Anything to Grab Onto: 26th Post

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Lament

–for my mother

The time

everyone else

had left the party but the music was still throbbing

and Stefan

two languages

away from me

had my blouse half undone–

that’s the light

I mean

orange

smelling of alcohol

dangerous with its promise of brilliant regret

The time

I jumped

heavily clothed into the water

for lifesaving practice

and the water

pulsed

above me

reflections subdividing like amoebas–

that’s the distance

I mean

deeper than

my arm’s length

resonant with resistance

The time

I climbed

on Trinidad Head

alone on black wet rock

shocked

by the sudden

brawl

of ocean too close–

that’s the texture

I mean

where anything to grab onto

is life

even if it tears your flesh like a cat’s claw

Wanting to Shout: 24th Post

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Being quiet has its advantages as well as its ability to kill one.

 

I Want to Shout that My Hurt Is Greater than Yours but I Mustn’t

Locked in the apartment she rented this morning
she wrote on a calendar cover: This is because,
She could smell the last tenants in the flattened areas of the carpet,
in the air in the nightstand drawer.

In the Central Valley a foreman hands out long hoes.
Drive by: look to see if workers bend to the cabbages and garlic.
Imagine the turnips’ moist bodies, soothed in dirt.
Drive by: crop dusters rise and dip and roll away just behind you.

The body stretched, running away.
The body shapely against angular gravel.
The body in the center of my memory.

In the Central Valley rows of stakes
with seedlings lashed to them. You drive and drive,
relieved to see the quick curve in the rows where you think
a tractor driver may have swerved to miss a rabbit.

Cupping a two-month supply of Prozac in her left hand
she walked from bed to couch
and back to bed. No, I would do that.
I imagine she does it.

The body tossed in the field for owls or coyotes.
I suppose that’s where you put it.
The body still on the gravel in my memory.

In the Central Valley almond trees seem neat and classic as penny loafers.
I hit a hawk, even after swerving.
A hundred miles later when I had to stop for gas
its body and wings were still there, fanned out across the truck grill.

I drove past parked trucks: TNT Reddaway, Dole, Reliance,
CWX, U-Haul. She was my lover’s most recent ex-lover.
I let the 5 a.m. red sun burn a hole in my sight,
only to see I’d made a perfect black backdrop for my thoughts.

I pried the bird off with sticks
and carried it to a row of bushes. Those stiff
angry-looking hedges they force to grow behind some gas stations.

 

No One Duck Has to Carry the Melody: 21st Post

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This poem, like the ones in my First Post and Third Post, appeared in Phoebe: A Journal of Literary Arts (Vol. 24, No. 2) and was a finalist for the Grege Grummer Award in Poetry.

 

THE CHARM BRACELET PERSONAL FLOTATION DEVICE

1

Integrated Functional Responsive Capability

Lack Thereof

This above all This above all This
Above all Don’t show me that Bass beer I used to
Hate someone named Bass
The ducks were
Chuckling a Beethoven scherzo I tell you
Why isn’t there a verb to describe
The way squirrels move All those
Handsome boys
Like leaves
Blowing around campus I was supposed to be
Here an hour
Ago This above all See the ecologists
With their bags of silver bullets What’s
It like having such big hands Since when
Does pleasant weather make you lose Those
Radio collars on bears make me
Cry The
Ducks were helping each other
No one duck
Had to carry the melody The refundability
Of the bullets was a job bill for the home-
Less This above all Do they look alike or
Don’t they
What happened before Do I need
To do something I began to
Cry about the
Pattern of bricks so the nice man gave me
Pills to kill bacteria This
Above all The
View of calf muscles pleased me I was not
In control All the churches
Need repair like the envelope of my skin

2

Pardon Me: Is My Hair Pouring Out or Shooting In?

The urban raccoon padded over this cement
Before it hardened That crow
Looks enormous
On the bare branches by the river Hang on
Hang on I hugged the bus stop tree Whitey
The carriage horse are you retired yet Was
It like a
Spongy forest floor or something
From a B movie I heard the male klipspringer
Never moves more
Than sixteen and a half feet from its mate
This above all She used to laugh
At people who
Wore watches The breeze lifts
A shoulder feather like a wand The raccoon washes
French fries in a parking lot puddle Fortunately
Many things are none of my business
I don’t want
The raccoon to hear domestic
Violence This above all Whitey get up Which is
Funny nothing or everything The girl had
A beautiful bottom The man had chemicals
The collar lay on a cage of bones
You don’t know
Me well enough to This above all This above
All He had the gall to ask if there was a
Difference
Each sport must have its own
Vocabulary I carried a coat with me
All day but I could not put it
On my crescendoing skin I need to know
If this is important

Nineteenth Post

IMG_9115 smThank you to everyone who has read my posts.

 

The Namer and the Named

Breast out. Crawl back.

What would it take to make you happy?

If you connect the dots on my skin
there is a map of Stockholm. The scar
on my knee is in the shape of John Lennon.
My kidneys are twin televisions.

Side out. Side back.

And what do you think would be different
if you changed your name?

I am a Bach sonata. On cold days
I wear plastic bags on my
asparagus feet. Like most people
I take little note of persons in vehicles.

Back out. Back back.

Can you think of a constructive way
to use your anger?

I want to have ruby slippers
and the tongue of a hummingbird.
I want to wail Johnny B. Good
and accept the Nobel prize in sign language.

Flutter out. Butterfly back.

Do you want to tell me
about the voices that you hear?

Inside me is a Magic 8-Ball
that floats haiku in my navel.
The music of the spheres plays
in the hinge of my eyelids.
I am the namer and the named.

Crawl out. Float.

And what are you thinking about now?

There are too many.
There will not be enough.

Sixteenth Post

A Flamingo Preens Its Long Orange Feathers

This poem, which I wrote about my father, was published in The North American Review (Vol. 281, No. 3, May/June 1996).

 

The Discomfort of Reincarnation

If you stare long enough at rain
it becomes
—no
I do not love information.
What I like to believe
is that at the last he was able
to lie down comfortably with no thoughts.
Not even the memory of our last time outdoors together
—his wheelchair parked at the edge of a kidney-shaped lagoon,
he and I nearly covered with ducks, geese and pigeons
grabbing fresh bread in whole slices and reaching for more.

December in Arizona and I was in shorts,
thrilled at the soft warm breasts of the geese
as they pushed against my legs.
He laughed in scattered short syllables that might
have been words.
I cry at the memory of my own complex laughter,
a fact I don’t care to examine.
He could be one of those selfish birds.

Fourteenth Post

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This photo is of fire-scorched trees in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, northern Minnesota. This poem was published in Denver Quarterly (Vol. 27, No. 3, Winter 1993). The placement of ‘only’ is one of the keys to meaning.

Lightning

To tell the truth

or

How analysis of the effects of disturbances can be reduced

to the calculation of an impulse response

 

I only want

Let time be the set of integers.

Binary fat fish near the

sheep-colored edge of a continent

Eighteen hundred thunderstorms are

now.

I want only

The map is not bijective.

The boy with three coats on

Who sifts through out dumpster at dusk

A suitable forgetting factor can be

determined

by monitoring the excitation of the

process.

I only have

Seventy-five hundred volts here to go

there.

A tribe of plastic squaws from Hong Kong

Within the fetters of long, straight skirts

Feedforward eliminates measured

disturbance.

I have only

The sound waves of air

heated to fifteen thousand degrees

Celsius.

The catachrestic nouns of my thirties

The profile of her lips in blue mountains

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.

Twelfth Post

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I don’t usually explain poems, but I like readers to know that I wanted to write a poem to a heavily tattooed woman but also to address a poem to the whole Earth, and this is the result. It was published in Willow Springs (No. 37, Jan. 1996). The quoted poem at the top is copied exactly as found.

 

Binoculars on a Tattooed Lady

I’m Jane or
I’m not sure if I’m 
Jane or not.
I feel like Jimmie
but I could feel like
Marlena. I’m green
I could be a leaf. If
I were blue I could
the sky.
       poem by a homeless woman

I want to worship at the fins
of those procephalic dolphins caught
at the top of their arc out of the Sea of Cortez
garrisoned in your temple.

I want to smear
on your forehead ashes
from the collection of burned lovers
in the urn on your hip.

With you
an elbow becomes a category,
your ass a pasquinade.

Who says you don’t shoulder your burden
who burden your shoulder with that
sunken ship.

Asymmetric beauty
I want to soak you like an avocado pit,
pierce your clean body
and see what grows.

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.