This poem was published in Axe Factory III (1990).
—for Sarah Rutledge Birnbaum
who jumped from the Golden Gate Bridge
With its streamlined dive
toward slate gray waves
your peregrine spirit swift
cries a rattling kek-kek-kek
near the cold eyrie
then silent Boated men
lift you with curved
hands feed you oxygen
concealed in a puppet
made to look like
your mother On land
others incubate you in
a carton lined with
red mittens Near your
closed eyes they place
wind-up alarm clocks ticking
like gopher hearts Happily
they note the statistics
of your progress You
will fly again
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
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.
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.
To tell the truth
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
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
by monitoring the excitation of the
I only have
Seventy-five hundred volts here to go
A tribe of plastic squaws from Hong Kong
Within the fetters of long, straight skirts
Feedforward eliminates measured
I have only
The sound waves of air
heated to fifteen thousand degrees
The catachrestic nouns of my thirties
The profile of her lips in blue mountains
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).
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.
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.
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.
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
inability to remember
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.
to crush the space beneath your feet
is the instant a window opens,
scattering birds from the rough sill.