Saturday, December 2, 2017

I Does Not Point

I does not point up;
it's lateral, flat on a page
like a short black thread
or a leg bone in the dirt.
I begins sentences it cannot finish.
I is the symbol of an upright thing
knocked down. I points at me
like a finger: You. You. You. You.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Those Moments

I have had more of those moments lately where
suddenly you are pointedly aware
of being alive, and it’s not a pleasant feeling at all,
it’s more like the way you feel rising in a plane,
a nauseous awareness that your body has organs
and is meant to stay on the ground. Only my moments
don’t take me anywhere. They leave me stranded
in a strange silent bubble, an anti-oasis,
in the jungle of everyday life, like a gnat
in a colorless balloon, overly aware of its gnat-ness,
until I am the balloon, or nothing, or myself.
And my choice is clear: stay suspended,
waiting for a revelation (which never comes),
or close my eyes, let the lukewarm cacophony
consume me again.

The Business of Poetry

I never figured out the business of poetry. Verse,
I mean, stanza, the strictest sense. But I have
found the poetry in business; it is a quiet thing,
trembling between the ribs of all who make
money. There is no language for it. The poets
write to readers and the sellers, of course,
write to buyers. But what if, like a strange year
of Jubilee, the slate was washed clean, Dante
told the girls at the mall about hell, J.C.
Penney wooed hippies with song? I’d be down.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

God, You Break

God, you break my brain.
You want the credit for everything
from the Big Bang to the atoms of my nose,
glory-hungry, insatiable for praise.
But you do 99-point-Lord-knows-what percent
of everything you do invisibly,
knowing your hand will never be seen
let alone thanked. 
You love us as much as Jesus,
who you killed. Let die. Let choose to die
at the center of web you built --
you're him, the prey,
and the spider, and the father of spiders,
and the web. Unspeakable:
mighty, weak, the ugliest, most beautiful,
most selfless self-fulfilling self,
like darkness in a blinding light.

My Brain Popped

My brain popped open
for a second, and shut
with so little explanation,
just a scribble on a wall:
"Be back."

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Four Prayers

God, you come and go
like the wind in the trees,
attending to endless invisible business.

Remember when you were fire
and I was wood?
Life was much easier then.

God, if pain is your megaphone
I think you've turned me deaf.
Teach me sign language. Please.
I can't read lips.

My God, my God,
why haven't you forsaken me?
I feel you sitting around,
beside me silent in room after room,
waiting for me to trip on some truth.

Why play this game? Why not terrify me
all at once with your burning face,
or leave me at peace in the cold?
You tease me with matches hidden
under carpets, under rocks.

God, if you can do anything,
can you free me from myself?
I am tired. She weighs me down.

The Search

I am looking for leaders.
I am trying to be open

to Rilke, whose poems sing hauntingly
in both my languages 

but his worship smells strongly
of rot. I try to ignore it. And I know

my nose is sensitive, I know
how few clean worshippers there are.

I am waiting for someone
who sounds like a fool

and writes like a child 
and loves truth more than I do.

Vanity of Vanities

I made myself into 
the kind of woman who
puts her happiness deep
beneath others' but now

there are so many others

and the preacher keeps preaching 
about more and more like beautiful
petals piling 
in bucketfuls till my flower

is gone

and all I can see
anymore are the wrinkles I swore
not to notice 
while petals pile

Monday, May 8, 2017

The Snitch

The strangest people in the world 
come to New York
City (yes, all of them,
don't question me) and they congregate
on the Upper West Side, like the balding
Chinese delivery man
with his heavy metal boombox, 
this woman with a cane and
a young man dressed like his
conversation partner
at their favorite Italian restaurant: long
blond hair, red lips, a tight black dress.

I can't decide what is tacky
and what is the opposite,
or what the opposite is,
or whether I should be deciding
at all. An old man
dances by, calling
me a goddess.
Who am I to tell of it?
Who am I to name names?

Saturday, May 6, 2017

He Would Want

He would want to be an artist
if he knew what he wanted,
but he would be wrong.

He is an actor
who, half-mad because he cannot write the lines,
refuses to read.

Think of What Peace Is

When you think of what peace is
you think of clouds
thinning and thickening,
halo-gold, red-edged, heavy with dark.

When I think of what peace is
I think of a seed
in a pink plastic piggy bank
under my bed.

Blank Page

I saw the blank page too, but what you saw
was a wide white mouth. I saw you see it,
though you turned the key behind your eyes
quickly, before anyone would know.

I know your lock brand, I own your fear.
They’re sitting in storage somewhere,
unlabeled, in a big brown box.

Sunday, April 30, 2017


I am not here here. I am locked
in the earnest embrace of clock arms. Maddening,
to know I can escape, to not know how,
to see with lidless eyes my mind killing itself
slowly, slowly, filing down my future like a nail.
Like watching a man’s hand cut his own wrist.
You think I choose this; no, I push
against it like life against a death-wish
until my strength is spent—that’s what you see,
awake to me only at the end of the race,
like seeing a star go out without knowing
how many thousand years it shone. I’m sorry. I know
I taint the space I’m crippled in,
mute the color, muffle the praise,
a thin blanket of dust over newness.
And I know I am to blame: I see myself, my face,
my voice, my nails against the chalkboard,
grinding teeth. I’ve longed so long to be here
with you, with me, full together
in a moment undissected by clocks or cuts,
body embracing mind, and mind
at home, at rest, in our eternal hour.

Friday, March 10, 2017

I Wouldn't Say

Dimwit. Such a terrible
word. I have always felt it in the gut
like meaningless malice,

a punch, not cut. The sort of thing
fools say to fool friends.
It’s the kind of name

one flings around. The kind of thing
I wouldn’t say
for fear of dirtying my mouth.

But I’ve been wrong about so many things,
I think—can’t help but think—
and you are not so bright.


I am alone with him again. You,
promising, powerful, elsewhere.
I am alone with him
in a room
with no doors. We sit.
The walls quiver

a little. When I put my hand
to the wood I can feel them,
as if the wall were skin and I: on the outside
of an inside-out womb,
and the world: getting ready to be born.
It makes me feel a little better
that there are things I cannot see.

What They Say About Vampires

It’s not true, what they say
about vampires. One jumped through my kitchen window
yesterday, started mincing garlic with a paring knife
like it was nothing. I stood in the doorway,
speechless. When he served the spaghetti, I sat.
When he asked for the salt, I passed it.
When he bit my neck, I let him.
It was noon and the daylight did nothing.

The Irrelevant

The fear that white men feel today
of Chinese-Mexican robots taking their jobs
I knew in the womb: born knowing
there was some mistake—my brain
and body weren’t designed for this
strange terrain
where ghosts and heroes move so fluidly
the world seems like a second skin to them.

I did not know the word privilege,
the name Karl Marx, identity politics
and the need to pray
that yours is chosen by the loudest voice.
But I knew, I knew, that there was some mistake.


When I was young I was the center of the world;
everyone else was equally peripheral.
Now I don't know.
There are so many words—
left, right, low, high,
upper, middle, lower, useless—

Forgive Me for My Temperature

My love, forgive me for my temperature.
For tucking ice feet between your thighs at night
and stealing your slippers in the morning.
How could you understand? In you,
memories boil and bubble over.
Strangers become bright embers in your chest.
Even your ideas are infant flames.
Why would you steal what isn't yours?
Believe me, please: it's not that I am cold. I just
can't regulate myself—heat too hot,
cool too cool and can't warm up.
There is a fire deep inside me I can't trust.
Maybe when I'm wiser—until then,
maybe you could let me use you still
for boiling in.