Sunday, January 25, 2009

We are Poised (poem)

Fistful of sand, you pause, ready
to throw again. I've cried over this
enough already, before you involved sand.
Look at you, grown up child, stubbornly committed
to outlive Peter Pan. You are pouting
and fuming and behaving like you need a nap.
You should rub your sleepy eyes
with that sand, but you're too sure you're king
in this box. I don't want to be anywhere near you
when you're like this, but here we are -- both of us, poised,
you, tense, angry, me, off kilter, sad, because I dared you
to grow up. Double dog dared you, even, nah nah nah.
I stood with my palms out, defenseless, vulnerable,
while you whipped white dirt in my eyes.
Sand never comes out of anything, you know.
You don't care right now. You play dirty when you're on
the attack. And I deserve better. I've bandaged your wounds
after too many school yard brawls, put sugar in your water
and called it medicine. How quickly you turned
against me. But I don't want to fight with you about this.
I am already an adult and I don't want to play
patsy cakes on the playground. You can stand there
as long as you like, arm ready to rocket
another burst of sand from your box.
I'll call you the school nurse on my way out.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The You in Someone Else’s Poem (poem)

Maybe I should volunteer

to be the you in someone

else’s poem. I’m tired of being I

all the time, constantly it in a game

of syllabic tag. It might be fun

to see what sort of character

I’d become -- a caricature

of my true self, perhaps, or

worse -- the unflattering, darker

half ruled by the split in my Gemini/

twin personality. Maybe I’d become

exotic, deviant, undefinable.

Or maybe I’d be defined

as a she-devil: one moron-

in-the-guise-of-a-man labeled me

as such once upon a time

because, he said, you never listen;

how devilish of me, I suppose.

I’ve been called a silver bullet

by a Communist friend who giggles

and won’t explain who I’m out

to kill, except he’s sure me, his

contraband, will be seized

by some Stalinist Big Brother

and eliminated for his own

giggly good. I’ve tricked massive

floods of people into calling me sunshine,

a name slipped into my senior yearbook

as a joke, but a joke I still take seriously,

even five years later, still willing to be

the sun: bright and furiously feeling

the heat all the time. I’ve been overlapping-others’ Spanish

Señorita Sarita wicked and winking,

playful and cruel, and my roommates

tell me you’re not someone

I’d fuck with.

But to be defined by a poet,

maybe I need to sit on a stool

in the center of a writers’

workshop and fling my hands

in the air, let my too-thin hair

slide across my eyes and see

what sort of artsy model

I can be without taking my

clothes off. But, then again --

Maybe I need to take my clothes off,

bare my skin, become a vulnerable you.

Maybe I’d be able to stand back

from the finished product and see

myself as a work of art, ready

to be hung on a wall of words

and stared at, loved by, someone.

Maybe I could be coy or trendy or

passionate or quiet or impish or, simply,

ready for my close up, my poet/creator.

Then maybe me as you could be me,

somehow. Maybe -- maybe.


Monday, January 12, 2009

How to Say I Loved You (poem)

You once picked up my disembodied shoe
and held it close to your ear
as if you could hear all
the steps I have taken
if you pressed it against your skin.
I made you give it back
because I needed it for the long walk
home. You understood
but it took you a moment to understand.
That was a long time ago,
though, and I cling to this memory
like a good old dog because...
Now we are divorced,
the merry unmarried imps
that we are. And I won’t speak
for you, but I will loudly decree
that none of this has been worth it
to me. Not even the image
of you, timeless and drunk on your floor
with my black leather shoe
tight in your grip.

Early in Love (poem)

I wake up early
on the mornings I’m in
love. Something warms
me, percolates my senses
until my life in dreams
isn’t doing what it could.
Awake, I lie in the sun slits
and wish those pale strands
were aching fingers
reaching across town, across
my face. This morning,
I’d let air wreck me,
hot and fresh against
my tongue. But these
mornings are bittersweet
because they leave me
taut to want what isn’t
here. Not this early morning.

Two Funerals (poem)

I attended my first funeral
when I was four-years-old.
My cat lost her battle
with time, careening into
a grandfather clock, cracking
her skull and springing her lifeline
like a trap. In the backyard,
my father dug a hole and slid
the shoe-boxed cat deep
into the earth, patted her down
and left her alone. Less than two
years later, I sat stiffly on a pew
in the church I grew up loving,
and wondered if my father
felt as comfortable in his coffin
as he seemed, a relaxed smile
on his kind face, and I wondered
what “dead” meant here
where God must live every day,
here, away from the backyard
where my father once turned
a solemn shovel full of dirt.

McCarthy's on a Sunday Night (poem)

He half-heartedly kicks the back
of my leg and I ask
what for? He shrugs
in a cartoony way
and sez, no reason,
just thought you needed
to be kicked, standing there
alone and posing. So I assess
my position, no doubt propped up
by the bar, and wait to see
if he’ll come a little closer,
close enough for me
to see the details in his smile.
I am posing, I guess, I am
lost in the smoke of a townie bar
watching the regulars shoot pool
while I think about what should come
after last call. Yeah, I stretch
my hand out towards him, say,
you think I am posing?
without cracking a smile.

Father’s Day (poem)

A year ago, I called you
and you said you were in
the pool at your aunt’s house.
I envisioned you treading

water with your cell phone
pressed against your ear
and it made me laugh.
The pool. How absurd!
You said you were the only
adult there without a child.
I didn’t know what to say

except, “Good.” I cradled
your strange image behind
my open eyes and drank
your voice into my flesh
and said good-bye too quickly,

as always. We were childless
parents last Father’s Day
and we will be again this year.
But I won’t be calling you

today, even though I will wonder
if you’re back in that pool,

getting wrinkled, without me
in your ear.

A Sunless Light (poem)

There was no sun on Martha’s Vineyard,
just two stars jettisoned over ferry-water
to land amongst the tangles of an island.
Fresh. Vineyard air. Tangible ingenuity.
Advice from a wizard -- stop ignoring
what makes you glow, dear stars,
and simply glow. But these stars are girls
with bills to pay and faint funds
painted on their life-canvases.
And the wizard was really an aunt
with a mirror-wall in her home.
What do you see. Reflected
courage against light-killing
tropical storms. The aunt
took down her decorative umbrellas
because of the wind and the girls
waited until the storm passed
to see the grandeur-lawn.
Those star-girls sat patiently
with cats on couches and never missed
the sun. They needed another kind
of light, one only channeled
by Vineyard-wizard-aunts,
one harvested on an inner-island.

Absence Makes the Heart (poem)

Nine hours, thirty-eight
minutes, or six hundred
thirty-four miles apart,
I knew I loved you

when I told a stranger
in a bar. A stranger I nearly
kissed, his warm, stubbled
cheeks, so much like
your own, gripped in my light

fingers. Closer and closer,
he and I, two seconds
or one centimeter apart.
“But I love a boy named --”
I said, never so sure, releasing
him back into the scene.
Tonight, I told you everything

in three syllables: I-miss-you.
And you said we’d see each other
again. I don’t know, though,

I don’t know. How love is.
So far, like a pit.

Untitled (poem)

There is an undertone,

Always, dark, brazen,

Throbbing, a current, a river,

Dirty water in a frozen city,

No one sees it but everyone knows

It’s there—distinct, fresh, flowing,

Pristine in its total calamity.

I am the keeper of my own tide.

You are the chosen tilt of the moon.

Together we navigate this lean,

This life conjoined by an undertone,

This current, this invisible force.

Col. Aureliano Buendia (poem)

after Lord Alfred Tennyson

It baffles the mind that an idle colonel,

In this dark laboratory, among flasks and Bunsen burners sits,

Matched with solitude, I melt and mold

Tiny gold fishes for a savage race,

That lies and brutalizes and scoffs and knows not me.

I cannot bare to travel: I will drink

The solemn cup of defeat: few times I have enjoyed

I have suffered immeasurably, both with those

That followed me and on my own; in swamps, and

Over mountains backed up to wild jungles

Thwarted by Conservatives, by my own pride: They named a street after me;

For fighting in countless numbers of battles and never winning

I’ve scoured the world, cities of cesspools

And starch collared butchers,

Myself, wrapped in a cloak, separate from them all;

And the horrible reality of unrelenting battle,

Far from Macondo, far from myself.

I am removed from all I have met;

Experience is a bridge which

Cracks under the weight of the world, which splinters

Forever and digs into my feet.

How I long to pause, to cease, to end,

To rust and mold, to quiet the sun!

Yet I draw the breath of life. Life piled on life

Suffocating me, cloistering me

There’s nothing left: Every hour is torture

I long for eternal silence, something less than life,

A charioteer of death; and vile I am

To my mother, who patiently stores me,

And this damp spirit yearning not to yearn

To sweep away knowledge, like dust to the sewer,

I’m bound by human thought.

This is my illegitimate son Aureliano Triste

Whom I give the blame and the land -

Barely known by me, seeking to fulfill

His own labour, by swift foolishness to complicate

A simple people, and through brutal reality

Hypnotize them with the modern and the harsh

To blame is he, seated on the innocent yellow train

Of the common uncommon, destined to fail

In offices of advancement and he

Falsifies adoration of my father’s ghost,

May I be gone! He warps his work, I stand by mine.

There lies the train; the steam piercing sky:

There is gloom on the faces of people. My family,

Macondians that have struggled and denied with me -

That never with joyous welcome took to

The gypsies and the movies, and supported

Enslaved minds, enslaved states of matter - you and I are old;

Old age hath no honor, only stagnation;

Death opens all; but something keeps me here;

No work of noble note can ever be done,

Because no living man can photograph God.

The dark begins to twinkle from the sun:

The long life wanes: The quickened stars climb, the deep

Cheers round with faceless voices. Stay, you fool,

It’s too late to seek another world.

Stay still, and sitting well in apathy flick

The sounding furrows; My purpose is to escape,

To raise to heaven like Remedios the Beauty, and the showers

Of all the non-western stars, I’d like to die.

May it be a banana peel on which I slip:

May it be my head against a tree,

And see the great gypsy Melquíades, who has slipped into death.

Though nothing is sacred, his parchments survive; And though

I never had the strength I sought in days of old

I ravaged the Earth, forsaking heaven; I’m not what I am;

A false description of a heroic heart,

Made weak by power and solitude, lacking in will

To burn, to fight, to sigh - begging to yield.

(Col. Aureliano Buendia is a central figure in the brilliant novel One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez)

Still the Wind (poem)

I stayed awake for the twenty-four

hours straddling two thousand seven

and two thousand eight.

That made my life seem epic.

In two thousand seven, I was a wind

of change, blown through every seam,

a virtual tornado of death, destruction,

demolition, degredation. And in the midst:

a whisper of love that sometimes seemed

an echo. I hope two thousand eight

will be better, though today I am filled

with a sense of I am still the wind.

I am still in motion. I am still

the same. And I am still awake.

Portrait in a Rearview Mirror (poem)

It’s uncanny.

Somehow, I am more beautiful

when you’re around.

How does that happen, so suddenly,

so unexpectedly. I barely recognize myself.

This must be happy. There in the reflection.

I never say this out loud to anyone,

not even you. That’s not who I am –

the girl who thinks she’s the most beautiful

creature in space. I am the girl

who looks past her mirror image

to see who else is reflected.

I spend my life searching through backwards

phantoms, not flesh, but light and glass,

and I hope for the best for us all.

But if I tell the truth, I am not happy

most of the time. I am flawed

and it is dangerous to exist so close

to this breakable surface. I could smash

my fist into this pane most days,

but I won’t. Because there are moments

where this is worth it. Enough

to keep me smiling and laughing

for the crowd. There is always a crowd,

too, that is also uncanny.

Oh, I wish they’d all just take a step back

because those objects appear too close

as it is. But you, you could take a step up,

put your hand on my shoulder, and I could smash

this mirror and be beautiful without ever looking.

Lady Macbeth (poem)

Maybe we’ve labeled her

too harshly as an unsainted

mother, a harborer of darkness.

Maybe she didn’t mean it when she said

she’d take her baby’s skull

and bash it into the ground and maybe

she didn’t mean it when she usurped

her husband’s role. I know her

by metaphor alone, not as another

passenger on a bus. Though lofty

in her language, her intent

is by design. Someone else put those words

in her mouth, that steel in her heart.

Her madness lingers on the sticking post

where her husband’s murdered head is screwed.

And maybe, just maybe, something else remains

intact. Maybe she wrings her hands

and gnashes her teeth because she was created

as a villain against her wishes, a greater prisoner

than Lear or the ghost of Hamlet’s father.

She was sprung from the sprig of a playwright’s

pen as the crazed antithesis of Woman.

So maybe, so maybe we should remember

that she loved the way she was scripted

to love, as we all are, and so maybe,

so maybe we should welcome her in.

Maybe we should beg for her forgiveness.

Here is the Breakdown (poem)

My mind will fold

itself into an origami bird

that will flap its paper wings

in a skull that forever

contains it. Bruised and abandoned,

all movement will stop

and anything bird-like

will beat itself into oblivion.

All will be lost in the thuds

of paper bird head wacked

against senseless bone.

So what will it be instead?

Not bird. Not brain.

Just wrinkled and broken,

and in the creases, you will find

the cracks that lead to fields

of birds born wild and free

There are Phases to These Things (poem)


seasons or times of death,

every day

we lose our virginities

in new and interesting ways:

Smile. Jog. Cough. Sputter.

Every night, we die, every minute

we change,

you and I,

into something

nostalgic, like,

remember how it was

five minutes ago?

We shrug. We titter.

We say no -- no

we don’t remember.

We roll our shoulders back.

It’s just a phase

of the moon

after all.

It’s the sun

beamed at a body

in space.

The same difference

is all relative, at least

for whatever day’s today.

Zero (poem)


~ after a morning listening to talk radio with tom and kat

Zero is the absence
of mass, of quantity,
the absence of absence,
a number not yet invented,
a placeholder, a phantom,
something inaudible, hollow, and clear.
Zero is the answer to the astronomical.
Zero is the edge of reason.
It is limbo, purgatory, waiting
for a chance to exist.
One plus one equals two
but minus one minus one strikes the object
from tangibility. It masquerades
as a letter, oh, sometimes it’s confused
with a fickle vowel (though not as fickle
as E). Is that a zero? Is it?
It’s not worth discussing.
Not worth radio pontifications,
crazy callers, words jotted down.
Read them backwards and what you find is

Leveling (poem)

I am eye level
with a rising tide
Face pressed to sand, soil, land.
This anchors me, keeps me
steady. There goes the water.
Flirting with my nostrils,
teasing me to drown.
I am motionless.
I am still breathing.
There is nothing greater
than this moment --
women versus water, leveling.

Here is Two... Here is Tango. (poem)

Here is two… Here is tango.
Step and turn and press together.
This is love. Or like love.
Such a pattern. Such a routine.
Music intense and rhythmed
and all part of the act.
Turn it off and it is off.