Thursday, April 30, 2009

Mother’s Last Dance
for Del

You make it easy to suffer the loss
of importance in the world,
show films of our true selves
as you dangle just out of reach.

When others come running, touched
faces disconsolate, the ice burst
settled in your skin,
I become the burnished sun
you rest against. Their breath

writes slow notes
in your periphery. They stand
bedside, hoping
to apprehend the music you are
dreaming; they cannot stand
you living in previous time.

You remain in the now
this very moment, close
to death: Its softness.
Its gentle gift good night.


Monday, April 27, 2009

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Scent of a Place She Did Not Want to Go
for Michelle

The brand new Ford Escort I rented
to drive her to Seattle, Washington.

Seattle, Washington, the restaurant
at Pikes Place Market, fish scales

and oysters on the half shell, slipped
down her throat, scent enough to gag.

Queasy at the top of the Space Needle,
she didn’t want to talk about it

or get back in the Escort to return
to the Bayshore Inn. She wanted

to run, wanted only to run,
not away, she said, but to.

To what? I asked. She threw her
perfumed hair back and laughed

bull-headed, as I packed her bags.
I thought a long hike in the Cascades

with Outward Bound could free her
from the spiked stakes

picadores plunged in her
while she was still a child. I thought

she would heal in the scent of earth
mulch and cedar boughs, could learn

to bend away from fatal thrusts.
She called the second day, wanting

to talk about the rental car.
She hated it, she said,

it reminded her of moving
from one foster home to another

with nothing to stake her future on,
just the smell of the State car

and a garbage bag of belongings
to accompany her. The place

at the top of the Space Needle
was too cramped, she said, men

leaned against her. She could smell
booze coming through their pores,

stale tobacco, dried cum on their
skin. It made hers crawl.

Her arms and legs tried to follow
some dozen years later, after

the odor of industrial ammonia
in Rosemont Girls Home,

after the smell of her own
breath, chalky from medications

they made her take, after her
daughter was born, her tears

and sweat as her body tore
open. She could smell her own blood

and urine, the antiseptic, and
baby Karissa’s damp curls

coming out of the place where
hers had been shorn. Even

the soft smell of the baby’s head
after her first bath, the warm milk

letting down, didn’t clear
the scents she carried with her

from childhood: adult men
pressing against her bare skin.

First lilac, now horseshit, now
stale beer, now Lemon Pledge,

the series of homes she moved through,
pressed to be Christian,

Catholic, Jehovah’s Witness,
till she didn’t know what to believe

except what she had been taught
to play, the skin flute; and take,

methamphetamines; to dull senses
she wanted to forget, and they did

too, dull them, on the day her car
left the road at a slight curve

plunging down an embankment, where
she lay trapped in the stench of her own

shit, ribbons of handprints
blossoming into a blood-red cape,

la plaza de toros final.


Friday, April 24, 2009

Makes as Much Sense as Anything Else

the zoo fell on all the keepers’ toes
until they were unlate and sorely bent
with grins as stark as blue monkeys
puffing up hills of Indonesian ink
they could not even find their patchouli oil
to keep fleas off butterfly wings

one of the wise-cracking eggs
(spoiled for lack of vegetation)
decided Pilatus Porter should be mayor
of Portland because he knew
all about wiring buildings
and dethroning frocks

Citibank went sideways
babies stopped crying
the state of Oregon fell into a huge
crevasse, a serendipitous hole
made of mint-flavored Lifesavers
that had been crushed and re-cemented
in a scheme to save the self-esteem
of all those apes
who never even bothered to vote.


Thursday, April 23, 2009

Penmanship

When I see your words online,
posted moments before mine,
I’m back in third grade,
Bradley Burns
brushing up against me
in the coat room.

When I see your name
almost touching
mine, I’m learning cursive,
delighted
how my body curves
around the pencil.


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Dr. M

The distance between crazy
and sane is the space between
your thumb and finger. You bewitch
the brain, first with your dark
eyes, then with potions to beguile
the mind. You ask them to place
the whisper of their breath
in your palms, entrust the journey
under knife to your care, though
they don't know you well
enough to share a cup of coffee
or an evening meal. You send them
off to wake up hard and hurting,
or soft and scratching (or sometimes,
not at all) and for this they pay
a king's ransom, itemized
Services— Anesthesia.


Monday, April 20, 2009

Pileated Takes a Moment to Reflect

Worry herself, that's what she does.
Tapping the top of the barbecue
lid, hoping it will open, hoping
there are bits of flesh
worth carrying
back to the hollow nest
where dependents
wait

wait

wait—
Shouldn’t she be
looking somewhere else
for what she needs? She won’t
find it there in the steel case
of charred remains.
Isn’t it true,
she could
tap

tap

tap
all day, nothing
would come of it.

shouldn’t she be pecking
at some earthy tomb?
Shouldn’t she
be grubbing around?
Why couldn’t she

be soaring,
showing off her red cap
like the scarlet letter she wishes
it would become.

Shouldn’t she stop staring in windows
that can never be forests?


Sunday, April 19, 2009











Pileated Woodpecker Is Not on the List
Tap, tap, tap-tap-tap.

Despite loud ringing
calls, and persistent rapping,
she doesn’t get in.



Saturday, April 18, 2009

Paying Respect to the Street Pole at the Corner
of Columbia and North Beach, San Francisco

You ten-hut all night, upright
as some far-right Republican, never
wavering your position; not in the not-slight
wind nor the sway of passing tourists
pausing to mill about your platform
like revolutionaries caught in a rifle mark.
You defend your corner like
a steadfast soldier, never mind
which bad ass, business class, no-name
nobody walks by, not thinking
to thank you
for your ever-ready light.


Friday, April 17, 2009


i dare you

boy
you buggin my cool
bite your crazy ego out blind
hang your naked rage and cry
courage ain't enough to fly
dance your reckless blame loose
let the past
go by





"i dare you" first appeared in Green Monsters on Red Moons.


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Man, Not So Different Than His Fowl Friends

A life beset with conflict lies
just beyond the sash. Eyes give rise
to a regnant Canada Goose
and mate, whose fierce attacks induce
ducks to vacate what geese surmise

is prime real estate. They devise
tactics to wreck homes; emphasize
their might as right to reproduce
a life beset

by weaker species compromise.
Slight lends no real consensus; size
determines nature’s means of use,
strength brokered as a flag of truce,
feathered to decriminalize
a life beset.


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Sad Truth About What Comes Next
In remembrance of Sandra Cantu

you can’t remedy it
you can’t remedy it
you can’t remedy the way a child skips

into the hands of it
into the hands of it
into the hands of one who creeps

in the shadow of it
in the shadow of it
in the shadow of what we cannot say

saying the dark of it
saying the dark of it
saying the dark of it cannot remedy it

you cannot remedy it
you cannot remedy it
she is gone


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Farrier

She was fifteen; you, thirty-two.
I wonder, did she blossom
in your hands?

Some men don't understand flowers
bloom best unforced.
You wouldn't. You never

let your colts run barefoot,
preferred to shape red-hot iron
to your own specifications.

You knew how to use a twitch
to make a filly stand quiet,
quiver with anticipation

at an opening gate, or prance
under light fingers
plucking reins.

It wasn't her time
to flower. Spring came
early that year.


Saturday, April 11, 2009

Hidden Cost
for the mill rats at Smurfit

Thick concrete floors conceal a dozen men
with muscle memory fine as rats
dragging conduit through knee-deep chemical waste
in the semi-darkness. Clumps of putrid pulp
lie submerged along an encrusted creek.
The E.P.A.
OSHA
Erin Brockovich—

nobody sees this
except the men who skitter four tens
each week, so your correspondence
can be printed on pristine paper
92-bright.


Friday, April 10, 2009

Anniversary

Last year at precisely three p.m.
on this date my father expired
like a parking meter
without a gasp or wheeze
just tick, tick...
stop.

I can't believe a man who could fell
trees big as mountains, fly airplanes,
shoot bear, beat his own son
without a second thought
just whip, whip...
died.


Thursday, April 9, 2009

ending

Remember me like this, always
lured by the glimmer of minutiae.

Crashing waves batter
gold bits into worn pebbles

tossed by the tide, silver
stones shimmer in Aphrodite’s

darkening foam. Wind-battered gulls
stand in crowded klatches, beaks

clamped tight as empty purses. I lean
into the wind, concoct entire futures

in the moment it takes to scoop
a clutch of sand, a feather. Undeterred

by their mocking gaze, I dip
a quill in the sea, write my own


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Missed Connection

What diety designs a track so stark
that soul escapes before the engine makes
its stop? What lot permits such heartless lark
to rake the poise of one whose faith now shakes
her stunned and pulsing heart? Through acrid smoke,
be-dulled and sooty black, entrails of hope
betray her trembling lips. Lost tongue invokes
his name before the pregnant cornucopia
of dreams upon the tracks reproach
in futile sparks each dimmer than the last.
He slipped away so softly from the coach
she did not see him go, but now bemoans,
no god exists. She disembarks alone.


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Atonement

the essence of man is no abstraction inherent in each
separate individual…it is the ensemble.
-Karl Marx

i.
From a distance one does not exist
except as part of the gray
meld where sea, sucking and spitting
claims shore. Woman wanders
the edge—its relentless pressing
and receding
transfixed by the power
of at-onement.
Awed
cowered
she posits proof of
her own essential
Oneness
lifting a single stone
from the sand.


Seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching,
thinking, feeling, desiring, acting, loving…
are…the appropriations of human reality.
-Karl Marx

ii.
Stone is never as simple as it feels
in the hand. Each historical epoch
captured existence in it’s own finite form
without consideration for outcome.
Some rocks dazzle.
Some cut.
Some lie
dull and brittle against the living
created when nature knew only itself—
and other existed purely
as predator or prey.
No man watched the first rocks form
neither heard the shrieks
nor smelled the flesh
condemned to steaming wells
of black tar.

Mankind.
Womankind.

They came.
They sensed.
They named It
and each other.
They arrived malleable
in the hand.
But whose?

They will tell you
Eden exists not in the bold face
of one who dares to stir your soul
ablaze against the licking flames
of complacency
but in the congratulatory gold watch
and the security of knowing
checks continue
even after you stop
caring about what you do
who you are
what you dreamt
you’d be.
If hell is the deep black abyss
promised to those who plummet from the grace
of conformity, purgatory must be the slippery slope
of mind wrestling heart’s despair
for those who fail to be transformed.


Alienation is…the equivalent of sin. -Karl Marx

iii.
Illegitimi Non Carborundum.
They will devour everything—
a parade of tired and desperate people
who give minute after consuming minute
to garner mantels of existence
that demand desecration of their own
spirit in the interest of community,
subjugate soul until introspection and thought
have been suppressed long enough to placate
everyone.

Don’t let the bastards get you down.
Walk and talk and breed essence
the way one bright bit of broken glass
churns in the surf to be cast upon shore
then draws the eye in defiance
of where one and all coalesce.

The dark sea batters.
It is hard to brave depth
for the glimmer of such tiny light
in lost and broken bits.
You may choose to batten down the hatches,
weather the storm, but there is no safe harbor
in alienation—
home
work
church
state
all eager to yoke you.

In time, the weight of their need
will force you to lean so close to the ground
they need only clear the debris
in that very spot—
and clergy to offer forgiveness
for your sin—
before tucking you back
into earth’s sodden fold.


We become aware of the void as we fill it. -Antonio Porchia

iv.
Open your hands. Pluck this pebble
from my eye. Tears flow
with its departure; they cannot
erode the gift now proffered.

I challenge you with phantoms
charaded as action; ideas expressed
in electronic blips and ink scrawl
because I am afraid to do
something that might become what we are not.
I fear this fraud has been complicit
in your alienation.


I have lost my way of being
who I am if we are not
sometimes together
where eyes are portal to soul.
I refuse to be the thread
that binds you, even loosely
to an existence that fails to transcend.
So I wander the uncertain edge
of my own seeking, wondering
if the only atonement is solitude,
if ensembles exist at all.


Monday, April 6, 2009

The Poem She Found in He Who Searches Is a Bitter Pill

Sometimes one lives
with a woman a thousand years
and yet—
that woman never
understands you.

At times one allows
an unknown woman
to absorb the best of oneself
and this unknown woman
suddenly intuits everything

guesses everything—
and one is naked in her eyes
even though one has only
unbuttoned one’s pants
a little

as if, absent
-mindedly. It’s not easy
to know who one is, and if
he is—
and it’s still less easy

to complete others by trying
to incorporate them.
There is a time for everyone
to tremble—
a time of changing skin.

I am tired
of making myself plural.
In other words
here I am
with little courage

to be here—
to forget one’s own desires,
to take refuge in the life
traumas of another person.
Rebirth?

No.
No rebirth.

All men are alike—
they don’t hold up.

And women?
They’re all equal-
ly hermetic
and outrageous.




The novel "He Who Searches" was written by Luisa Valenzuela.


bearing time



slogging through mud in hip boots
baby takes time, the crush of flesh
against flesh, nurse clucking at his resistance
to the pulsing insistence of vaginal walls
and the cold bright world he will meet
when his face breeches her hips
and tired flesh ejects him

it grows at night when no one watches,
slips from your head, micro by micro
revealing shades of red and blond,
each new shaft in morning light
displays a millimeter of shine
so incremental no one comments
oh my, your hair is longer

at the dmv, latitudes and longitudes,
arrows on signs, doors and desks
point and lead and direct and insist
this way and that way and over yonder
till you have passed the same redhead worker
three times in one afternoon and
still not renewed your license

thick like family secrets or ketchup
dried on the dashboard, your words
slow-poured, and me savoring
a fresh sense of heart
check my email one two three
times daily, but words come
in their own time, when you press send

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Lake Maiden

Water ripples along mud shoulders
where ice binds two small islands into glistening
nipples. Her marshy bottom fills with cast-off shells
shaped in an unseen mosaic. Rain melodies
dance in divots—winter’s frenzy
whips dirty lace along her saw-grass hem
where toads sink deep in her fertile belly
for a long sleep. The mystery is always
whether this is the last season or whether,
when winter passes, she will press her toes
against the far shore, arch her back,
deliver tadpoles, ducklings, spring.


Friday, April 3, 2009

Unsent Letter To the Man Who Raped and Killed Her
for Jessica

Had I lain panting while you bloodied your way
into the world, I would easily forget your trespass
as you latched to nipple and nursed at swollen breasts.
Impossible to fathom what wrenched your baby fingers
into these callous hands; which wretched moment
fused your heart and head into conspirators of horror.
Easily forgotten, the violence wrought upon vagina
when you come as babies do. Incomprehensible,
your replication of that destruction as a grown man.
How could you bestow such rage on any child?


Thursday, April 2, 2009

Easy to Miss the Symbiotic Dance

His bark is tough
enough to withstand wind,
though it may succumb
to boring insects
and water creeping in.

Her reputation is invasive
as she creeps
up the stalwart trunk,
expanding her green reach
toward his welcoming limbs.

Ivy penetrates fir in ragged
notches,each protecting other
in what some perceive a strangle-
hold. Others call it love.




Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Years Blow By

Monday, poolside, pre-dawn,
2003. Broken straps of the pool chair
slap the deck beneath me. Engines rumble,
lugging Mercury across rough sea.
Wind shears the surface of the pool
spraying the fiery-eyed Cyclops
curled in the palm of each early riser.
I scan for evidence of the sun
rising, find only miles of dark sea.
Wind lashes my hair in strands of
torn sails. Smoke wafts toward

Saturday morning, early,
a Chevy pick-up, 1969. Jimmy and I
curled in sleeping bags and old coats,
slam against the steel bed of the truck
as dad rumbles along Weyerhauser roads
spotting for buck to feed us through winter.
I scan for signs we are headed home,
find only a sea of evergreens
cut in wide swaths by perilous gravel roads.
Dad sucks Benson-Hedges, flicks his ash
out the window. Jimmy and I
hunker down for the long haul.



April is National Poety Month

so i am taking part in a challenge to post a poem every day. To see how I live up to that challenge, stay tuned.