for John Chir

The last woman at your empty grave
is grounding rosaries into the wind, is
stitching a history onto rice paper leaves, is
repeating your name and repeating
your name, is waiting for an echo.
The last woman at your empty
grave is interviewing the dark,
is carving memories between falling
stars, is clawing and re-clawing
the dirt, is searching the trees for
a witness. When the breeze traps
itself in the burrows of her scars,
the last woman at your empty grave
hears only carousel music. When
the marble ribbon of your name
unfurls itself, she shakes like a flame.
The rest of us are wearing party
hats, crouched in a darkened room
waiting to yell surprise for you
when you finally arrive. You are not
with the last woman at your empty
grave. You are in the room with us
wearing a hat. You are huddled
in the smallest corner, reaching out
and losing your hand in the dark.

Published in Open Thread 2010.

Pet Project

I built the bear from what I knew of horses. I didn’t know running except towards joy so I molded his legs as sinewed spindles. When he was done, his mouth seemed too long, the slope of his spine distinctly equine but when I called him Bear he answered. I fed him warm milk in the morning and biscuits before bed. He slept beside me with his muzzle nuzzled into the hollow of my chest. We lived alone, Bear and I, in a wooden house away from town. Bear seemed to like this, would tread the perimeter till the grass dried in a halo. When the rain came we found ourselves with a moat. Bear seemed pleased with this, would huddle closer to me in bed, would wake before me and watch me shudder in sleep. The truth is, I didn’t know horses. I had no books but mirrors and a few yellowed photographs of what I’d left. Bear grew and I noticed things. A familiar glint in his eye I must have carved, a restless twitch about his mouth. One morning I awoke to find Bear’s clawed paw on my naked thigh, three lines of dried blood he’d drawn in sleep. I had to chase him out then, through the door and across the moat where he didn’t pause. I had fixed his eyes forward like mine so he could never look back.

Published in Weave Magazine 2009.

The Solar Panel Your Father Bought Me for Our Anniversary

———–after Michael J. Hartwell

He says the fact that I don’t like it
means I’m getting old. He says
we’ve lived long enough that we’ve
done roses and diamonds to the death.
It’s the future, he says, it’s technology,
get used to it.

But if you’d visit, you’d understand.
If you could see it, orphaned black
box in the front lawn, the flamingos
craning their necks to get a better look,
wondering where the rest of the plane
went down, I know you’d agree.

Didn’t we always have enough light?
When you were a girl, can you
remember? Didn’t we do well enough
without this black mirror? If you’d visit
you’d forget this was your home. The glare
reflected onto the aluminum siding
paints the whole house stark white.


Published in The Oakland Review 2007.

The One-Way Swing

The one-way swing looked like any other. That was half the problem. Not one batted eye until the children started disappearing. We shook down the alley cats first, as they see everything. The calicos were uncooperative, but the solids all suggested the witch. We stopped inviting her to barbeques, not wanting to be too harsh on just hearsay. When nothing came of it we upturned her geraniums and found sapphires and bottle caps fused to the roots. It was something, but it wouldn’t hold up in court. The marching committee suggested a march. The flyering committee suggested more flyering. The committee committee suggested fewer committees and more searching as we’d lost five children during the meeting. Now robbed of his one true calling, the treasurer of the arithmetic committee sulked towards the playground to count abandoned gloves. The head of the marching committee followed and since he possessed a walk of such distinct authority, the town hall fell in step behind him. (He’d been asked weeks ago by the mayor to only walk at night as the constant spontaneous parades he trailed in his wake were causing quite a traffic problem.) We came upon the dejected treasurer mid-swing. We were already too late. Some say they saw a flash of light. Some say they saw him sprout wings from the pleats of his seersucker and take to the skies. One woman says she saw Jesus, but she’s been injecting deities into recounted events for years so no one pays her much mind. The crowd fell into a hush when he disappeared, the seat of the swing jangling wildly from its chains. Someone called for a ladder and the fire truck came blasting through. After an hour of fruitlessly stirring the clouds, we went home. A week later, the committee for yellow tape (which now met secretly in the storm drains like all the others) wove a web around the swing set. Days passed, weeks. The children never returned. Word circulated that the treasurer had been spotted in Tucson counting sugar packets in a retro-themed diner but it turned out to be a dead end. A film was screened in the elementary school health class denouncing the swing in the hopes of sparing more innocents. It was a success, for the most part. Now we only lose one or two a year, usually middle aged men with a penchant for building model planes or young girls in white dresses who don’t seemed thrilled by anything at all.

Published in Gigantic Sequins 2010.

Not in a Ha-Ha Way

If you wake up late for your job at the mill
screaming until you wake the house, tell
my sister that you need your time card
need your hard hat, need the number of
that electrician and then next week you
are in Korea, having downed your plane
and are screaming about bananas, seeing
them again for the first time as they grow,
upside down and then you are in a prison,
your leg caught on the bars of your bed,
calling my mother a bastard, calling my father
a bastard, asking where the other bastards are
so you can call them too, saying you were never
any good or I’ve never seen you before or you bitch
you bitch you’re trying to kill me, then one day you are
at the table eating a grilled cheese and when we ask what it is
if you say a desk, then I am sorry but we laugh.


Published in OH NO 2011.