Bird and Tree
There, again. See? A small darting thing
with sharp edges and a wide brim
went into the dark arms of the tall one that whispers
constantly, its mouths dangling from tiny handles.
The small one calls out, bragging—or
its brim tucked away,
dagger mouth waving in the air.
It builds a little jail and stabs at it, then
goes in search of a prisoner.
The tall one waits. Where are its eyes?
I’m sorry so many of the poems come out of the dark side. I’m trying to keep myself in the light, but that’s not when writing occurs.
The Word “Are,” for Example
Raised to be frugal with self pity,
I hesitate to complain.
Alibis run from my mouth
like ants from a flooded hill.
I went there directly from the funeral,
weary of the mourners, severe,
time-spotted, hunched like flowers graveside.
I went there wanting to speak in tongues.
I went there, where attraction divides itself
into hungry collisions and sweaty testimonials.
I met a charismatic,
pierced his ear with a sewing needle,
scrubbed his stubble with my gums,
licked his sagging pockets every one.
He said what we need is sleeping pills,
stopwatches of desire,
I killed him for his assumptions
scratched on tabs of paper in his insoles:
“all” and “never” were some of his claims.
While the meaning of words can and often does shift over time, there is often an echo of the original meaning that lingers.
The Good Girl sleeps quietly
with other women’s husbands.
Dimples cast in concrete,
she cleaves a breast of white meat;
a potato bursts in the oven.
At first, the word ‘win’ meant merely to struggle.
Homeostasis: maintaining a couch,
a fire, a coffee table behind your ribs,
fine art on your turbulent heart.
At first, ‘attack’ meant to stick a tack into.
The Good Girl has forgiven music
for the pain it has caused her.
Bathing herself in vanilla and almonds,
she gets a job and keeps it,
collecting her pay like rainwater
in clean pools and pockets.
Here are the morning, the noon, and the night,
her silent partners, investors
in waiting, their solar and lunar coins
strung out like a dazzling bracelet
shimmering a dance of lust.
Poems often are about
exactly what they are not about.
This poem, for instance,
is not about the person
all those other poems were about.
Good writing habits forbid my telling
what this poem is about, but I
it is not about
what it is not about. Here
you see no mention of smooth hands,
no sly references to sex disguised
as descriptions of long train trips,
rivers slamming into bridge pilings,
or autumn trees bursting into flame,
no metaphor comparing that person’s eyes
to whatever the next best thing was.
Not even anything like a simile.
Not in this poem that is not about that.
Well, we’re all freaks, of course, one way or the other.
THE MAN WITH NO WRISTS
cannot twist a poppy to pluck it
nor see in a single movement
the entire surface of an apple held aloft.
He admires the resilient wrists of women
washing clothes in the river,
the blurred wrists of pear packers,
the sturdy wrists of boys playing tug-o-war.
He watches the violinist’s bow arm
dance its sexy hula,
sneaks a look at anybody’s watch
at every easy chance.
Drunk, he slobbers over his mother’s
until she powers a slap
to his wet cheek.
The Amazing Man with No Wrists!
I bought a ticket to see him.
In the audience a woman waved,
her arm a fluted column,
fingers swaying like palm fronds.
A man threw pity like a discus.
Where can he see his heartbeat?
I wondered, looking at my slender table
with its feast for slicing.
What It’s Like to Be Adopted
Ah, my pretties, there was a stillness—
think of it as sphere-shaped
a ping-pong ball without the ball—
and perhaps before that grand explosions
around other emptinesses. Our stillness
collapsed, smashed itself white and blue
flew red and purple
out, we say. Flew to what
we call here and there.
Sweet ones, the pieces moved this far and
that far until
divided by now and then we called their changes
speed, their journeys time.
We call our game knowledge
as we hold hands and live its fun and terror
for, dearest listeners, each particle attracts all others
so we know of gravity, love, luminosity,
and the shifts of momentum called history.
We play here
in this tiny history
the balls we toss falling
(where we call down) like the bits
of what we do not know
flying toward the center of another
before they what we call begin
what we call again.