Fourteenth Post

Fire Scorched Trees sm

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

cropped-cropped-abstract-view-of-a-barrel-cactus-in-flower.jpg

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.

Eleventh Post

016 Palms

This poem was published in Writ, 20th Anniversary Issue (No. 21, 1989).  Though the inspiration was my love for Bermuda, I have a long-time deep affection for the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico as well, and their heartbreak and resilience are much on my mind.

Unedited

After you rode there on horseback

in the flowered breeze

under trees so sweet they curled shyly

when you touched them

you felt you’d earned the right

to lope on the crest like a movie star

absurdly romantic, impossibly attractive.

The sand was talcum powder

peach-colored and toast-warm as you ran

from your horse toward the surf.

In the warm waves that tumbled finned

people and little fish like dice

there was the surprise of not knowing

where your body ended.

Farther out you could gurgle

in rubber tubes and view widescreen technicolor drama

—your spongy hand visible on center screen

pointing with newfound grace

at purple lace waving under yellow trees

and rainbow actors skimming in and out

of orange doors. Back on the beach you’d eat

sweet onions glazed in sugar and rum

shared by whispering locals

sweet and shy as the bending trees.

When you rode back, imagining

your own silhouette against the orange sky

your thin shirt open in the still-warm breeze

the longtails swooped for insects

and the frogs sang like rusty swing-sets

behind the closing credits.

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

IMG_1292 cr sm

 

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.

 

Eighth Post

CR2_2576 sat cutout

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

classical music

inability to remember

important instructions.

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.

This necessity
to crush the space beneath your feet

is the instant a window opens,
scattering birds from the rough sill.

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.

Sixth Post

Mirrored Image of a Cow Chewing behind a Wire Fence

 

This poem was published in The Georgia Review (Vol. XLVII, No. 2, Summer 1993).

 

Set Theory

A Conversation with My Mother

 

This circle represents {people}: “the set of all people.”
This second circle, inside, is {tax evaders}:
all tax evaders are people, but not all people
are tax evaders, as far as I know.

This little circle, half inside, half outside the first,
overlapping the second a bit, is {Indiana residents}.
Its elements are Hoosiers. Dogs, cats, and cattle
who live in Indiana are members of this set

as long as they stay out of the big circle.
Some tax evaders live in Indiana.
Can you draw me a circle for {Star Trek enthusiasts}?
How about {Hoosier tax evaders on drugs}?

As if they were having some sort of out-of-body experience
some sets are not members of themselves.
{all things in print} is a member of itself
but {Methodists} is not itself a Methodist

for or against gambling and nonsexist language in the Bible.
{things not Methodist} belongs to itself, and you can
see the problem with {all things not in print}. Do you think
{all sets that are not members of themselves} is a member of itself?

Now draw me a circle of all the good people.
Remember, some are Christians, some are not,
some are blonde, some are illiterate,
some are fine singers, some like pickled beets,

some are homeless, some are homosexuals,
and some have been to Paris. However,
those currently beside themselves with anger
are not members of themselves, so don’t include them.

 

 

 

 

Fifth Post

 

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This poem was published in The Antioch Review (Vol. 51, 1993).

 

First Poem About My Father

What about his shirts, then.
He wore white ones, I think, to work
every evening after early dinner.
In home movies of him pitching
a military green canvas tent
beside a transparent stream in Banff or Jasper,
he’s wearing plaid with lots of red.
That tent, folded, filled a giant duffel bag
and couldn’t be lifted by a child.
The poles were massive, rigid,
in pieces that scraped at the joints
when they got dirt in them.
It’s the American school of architecture:
forget bending with the storm like a willow.
If it crumbles or cracks in an earthquake,
build it bigger and thicker next time;
if your first child disappoints you,
don’t let the second or third one get too close.