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

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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.

 

Eighth Post

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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.

Fourth Post

 

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This poem was published in the Black Warrior Review 20th Anniversary Volume.

 

Whirligigs

“The art of the whirligig is to install some kind of figure up
above the tail and propeller and then use the wind to animate
the figure. Of course, it’s best if it depicts something that has a
constant motion back and forth. Convicts with sledge-
hammers–that sort of thing.”
(The New Yorker, June 25, 1990)

 

I’m counting what I have one of.
A swan, sipping from the ocean, weeping salt from my nostrils,
I drip solutions distilled from their problems,
and oh, honey, I seven wonders of the world you.
Like the man’s ashes that attended the Super Bowl in his son’s pocket,
I’m for an underground existence if it means being earthquaked by you.

I’m colonizing inner space before someone else does.
Harmony, order, perfection; robots for the cooking and cleaning.
Come floods, locusts, fire, we’ll have insect orchestras
serenade our spontaneous combustion for oh, honey,
I theory of the universe you.

I’m on a binary search for truth and beauty
somewhere after L but before Z.
A computer searching records,
I keep going until there’s a match cause oh,
honey, I queen for a day three-part harmony
winner of the spelling bee red sky at night sailor’s delight you.

Third Post

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This poem, like the one in my First Post, appeared in Phoebe: A Journal of Literary Arts (Vol. 24, No. 2). Phoebe has a new name these days, Phoebe: A Journal of Literature and Art, and it appears once annually in print and once online.

 

The Woman Who Gave Up Thinking

Listened carefully
to everyone.

She understood
how a bracelet of words
could be clasped
to form a sentence.

How the gaps
between someone’s sentences
were to allow for the indentations
of paragraphs.

She saw the forms
of others’ ideas
like a child’s alphabet blocks
heaped one on the other.

Turned around
they became tiny animals.

In the silences
there was enough else.

Years passed.