Thirteenth Post

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Thank you to everyone who has read my poems. Your visits mean a lot to me!

This poem was published in The Cream City Review (Vol. 18, No. 2, Fall 1994).

 

Rain

In this puzzle piece of desert
snugged close to its neighbors by Joshuas
and the suck of dryness,
death is a softening
—a limp half hour before one reassumes
the unyielding stance of any other day.
But this time your pushed-out arms,
set jaw, and stern face fail to sway me:
I have seen that pose
in wax museums and found it disappointing.
If the guard is away, I want to squeeze
a bloodless hand with my own warm, moist one,
suspecting both will change in some way.
I want to see the head,
tiled a bit more than would be comfortable,
jerk upright and complain.
If you could die again,
I would kiss you in the soft places
and wait like parched ground
for the rain of your complaint.

Tenth Post

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This poem was published in Denver Quarterly (Vol. 29, No. 01, Summer 1994).

 

My Father at Ninety

sees with a permanent
sort of déjà vu.
We ate here yesterday,
he growls, or,
you already carried that box in here.
The fool as always,
I continue to bring in the box
containing a book he has already read.

Remembering the future
as readily as the past,
he perches, mantislike,
on the fragile leaves of now.
In case time is linear,
the fool plants flowers.
Fools will, he says.

Ninth Post

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This poem was published in Writ, 20th Anniversary Issue (No. 21, 1989).

 

Song of the Mystagogue

You with your announcement of injustice
and you with the names of your friends–

You running sideways from the rules of priests
and you wrapped in the love of your mother–

You with your scarred hammer
and you with your thin line of words–

You with your insider’s wind
and you obsessed with entrapment–

You peering longingly at death
and you with your ancestor’s pictures–

Like those armless ducks standing
on top of the frozen river

Imagine owning nothing
and sing to me.

 

Eighth Post

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This poem was published in Interim (Vol. 20, Nos. 1 & 2, 1999).

 

What I Can Tell You

This apple orchard

is the instant your temper came unhinged.

This well-known novel

the instant your wife took new note
of the dark-eyed man in her physics class.

Turn left here, on the street marking

failure to understand

classical music

inability to remember

important instructions.

Count what you love
now count what you’ve lost:

The oxygen you inhale
is the number left over.

Cradled in a crack in the sidewalk
a beetle waits for your shadow to pass.
You darken whole minutes.

This necessity
to crush the space beneath your feet

is the instant a window opens,
scattering birds from the rough sill.

Sixth Post

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This poem was published in The Georgia Review (Vol. XLVII, No. 2, Summer 1993).

 

Set Theory

A Conversation with My Mother

 

This circle represents {people}: “the set of all people.”
This second circle, inside, is {tax evaders}:
all tax evaders are people, but not all people
are tax evaders, as far as I know.

This little circle, half inside, half outside the first,
overlapping the second a bit, is {Indiana residents}.
Its elements are Hoosiers. Dogs, cats, and cattle
who live in Indiana are members of this set

as long as they stay out of the big circle.
Some tax evaders live in Indiana.
Can you draw me a circle for {Star Trek enthusiasts}?
How about {Hoosier tax evaders on drugs}?

As if they were having some sort of out-of-body experience
some sets are not members of themselves.
{all things in print} is a member of itself
but {Methodists} is not itself a Methodist

for or against gambling and nonsexist language in the Bible.
{things not Methodist} belongs to itself, and you can
see the problem with {all things not in print}. Do you think
{all sets that are not members of themselves} is a member of itself?

Now draw me a circle of all the good people.
Remember, some are Christians, some are not,
some are blonde, some are illiterate,
some are fine singers, some like pickled beets,

some are homeless, some are homosexuals,
and some have been to Paris. However,
those currently beside themselves with anger
are not members of themselves, so don’t include them.

 

 

 

 

Fifth Post

 

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This poem was published in The Antioch Review (Vol. 51, 1993).

 

First Poem About My Father

What about his shirts, then.
He wore white ones, I think, to work
every evening after early dinner.
In home movies of him pitching
a military green canvas tent
beside a transparent stream in Banff or Jasper,
he’s wearing plaid with lots of red.
That tent, folded, filled a giant duffel bag
and couldn’t be lifted by a child.
The poles were massive, rigid,
in pieces that scraped at the joints
when they got dirt in them.
It’s the American school of architecture:
forget bending with the storm like a willow.
If it crumbles or cracks in an earthquake,
build it bigger and thicker next time;
if your first child disappoints you,
don’t let the second or third one get too close.

Fourth Post

 

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This poem was published in the Black Warrior Review 20th Anniversary Volume.

 

Whirligigs

“The art of the whirligig is to install some kind of figure up
above the tail and propeller and then use the wind to animate
the figure. Of course, it’s best if it depicts something that has a
constant motion back and forth. Convicts with sledge-
hammers–that sort of thing.”
(The New Yorker, June 25, 1990)

 

I’m counting what I have one of.
A swan, sipping from the ocean, weeping salt from my nostrils,
I drip solutions distilled from their problems,
and oh, honey, I seven wonders of the world you.
Like the man’s ashes that attended the Super Bowl in his son’s pocket,
I’m for an underground existence if it means being earthquaked by you.

I’m colonizing inner space before someone else does.
Harmony, order, perfection; robots for the cooking and cleaning.
Come floods, locusts, fire, we’ll have insect orchestras
serenade our spontaneous combustion for oh, honey,
I theory of the universe you.

I’m on a binary search for truth and beauty
somewhere after L but before Z.
A computer searching records,
I keep going until there’s a match cause oh,
honey, I queen for a day three-part harmony
winner of the spelling bee red sky at night sailor’s delight you.

Third Post

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This poem, like the one in my First Post, appeared in Phoebe: A Journal of Literary Arts (Vol. 24, No. 2). Phoebe has a new name these days, Phoebe: A Journal of Literature and Art, and it appears once annually in print and once online.

 

The Woman Who Gave Up Thinking

Listened carefully
to everyone.

She understood
how a bracelet of words
could be clasped
to form a sentence.

How the gaps
between someone’s sentences
were to allow for the indentations
of paragraphs.

She saw the forms
of others’ ideas
like a child’s alphabet blocks
heaped one on the other.

Turned around
they became tiny animals.

In the silences
there was enough else.

Years passed.

Second Post

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Here’s a poem that was published in Nightsun (Issue #14, Fall 1994).

 

The Parallel Universe of Grief

In Belize a fat whore whispered to me,
I think about what music does.
Here I place one foot down and then the next,
thinking, she won’t be there,
whatever direction I take.
The woman whose child was killed by dogs
carries a whistle at all times.
Screeee she warns a bus back
and screeee she calls to the drugstore man
who eases her away with lotions.
She pierces the flesh on her husband’s arms,
displays him like a butterfly in a glass case.
Waving to passersby she points:
Jesus on the wall, baby in a box. Screeee
she calls to the public
to come see her patriarch monarch.
I place my feet together, then imagine them gone.
Transparency is my strategy now,
against I know how you feel.
Invisible, I am the wind carrying salt to your world.