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?
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.
Minus five degrees Fahrenheit at the gas pump
and now I’m driving
shuddering into fifteen degrees in the truck cab as the sand dunes
of grocery bags shift gently beside me.
I grip the stiff blue wavelets on the steering wheel as I surf
the ice-covered parking lot.
There’s a damp warmth where my thumb bends
and I huddle toward it without moving
the way a lover leaps in spirit at the flare of a match.
I follow it home
a thermal conductor to my warm kitchen just six blocks away.
Standing indoors I pull off lined leather gloves to see
blood in a smeared map of South America flowing
from a dark Amazon. No pain yet. No recollection
of pushing my tearable flesh against something firmer.
Only a moment’s understanding of our need to linger over wounds
for the comfort they can give us.
–for my mother
had left the party but the music was still throbbing
away from me
had my blouse half undone–
that’s the light
smelling of alcohol
dangerous with its promise of brilliant regret
heavily clothed into the water
for lifesaving practice
and the water
reflections subdividing like amoebas–
that’s the distance
my arm’s length
resonant with resistance
on Trinidad Head
alone on black wet rock
by the sudden
of ocean too close–
that’s the texture
where anything to grab onto
even if it tears your flesh like a cat’s claw
These 3 haiku were published in Haiku Zasshi Zo (June 1989). The photo is from a cornfield after harvesting by both humans and assorted undomesticated animals.
haiku for changing places
moving through the fog
the wary fox approaches
a sunlit hillside
in the hot stone flute
a listening woman walks
where the wind spirals
fleshless cornstalks lean
like cartoon figures begging
in brown unison
This poem was published in the journal Tyuonyi in 1992. “Tyuonyi” is a Keresan word (and Keresan is a family of American Indian languages) meaning “the meeting place” as well as the name of a major prehistoric ruin in northern New Mexico.
let the shape
be the sound
of two violins which
as we know
or at least
I can tell you
both are played
with equal intensity
point three times
the sound of one or more
likely the shape
ten sounding oh come
let us let
a point on a line be
side a parallel
line escape its
poverty sink without
guilt to a comma or rise
beelike to more
glorious intersections why not
be a riddle
and you be
like an edible
pawn or let
twilight of ash
black birds demoted
acrobats standing low
rather let the shape
be the triangular beauty
of acknowledgment and daily
for the ratio of mass
let the horizon
into the horizon
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