Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Light is my garment
and darkness my cradle.
Once nothing, nothing, nothing,
now I sit on the deep, laugh and
clap my hands. Hey Daddy!
Our foreheads touch.
You tell me I’m good.
You hovered over me
like a mother when I was
surfaces of dark and deep,
full of emptiness and thick with water
neither air nor ice nor drinkable.

Now oh, the beauty of being! of being
his, who said Be to me, who
named lovingly my head and feet
both land and sky, who
lit the globes of my eyes on fire
to warm the fruit of my womb with goodness
day to living day. He said Let
and I listened as
the beautiful chaos of youth split seeds
and a thousand eggs began to crack
and a million spines starting flinging
the ocean in handfuls from side to side.
Creatures full of a strange light have told me
he has done a new thing now.
I have been told I am beautiful,
that there is none like me.

Where is the limit of your wondrousness?
When I’m so full of light and love
my hot core threatens soon to burst,
I wake with fiery eyes to find you
arm-deep in wild imagination.
You see me watching, put a finger
to your lips and smile.
Today your hands are caked in my dust.
You’ve gated the best of me
off, caused me wonder. Your tongue
peeps from a concentrated mouth,
disappears in a toothy smile,
reappears to click two syllables.
A-dam. A-dam. A-dam. A-dam.
You delight in the word and I wonder.
Adam Adam Adam Adam—
what’s it mean? There is
unparalleled joy in your eyes.
You scoop the stringy lump of clay
tenderly in hand and leap with it
nimbly over the gate.


They say the black-and-golden rodents
look like heavy raindrops in the wind
or like so many coals small burning through the sky.
Did you know they’re fringe flesh-waves
oceanic trying to fit a shallow bowl?
Squeeze or jump, push or fly, die
or die, and I’ve been told, and I now know
too well how lemming-like my mind,
chasing off a cliff these thoughts of you,
or being chased, can be.
Watch me run and leap! near-beautiful,
my twisting in the air, as if
I were an artist or an acrobat, and not
a dumb brown rodent flailing in despair, wild-eyed
and only half aware of where I am.

Not on Bread Alone

Warm worms are we, with eager ears,
willing to wallow in Thee.
If You would, I wish to study the stars
made and parading from Thy moist mouth.
I’d glad grasp the gift of eye to see Thee;
happy be to heed heart-hammers
forging fervor. O God, give to me
Thy promises of pain and plenty, snap and smile,

of red frogs to run from and bumbles to be stung by,
of orange fruits off fragrant trees and tiny apples,
of sons to dance and daughters wild for daily supping.
I want to watch You yell, and feast
on the fruit of Thy larynx, my Lord.

1 Kings 19

"I have had enough, LORD," he said. "Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors."

I am tired.
Of night.
Of tireless godless moaning
pain and pleasure wailing on our beds
of straw I am tired. Of waste.
Of taking down trees
to strip their leaves
and print green faces and green
monuments to greatness. Of jade /
silver / sapphire / gold and azure
indigo / cobalt / and emerald
eyes like coal.
Blinking smoking seething.
I dreamt I touched the holes
in your forehead / the center
of your palms / your heart.
Streaming rubies
stained my fingertips
and darkened my tears I am tired
of night I am standing
in the Sahara / Gobi / Kalahari
on a rock with arms up wide toward the east
heart wide toward the rising fire
in the dark.


You can’t see? the violence
of hope, of songbirds
singing, stinging, singeing flesh and tearing
flesh, of ravens
waiting quietly on yonder yellow fence.

One Day, Maybe

I have a hyperactive mind, fat heart and raw-beef body.
I’ve been taking Advil every day but nothing changes.
If I could just get my body running
heart curbed
mind staunched
maybe satisfaction would catch sight of me
from his window
down the street
across the world, decide
I was well worthy
to abide with me awhile.


I wrote a sentence in my head last week.
It was beautiful and full of unspeakable slit-cloud glory,
the kind I cannot write, I cannot speak.

My memory sat on it, killed it, yes: dead, dead.

I try to tell my mindYou’re not the first
to mourn a perfect child, a perfect chance, by careless
but no, I will not listen. Put your ear

here; at my chest you will hear it: living, living.

God Sows

Have mercy on us Yes! on me Lord, mercy on this me
of yours, Lord, this.
Oh (bliss) you are a captor (bless me
please) Oh blue-lip Desert Night, you too a keeper
novice keeper, please release
me Yes release us please. Mercy spring

(up!) is rising, down-throwing darkness, down-planting
life; I am harrowed in Jezreel, the sun
setting over Tel Megiddo: beautiful blood shower
to the cavern-throat, dry-soul and open appetites
of us You are.

Liberal Arts

Of wedging my soul into your contexts
I am tired. If I want to drink milk,
let me drink milk; take away your wine
and your green and red bottles
and your tasting parties.
I want to think about the spreading fingers of the trees
and their flung-limbed love of God.
I want to lay my spine down on the grass and consider the clouds.
I would even rather crouch beside a city curb
and examine the cold spiked texture of cement
than hear another word of air from your wide mouths.
What have you gained, in laying out the world
the way you have,
threading it through the buttons of your eyes,
grinding the mysteries of God into a string
of sausages? I’m tired of the works of your hands
and the labors of your minds.
You have uprooted a garden of graces
for the sake of reinvention:
for smelling mud-flowers and swamp-wading’s weary joys.


The avocado was unyielding, and the banana’s backbone
bristled with brawn against my knife-blade that evening.
I was hungry and ate them
in spite of their yelling green rebellion.
Little else littered the lifeless shelves.
Next morning, breakfast was leftovers.
My father sipped on wrung-necked grapes
upstairs while Mama unloaded imperishable mysteries
from paper boxes onto freshly
pest-poisoned shelves in an alien home. (The whole place smelling
like natural gas and pest-killing gas, door
to back door sliding.) I bagged her some berries
and stuffed six apples in my backpack and drove over.
Even in the small rooms she looked small.
We talked toward the kitchen
on the virtues of living on little,
walking on the edge of starvation,
the sleepless exhilaration of last-day-like living
and bare-boned, bled-and-replenishing love.
I started peeling an orange (no trash can, just a bag
for the fragrant rinds) and nodding my head.


Shake, shiver, there’s a white light at dusk
flat behind black veins of flat black trees
and red eyes blazing in a black tar stream
and pairs of yellow headlights floating, marching.

The short horizon like a sliver of tangerine peel
dotted by mud, clouded with black cloud bodies.
There’s a reflection of the higher blue in my side’s window:
fine branches crowd and quit its imperceptible frame.

The Sign on My Forehead

I Have Gone to Clean Me:
You can find me safe
in that gray garden of red ashes

between the metal tongues of pruning shears
under the steady hand of God my God.
Be careful

if you seek me, for the earth is hot,
the Gardener thorough
and all-embracing.


Yes, I know; you needn’t shout at me.
Your contents are clear enough.
And if I lacked some hard-hoped knowledge
of your private inner parts, then mystery
might well have added water to the sound
of your dry name in my dry mouth.
Why do you cry out?

O Cereal Box, O cardboard cube,
you have a funny way of speaking.

I Dwelled

I dwelled upon you far too long:
your insatiable teeth
and flaming tongue.
I contemplated the arched red roof.
I examined the pearly gates.
I wondered at the space behind the tongue’s pink crest
and that slope running into the dark.

They consult a wooden idol and are answered by a stick of wood.

O no no no, you won’t become my myth-man,
fog-man, caller in the night. You have
buoyed up with spurts of milk-sound honeyed
words the fragile ark of our strange covenant
too long: it is dark: the storm of world-rage
thicks the air between the sun and deep,
and you are long gone—

Begun to spin in wide-eyed worry, me,
whimpering in wine-dark, tempest-minded seas.
Sword-man, shield-man, hero-poet sweet,
you are nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing to me.

Darkness His Covering, His Canopy Around Him

What can I say when my temptation
is despair, when it sounds so deep and smooth?
The world is dark, he says,
and so are you;
my shadow scratches everything.

He speaks in poetry—but you, my God,
today have said no more
than what the silent stinging flakes of ice have told me.
And the iron sky of your making.
And man’s brick.
Where is the Rock of my rejoicing; where
are you? I have sought you in the winter.
But everything is covered in a snow that won’t glow
white. Don’t leave.
When you are near,
even the ravens glisten
among their thawing carrion.


The first thing I do when the door behind me closes is strip
down to my undies, to flesh, to bone.
(Not really true, but I’d like it to be.)
Everything’s physical, and the running and chasing of minds
over matter, its streams and hills and its sunken valleys,
dirties my clothes and my patience, the clean white arrow of my youth,
till my will is jagged and its ears try hearing left and right in chorus
like a dog caught between two silent whistles.

Everything’s physical, and I tumble down mountainsides
and writhe like a sail on the quicksilver sea.
That’s why I, panting, love to fall into the dark nonbreeze
of words so large they sound like silence in this room,
and why I like
to still

and attend to the sound of your breathing.


Me malcontent
munificent me mad
me marvelous morose
me sit me stand me
up me talk me walk
me down me be
me you be me please me
please me be please be
please you be me please.


I can’t sleep
and the orange light between the blinds is burning
and the shrill joyous voices in the hallway spike and fall
and cold keeps creeping his fingers through my clothes.
That being said, I notice nothing,
nothing that I’ve thought or said or seen nor
even the spaces of change between the hours.
I can’t sleep, but even open-eyed
I cannot see a single thing,
though white angels triple-winged are singing
and a sea of glass like ice is sizzling at your soles
and hot broken blood pours over me.
There’s too much noise—
There’s so much sound—
The day—
I can’t sleep—


It is forty-four minutes past midnight
and I am sitting.
I do not hear the sound of breathing
the sleepers upstairs are certainly making.
I do not see the sun burning like jealousy somewhere far off.
I do not feel the warmth of the pierced hand that keeps me.
I cannot taste the goodness of God,
the bread of last breakfast,
the lips of my sleeping beloved,
nor anything.
Not even death’s rancid emergency.
Silence like a glass of cold water
and me, afraid that my wanting will spill it—
that’s all.


I could sit here I could
talk about form till I was blue till I was
blue in the face I could talk I could talk about
aesthetics the aesthetic of things their skeletons their exoskeletons

I could run I could run my tongue
over their hard shells I could run my tongue I could talk
around them running and run around them I could run
so fast I could run but

it’s not form is it form is it form that
brings that brings me to my knees is it form that brings
me to my knees before the glory that brings me
brings that brings me to my knees
before Christ

Commercial Success

Temptation is a swindler, salesman,
standing on the street with one hand
in his pocket. Sleek new hat
covering grease-slick hair. The angle
of his arm and his hand’s up-open palm
seem oddly humble.
His spreading smile reminds you of the local grocer
and your first love, simultaneously,
as he blows black words like bubble gum,
popping and repeating,
popping and repeating,
popping and repeating,
popping and repeating,
so mesmerizing this motion and the pop and flicker
of his eye the glitter of a gold tooth and the scratching
sound of his jacket as he demonstrates the many uses
of a new a brand new toy not toy necessity you almost
forget where you were walking to.

A Father's Warning

The way I see it,
you can’t be too hopped up on hope.
Or you’d start falling through the I want’s of things
upward, and never come home.
You see, sometimes
a tree’s a tree, and it’s got no fingers.
And even if it did they wouldn’t point upward.
And even if they pointed up there isn’t a God.
Sometimes you have to let it go, sometimes
you just sit, and the sitting’s all there is.
And you don’t get up,
and there’s no hope to hop up for,
and it’s okay ‘cause this is home and why
would you want to leave us? Anyway,
that’s the way I see it. So don’t go
bouncing away.

We Talked

We talked about bridges.
You showed me pictures,
coast to coast,
long arcs like spines.
Or flat and long
like arms turned palm-up,
blue veins running lengthwise
over water.
I could almost hear you,

but the world was still.
There was a madness in the air
like swirling winds,
an invisible force.

We talked in shades of rust.
We examined distances.

The height of the Bosphorous Bridge
above sea level
is that of the tallest man
times eight. The distance
between desperation and death
is shortest in Lithuania.
The space between your heart and mine
could span the Atlantic.

I Could Say To You

Heat but you’d be
no more uncozy than am I,
reclining here in June’s September weather.

I could say to you Love but I would
still be lying here,
drawing words on the back of my hand.


I started writing
you a love poem but when I got
somewhere past the second
line I found myself digressing, putting forth
hypotheses on the nature of man and the immutable
will of a God whose endless
gifts began, after existence, with free
will and there were clouds in my poem,
there were sunflowers, all manner
of signs of the silent romances between sheared sheep
at pasture (and I mean that

in a good way) I tried to tell
you that I love you like the shallow
puddle that the frog you say you are has
found but when I told my words
to sound in the hollows of some
dark and gurgling throat, my heart came stumbling
out of an open

mouth so I titled it “Theology” and let it
flounder, nearly done

Psalm 93:5

“Your statutes stand firm; 

holiness adorns your house 

for endless days, O LORD.”

It was fun for a while,
you laughing and I hit my head on the bedpost.
The house in our heads was orange siding,
plastic with brick-colored paint
and real ivy. I didn’t think much of it
at the time, just knew her diaphragm was smiles and that
we’d be covered forever in the biggest sounds of joy.
Our house would open her huge mouth warmly.
In honor of her happiness we dressed her
in interlocking paper rings, the kind you make
when you’re four feet tall and it’s Christmas and you just
need to cut paper, you absolutely must
(or Santa might think no one cares
and you can’t dream of his ho-ho-ho’s in the attic
bedroom Daddy only let you sleep in
twice a year, too sick with conscience’s thickness).
It was fun for a while, like giggling about Jacob
in your five-year-old best-friend-forever’s tub.
We all know how the picture book ends.
Its colors fade
because the family Labrador left it in the sun
when he grew sick of paper’s flavor (not knowing
what he’d found appealing in the first place)
and no one remembers
anything but the shape of Prince Charming’s jaw.

There Is a Black Thing

There is a black thing sitting on my head.

Imagination is a terrible thing to lose.
The world becomes an amalgamation
of nothingness and chaos.
You can’t even talk about it,
just a few haphazard phrases.

There is pressure. The kind you feel
when anonymous fears press their many-fingered palms
against your face.

I had a dream last night.
At some point, someone put a fist in my mouth,
and from beyond the windowed wall
a golden sunset nodded assent.
My bones quivered and I knew
I had to save the orphans waiting in the sand
across the shark-packed black water.
But when I woke up,
it was just me, alone in my bed,

under clean white sheets
with a textbook in my hand
and the radiator buzzing.

In the Desert

In the fierce
sunlight of this world, my mind
withdraws. Like a mole rat,
like a child. I want to skitter
into a dusty hole beneath two thistle
bushes, maybe just withdraw. Freud says
we are born worlds, and only then,
in an endless shudder, become small,
but I think the self
begins a bubble in us, and expands,

afraid our nothingness will once be touched
and we’ll explode. I think
I fear the burning of the world
upon my skin-thin soul, stretched
far too far, like a close-to-bursting tanning hide.

Look: I have circumscribed myself:
a point drawn equidistant from my heart
by a stick in the sand.
Within it, there’s no pleasure
but the grind of sand between toes, no pain
but the grind of sand between toes.
Some would call this irritation, even discontent,
but in my circle it is happiness.
Stay in your circle, cross to mine,
it makes no difference.

Look: thirsty men
in ragged clothes and dusty ties
build castles in the sand. See Sigmund,
raw-rubbed hands, what fierce
determination. He crouches
in what looks like once-a-riverbed.

From here he looks a little like a mole rat
or a child. Avert your eyes.
My mouth is dry.
My mouth is dry.

Cold Sweat

A migraine of sound, that splitting
break of elements invisible, vast, diaphanous,
a piercing of the mind by millions
of millimeter needles, oh,
what a fever.

There is a hardness in sound, a solidity.
You know it when it’s gone,
when silence, sweat, fearfulness

crowd out the music of man’s syllables.
You open your eyes in panic’s confession,
and find yourself sitting on a sharp thing
in the dark.

Mr. Id & Mr. Ego

There is that in me which persistently speaks,
remarking, “Thou art not altogether human.”
I’m not sure why
it delivers this enigma clothed in old British
high fashion and high mind, but as I walk (or
gangle, really, though gangle’s not a word
in the Oxford dictionary) down the lower end
of Fifth Avenue (which, I’ve heard, is
famous for its famousness, but, too, I’ve heard
the silence of its slick streets in the night-time
and wanted to sing the rain), two bags
dragging on my hands like needy ankle-biters, it seems

not wholly indefensible. Perhaps
I have too many limbs; an extra eye, inverted;
little hearts hiding in my thumbs, my bellybutton
(sometimes I could swear I’d feel them too).
Would that be so bad? And I wonder
whether the hunchbacked, homeless song of hope
that’s walking through the subway car is human too,
or human otherwise, since the premise is
that habit is truth, and that that in me which persists
persistently is never new.
I wipe the sweat off my neck and hum three notes
of the orchestra’s haphazard tuning in my head.
Yes, a strangeness seems to find me, forcing a way
to surround me, not uncomfortably; it is
persistent. I wonder if the sitting man beside me
feels it, too.


The wind whistles at me
whistles at me
whistles at me. What soul
does the gray-suit black man carry
in his skin, that makes him stop
to pace along the sidewalk, cursing
hotly, a dead squirrel sprawling
at the curb? I wonder
why I feel these shivers, why I see
vast holes of light
in sight-wide flashes. Sudden things.
The grief of a pedestrian
leg-less, at an intersection of red
and yellow lights, who couldn’t go
on but had to stop
to fling out arms and bitter cries.
The underground
beggar, who, with dripping
raw-meat eyes, holds out
his hand.

The earth beneath me
rattles, shivers, shakes; I wonder
how much weaker I must get
before I stop, to either speak
aloud or weep
aloud or


On Sleepless Nights Between Demanding Days

I breathed all night, and the breathing found me
wake-world, senses akimbo;
the pattern of my chest clapped hey quick-slow, hey
quick-slow hey. Wide-over, tingled to the tips and
bang! sang the shadows of a mind
on the ceiling,
who’s this—

Breath of my bone, bone of my flesh, flesh
of the breath, of the breath of Old Man Anxiety
waiting at my window—Still! old man—
I’m with my Love.

On Breaking One’s Rainboot in a November Rain

The boot cracked and O! a puddle ’round my toes
startled the foot that forgot
to stop but regained its composure.
Sock-wool softened her heart and clung to the fronts,
to the tops and bottoms of three hapless toes,
throwing her wide-open fibers at all flesh.
The boot smiled and gurgled.
The other foot, though in the dark,
sensed something to be envious about,
and envied.
Oblivious, I wondered
why my one foot felt funny,
not knowing who’s better between the two.

On Wasting Over an Hour Planning a Subway Route

The potential and possibilities run
together with the ink of the motley map and the flat
black and white keys of the information machine
I use for efficiency’s sake, while two clocks
made up of three numbers leap in concurrence.
Do they dance for gladness, or go
unwillingly on in run ‘round the sun?
What are these plotted paths compared
with my collisions into you by day
and the sure adventure of my sleepless heart
through streets of gold lit bright
by the whites of your eyes—

On Being Caught in the Street by the Need to Relieve Oneself

O! mercy; it’s time
to be reminded by dust where I came from
and who claims me. Fair Nature,
my friends have called you their mother,
their lover, their maker, but I
hear, see, read you plainest when I
bark, faint, piss. Most unjust is this:
your mal-magnificence, or
miserly disclosure of self to me. No matter;
you’ve taken my hand and I will court you awhile,
though my mind steals reluctant a final kiss
behind heaven’s high gate.
Come, let us embrace,
join our wills to receive common grace
from the Maker of men who make toilets to make
good my strange duty to Nature.

On Joining a Long Airport Security Line Very Late

Breathless, I have achieved a great thing,
proudly stumbling in pride on a greater.
Believing thin streams of sparse cars a mark of mercy
on a mortally procrastinating soul, I waited well
in the check-in snake and walked firmly,
free from all but my carry-on. Hark!
The swelling of my heart has outrun mercy.
There is the sign of Be Careful,
security for me and of me,
a slow wait for swift sum checking
of every ligament and dress.
I am undressed in this tortured time-killing;
contentment stripped like a wig
from anxiety’s bald and flaky scalp.
Very well! I may or may not make it, but I make
of this crude molestation a magnifier
of subtler beauties in your hand-hold on me,
weak, weary, and flaw-full,
thoughtless and proud and self-crying.

On Being Dropped off by a Cab Next to a Calf-High Street Slush Puddle

Stepping from my ten-ton silver steed,
beneath a faux fur hat my face
faces the wind and the hail like a brow-firm man.
Come world, I’m ready! Come dragon of the skies
with your ice-breath and foggy eyes. Who knew
New York City had rivers
to cross and proud monsters I need
to feed justice unsheathed? I am a pioneer,
a stoic romance. I embrace frost bite
and the glory of Long Avenue Eighth,
the pride of the great Garden of Madison,
where the commoners eye me with deep veneration
and wonder wide from beneath their umbrellas.


I spent a week with Pride in Paris.
The first three days were full and fast;
he flattered me and made a great impression.
The Tower rose over us, magnificent
even out of sight.
On Wednesday I began to notice

the way he covered my eyes a little roughly
(a few times too often to laugh at)
when the spring sun quit his brassy roar
and the starlight sang sweetly
of sudden death—for to them, they’d say,
all things are sudden, none strange—

the way his sinews tightened against bone
in recoil when I sneezed or made a stink,

the way his loud laughs shortened
into sharp hard stones
when, across the restaurant, or at the other end
of the cafe some man or woman would burst
and begin to sob, as people eating
with their lovers tend to do.

On Saturday he drove me to a field
on a winding road, and all was forgiven.

But on Sunday we walked by church bells ringing.
His face flashed, downright stormy, and he told me
with smoke in his eyes I must love him
forever, him only, so I ran in to the chapel doors and left him
steaming and spurning to follow.

To Silver Diner with a friend in her red
two-door and who should I see but Lust!
We dated in high school, and I admit
I’ve thought since then of his dark hair
and impossible golden eyes.
He flashed at me and we were off.

I remember warm sticky fingers,
tongues in ears, a red light flashing
quiet, and small, and piercing, and fingernails
against hipbone and the feeling
of drowning and him licking his lips.

It was a beautiful day in the city—oh silver
city! the moon’s got nothin on you, babe.

He was charming and charmed me: pale calf
leather shoes, dark jeans, a twisted-up
double-meaning grin, young for his age
and thin, of course—almost too thin,
too much bone to the touch of my hand on his hip.
He squeezed my shoulder in the light, the fluorescent
frenzy of sunset in Times Square, ushered me
into shop after surging shop: shoe-shop, dress-shop,
hat-shop, chocolate-shop, bag-shop, west-shop,
east-shop, street-shop, binge-shop, lock-shop,
trust-shop, chess-shop, box-shop, bread-shop,
money-shop, mouse-shop, mop-shop, shop-
shop, water-shop. But Greed, I started to com-
plain, I hate rodents, I’m allergic to wheat, but he
assured me, Don’t worry, and we flew on
through the green gold amber olive flashing
white and periwinkle elbows straps and eyes
and silver hangers, gold
teeth and I said Let’s go to the sea—twisted
smile—or the lake—he pulled me harder—I’d be happy
with the pool
—and he was muttering, oily rainbows
between up-down up-down wide-side
pale calf leather on the pale gray street and I lost him
freely in the fog.

It was going great with Jealousy until
(everyone watching us with green eyes;
he had the courage to kiss me in public)
he started to ask—but sweetly, from beneath
ebony eyelashes and olive skin—What do you think
about your friends; I replied What kind
of question is that and he said Do you have any friends
and because I could not understand
my own hesitation I said I have them, yes
and he said Like who, who is your friend
so I said I don’t know, like Jeanne I guess—
you met Jeanne, remember and he said Oh yes,
she was wearing a red dress. Tell me
about the others, what do they look like
and I said What do you mean
look like, and held in you bastard, still unsure
of the relevance of all of this and he said to me
I would like to know the color of their eyes
and kissed me. We were in the park, under
a blue cloudless sky, and I swear even the birds
landed to tilt their heads and cluck about us,
sensing heat, wondering Would she pull away and whether
they could revel in the ripping
asunder of these most beautiful people since Adam
and Eve, but instead I smiled sweetly,
went home without a word and called up Jeanne,
asked her to burn her red dress or else to dump me,
and never, ever again looked for those emerald eyes.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Amazing, a love
that searches out man’s heart, the places
to which even he has long shut his weary eyes.
A love that runs its fingers
gently over every crevice, hill and crack.
And when it catches on the jagged edges
of time-sharpened crag-canyons of hatred and self-
centered unconscious old faces of cruel
disgust, it tears not.

Amazing, a love
whose tongue runs over our bitterest places
and swallows us anyway, whole. Whose eye
searches out the tender and unearthed beating
core of us, and drills himself in, unflinchingly.
Who digs us each up with bare hands.

You bought up our acres of broken land
just to touch our dry souls with your fingers.
Amazing, this love,
a fount everlasting.


I would like to get my hair cut to hide my ears.
Or perhaps to get my ears cut would be cheaper
and more efficient. While I decide,
let me choose clothes for the morning mood.
There is the red dress that draws small conversation
and many words from welcoming strangers.
There is of course also the yellow shirt for the hot day,
when closeness is cause-less and my body is enough
without ornament or eyes. There are
the tight jeans. The hip-cut tights. Shorts.
Sleeves like wings. Jacket gold. Cotton slip
and soft-rub knee-length. Underwire. Straps.
I would like to get my fat cut to hide my shame.
Or perhaps to trim my soul would be cheaper
and more efficient.

It Hurts

It hurts to care, and the painful
grief-swell under foot comes
heavy up like a fist in the arch of my bones.
I would like to stop here.
I see a seat in the shade of a white umbrella.
What good does my foot do anyway?
Can it consecrate the stone and the mud?
Do they not rather cut and dirty me?

I have wrestled with the bulging and shifting earth
too long; not made for clutching little stones
but reaching, stretching to the Son on high,
I am ready to call it a farce and drink
tea from small cups and let Hell confound itself.

I know. I hear you calling. You know
I hear you, though I am bent
and dark-eyed, shut-eyed, head low
to the red dust. Say to me, My child,
and I will sing to you, skipping to race.
Teach me not to call myself too young,
and I will walk on brittle knees this brittle way.
Call me true names and, Lord, lift up my head.
I want to level this ground with strong arms,
sound joints, clear eyes, an invincible
tree on which is nailed a broken man.

Goodbye Song

Hey hey, Caricature; Caricature,
hey. What’s real seems contained in you,
but I want out. Hey, Caricature,
hear me, see me, read me:
is coming for me; Reality
pursues. I take a step toward him;
he takes two. So take care, Caricature,
take care and take laughs too.

The Tongue Tries

Too quiet, my mind-cave full tongues
and labors of wispy wants.
Shadows on the wall curvy.
Shadows of men.
Whispers and shouts, but silence the loudest
echo and dream-dazed I
want to get out.

Pattern and principle, court me.
Flame, stone and breath, be my wings.
Too long, dumb shock-sizzle
burns blind, burns me
softly, slowly, seething

romance from hissing fire. I
long to get out. Shortly;
I’m coming.

Heavy! Hold Me

Heavy! Hold me. Not
birds sufficient in the sky
or fish in sea to fill me.
Heavy! Hold me. I am
heavy; hold me.


All inches here, timber,
stone and drywall shake,
pound and tremble ‘cause of you.
Progeny’s praise and the cry of fresh blood
courses through the once-dead wood,
trees identified with Tree,
temples caught by love and loved to death
by living breath of God their God.

To Two Bags Floating Over Concrete

Love that looked like butterflies through glass—
nothing but old leaves on a windy day.
Plastic bags by God’s hot breath inspired
the only dancers in a night of cloud and shouting.
Rest, butterflies; land, poets of the air,
space-speakers. Mourn with me
on crack-clay ground of reality; come cry.

Fun & Games

Tragedy plays masks with me
and stoops at the curb, behind the bus, and anywhere
he can squeeze without being seen

far off. His favorite place
is the space between raw feet
and a pair of high heels,

though he’s good at feigning the eyes
of a couple in love, with their hands
in each other’s back pocket.

He pencils his brow
and draws calm composure round the mouth,
the hardest trick to catch;

how many times has the guise of pride passed me?
Loss shocks, but I dread the end of the game,
when he takes me by the hand through his country.

Two Men in a Doorway at Night

Figures in the light Sound running in the alleys
into gutters and under chained subway cars
between steel rails and
At the feet of two forms in the silent expanse Whose
bodies Surrounded by watchmen of concrete
and brick
Did not shiver Nor
dance And the moon was present
far off Beyond construction overhang and cloud and

and did not share in their brilliance But
she figured on the front page
of the flat sheets in the palms
of their laps And she
would be could she be read
through the skin of the eye that guards
the light of a man when sleeping
in fear of men seeing
he has nowhere to sleep.


Lord our Lord, broken cry we
fear pain pretended anomalies and all the
wary hatreds of the soul, oh Lord.
Yes hell has us. Yes
fortune found us ticking tongues
trying long to light the earth on fire,
Lord. Our Lord. Who has kept us
blindly apart from the flames that consume
and the mouths we taste good to,
but yours. Feed and feed on us,
oh jealous God, our all-consuming Ever-Burn-Bright.

A Skeptic's Froth

Thinly, to have bubbled and busted
up far beyond the reaches of finger-tips and –nails.
Wishing to cover and encompass,
finding no warm-above shield.
Justice is just, and the moon moons
while comfort comforts me and makes a speak.
Having no say but an act, I fly
like butterwings beyond a basketful of bones
and peace finds me and sits me and rocks me still.

His Love Is My Banner

Let him kiss me with the answers of his mouth,
for your love is more delightful than wine, than sweet wine
sacrificed by blood-tinged hands at temples made by man
sweet man. You smell like myrrh and incense;
myrrh and incense reek of you.

The banquet of my king is praised
by madrigals and brassy flutes. They rise to dance and say,
We rejoice in and delight in him;
we praise his love above the wine he pours.

But as for me, I hunger here
among the plates of raisins, apples, pork,
dates and figs, and gold outlining every color
bubbling in these magic pots of promise-taste
and -smell. As for me,
I am exposed and panting in the desert,
though under domes of cedar and a banner breaking
love. Where are you? hiding

in the clefts of rock? among the lilies
and the vineyards we once tended? on the crags
and rugged edges of the mountains
you well know I cannot climb?

I strike out hall into darkness in panic,
with nothing but hunger
in my mouth and thin perfume to guide me
through twisting streets full of torches
and watchmen and winter.


My heart is a siren
silenced by the sound
of heavy breathing and
wind. Dry grass catches flame.
See the formless wide-flung flashing
blue and red like lightning strikes.
No thunder, and the wail
caught in mouth was snatched by fists of wind.
See the image of a truck-crashed space
reflected in the eyes of blackened buildings.
No thunder. Crowds
burning and twisting like autumn leaves.

Lab Report 21a

In order to study the syntax of birdsong—
phonology, instincts, templates of learning—
they cupped beak-speakers, delivered to plastic boxes
in separate rooms. Worried that even egg-crackers
might know too much, they ushered unhatchlings in too.
Wide-eared machines waited with eager hearts
to chart the change between swamp- and song-sparrows.
Years passed as black ticks marking days by the hundred.
They began to wonder.
They willed to wipe away their sound,
deafening the ballad-bearers, and found
that to produce the song of its fathers, a bird
must be able to hear her voice.

Was Doing Good

Was doing good in the thick-walled book-stacked
cylindrical (what other shape choose princesses
more beautiful the more unseen) high tower—

Was—The world murmured in under- & over-tones
through the thicker-than-brick walls but wouldn’t
stick fingers between authoritative spines so stiff

& solemn; was humming softly to my self’s ear,
rehearsing scenes of paper ends and paper means; was
trying to keep dry. But

you stepped swaggering through
a door I don’t remember building, & sat easily
in the frame that framed you well, so well, too well,

sunlight breaking from behind you,
threatening with barefaced emptyhanded force
to yellow all my Bright & Beauty. Was

good. Had names for every rancid
& alluring smell the wet stains on your tee-shirt
and all sour coupling all sweet sounds of your deep

throat sent sputtering, hardhitting forward
my nose; eyes full
of the watery blues and milky hues of you; all

ringing & pounding & shaking
the was-tall-once-straight walls of my secret citadel.

twisted & back bent, prostrate with elbows
& knees mired in milky
rain-paper mush,

lumping the horizon, my broken shape alone
heaving in shadow—flat valley sour,
death’s aftertaste—

Mark 6:34

I have the compassion of a rat
fat and bleeding on the traintrack,

rat-brain full of furry thoughts,
crumb-size stomach churning,

his dusky rat-eye full
of red and silver slices.

The Wind Blew

I might have gotten a little hot, too hot, I’m sorry,
it was the wind and there was nowhere left to go.
You asked me Okay? and I wasn’t going to answer but
the word was so plump with irony it was difficult
not to poke it
I’m sorry

so sorry. There were clouds in my head.
But it’s raining, it’s better now, the daisies
have closed up their little yellow arms over their heads
and are sleeping and dreaming of dew and the rough
flat heaviness of sidewalks—have I convinced you?
I have convinced you—
got a little hot so turned down my collar,
let the breeze kiss me,
let the flood of air put its hands around my neck

Moral Fiber

Standing, peeling on the inside
like an old pear;
him limping on the concrete, rubber soles
ba-dum ba-dum un-
even on the pavement, slow away
from me and I do not know his name.
He is to me Ba-Dum Ba-Dum Ba-Dee,
Twisted Knee and Hook-foot Reverie.
Ba-Dum, I wish I love-you-loved you.
Enough at least to ask your name
and call on Love instead of shedding
crisp-invisible skin here in this doorway that reveals
a thin clean nothing underneath.


I live in a talk talk city and a
sell sell world—Should I
move out to the hush hush house
of a self self life
where the know (no) mind runs
laps & loops & circles round the globe?


It is difficult to be so many things.
Thought twisting in shivers,
change heavy in my pocket.

At the coming curb, the girl with a yellow-cased
cello on her back will remind me that I am not good
at loving cellists.

In the elevator, I realize,
at the sound of two silt-soft
earth-thick voices, that I’ll never
be a good black woman—
mostly because I am not black
in part because I lack the talent.

Years ago an acquaintance insisted
quite firmly that I’d be the head of Aquafina,
but I think you have to not be afraid of making money
or of giving everything away.

It also seems necessary
to be on fire, and acquire a taste for your own
burning, to be good at anything at all.


Brother, there is a place some say we cannot go.
Some say (and many pen)
that Truth’s a vulture, coiling round
some poor dissected horse-corpse, open, rotting.
Too old for being ridden, and too wild,
they led her by the neck and
shot between the eyes.

On this I sit and choke,
I choke and sit the day.

There is a place above, below,
and running through such words too bright and real
for chalk and sand imaginings of men.
How to speak of that, that all sound sweeps
like dust away beneath its brassy door?
Study me
and if my palms are lying,
hushing whispers or a preposition
in clenches curled in pockets,
tell me plain. There is nothing
I want but to take you
out of this anxious and stop-dammed womb
to a city we have no eyes to fathom—

we, pleasure-hunting, treasure-seeking
fanged big game and daggers made of gold.

On this I sit and choke,
I choke and sit the day

long. But I know you
do grope too, in a cold place, maybe
with fear-sealed eyes, and maybe
desperate madness, fierce and pure.


Something is taking place Somewhere
that overwhelms roughly as much
as something Somewhere Else (and
in my heart there is another thing
happening I tell it
to be quiet there is enough
going on but it won’t

Good With Words

I’m good with words,
and words are good with me; I’m
not picky—anything will do,
so long as it will do, not not do,
undo, or redo undone doings.
Don’t like to redo redundancies—once done,
what needs to be redone? (No fun.) I’m good
with what’s new, whatever works, whatever
jumps out at you.

Psalm 102

You there,
masked by the shadow of things, and wrapped
in a casual robe of suns and of stars,
could you point me to my God? with your feet propped
up on earth’s steel invisible pole (heel dug cool in the hard snow)
would seem to know. He left me

in the night—me!—woke late
and desolate to rumors of vinegar and blood,
ointments and clean clothes in a cold cave,
a ghost cooking breakfast on the shore.
I just don’t know anymore—You there, could you
tell me, hard-starved, where to go?


No birds are out today.
Shattered raindrops pelt the window aimlessly and
the white face of the sky has gone to sleep.
I like this two-tone world,
where the dying daisies bend, beautifully still
and black against the glass, where even
the deep vague humming of horn and engine mark nothing,
count nothing, tell no time—No time, for once, to tell.
I like the peeled feeling of rough fat scales
(from the age of monotonous friction) falling away, but
underneath, a
spastic heart shudders
rhythmically, full of
blood and
worry, stunned almost
to screaming in the
cold, harsh air
full of
mystery’s hands
and the rain and the cloud and the light sing Hush,
and the cool and the breath and the air hum Hush,
and the blood slowing
and slowing
to a gentle

No birds are out today.
I like the stark-stun shadow of murmuring gray,
each moment a hand held open.


On my knees,
inside out—the dull blade
of the mind flicks back
to its shell and the razory sword
rears a long arm, sharp teeth unzipping
time from its crown to its heels and peeling
back the thin layer of pallid flesh.

(Remind me not to pray
when my stomach is weak,
when those white bones cracked and parasitic meat
rattle me on the inside, dethroning my mountains
flicked out to the hard-heaving sea.)