding
in the fig tree and the path
is overgrown with morning glory.
Masked damsels say bird, say rifle.
Blood sleeps in their beds.
Say knife. Say spoon.

It is not raining yet
on this side of town.
The train stretches lonesome across the bridge.
A bruised hat falls to the water.
The bell of a belt buckle as it hits
the rocks.

If your father gives you
ten thousand dancing girls,
you will dress as a sailor
in an archipelago of tattoos.
If you sew a button
on your brown suit,
you will not envy the orchid.
You will notice the crescent
of your lover’s body curled in sleep.
You will read this with both of your hands.




Rumours and Trembling

I tell the teeth of your mouth:
I waited for you
and the devil never came.
Now he misses the rain,
whistles in the night
to become the snake
in spy photographs.

Just as we use fish bones
to fortune tell,
he holds up his trousers
with no hands.
We are all capable of this,
having spent our whole lives
questioning birds.

Drawing circles in the sky.
Catching matches
when our arms are long.
We lose getting lost
at the end of the day.

It could be lonely, a bed
of blue roses
over the mountains.

Your shoes get too tight,
you forget, and the truth
as we know it
is worn away.



Kindling I laid down on as you stole my fast. We ate masks of lamb bones and sweet grasses. Then I threw my hair on the ground and would go no further.

Belly down, you listened as the newly tarred road turned to snake. I had two eyes at the time and I told you to get the hell inside. The sun flexed its muscles across your back. Night’s eyebrow crawled into the shade.

Two years later I was engaged to the tree. I wanted nothing to do with you, your demonstrative fingers, your water for the bedside. I wanted none of that comfortable silence called sleep.

And when our child came, she drew herself a lamp. She enticed insects inside, she quietly killed them.



One man in a cherry suit
steals my sister. Keys
conspiratorial in his pocket.
My sister a dragonfly
living on his lapel.

Telephone off the hook, I call
after them. Down the stream
they go, eating summer
like fruit, melodically
pissing under trees, a radio
tucked in the bend of their knees.

I weep in front of her empty shelves.
He has stolen her clothes. A man with a wide face
and prominent elbows. Behind him
one hag crouching in the ferns
where he will recall the light
and plug up the forest in his ears.

It is known that she wears flowers
under her arms, but my sister
is not another pink-haired
dolly. She gnaws the bone
of her book. Examines
metallic bugs on the street.
On city buses. River banks
where she left open-handed, some small
tattoo to remember
her ankle by—

In the attic a naked girl
wraps herself in a quilt.
In the basement a girl just waking.


Night Leaf

I take my seat at the table
to the chuckle of clock and lamp.
To read a note written on a napkin in whispers.

The four winds enter through the windows,
upsetting my nightcap.
Now the dentist tells me
I am water, Just like your mother.
She says she will tidy my mouth.

But my teeth are a row of auditorium seats
stained with tea and honey.
They will not be loosened.
So the dentist is off to dinner
with her lover, marvelling
over the adult handwriting on the napkin.

I am only a child. There’s one of us
at every bedside. In a glass
of blue foam. On a table
of someone else’s making.



The body cannot be deceived.
It howls until held
under water. A whole city
stiff in their clothes.
Iced eyelashes of the children
who see their breath
on the other side of the window.

The lake’s soul is hungry.
How often it has sat with us,
holding our hands.
At suppertime its witches are restless, unrolling
labels from soup cans.
Its children have the teeth of dogs
eating thorns in the upper balconies.

We must practice feeling empty
through the ice of the imagination.
We touch empathically.
Climb innumerable stairs
to reach winter’s twelve months.
We cannot disbelieve the stone
lions we croon to, never
closing our mouths.


The Moon Is Trembling like Us

It was during the holiday of New Thanks. Grandpére slept on the roof, on a shirt sewn with mirrors. The windows quaked, the plaster salted our plates with every snore. A ghost fogged the kitchen with prayers. The more lively dead kicked up their heels in the drafty hall as the drum kept time with its thumbs.

At dawn the humming tribe woke us: Pick up your beds and move on. I stuttered out of my sleeping clothes; a toothpick talisman fell from my teeth. My very good brush did not want to leave me. And my blanket wept. Where to go? I had already burned the bridges of my fingers the night before while lighting candles. I didn’t know how to walk on grass without sho


Every Bridge a Tree

It will build your legs again,
right down from the walls,
scab upon scab.
It will melt your snow feet
and make a memory whistle
of your voice. When you come inside,
bringing your weather,
it will start the week.

For we are going to the body
and who is the boat.
Every monster of the lake
was once a king.
If washing our clothes
will give us vocabulary,
if we are thick in our skins,
bringing plants, meats and soil
across borders

as a boy changes his name to Dance.
As a girl dons her donkey skin.
The children wearing crowns
to cross the river. Cold ever after
if we attempt to warm ourselves
with water.



Sunday it is
a chair where
a house once was.
An astrological excuse
the fiddle has for song.
For bread we had
to part with.

Now you are dead and I kiss your toes
one by one.
I hear salt,
sharply defined wind,
adolescents selling
fortune stockings
in the dark.

I will agree to being kicked
to death as the tribe
smokes in the palace.
Please tell a story
to save our lives.
White clothing disintegrating

as the disease reaches
our cardboard coffins.
Teaches the sun
one constellation.


Walking the Ox

It refers to the small hill
behind our heart.
There is never an end
to the dancing and guitaring—
Everyone must write
a book called House.
Everyone must sleep
in the cannibal’s mouth
and tell what his silence is,
how he never cowers
in the smell
the room belongs to.
We do not want
his orchestra. His fish
habitual as rice wine.
If we turn around
we forget four words,
three of them hallucinations,
the last another kind
of happiness, uncomfortable
but we look warmly
upon it.


Brick of Myth

And you come back, good luck,
even singing,
folding your death
as it stumbles.

And we cross the cow,
jump the clock.
All forgiven on the field
where battle was
our only weather
because we couldn’t tell
of another place,
how metallic the coffin tastes.

On another occasion a sparkling
young man with a heavenly eye
in the centre of his palm
clasped two canes
and I became coward,
my lambs shifting behind me.

For a spirit to enter a bottle,
there must be this—years
of words
blown to bits.


The Stove Refuses To Cool

They arrest people who stop to take pictures.
That’s why my sister’s spine is crooked.
Only half a piece of paper.
In October she loses her childhood notebook,
a bottle-green pair of shoes.
Those who wish to see her crutches
will have to wait.
Just as the rain teaches patience,
teeth fall from the trees.
The most experienced gravedigger
speaks softly of washing his mother.
Her room is empty because he emptied it.
He cries by the reservoir.
My sister telling him to watch
the thirty handkerchief movie.
Naturally they are thirsty,
wanting to stir sugar in coffee.
But the country is only corn.
Themselves boarded up.
Naturally they are burning—


A Bat Unveiled

In the museum of land mines,
my acquaintance fans her wings.
Outside the sparrows catch fire.
A tree falls to its knees.
I become the sudden murderer,
unable to recognize the radishes
of my hands.

The dictionary shudders. Again I cannot be
alone. What is left of beauty
I sop up with a napkin, believing
it a limited supply. My only reading material
gives in to the blaze.

And now I burn the legs
of the chair, lest they touch
the ground. I would give anything
for a glass of water.
But there are only dirty spoons
and a shoestring I must walk across
to reach the other corner
of the room.

I have forgotten about the beds
in the neighbouring house.
The suitcases underneath crammed with shadows.
There is a drought in my throat
when I think of them.
When I answer before they can ask.


A Brightness Bereft of You

These words are simple people
like your grandfather.
Slap him down and he bounces back
laughing in his feathered mask.

Forget the man who devoured your father.
He’s old enough to be your mother.
This girl hugging the field
while you, mere apparition on stilts,
lunge in the direction of her arms.

She kisses the postcard. Opportune lipstick.
She licks the married’s cheek
in the trick of it, wearing a white gown
and glow-in-the-dark glasses.
Her lover forgets completely
his primal language for the two hours
he is under her.

Transcendent beggars, swords
weigh down their luggage.
And you a shepherd of sorts.



It never came. So I found another mother.
One with a blanket and a mouth
full of salt. I took a bag
of her to the ocean.




Without Nature’s Permission

I stay in the bath so long I dissolve. My girlfriend drinks me. Then passes me to the toilet bowl. I swim through the sewers wearing only the dark lisp of my maiden name. I no longer own my arms and legs. When I reach the ocean, the sky stretches and does not question. I sparkle with salt and the fishes envy me my solitude.



The spice in the wine in the mouth’s
stomach. You are ever more mysterious.
A light in your throat
like amber, an almond-eyed bird
among birders.
I steal up to the attic
lest you happen to me
overnight. There I read
the leaves in a bed of my own raking.

Downstairs you shave your tic-free cheek.
Vaginally speaking, you are resplendent,
an inward castle.
But I can’t be another man in the rain
holding his coat over your head.
Let’s wed on the library lawn,
then kiss goodbye.

Today I drink black tea,
the gods place golden raisins
in my palm.
Today you are laughing
as you fold my image
in your wallet.


The Town in Her

Loving is my only occupation.
It triggers the thorns in the moon.

She—a circus of roses.
Horses take her to the edge.

I—an oyster in her palm.
An eyelash on the toilet seat.
No piracy can make me more improbable.

Shallow kisses weigh down the quilt.
Light melodies precipitate war.

I am afraid to dance
for an hour and a half
with my arms in the air.

I am friend to Sagittarians
who use the word beautiful.

Through the blinds
light scores meridians down her body,
a canoe of sweat under her back.

I love her and I do not need to.
Better a pink shirt or the sandals
she gave away.

Don’t Call It Sanctuary

A brightness of birds
drawn slowly on my back
in watercolour.

Take this kiss
from the end
of my mouth
before your zodiac
steals our writhing.
I will write it
listlessly and throw
it in the river.
Over your shoulder
you are saying never
to everything.

You played the piano
right through your mother’s death,
shuddering like candles.
Just a hint of honey
in the eyes that kept you
from becoming a pilot.
Just the scent
of it in your hair.



We take over the room
with our stretching. The dusk hounds
move in. A spider settles
in the centre of its web.
It is the moon to us.

We need glasses to hold
up to this light.
A common sneeze and the sudden curtsy
of farewells. Courtesy of asking
to borrow toiletries and may I have
a tarp to sleep
in the garage.

It is for you that I butter the bread
for the back door. For you
a shrine opens at each intersection.
All warmth in the eyes and arms.
For I have seen the small lizard
sunning itself on the stone in the birthroom.
In the house of the new self.





So frequently pitied and crossed
off the list,
now it is my turn
to forget. I remember X:
I am puzzled by this catcher of men.
Y kissing the teacher’s legs.

She did advise me to take up dance
and gave a blindfold twice my age.
In the rain a word between love and like
that I had learned
as the dead woman’s confidant
drowned, along with my twelve calligraphies.
The rat eating
his meal of fire
came baldly out of the grate
to meet me, white powder
on white face.

Y followed with a blanket for my escape
and some flesh from the half pear
in her palm.
Oil and vinegar breath,
her perfumed moustache.
I thought we should make use
of our bodies. Each murmur
to make us lighter.


New Water

You forget the slingshot
in this show of tenderness.
Throat sounds,
the once immortal wine.

I stand around like weather.
Bound for winter or some explicit
salt. Sheer winter.

We are cutting the sea-rope.
Taking the stairs to red noise.
I pass a past life. Ounce by ounce
my feet fall asleep
at the door.

Lilacs are like that,
they root into the underworld.
A landscape of knotted silk.
No one calls it death
nor do they say it loudly.

Landscape of parts:
leaves for eyes and “bless me” mouth.

You tremble like a patriarch.
Blind at least once a day.
Erratic like the dead.
Big, then suddenly broken,
a fingernail.

When I walk again
I will make signs
with my eternal toes.
Put food on a plate,
float it down the river.



In stilted a cappella I sing to handsome thugs:
Make me a constellation with scissors and black paper.
The garden has no gender
but the speakers on ladders look female.
We search the house for tea, black pepper, lemon.
These keys are stubborn
statements in frost. The rooms pleasured.
Through real and fake fires
like clean characters we stroll.
Around the corner all things human.
The terrace the sea.
But there are differences in our childhoods.
What you laugh at will make me cry.
In the graduate greenhouses
I imagine you a crow.
Your horse your escape.
I approve but why bother.
You want to visit the ghost
you can.


A Resident of Sweet and Bitter

I love to see a woman eating
voraciously in the street.

Now she no longer has to pretend
she drinks black tea
and is perhaps a mountain.

For I have known her body
and I can tell you:
It is a heavenly tower
you will never want to leave.

Dance with a fork and spoon, I do.
I climb the hill
to the chapel’s locked gate,
take off my shirt
for the irrepressible wind,
my posture poor as the boys
who admit to kissing
in the town square.

Her second lover in the garden
licks her arm.
She turns just slightly
so you may read her profile,
see her crouching
in heels and top hat.

Creature of mud
with large shells for breasts,
a ship painted on her back.
Little girl with her chalks, her garlic,
her off-to-the-wars smile.


The Hand Is Equal Parts Healer and Fool

Three suns rise—
three pears on the counter.
I don’t care if you are hungry, ghost.
You don your red pants and shoes,
anxious to return to your museum.
But the house no longer shares your blanket.

Your child sneezes seven times
and opens his eyes,
reaches for bread.
I drink flowers.
We are spirits reduced to gestures.
We can be sure of nothing—

Your son and I agree,
we both saw the sun marry the sea.
Amber eyelids, a velvet curse…
We need no proof.
And this exhaustive list of wants
we can finally burn—


Instrument like a Day of the Week

The house’s skin—
a study of laughter.
All the princes off to bed.
Useless, living in trees.
Barefoot and you can spank
a witch there, enjoy it
with a slice of lime.

Some drummer-angel slowly
disrobing. Noon dissolving.
We’ve changed but our clothes remain.

Overcast, the day
suddenly bottled.
Tide pulled back like a blanket.
Like children married
in the nurse’s paintings.
Water distorts their shocked nipples.

Don’t visit me fish.
Third house with the dirt-caked books
where I gave my boy a drum.

Not knowing any better
he lived on an island.


Caught Reading Biographies in Heaven

Ear to the marsh,
I knew you in the naked text.
The pre-revolutionary grammar school
where we slowed the days with thigh-kisses.
It didn’t interest the ashes
and it doesn’t now.

You guessed the scent,
unmistakably frontal.
How my hand trembles to remember it.
Teeth. Faith.
The elders so clearly refrigerated.
And we calm.

Your feet told me they were sure
of themselves on the bribery bed.
The dream turning vulnerable
at the wrist.
Prisoners made pale in god’s house.
A skeleton there and all he owns
is one dead word.
It moves up the vine in the rain.
Its rib will show you
of what we are made.
Strummed by every loss that pauses


Before the Birds

Suddenly midnight, isn’t it time
I took my place in unison
with the good laughter of clouds,
baby’s laughter
to see the cat and dog
showing their teeth.

When we eat garlic
in a cave for one month
to answer all the rising
and falling questions,
when we spit out the river
to become the laughing dog
in the steam.

Mother gave a package of tea
and a book on palmistry,
arctic instructions
to remove the blessings
from the table, to burn the family
in their clothes.

She ate the restaurant
before turning into a pig.

I live in a watery soup
inside the huge vegetable
where ghosts wash
themselves to whiteness.
I am responsible
only for my yellow blouse.


Tower with No Author

I step into the garment buildings,
a grammar dove under my arm,
a rustle in the back of my spirit.
Seaweed dresses sway on their hangers.
My voice frills as I call
to the chicken who knows
the way up the mountain.

Honey. Peach halves.
A lesson to be learnt with matches.
The chicken knows
there is no room for my lungs
in this voluptuous shirt.
Plum chair I sit on,
the chicken crouching in my lap.
Bits of radio, a cloud: We rise
with the calmness of a boy in a tree.
He always reminds me of the rain.
A singer misplaced.
The drumbeat before it breaks off.


Birthday Poem

Out of my eyes: the good water.
For plants. Bird wash.
Whoever sits there.
After eight hours the water is new.
I make a list of things
to let go.

Whether I enslave myself
or am enslaved
by another. Fever balancing
me effortlessly, my belief
and disbelief equal.
My eyes walking.

In the year of the tiger
my father buys me
a plastic cake.
I must always wear green
and kiss him this way.
It is for us first
that he shrugged
his soldiers. His laughter
loudly and loudly.

At six his parents moved
from the farm to the sky.
I got him a baby chair and a bib
for his thirtieth.
Heavy his hat with ears,
his bigamist robe.
How little of him
is the truth, but I’m not
him yet. I’m not yet
an old woman.


A Building To Be Filled Up with Water

They leave before dawn with two fish,
two eggs and a rope smelling of pepper.

They do not walk to the mountain.
Their trousers can do that without them.
They do not take meals
on a rock in the sun.
That is for such-and-such a monkey.

The time of eating and sleeping is past.
Brother becomes the moon.
Sister counts her salt beads.
Every happiness in what they didn’t expect.

The tiger waited with his mouth open
but they never fell from the tree.
It is so hard to keep beginning
but we have no choice.
Brother slicing the sweet apple,
man in white on the roof.

Imagine your teacher to be two people:
a table, and a fiddle from heaven.

In August the ancestors return
and we put ourselves to bed.

A Student and the Breath that Holds Her

We have a trouble.
A village of seeds.
Our nervous therapist in silk scarves,
a necklace of nine hundred fingers.

Sight of a man sleeping
in the mountains.
We run up the stairs.
Nobody questions our hair.
Our scarcity.
Face: shadow. Feet: clouds.

She is a student she knows lemon balm.
Why do we weep.
Brick bread. Soup of salt rock.
She shares her leaf.

At the table of zebra wood
the man naps.
He is a mountain
nothing like you’d imagine.

Not to hold the bruise
is the student’s promise.
Ask her how she matches the time
in the monk’s house.
How she steals the man’s laughter
and hands it to us like a bowl.



Sleep of four cities revised June 2005

A Human Place I Visited Recently While Traveling from Wind to Light

When you see your own butcher
scheming in the glow of a bloody lamp—
When the simple life explodes—

You begin to believe the night.

I know it is a perfidious dream,
finite as the summer’s lap.
Even as children we waited
to feel the drum’s skin.
Life looked difficult
but the sun had somehow made it to the next village
and so would we.

The cheerful knife
held one red hand to the horizon.
We were not the only ones
working nostalgia like a new glove.
The others slept on
stained maps, islands
of salt encrusting their faces.
I could see the death-houses across the rigid ocean,
the glimmering traces of mother’s milk—

I got down in the snow
and crawled like a widower
looking for his wife’s false eye.

I wanted to be the ice clasping the villagers’ hands.
I wanted to be the glass galleon nearing the broken shore.


The Captain of Love in the Town of Las Lunas

Farewell to the violin lessons.
Their heroes were too young to get inside
the lime and salt establishments.
In homage to them,
elders stand out on the sidewalk
begging and borrowing rhythm
from the roses.

The piano player’s checkerboard teeth match his songs.
He masters three: A Bluesman, Not Blind;
The Dreamland Blues; Blue Sunset Reminiscences.
Wild garden sessions follow
closely behind drugstore buzzes,
games of Follow The Leader.
He always wanted to play the loudest instrument.

His music flies under bridges, over canyons,
so alive only the dead recognize the raw material
of his voice.
He ingests royal meals,
books on tape, various mahogany liquids.
He knows the words to every song in the world.
They come out from between his teeth
ivory-warped, beautifully blackened.

What notes to play
to make time collapse
into the action known as breathing?
Into the freedom called dreaming?
Into the movement, O the grand series of movements
categorized as dance?

How quickly grandeur crashes,
a flash in the pan
of quick highs, steady lows.
The drumming pervades our dreams,
changes the tempo to get up and go.

The wind blows ahead
and gives no details on the ditty.
It has a mind of its own.
Stage Directions for the Stray

Cough over your shoulder, three days
in shards, making arrangements

for the funeral,
a rush of birds followed
by a spell in bed.

Enter the poem, shabbily dressed.
A girl waiting under the stars.
A wolf crying on the stairs.
A body that wants to be wrung out

like lemons, lemonade smelling
of mud, of rain.

You step one foot into the room.
A packet of salt

tumbles from your pocket.
Enter a man in white.
Enter Pepper, the dark twin.
He wants to take pictures of your feet,
those webs spun overnight
between your toes.

Enter the blue choir in black plastic bags,
soot smeared all over their faces.
They begin to beg
the question as you lose
your voice to static.
The stage darkens. Spotlight
on the plate. One fork, one knife,

one spoon set on the table.


The Confetti Maker

I would like to be the one on the stairs waving.
The wink of the handkerchief. Let me be
the background music. The bodyguard.
The gravel under your feet.

The hour wears no under or outer garments.
The hour itself is lace, nipple of the clock in love
with sunlight reddening spider’s web,
with ants and tall grasses.
A striped snake crosses my path—
what it sheds will be my forever.

I am paper incarnate! Papier-mâché!
I am essential to extravagant parades. Shred me!
From nothingness to newsworthiness,
from down to out—
I am a man fond of throwing things.
In the deepest desert I make snow.

In the future, the present will swivel its hips
to a bastardized version of the past.
It will be my song
shriveling in the flame.
Yes—my echo—for the show of it!—my ballerinas of dust
and light, O temporary stars—


Teeth of the Storm

We learn at the Midnight School
that we are nothing.
Talking, we lose our shadows.
The moon carves its light into our door.

The sky is a dream of chase and murder,
of labyrinths and low-growing trees.
Sleep leaves us
for the waking car, the unthinkable
passes through our eyes
where every hero is a flower,
each hour scribbles unforgivable notes:
Car tires screech
like children caught in games.

Every night the corridor and the trains
moaning in memory’s ear.
Lightning whitens our eyes,
a purple hue edges the sky.

We watch the dance of unquenchable puppets
through the beaded curtain of rain.
Now a part of the sky is laughing
and in the biblical libraries they are burning
buckets of water.



As you sit down to create a love bouquet, go visually.
Remember that it is an idea
hard to justify, a way of making Thursday
a reading from better times.
You can dance to words or eat them.
Maybe you prefer the ending first, like dessert.

Order a gold tooth.
Talk to my good ear.
One thing stands for any other thing.

The nightlife encountered honestly in the urinals
promises no rhyme or reason.
The gargoyle entrusts you with its epiphanies
but not the cutting edge
of the city’s prized tool.

Rulers break after repeatedly slapping rebellious hands.
Feet sleep here, people do not.
They make cameo appearances.
They bring their own frames.


In the City of Limes

There is no song that does not sweat here
in the palm of the hand.
Once, I misplaced my key and found a path of bone-stars
which led me to death’s childhood
and the lion feeding
on moonless ideas.
He is stone now, no longer stirred
by the yellow fans.

The city spreads its watery legs.
Birds break from the trees.
I shake the salt from my rug,
among the wind-garmented
and the pale marbles of my childhood friends.
I open my mouth, a moth
lifts in the breeze.
The incognito hour burns gold.

The trains unload their eggshell sorrows.
Two birds fall from the sky.
I stare into the eye-shaped scab
of the past, ready
to inhabit the shadows
of aprons and dogs.

But the past is not done with me.
It rises from the canal,
licks the lyricism
off the side of my neck,
eclipses the moon,
bleeds a song
stolen from the stone.


Shared Dream of the Girl

Hush now, the schoolhouse is in flames.
A sense of you the little rider.
Sleep now, the ocean is at ease.
You are the seal, the rock’s insider.

And the words can’t make me talk
like the field’s cloak of flowers.
She lies faceless in the purple
hinge of the hummingbird’s heart.
Her hands have risen to heaven,
they are building a box for her head.
The rest of her body is paint-by-number—
the color of bottles bobbing in the sweet vinegar sea;
the color of the seal’s eyes; of the ocean, that green bridge.

She did not jump.
Night slipped into her like a fish.
A wall of water cushioned the city.
There was still a trace of blue left in the sky.
She held an egg in one hand and wore wet slippers.
I saw her disperse like ash.

And in the blueberry night you glimmered
like the sudden appearance of a flute among drums.


Orange Flowers

Do you find it strange
that the designated dreamers
disown their dreams after waking?
They slip into their crumpled second personas
like yesterday’s clothes
and step into a day that will not foot/fit the bill,
a night that reaches for the stars
crisp as the smell of rain
in a blackened room.

Distance does not blur. It is all
amazingly clear.
To the locks I talk
but dare not recall the poisoning
of the little ones, the flames and dames,
the long dream.
This song is simply about a goose, a silly goose,
come home to roost,
to cook.

Your matches will not strike anywhere.
They ignite only the automated monster
who slumbers in us all.
I sleep to discover the multiple
dreams of green girls
curling their hair,
sitting on thrones and thorns,
embodying the feminine aspect
more perfectly than the original collector of aprons.

A yellow half moon
floats in the red rain barrel
like the unanswered question of the day
ushered into this primitive pub crawl
by the governing spirits(s).
Do you not feel
that other verses alluded to this development, this killing
of ill will?

The streets marble with the first drops of rain
as the dream box spills
the slim arms of its finest ingredients

Light of the Land

My mask hangs by a threat.
I part the curtains, quote
my ignorance.
The hours fan themselves.
One by one, I see them drop.

I didn't know I was stealing.
I thought I was just making music
while the mice
ran up and down the stairs.

The parking lot lit up like a stage,
milk of applause
accompanied by a hobo wind
pulling me homeward…


Such cold coats, the cots.
Like a moth's death in a monk's cell.
Pull the wool over my eyes, I will
be the prize bullfighter,
see the rust of the world darken to plum
as the sea air steps
from my lungs.


A taxi tempts me. I have no change
in my pockets or my embroidered purse.
I would like to encounter
the potent agent of dawn
in the space between the violin
and its bow.
I pull off a few eyelashes.


Telephones ring in my ears
as I swim.
My bald cousins, the sand dunes, echo
the sea’s every word.
Soon I will be sipping from the cat's bowl.



A long hour, a thread,
dark hair in your soup, the tea
silent and strong,
each speaker as if
already dead
walking in circles as the grass grows
to cover the globe
in death-water, where we watch
our blackest reflection, this story
that could be anyone’s.

I don’t remember
the belt buckle, just the cowboy hat
and boots, cat dismembering cat,
a shrill voice at the next table, a film still
where the buttons melted.
We sip our common sleep.
The birds panting, their beaks open—
I hand you a gold pen, your signature
splashes, a fountain.

I have an inkling you’ll tell me on the elevator.
You and I—we’ll wring the laughter
out of this
as the rescuers lift us like violins.


Three Empty Bottles

I was resting in the nausea shed,
humming the neatness of February,
thinking of the dictionary in suite five,
its never, never.

One fish left, another came to join me.
We shared irregular odes,
insomniacs in spirit.
It was many hours before we blew out the candles.


Loan me the night,
tell the easy stories
of coin fountains in a drink-shop
where my persona
slowly carves his sonnet
out of soap and water.

When he calls to the words,
a sugar bowl spills
its silence on the floor.


Home knows how far
the door is, it opens
like a book
to the knocking of the waves.
This flower is my next of kin,
it belongs to the camera, memory’s
dumb trespasser.


In the deep slums of ocean,
we balance slim emotions
on the blades of our tongues.
We plant the dead
with herbs and dry words.
In costume jewelry, mute as paper cuts,
we take the bath with language.


The “Hundreds of Kisses” Ritual

Have you heard of the gold man,
the silver man selling
his pleasure message?
The priestess who requires two bodies
for the image, one light and one dark?

A shadow in her goblet;
throw down the gauntlet
and the forest takes the clearing hostage.
Where once struggle had no place...

First, cut out their tongues.
The last drop heralds the first incantation
as damp faces tamp the infant’s intuition
with stony and harsh rhymes,
a certain mixture of privacy and openness.

In earshot of the moon (a tambourine),
in the airborne taste of tangerines,
in lieu of three thousand suicides,
one sight:

a black figure croons, leans over the crib.


The Lesbian Twins

You are the one I will take for my bride.
No—you are the girl to dry my feet
with your hair. My name is Breast.
I will honor you under the table
at breakfast.

I am struck by the number of clocks
in your house. I turn
over a new sheet
and you are sleeping in my bed again.

If I awake to unawareness,
my parrot’s wooden cousins
will give up speech
for a transparent dwelling.

And she will throw stones
if you give her a glass of water.
You’ll need a candle and a mirror,
something to color
your hair. As the shadows
press a spider into the wall,
remember the gateway of your skin.

Like a bull I continue to break pitchers,
to assure another tragedy
shall not visit my family.
Death might appear as a bald woman
with impossibly large earrings.
She will tell us, Nothing is burning.
It just smells that way.

In a school without windows,
I buy my puppets.
They will be my kindling when I break
to picnic with the stars.
Disembodied Ballad

So we have entered and re-entered
this confusion, contraption of monsters,
this thick, state-of-the-art
time. Darkness coats
each of us, we carry
snapshots of infants and leaves.
Only the flowers sigh,
fully giving up sympathy.

Someone else wears the necessary uniform
and knows the imbrication of selves.
We are but petals, ten fingers,
two hands, a circle of sticks and stones.
We are a thorn of midnight at the end of a golden tunnel.

And the stars—they are islands.
There is more to them
than meets the eye.
If it is not too much of a leap,
we must lift them down carefully
like the small pieces of summer
here on loan.
When we boil down the bones,
words occur,
the night releases its white fish
and we that are left—


Embrace of the Blue Gardens


Peek through the holes in the wooden door.
Now you see her sleeping
on her bramble bed, lit like a torch
from her toes to her head
propped up by ruins.

Centuries later, you steal her grave goods.
No one, no thing
watches you.
Your affairs of sugar and water
dissolve into speeches,
closet confessions
of one who has the grace to relinquish her accent,
who recognizes this is not, nor will it ever be
a movie.

If only you had been an ordinary woman,
but the harmony maneuvers, tunnel struggles
and masquerades reveal
there is no ordinary.


I do not repent.
I love greatly until I'm spent
and day tosses our peasant names out the window
of a yellow farmhouse bordered by a mint green field.
The rooster crows not one dawn, many.
Two sisters make vests
out of newspaper.

When they decide to participate, they cancel their subscriptions
and call this sleep Revolution.
They write letters to the grave which unites us.


The Name That Led the Exiles Out of the Stars

These tourists will endure
torture. It is worth it
every time we kiss
through a barricade of lisping soldiers.
So you were a vagabond bound
for Vegas on a northern train.
So I was the ugliest little boy
walking on clouds.
I take off my shirt, you light me.
Can we crab walk up the mountain?

Waking on the beach,
an overcoat for a blanket—
my toes are cold as the fire
has gone out.
A snow of ash and newspaper,
violence of the red apartment,
the viper’s newest alphabet
we cannot read.

I always knew our twenty year marriage
wouldn’t last the night.
Still it is so nice to roll over
onto you in the morning.
Can I take you down
to the river which is wearing
its floral dress?
It might be spring
weighing lightly on our shoulders.
It might be the world
candle in our small kitchen,
burning down the worm of its wick.


The Nudists

On Tuesday she blissed the hours with open-mouthed kisses.
The sun crawled through the window
on its hands and knees, its juices
ran down her chin. I eased off the dragon robe,
the room levitated,
we found ourselves embracing over the sea.

Now she is the sob of a train.
In bed I lie, begging for her back
to be turned to me.
I write letter after letter on moon stationery, O my
forest, my pineapple, my sandal,
my thread…

If only someone would throw a rock at the street light,
but now the firewomen arrive to shine their trucks,
the station lets out a scream

and the blue is quite blue, my love, the green—


The Skeleton

The sun is an onion.
I see glass, green in your eyes.
Let the wind be your pick-me-up,
for the chimes are not death rattles.

Words fall over one another
like dominoes, tattletales
who steal toes from the frozen.
The moon proposes marriage
and strikes a bargain:
a ceremonial necklace for an unlucky coin.
The beaded babe boils water
for coffee and steps
to the corner store for milk and honey.

Frame the hour, sweet and sour, drawn to scale.
First a tangerine, now a margarita.
Clothes used or new to see through
a bottle of tequila, airplane size.
Mittens to keep the mystery warm,
like breath.

The skeleton loves his boxing gloves.
He breaks the curse of water
when he comes home alive
with pockets full of golden hair.

Like a mouth to flame
I love you. I love
the sound of trains.
Here is an apple and some ice water.
Take the music
and follow its misdirections. The bells
ring singly with the solitude
of an umbrella indoors.


The Cello Tonguer

Torn from the notebook of creation,
my feelings will never change.
In other worlds, words, and works
in wax, perhaps, but not here
in the river adjacent to the volcano
where a bald girl washes her only dress
and the crescendo is just
the beginning.

Her fine timing unearths the bottle opener
and the tuning in the brewery.
A high tide swallows the beach
for the first time in one hundred years.

This girl is not made of stone.
She boards a train to buy eggs.
She rides shotgun in the owl hour,
dark behind her ears, anticipating
a shadowed bend in the road.

In towns called Jewel and Mist,
in drifts of fog
produced by the mattress factory,
in a green paper crown,
she drops no hints, is lit
by the light of the fish tank,
warps the harps of winter,
warms her hands.

She draws the curtains
and fills the room.

—for Sorrell



We’ll scale the hours like cathedrals
or castles inhabited by the makers of myth,
forced into these roles
as if they were wooden shoes
and now the dancing, the drooling,
the birthing on the balcony.

Compose a hymn for those very dead.
This is no day to be out of doors.
A sleight of the snow-artist’s hand
smudges the garden.
The sleigh waits.
We cannot ask for more than the tapping
of our feet as the windmill spins
slow songs.

In the tiger blink of an eye,
crows fly
out the window
and the clocks seated around the dinner table
resume their chiming.
From the land of lost laughter,
a lonely assassin stumbles.


A Less Mysterious Source of Lyricism

I abandon my bird’s-eye view,
creep through the mouse hole
into the hollowed-out dream of a hailstorm.
The throbbing skyline
forges hindsight, What circumstance
will you wear this evening?

Long day until the stone tower collapses,
I hang a skin on the line.
It’s been a tent for many, a refuge
from the grassy rain and “take a leaf” thieves
who say goodbye
but never manage to leave.


Trace a shadow on the wall in watercolor
as the clay light dwindles.
We too are in need of fine materials, brave
and abrupt laughter,
guns and diamonds, daughters
in motion.

Six tattoos among us, we rebuff
the chief chemical:
Study our handwriting,
hind wing of star bird.
Into the scripted sack for sleeping,
this little-known throat clearing
believes in revision of the spoken word.



Whether or not they belong to us, these buildings
are our children. They salute the lavender sky.
Humbled, we burrow in the neighboring field
as the limping well-wishers place victory wreaths
on the rooftops.

We had wondered if they would treat
us like a real town
but after several races they ceased to cheer us on.
We never watched yesterday. We forgot to wash
the long ears, the shadow dancers
of all shapes and sizes
who tucked candles in their turbans.
The piano poured a mahogany tune into our ears
and the room lapsed subterranean.

I only know the breaststroke
and perhaps that’s no longer enough.
May I make a call, one call?
Will you share my tea water,
never shave,
learn to walk slowly,
lisp a love of place?

Beat of a drugged drummer,
can you shrug to this?


First Rebels of Spring

In torn skirts on the outskirts of the city
we wait for daybreak, for the troupe of musicians and dancers
in their orange tunics,
for the fire to revive us
so we may compose wet odes
under the blue unconcern of new sky.

Music floods the road.
Never anything to live for
but this: brambles, marble sounds
of rain melting a house
in which participants converse
in equally unbelievable tones.

The chairs fly around the room
as my lover slices
a pineapple. She chews gum
while playing the guitar. Many students
practice here because of the location.
Nothing private, nothing new
as messengers cart bundles of words
from the temple to the river.

I traded my spirit for a handful of nails.
Bliss pinched my elbows.
The stars climbed back up on the roof
and the sky said hurt me.


Birth of the Tide/On the Crust of Crescent Beach

The shadow of my youngest sister opens a door in the sand
as she flies parallel to the shoreline,
horizontally at home
as a sea or sand crab.

I’m climbing out of a tidal pool,
testing my unwebbed toes
for the first time.

We are to meet at the union
of the river and the sea.
We are to dance in the wedding party,
to offer a splash of music
with a flute, a fiddle, a few drumsticks.

She lands on the beach
singing of broomsticks.
Now I am a horse and I offer her a ride.

Somewhere among the forest’s foxgloves and ferns
an orange-bellied salamander
slows the green hours of celebration.
The baby floats down the river
laughing, clapping his hands.

My sister carries the moon in her basket.
We have the sun on our side.
When the child arrives we will feast
on night, desert day.
We will dip in our skins,
swoop up like birdwomen
as the baby tears rhythm from clay.

—for Virginia


The Mother of All Trees

Over the endangered species, through the dappled forest, up Smoke Mountain and halfway down the other side, you will find a cabin tucked under the largest spruce tree.

The two rooms smell of lavender and indecision, the air is weighted with the e.s.p. of organic house plants. Flirtations of saxophone and flute float down from the loft and mingle with candle shadows on the walls and floor. The song is spacious, evocative of gift baskets.

Sap coats your hands and arms, your clothing. You unlatch your guitar case. A velvet heart beats softly inside.

To have come so far
to where the leaves themselves are flowers.

Four paces to the sparrow’s window
where the sea opens its gallery of breath and breadth—
The true length of a line—
The human condition—
Its oils, its vinegars—


The Green Ones

Powder drama of the worms, two dogs
in mud masks prance under a silver sun
where purple bells and river stench
break the day’s routine.
Old women carry young trees
up to the balcony,
one root in the grave.

They swallow the new moon’s instructions
with a grain of salt.
We are all in the dark.
Who saves us? The spade
and the first dedicated orphans
who write books and unite seas.

Light flings a handful of stars into the foggy morning.
Shadow is a tightrope walker
balancing the world on its forehead
and the elephant is improbable,
a landscape unto itself.

Walking across the desert in boatman’s pants and mossy wigs,
the women contrive
to finance the dance
with snake eyes, a green marble,
a circle-shaped deck of tarot.

First card: The garden confesses, “I ate the fountain.
She was a handsome devil, compelling
as a well-told lie.”

Second: The longest dog climbs
into a snowdrift, sleeps
and awakes half-human.

Third: Dealing seeds for the hunger,
the sunflower heals the sun.



The saxophone left a hole in the song
when it slipped from the house.
Now the rooms can hold no echoes. The rain
relays its message on the roof,
The animals, the animals
are arriving.

The lit cigar of the moon
drops its shadowy ashes,
night shakes the lice from its fur.
Rumors of a song hitchhiking
down the coast, hungry
and alone in a lonely landscape,
ten eyes in its feet, two eyes in its head,
drinking the red wine of exhaustion.

The rain sings in melodious tongues,
faces drawn in the window’s fog.
The guitar breathes in a forest of ghost trees
sliced by bird whistle, human whistle.

Outside the house, calla lilies
release the two-headed voice.
It leaps when spoken to, it speaks
in the somber, the stoic, the laughing, the longing, the calm.


The Knives of Summer

There are flowers of royalty, enormously angelic.
They sing and my garden only hears about it.
There is love and there are lovers.

In the amber loneliness of late afternoon,
I sing and the forest swells its blood symphony—
leaves through light on their way to the river,
wind spiriting the green bottles of trees.

In another existence we lived in the drum as one.
Clouds crushed winter quietly.
A knocking woke us: Come down off the mountain!
The end is in bloom!

Under the closed eye of the half moon,
foaming nightdresses rise and fall,
the ivory lighthouses blink.
One thousand islands and not one dream
growing greener.

The season knots and bites its thread.
It speaks in the sharp dialect of birds.
Once we lived in the full moon of a drum.
A shadow passed over the sea.
Curious bird, memory—


A Town Called Orphan

This summer invite the rapist
to run away with you. She is so pretty

when she smiles. Those long fingers
stretching silences, sentences

standing on their toes.
In an orange dress, red bracelets,

you kiss the toad.
All the hells swirl around your ankles,

the treasure hut collapses.
Weren't you two giggling in the forest

like leaves?
How very early of you

to hang the moon
on the remaining wall.

Now you both fall to the floor,
claiming sleep drank you

through a net of holes.
Now I can blink

and grow my white beard.
The sky swells with your absence—no balloons.

Who can read to a child
these words?


In Search of the Owl’s Mirror

So it happens I am mortal: my heart,
a cluster of fruit flies, whirrs
in the heat of my chest.

I bequeath my chair and my birdcage
to a girl who plays
the violin. I leave one match
in a book of matches on my desk.
Near a river, I encounter night.

Sometimes the milk we drink
turns black in our mouths.
The baby I picked up yesterday
is now a vial of dirt
from my hometown.
Sometimes we’re forced to don clothes
made of chance.

I awake in a field, wearing
a stranger’s shoes.
Is the night as forgetful as I am?

The moon has left its half-eaten dish in the sky,
the wind scatters the past
like bread crumbs.
I’m hungry.


The Listener in Cap and Bells

The bloody pen records a dream
of your death, a wet dream
of ocean, a dry dream of cemeteries
at the city’s edge.

(I write this in parenthesis
because I’m dead.)

Yesterday I was a wheel,
chilled by the sight of children
playing as the day laid down
its hat and we asked one another
to act like human beings.

Spokes of laughter carved my throat.
I harbored a hatred for birds,
the pale blossoms
they left on my coat.
I don’t mean to ridicule them,
but what they know of suffering
could fill a thimble.

Every time I look up, the white buildings
close their blue sky eyes,
a cloud crosses the window
of my mind, and I’m certain I am sleeping.
Only there

could I be this broken—
picking up pieces of myself and looking at them,


Atmospheric with Dull Knives

In the shout lounge I tasted my first beverage,
bitter as the green thorns embroidered
on the barstool’s cushion. The music
sounded like crickets. My toes
were one by one getting it wrong,
stepping into the lies
with their listening.

It was like birth, the shedding
of silence, a long corridor
followed by so many troublesome
hands. Stitched together with weak thread,
sent out to sea with only
the hope of drowning.

I spent the rest of the night
spilling drinks on my companion.
Later, I studied the underside of a table.
I wanted to remain invisible at all costs,
but my hiccups gave me away.


Yesterday on the pier I saw a ship
with five sails. I saw another with none.
I turned back to my book.
When I looked up, the sail-less ship
had blossomed—two handsome triangles fluttered,
white as nursery bed sheets.

And as I sat there, the wind read the book
rapidly, with no regard for rhyme.


Exit from a Circular Building

A burst of light at the door—
The moon drops its ladle
like the brightest
of blindfolded angels.
I fold up my portable altar,
again a weed.

At the station, you kiss
strings of pearls,
pull rings from your bag
and put them on—
You do not miss me.

I don’t know why the wind carries
no grudge.
In the hall of rubbish and waste
I am filled with ingratitude.
I dream of slicing the king cake and finding
the time when the front of the room
became the back of your hand.

I wanted to dance
with you because you didn't
know how. I held out my arms
ribboned with scars.
A thread glinted between us.

And now—every time you move,
a package arrives in your name.
Butter melts on the stove.
The day creaks open.
I sweep up yesterday's words.


Do Not Ring Bells in Her Presence

A strand of hair holds my place
in the book which rattles
like glass in a bag.
I know my audience: she is
the slip of paper
that came with my birth-purchase.
She is the one
I cut myself on,
descending the stairs
of her sigh. Her eyes close
their gates.
I am back at the game that hurts me.

Last night I couldn't see
what kept me from my own gray hands,
the buildings floating outside my window.
I drank for the shine it gave me,
the sound of two inches
sloshing in a glass.

Should you plan to visit her: bring boyish clothes,
a proud tilt to your chin.
Empty your pockets
and give her the key
to the heart of your apartment.

Reborn as a pen, she plans
to alter the names
in my account. I let her.
She leaves her panties on the chair
when she goes.


The Touch

I want to hear the slap
of your shadow
as it hits the floor,
the pins and needles
of water falling
tap to tub. I’m tired,
and what you know
about me will soon be written
on a postcard and passed
in the night.

We’re down to the last few bites.
Those who are in the habit
of eating parsley off their plates
will not help us.
Wine has cast its blood-shadow
across our cheeks.

I’ve come in off the street
to confess these crimes.
We have several mothers in common,
and while they plot our deaths
I want to give them something
to talk about.

I’ve misspelled my own name so many times
and still I remember every syllable
of every spell.
Still I remember you humming
along as the ghosts
drank water in the kitchen,
as our mothers counted our fingers and toes.


Botanica: The Penciled Drafts

On the battlefield I buttered bread, whistling
as the sun broke its promise.
An egg landed in my lap.
I had to cross the table to help myself.
I made alliances. The ants
wore me and I wore
red sandals. I carved
a tree stump with our initials.

All was calm, until I noticed
the slippery fins of the flower bucking
just beyond my reach.
My reverie ground to a halt
with a dinner fork grimace.

I found what I thought to be night,
a black billboard
propped up by static.
Here I had been courting the petals of silence,
praising the motives of pencils—
as if I had hands!
The sky fidgeting above me
for years as I read
to butterflies, knowing
I’d never see straight again—

I envied the shy fish
their miniature castles;
the serpent, its fan.
I wanted my tongue to split
on the bridge
so that I could spit without rehearsal.
Of course you know all of this
is now irreversible.


The Snakes of Virginity

Outside the window, the river tastes
of apples. You swam there, secure in the school
of your fish tattoos,
comforted by birds who used the leaves
to see, low birds
stung by bells.

You said: Merely looking at land
or sea will turn one eye lazy
and give the mind over to knocking.
I sat there clad in flies.
I didn’t know any better.
My people had cautioned me it was for the best.

And yet there was a notable absence
of lyricism in your speech when you told me
your one thought was to feel
his throat in your hands.
The small lizard continued to give you
dry kisses all the way up your arm.

Sometimes we slept in the woods
in men’s trousers. We were merciless
when it came to the urgings
of our bones—burning our bodies
at both ends.

From your lips grew a long vine.
I climbed it and came to a gathering
that could have been a wedding or funeral—
the guests wore both black
and white. They mingled aboard
a sternwheeler. I swam
in the froth of their wake, my head
just above water, water
in my eyes
as when I first held
your choker of garlic.


By the Light of the Midnight Scissors

In the wee hours I was led by the hand
down a block of lemonade stands,
seduced by the bartender’s stubble and the image
of your hem sweeping the wet asphalt.

Words were lost in the conversation’s rubble
as you shredded newspaper for an impromptu campfire.
A foghorn liberated me
from the need to reply.
You knew all my letters
were photocopied from books
I took out of the library,
and I knew I could no longer wear
the wig you made for me
out of my own hair.


Conversations Set to Music

Foot in my mouth, I swear
I never set foot in her house. Where she sleeps
I slept. But every lock
was out of key.
There were certain blue curtains
that I never understood.
I could not stand on my head
to please her.

Each night a mouse under the table
enjoyed the crumbs of our labors.
I stuttered through meals,
counting every hair on its head.
Her stomach for spirits
and spiritual connection with cigarettes
brought a teary taste to my cup,
but I had to drink the tea to read the leaves.

We learned to sew
at one another’s knees.
All our lies
fit tidily into two trunks.
That last day I stole the neighbor’s shutters
from right under her nose.
She didn’t smell it coming—

I was the swift guest, that gust
of wind.


Bald Song

If she outwears me, I’ll live on
in this old man’s skin
of a pinstriped suit.
I hope not to forget her,
for I’ve been known to lose people
over the summer,
just as, at times, an umbrella turns into a glass of water
in my hand.


A Shell on the Bridge


I Swear by the Spiral in the Sky

I was born in the well. Night arrived
in the form of a candle. I swallowed
the stars along with my mother.
An ache in my knees spelled travel
as I climbed the ladder,
shedding my body’s hair.

My first opera: The hysterical
sobbing of hunting dogs, a deer
swimming in the river.
I wound bandages around my head.
I didn’t want to see this.
But what came next I was born to endure:

Swirl of the frightened waters,
my boots sunk in the bank,
a dead fish in my palm
like the foulest of prayers.


I’m a sop for narrative.
Give me a hand, I’ll squeeze,
but it takes the zest of eighteen limes
to seduce my tongue into licking the plate,
my fingers into curling a fist
tight as the onion’s bulb.

That’s how you’ll find me, at mid-morning,
sorting the darkest chocolates
in the depths of the cellar’s yawn.
You’ll ask me why I no longer coo
with the clouds. And I’ll tell you
of the sweetest branch held out to me
when I was drowning…

—for Jane



I do not know how long the trance lasted.
I cannot describe the world in boxes like time.
I might have died
and swum through the underwater caves
of a dazzling dreamstate.
I might have killed.
It’s like reaching your hand
into a bag of hands
and coming out empty-handed.

Great audiences invent audible ceilings.
A few boys attend these performances
and bring palm branches for the fanning.
Some songs cave in toward the end.

Dark singing
causes the audience to laugh and lean forward
into the next spring.
The conductor dares to detach the melon moon.
All musical notes drift coastward
to the place where the scripts have bitten
off more than they can chew
and walk miles and miles
in no one’s shoes.

It might be interesting
to hear the ending think out loud:
I’ve seen students spit upon reason
as the source of mediocrity.
I’ve redeemed the shattered windows
of a lyrical city.
As for all of you, you’ll have to patch together
a new eyesight.
Take a plane somewhere. Do not land.
Tell your friends
who wanted to be invited
that they can’t come.
Tell the dead
they’ve been forgotten.


A Man of Straw

Once a redheaded boy in a city park
wrote me this poem:
Your eyes are the twelve colors
of my beard.

I kept the poem for years in my wallet,
pulling it out at parties
to impress new acquaintances.
It was the one possession that defined me.

Years ago, you gave me a striped sweater.
Or perhaps it was solid—some fictitious color
we attribute to the ocean
when we cry.
I strangled the sweater
just for the fun of it.
I was that sick.

And then there was the joke
about the ugly bride,
unveiled for your father
on special occasions.
He laughed with the rest of us
until he disappeared.
We found him later, floating
in the green pond,
his long hair wound
into the shape of a life preserver.

Even now, when I glance at your wrist, I see it.
I take it close to my face,
I read it like a psalm.


The Train

Look sleepless, spider of time.
Keep away from children.
Read the sign language of doors.
Let the traveler wake
the clocks as doves
crumb the bread.
Just now, three friends are tuning the piano
with their laughter.

Drink quickly, the kiss deepens
to green river.
Yes her eyes are fish.
In them, your scent goes blind
as a bonfire near the river's edge.
In them, the winter painter tastes icicles
as his portrait melts.

You exit the forest of milk-sweating trees.
Horses and roses loom in your ruby windows.
Silver crutches gleam in the fields.
Shrug off sleep, spider. A tuxedo darkens
in the last car.
Don’t turn your back
on the sky. The pink
will not hold.



In the nearly edible light
I brush off your wig.
From death, you blush.

The claws holding up the tub
crawl across the floor
as the snow quickens.
Pieces of your hair fall into the wastebasket.
I step into the bath with your best friend.

You sip coffee in a crumbling villa
as night sets its glittering watches
on your cheeks. Your mother’s perfume
walks the tattooed halls.
On the beach, children throw rocks
at seagulls.

The piano sings from the house
of your mouth.
You have sat in both of our chairs
and now recite the insinuations
of the maritime libraries.

Your friend washes her nipple rings
as I lift the water jar
from the windowsill.
Outside the snow is spinning sugar tales.

And I’ve spent the dark pennies of blood
gathered from your bedroom floor.
My tongue tells her body to weep.
I miss your inked sleeves.


Dear Heaven,

On First Street I saw you clapping.
I could sing you a song about girls
dancing on a bridge.
I caught a chant on the sled ride
down, but the me of yesterday
is no longer relevant
so thank you for your rhyme.

During that seamless time you lived as a snake
hellbent on swallowing its own tail.
You did not dirty your mind with the past
and would not let the world take you.

We have separate beds in our dreams
where we encounter different and indifferent
words from childhood.
Go deeper into one self, you will never lose the one
or the many,
your violinist playing for the gold gypsy
and the boy on the blue pier.

Always in spring
this uprising.
You let go of the string and look back over your shoulder.
Can't you see me waving
in the wings of blue-black birds?
Do you know how far we are from language?

—for Cherry


A Dance Called the End of the World

Pack up your seven plums, the bruise
of your eye shadow as you turn
on your heel.

Which dance is this?
Not the one where he lifts you
over his head, saying
You’ll never be this.

Nor the one where you clench
the plastic stem between your teeth,
walk the tightrope across
the street to another house
where she climbs
from her box and taps
you on the shoulder,
spins you to the window—

The conversations—now those were dances—
punctuated by bright fliers
advertising the shark in your basket,
still frozen after all your travels.

Up ahead, the ghosts are already boarding the train.
This dance will be a swift one: You woo her
by bringing a ladder to her balcony,
a portable radio. Her last letters crackle
in your back pocket.
You think it ought to be raining
but it is summer at the time
and the threats from the street can’t reach you.


The Alphabet Backwards

This is for the apple poet, the poet of insomnia,
the never-potted poet
may his feet break soil.

This is for the dream we both remember.

Can you sleep? Count the sheep. Be the black one
falling down the aisle of forgetfulness,
climbing up the steep cliff
into the armpit of the abyss.
Go beyond brevity. Smell that hound.
Grasp the collar and stop breathing,
start feeding off the lines of the lion,
the depths of the tiger
performing leaps, perversions
hot under the jowls, your back to the stall
of the underworld.

You wrote in smoky script,
I’ve been lifted
and my hooves again touch the ground…

I went there to find you and I found
you holding the girl-poet’s blonde hand.
You ran your fingers through the air,
present as the fantastic sound of the sea
in the rooms of an empty farmhouse in Iowa
where I owe you, heart of a feather—

—for Dan


The Meditating Androgyne

I sleep with witches.
Days of dishes ushering
the dust into my bed—
They hang orange lanterns in my room.

Lighthouses of their eyes.
Night in the middle of the day.
I pass them eating lunch on the benches,
wine jars filling with rain.
My heart competes with the birds.

Death is the newborn
of hermits
in the hills above the city.
Sipping from their shoes,
pregnant women
see faces in the leaves.

Throat bells.
I've come to tell you how much the trees,
the worms—saying today—
playing tomorrow
on an island of children
where one can still
wash a shirt in the sea.

I will always wonder
who paid the piper,
who cut the eyes
of mold from the bread.
Will I die dancing?
Will I die
standing on my head?


Memoirs of a Shadow

Black wind woke me
shortly before midnight.
Dried blood flickered on the walls.

Deep into the segregated jungle
I sought this secrecy
like the tarot cards of a lover’s eyes.
Monkeys chattered overhead.
Occasionally, I caught sight of a mud-streaked girl
hiding behind turquoise leaves,
calling out rain messages to the birds.

We saw the moon’s fingerprint
on the graves of stones.
Fragrant grasses fed our hungers.
There were paper blossoms that smelled
of schoolroom glue, words
I could not recognize
etched into fallen trees.
At times, the heavy silence seemed to await
a spark, but I did not speak,
for I feared fire
and we had not yet found the mossy river.

The girl gurgled like the daughter
of a waterfall. Many-melodied
birds trembled in the trees.
It would take us a long time
to know one another.
It would take us to the fishes
walking on paths of spilled darkness,
to the cups overturned,
the cups overflowing.


I Eat Garlic and the Sun Keeps Them Away

If the prescription is for thorns,
call the doctor who hours her days
with anecdotes of animals
who were once women.
She turned my sister into a crow.
My lover became a horse.
Who will be the bear
she puts in the sky
and tells to stay there?

In these hissing ruins, we hear the forest
whisper its incest.
Teased by the acrobats
in miserable states of undress,
you find the peacock’s inner child.

She’s handing you real butter, my friend,
not margarine. Make a note in the margin:

I searched the house,
I could not find your keys.


Lady Onion, Keeper of the Sorrows

In a green temple at the bottom of the sea
I wear a bracelet given to me by the garbage can.
Which hand holds the red feather,
which the dove?

A bone washed up on the beach
couldn’t have put it better.
These eyes all see me horizontally, like the bananas
hung over the door.
In the shadows a woman
fans herself with a bouquet.
It’s such a fragrant day, I start to say to her,

but she has ears only
for the shell that bellows
like a crushed bug in the book of love.
The tea is licorice and laced
with the scent of campfires.
A candle flickers in my cup.
Like a kiss, the burn
won't stop burning—
Even now the forest gnaws its blue flutes,
the drummers drink their own urine.

She wrings the onion juice from her handkerchief.
Now she weeps, now that our woes
have subsided. Stitches arch
where her eyebrows once were,
her mouth is a hole punched in the sky.


Two Monologues: The Moon and the Minimalist

In the spirit of friendly vandalism,
I fed them legends of rain.

The chair I sat on caused no discomfort.
It was the only one in the room.

So I said, you may piss on the tracks,
but you must realize—I see you.

There was only a slice of light.
I often left the door ajar.

Two girls soothed their feet
with olive oil. This pleased me.

I drank tea without lemon.
I shook my laundry out on the bed.

The drunk ghosts always carouse
during this blind month of December.

Lights, darks—I was at a loss
for socks. I made an entry
in my albino diary.

At such times, I watch only black and white movies.
I vacate the moment when necessary.

I saw it through a thin curtain
of hair: girls throwing tangerines at the new boy.

I can be as starry-eyed as the constellations,
as jubilant as the train’s horn.

A boy with cigarette burns on his arms.

I had an errand—
a pair of earrings to return.

Just this morning,
I broke my fast
with a piece of toast.

Just this morning,
I halved the whole.


Music for Modern Instruments

The birds are in the violin
music, habit-forming house
of cupboards stocked with Big Dipper, Little Dipper, North Star.

I lived on the sound for ten days
and spent another seven supping on the smell
so now it does not matter
if I develop an oral fixation or lease
my lover’s menstruation shack:
I’m all the gladder,
welcoming the warm tide,
true to the tenor of a day
that forgets to be faithful
to any one person or idea.

Now an athlete of the third tier
types up her secrets:
He painted horses.
I saw the book cover.
No water or electricity
for two weeks! Such a halo!

In six or perhaps nine months
I will return to the neighborhood
and I expect to find everything the same:

Burning oriency of dawn,
impossible city where no city should be.



A system of grunts and hisses,
scratch at the window, shell
in the ear, one eye
to the sunrise shuddering
behind a palm tree.

What language really does for us—
to ease the ailment—drops
in the abyss bucket.
Strike a match against the cave wall
and blink, fall.

Wisemen in robes of spray paint
crawl down the dusty road. Sunset hits
but we have already seen enough: Mouths of trees
unlocked by countryside wails, emotions
of a red moon.

In the animal glow of a fidelity lullaby,
we dig a tunnel
for the characters who climb out of the spine.
We leave the book to eat its own pages.


A Story in Which the Main Characters are Named Red Bracelets and Night

It takes place in the sea forests,
where a bar of soap can turn
into a bass guitar, into a woman
singing bitter lyrics. Who can blame her?
She is shut tight in a jar.

It is similar to the old tale of seals
shedding their skins, resuming
their human lives for one day
of the year.

Night contrives to have others
take care of him,
he gets them to feed his birds.
So dark in the sea forest,
when Red Bracelets leaves, there is no one
to look after the children.
They forget to comb their hair,
they run wild, they eat weeds.
They do not open
her cabinets, or touch
the green dust.

Books were Red Bracelets’ bedfellows,
and now that she is gone—

The characters lie to themselves,
they lie down and the foxes come
to steal their faces.

—with thanks to Matt Jolly


Some Day We Shall Again Live in the Same City

Mother plays the flute and she's mad.
Her sentences need stilts.
Her paintings never dry.
Her clocks say, Come in, I'm open.
Later, they are institutionalized.

A selection of round and fancy eyes
fills the suitcase. Fog mystifies the front door's glass.
Outside: an unsettled debt, a fingernail moon.

The stoic weeps not.
All the sharers of her experience
lower their voices
and prepare for the next storm watch
with a candle, a seafarer’s song,
a match.

I can see the dawn
lit like a patient lamp
on the other side of night's door.
I step out onto the porch.

Better the light than I—
searching the wet streets for the first ocean.