I watched the peaks of your egg-carton spine
writhe against the loose blue hospital knot
at your neck where the cotton fell away
after everyone else had gone.
I pressed my purpled feet, with yours,
against that ancient wooden bed frame.
Above us, in muted ecstasy
the history channel’s Indian women danced.
I envied their clasped gold-dusted hands,
remembering the pastor who hours before
had appeared at your bedside, Bible gleaming,
with that assured smile all believers own.
I wished for a painted elephant or glowing saint
to process through that stagnant and weary room;
to drape your shrunken neck with flowers and turn
your restless ageless moans to hymns.
We played the tape your father had left;
listened to man-made rain and unnamed birds.
Behind the thunder, I started to cry
realizing we’d have the charge
of manufacturing our own happiness
from now on.
Published in The Pittsburgh Post Gazette 2006.
Someone put their fist through the radio
and all weekend it played only Creed.
I tried to shrug it off, drove reckless
through the stars and woke up blanketed
in parking tickets. The Bible in my hotel
bathtub was stuffed with subscription cards.
My high school enemies kept inviting me
to the seafood buffet and all my sweaters
made me look like Dr Huxtable.
Pestilence. It was in the yellow yarn
and the crab Rangoon. I jogged
to the strip mall, but they were out
of priests or kaleidoscopes so I had
to keep looking through my own eyes.
I took myself to the half-price matinee
and threw popcorn at the screen
like a trained ape. The kernels stuck like
boils to the steel asses of celebrities.
Pestilence, I yelled to all the flapping seats,
Published in The Oakland Review 2008.
To be sorted, set among your souvenirs,
your stock photographs, your classics.
To be licked clean like a cat. To be laid out
some nights on your fire escape, bleached
by the moon to match your sheets. To be safe
in the style of rolled coins, safe like heirloom
pearls under glass, safe like sleep. To be announced,
to be spoken like a dead language, named like
a painting, arranged the way music is arranged.
To be reminded of the passing of hours. To be
reminded of promises. To be held together
like a broken figurine while the glue dries
on my wings. Some nights, to fall asleep under
your breath and dream my skin freckled with
mercury. Some nights, to fall asleep under
your hand and dream my body a nested doll,
only cages and cages, even into the heart.
Published in Gigantic Sequins 2010.
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.
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.
———–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.
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.