No Pain Yet: 27th Post

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Taking Comfort

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.

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

Cast & Wait: 25th Post

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Fishing the Coast

The spatulate surf heaves
against the arc of rocks, exploding to opalescence.
Boulders the size of house trailers stack and sway
as the surf recedes,
returns,
pulls away, returns.

Four men cast about for meaning and find it
in remaining upright in the roar, in slipping
a silvery bite of food out sideways, in failing to see
the faces of loved ones in the clouds overhead
or the foam below.
They fish. They merely fish.

To catch is to eat is to live long enough
for their bones to barnacle up with salt,
their dreams to crab against what they know:
that you need strong arms,
good line, patience,
time, and sadness you swallow

like a shard of mirror,
hunger you feel like the pleats in a man’s pants
bravely failing to accomplish anything.
The men cast and wait, cast and wait.
Cast again and wait, not planning
to forgive anyone.

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.

 

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.

 

Seventh Post

 

Silhouette of a Juggling Street Performer and His Unicycle at Sunset

 

This poem was published in Writ, 20th Anniversary Issue (Number 21, 1989).

 

Riding Lesson

The slightest tug on the left rein will do.
And you must look left.
The horse
suspended like a speedboat under you
skimming over the fence
will land on the correct hoof
allowing all the other hooves
the legs and their great body
to follow the head like a plant trailing a tossed pot.

For your part
to look like the spider
blameless in the flying ficus
perfect in landing, speedy in beginning anew
you must let all your many hinges
–ankle, knee, hip, elbow, finger, eyelid–
close and open like the doors of heaven
wholly unconscious of anyone’s effort.