Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Individual Parts May Be Salvaged

Individual Parts May Be Salvaged

Alone in the house after my death
the robot powers down my phone,
straightens my cuffs,
wipes away fluids oozing after my fall.
While its moving parts tidy,
its cortex sends notifications —
Ben, your mother has fallen & can’t get up.
Matt, it’s already too late,
but get in your car and drive down here now.
Esther, your daughter’s finally on her way to join you.
She’s still the same,
so if you want to maintain your peace & quiet
you might want to descend to a lower circle
or petition Beatrice for a long overdue pardon.
The robot doesn’t know
it’s reached end of life too.
Recycling an intact elder care robot
has been against the law since 2025
though certain individual parts may be salvaged.
It’s the impossibility of securely erasing data structures
that dooms the robot’s cortex
& sensory appendages
to be rendered.
My neurons, my ligatures
have begun to unweave.
My life of reconstructed memories
shrivel to stories soon to be no longer told.
To my granddaughter, I gave my tidiness,
to my younger son, my zen,
may the annual library sale profit from my books.
Friends, my undying devotion has died.
I remember every friend I ever had
even if I unfriended them.
Now I’m a dead facebook account,
a dead-letter email.
The robot scans for breached perimeters,
an ill-adjusted thermostat,
running water, a kettle boiling dry.
It livestreams my missing pulse.
It will open the door to the paramedics.
This robot has been awfully good to me,
outstanding at finding my glasses
& prompting me to medicate.
I don’t suppose she misses me.
I sometimes called her Rose.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Hakalau Rain

Hakalau Rain

begins as obake
ghost fog — sails in 
to finish a sunny day.
A whisper of leaves,
rustle of fronds
rises to din
& rain cascades
like trucks
dump gravel,
like madwomen
My cat leaps
to a sill,
sees tools
mislaid, a bucket
rocketing end over end
to meet & tangle 
with hog wire fence.
I’m caught
in this riot,
made small
by tethered fog, 
this sudden chill,
I’m sodden & smiling,
with soft rain.

Sunday, March 13, 2016



I disinter roots & branches of 
trees sawed & stumps ground last autumn
rotting at their slow pace.

Weeding is a constant path.
Between stones grow blanched stems,
under them, blanched roots with no stems.

I pitchfork weeds into toppling cones —
nutrient steam flecked with yellow flowers —
stack & restack pyres to stall growth.

By now I know each type of weed
including one I pardoned — its velvet leaf —
like as not, not what I wish for,

no more than sounds at my door at night,
not rain or wind, not possum or fox.
What pitchfork might rout this dark?

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Bankei via Stephen Berg

First Song
by Stephen Berg

never was    always will be
mind before mind
earth water fire wind
sleep there tonight

you you on fire
burning yourself
to this burning house

all the way back
to the womb
can’t remember a thing

good bad
self self

winter’s wonderful
in summer

summer breezes
even before autumn’s

rich now
you hate the poor
and forget when you
had nothing

you saved every dollar
a fiend
watched by the famished
wraiths of your self

your whole life
making money
could not pay off

clinging wanting
nothing on my mind
that’s why I can say
it’s all mine

you want someone you love
only because
you never knew her

you can’t forget
not to remember
someone you never forgot

looking back
you see it one brief evening
realize    see
everything’s a lie

bitter? does this
incredible world of grief
hurt? why wound yourself
brooding on dreams?

no hands    no eyes
nothing exists
touch see
that’s it

all this
in unreal
instead of clutching your head
go and sing

your mind
torments you
because you need it

hating hell
loving heaven
torture yourself
in this joyous world

the hating mind
itself is not bad
not not hating
what’s bad

good    bad
crumple into a ball
of trash
for the gutter

ideas about
what you should do
never existed
I    I    I

with Buddhism
nothing’s new

enlightenment really?
keep wrestling with yourself

these days enlightenment
means nothing to me
so I wake up
feeling fine

tired of praying
for salvation    look
at those poor beautiful flowers

along the river
in    out

die    live
day and night here
listen    the world’s
your hand

are pitiful
all dressed up    dazzled
by brocade robes

come from your mind
right wrong right wrong
never were

call it this    that
it doesn’t exist
except this page
except these wavering phrases

praised abused
like a block of wood straight through
my head’s the universe
can’t hide my ugliness my clumsiness

so I just go along
with what is
without anger
without happiness

nothing to see    nothing to know
before after now
call and you’ll hear
its heartbreaking silence

[from Stephen Berg's The Steel Cricket: Versions 1958-1997]

Saturday, March 5, 2016

A Quilt of Wings

A Quilt of Wings

A red bicycle rumbles
the gravel parking apron,
rosemary hedge a blue tangle.

The body crouched above a sprocket
pedals beside a dog on leash
block after sea level block.

Succulents skirt a patio.
An orb weaver hangs flies
above a planter where collards grow.

Fur webbed with splints of bone —
owl-cast on asphalt —
how tongue eats tongue.

Duck bills worry clover,
squirrels tightrope jacaranda,
a quilt of wings squareknots the river.

At the beach the dog’s set free to run.
Chase stick. Chase ball. Chew wave.
Genuflect to pelicans.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016



4:30 am, I’m not getting up because it’s too early. I turn the pillow four times hoping for who knows what comfort. The smell of the sheets surprises me — slightly sour, salty like soup. I could say I’m being called to wash them, remnants of my childhood where no sheets went more than a week unwashed, & with all the graham crackers I ate in bed, my sheets needed washing or vacuuming at least. Household tasks, particularly laundry, always soothe me. I have a washer & no dryer, so when fog settles, I bundle wet sheets into my car & drive to the laundromat. I bring William Carlos Williams to read while the sheets tumble, his memoir of his European/West-Indian mother who lived with him until she died, “sat in her room year in and year out” because she walked to the Club, “without rubbers,” slipped & fell on ice, broke her hip. Elena was nervous, vain & timid, tough & good, & Williams loved her. Sons are like that, not seeing us as slightly sour, overly salty, instead as interesting, kissable, worth cooking dinner for. In one poem he described dancing naked in his attic while the family slept, happy genius of his household. I quit the laundromat with slightly damp sheets, air them dry in late day sun.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Ada Limón

Ada Limón [Monterey Peninsula College]

from Ada Limón's Bright Dead Things:

Long Ago & the Cow Comes Back

In this, the current recasting of the great plummet,
it is I, and not the other grand-eyed cows off Leveroni Road,
who watches the two cloudy youths climb into the backseat
of the long boat-like car during the plunging dark hour
of no turning back. I am not folded into its tongue-red
interior watching the headlights of the passing traffic
trance the windows like far-off lighthouse lights pulsing
at us, lost in our swollen inky sea. In this version, I am
the still bovine beauty staring into Carringer Creek, hungry
for nothing but what comes every day: grass and sky,
and the silvery creek water reflecting the grass and sky.
By the bend in the clean zipper of stream, by the gate
of my life, a metal animal’s insides steam up and I understand —
so many dolorous selves in each of us dissolving into fog.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

We Refugees

We Refugees

Cheaper than lock & key, a chowkidar
defends our door. He’s ragged, poor, menial
kin to fruit peels we toss in the street,
yet he guards our home, we, the non-
pariahs, so luminous, bindis scarlet
between our eyes, brilliant silks binding us,
shades & smells of turmeric, chilis,
asafoetida. He waits, his heart
an apple wizened to a frame for pips,
pledged to our stone stoop & waves the well-
regarded across to our baubled inside.
Monsoons don’t muddy these parquet floors
or swamp the beds, we women marooned,
we refugees, our bruises, our spells.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Jane Cooper

The Potato Eaters by Vincent Van Gogh [Wikipedia]

In the Last Few Moments Came The Old German Cleaning Woman
by Jane Cooper

Our last morning in that long room,
Our little world, I could not cry
But went about the senseless chores
— Coffee and eggs and newspapers —
As if your plane would never fly,
As if we were trapped there for all time.

Wanting to fix by ritual
The marriage we could never share
I creaked to stove and back again.
Leaves in the stiffening New York sun
Clattered like plates; the sky was bare —
I tripped and let your full cup fall.

Coffee scalded your wrist and that
Was the first natural grief we knew.
Others followed after years:
Dry fodder swallowed, then the tears
When mop in hand the old world through
The door pressed, dutiful, idiot.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Seabright Beach

Seabright Beach

Not a dog or a person, pink gash
in a low sky, the lighthouse beams green,
the tide’s past high, waves cream
across smoothed sand. The sanderlings
scurry left & right, rise like smoke,
fade like a mirror’s steam. Great blues
jut from a condo roof, one wraps
tight, one pivots — a weathervane.
Perched in live oaks, night herons
white plumed & black crowned wait
at the fish-cleaning dock. Crow gangs
argue, mockers rock, juncos hop.
They don’t feel cold or the little rain
or they do, & have no words to complain.

Thursday, January 7, 2016



A man airlifts a drone
inches from my face,
whir of blades
the boom of surf swallows.
Strobes streamed
from flyer to phone
mimic the mandala
he’s made in sand,
a maze I can’t tour
without erasing.
This is my living,
he says. His rake
feathers & scrapes
splines & spandrels.
His gait’s uneven,
one flank of him concave.
A harbor seal sprawls
on stone & sand awash
as anchored flesh reveals,
limen of fresh & salt,
air & water, shallow
& deep. Pale spots
dither wet skin.
The sea swells.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Death Cap

Death Cap

I am the old lady 
asked along to a brewery
to distract the child,
to nurse a half pint of
vaunted yet unwished for
ale, to be ignored
except when family 
points me to a chair.
I take in the crowd 
queued for another draft,
clustered around barrels
of bursty talk, of laughs.
The child & I 
discover nothing here
beyond noise & large bodies
in black clothing,
a barmaid’s tattooed 
arms & blued hair.
Then a table half empty,
a couple willing to share,
but first we marvel 
at two large mushrooms
someone’s left there,
not witches butter, 
not turkey tail
nor red-belted conk — 
names the child suggests
& stoutly denies
before switching focus
to morphological detail —
“This,” she says, “is the stalk.”
For the pocked crown
I posit cap, then balked,
we google, for the ring —
none — then gills,
mycelium, volva.
These must be death cap, we surmise.
Some mushrooms 
push straight up through soil,
she says, wonder 
blazing from her eyes.

Monday, December 21, 2015

William Meredith


The Illiterate 
by William Meredith 

Touching your goodness, I am like a man 
Who turns a letter over in his hand, 
And you might think this was because the hand 
Was unfamiliar, but truth is the man 
Has never had a letter from anyone; 
And now he is both afraid of what it means 
And ashamed because he has no other means 
To find out what it says than to ask someone. 

His uncle could have left the store to him, 
Or his parents died before he sent them word, 
Or the dark girl changed and want him for her lover. 
Afraid and letter-proud he keeps it with him. 
What would you call his pleasure in the words 
That keep him rich and orphaned and beloved?

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Kathleen Jamie

Kathleen Jamie [theguardian]

Fragment 2

Imagine we could begin
all over again; begin

afresh, like this February
dawn light, coaxing

from the Scots pines
their red ochre, burnt-earth glow.

All over again. South
— facing mountainsides, balcony

above balcony of pines — imagine
we could mend

whatever we heard fracture:
splintering of wood, a bird's

cry over still water, a sound
only reaching us now

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Alberto Ríos

Alberto Ríos [YouTube]

from Alberto Ríos's The Lime Orchard Woman:

Incident at Imuris

Mr. Aplinio Morales has reported this:
They were not after all 
Watermelons, it was not the wild
Fruit patch they at first had thought;
In the manner of what moths do,
These were cocoons, as every child has
Picked up and squeezed,
But from in these came and they saw
Thousands of green-winged half moths,
Half moths and not exactly butterflies,
Not exactly puppies —
A name for them did not exist here.
Half this and some of that,
What was familiar and what might be European.
And when the fruit rotted, or seemed to rot —
Almost all of them on the same day —
From out of each husk the beasts flew
Fat, equipped, at ease
So that they were not so much
Hungry as curious.
The watermelons had been generous homes.
These were not begging animals,
Not raccoons, nor rats,
Not second or third class;
These were the kind that if human
They would have worn dinner jackets
And sniffed, not at anything in particular,
Just as general commentary.
Animals who had time for tea.
Easily distracted and obviously educated
In some inexplicable manner,
The beasts of the watermelons left
The same day, after putting their heads
In windows, bored already
From chasing the horses
And drinking too much from the town well.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Carolyn Kizer

Carolyn Kizer [Harry Naltchayan]

from Carolyn Kizer's Cool, Calm & Collected:

Plaint of the Poet in an Ignorant Age

I would I had a flower-boy!
I'd sit in the mid of an untamed wood
Away from tame suburbs beyond the trees.
With my botany-boy to fetch and find,
I'd sit in a rocker by a pot of cold coffee
Noodling in a notebook on my knee,
Calling, "Flower-boy, name me that flower!
Read me the tag on that tree!"
But here I sit by an unlit fire
Swizzling three martinis
While a thousand metaphors doze outdoors,
And the no-bird sings in the no-name tree.

I would I had a bug-boy
With a bug-book and a butterfly net,
To bring me Nature in a basket of leaves:
A bug on a leaf by the goldfish bowl;
I'd sit in a rocker, a pocketful of pine-nuts
And a nutcracker knocking my knee,
Cracking nuts, jokes, and crying to my bug-boy,
"Read me the caterpillar on the leaf,
Count the number of nibbled veins
By a tree's light, in fire!"
While I, in my rocker, rolled and called,
A caterpillar crawled on the long-named leaf.

If I had a boy of Latin and Greek
In love with eleven-syllable leaves,
Hanging names like halos on herb and shrub!
A footnote lad, a lexicon boy
Who would run in a wreath around my rocker
To kneel at my chair, at my knee
Saying, "Here is your notebook, here is your pen! —
I have found a marvelous tree!"
But all I have is a poetry-boy,
A bottle-cap king: he cries,
Thudding from the garden, "What do you call
The no-bird that sings in the no-name tree?"

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Adélia Prado

Adélia Prado [La Oriental]

from The Alphabet in the Park: Selected Poems of Adélia Prado, translated by Ellen Watson


Once in a while God takes poetry away from me. 
I look at a stone, I see a stone.
The world, so full of departments,
is not a pretty ball flying free in space.
I feel ugly, gazing in mirrors to try to provoke them,
thrashing the brush through my hair,
susceptible to believing in omens.
I become a terrible Christian.
Every day at this time the sound of a giant mortar and pestle:
Here comes Gimpy, I think, and sadden with fear.
"What day is today?" says Mother;
"Friday is the day of sorrowful mysteries."
The night-light glimmers its already humble ray,
narrowing once and for all the black of night.
Enter, in the calm of the hour, the buzz
of the factory, in continuous staccato.
And I am in heat, unceasingly,
I persist in going to the garden to attract butterflies
and the memory of the dead.
I fall in love once a day,
I write horrible letters, full of spasms,
as if I had a piano and bags under my eyes,
as if my name were Anne of the Cross.
Except for the eyes in photographs,
no one knows what death is.
If there were no clover in the garden,
I don't know if I would write this;
no one knows what talent is.
I sit on the porch watching the street,
waiting for the sky to sadden with dusk.
When I grow up I'll write a book:
"You mean fireflies are the same thing as lightning bugs?" they asked, amazed.
Over leftover coals, the beans
balloon in the black pot.
A little jolt: the end of the prayer long gone.
The young pullets did not all fit
under the mother hen;
she clucked a warning.
This story is threatening to end, stopped up with stones.
No one can stand to be merely Lenten.
A pain this purple induces fainting,
a pain this sad doesn't exist.
School cafeterias and radio broadcasts
featuring calisthenics set to music
sustain the order of the world, despite me.
Even the thick knots extracted from the breast,
the cobalt, its ray pointed at pained flesh —
upon which I have cast this curse:
I refuse to write one line to you — even these
settle in among the firewood,
longing for a place in the crucifixion.
I started this letter bursting with pride,
overestimating my ability to yell for help,
tempted to believe that some things,
in fact, have no Easter.
But sleep overpowered me and this story dozed off
letter by letter. Until the sun broke through.
The flies awoke.
And the woman next door had an attack of nerves;
they called me urgently from the garden wall.
Death leaves behind photographs, articles of clothing,
half-full medicine bottles, disoriented insects
in the sea of flowers that covers the body.
This poem has gone sticky on me. He won't shake loose.
He disgusts me, with his big head;
I grab my shopping bag.
I'll stroll around the market.
But there he is, brandy in his spittle,
heels callused like a woman's,
coins in the palm of his hand.
It's not an exemplary life, this, robbing an old man
of the sweet pleasure of grandchildren.
My sadness was never mortal,
it's reborn every morning.
Death doesn't stop the pitter-pat of rain on the umbrella,
tiny droplets
innumerable as the constellations.
I trail behind the funeral precession,
mixing with holy women,
I wipe the Sacred Visage.
"All you who pass by, look and see
if there is any sorrow like my sorrow. . . ."
Happiness alone has body:
Head hung low,
glassy eyes and mouth,
bruised feelings and bruised limbs.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

The History of the Future

The History of the Future

make the picture in the future
the history of the future
4-line house, 2-line tent

life upon a clown
you are free so what to do
snake, monkey, repurposed lion

without defiance what forms
do you carve?
hemisphere, triangle, slash

if everything needs to be lines
inside or outside the lens
g o g g l e s a r e b l a c k s o

the moon sheds dim light
on an oil rig, water beneath the rig
the toe you unsock & dip in the water

socking & shoeing are not commutative
asylums, with or without crayons
tattoos lasered or faded

home — what is, who wants, why?
how to move forward (backward)
dream space, every place

better you work outside
the beard, the blind
image to word to string of words

flagged down, the baby bird
death is not Zeno’s paradox
point & fledge

to love dreams
is to love knowing you can’t know
precise & absurd

aspens grow between floor tiles
rush back
as if to prove you’re safe

feral runs out, runs back
stops at the median
lopes toward the traffic light

the laminate beam
spans the high ceiling
bored through in three places

purple cabbage straws
tight-coiled quinoa
orange beans

all day, you said,
you walk from window to window
panning for light

water is sound
green & brown shine
white froth & flow

wet is optional
unless you are the river
rock pebbly, like dried-out sponge

make the garden ammonite
omega, hourglass
flowers orange, yellow, red

make light flow from the center
along lines of blossom anatomy
charred by, rimmed with

scepters of hollyhock
rosemary, daylily
succulents, artichoke

cosmos wavers
crisscross laid in pavers
with thyme to flavor soles

let the central chamber
raise a mesh-clad tent
coral snake undulant

the antique shop’s
white window dressing
of rocker, wedding dress, birdcage

a green-gold deposit
crowns your hair — bird gift
alchemy’s prima materia

you found the ceiling
now find the floor, full
& empty are much the same

either you prefer to be elder
or you have no choice
childhood green

rough-barked trees w/
long narrow leaves
spruce, pine, maple, walnut

tattoos articulate crimson
& hard-won blue
cedar, cypress, yew

big-mouth sharks
leap from pools, your dreams
peaceful, collegial

your other half present but evacuated
rowdy dogs & children swarm
the breakage inconsequential

arbitrage, dismissal
spaces moan when you cross them
urban meadow of lupine, of sorrel

accumulate archipelago
red ring rims a spare half moon
one sound, a bird

Sunday, August 9, 2015

A. R. Ammons

A. R. Ammons [The Famous People]

from A. R. Ammons Collected Poems:


Coming to a pinywoods
       where a stream darted across the path
like a squirrel or frightened blacksnake
I sat down on a sunny hillock
           and leaned back against a pine
and picked up some dry pineneedle bundles from the ground
and tore each bundle apart a needle at a time
    It was not Coulter's pine
    for coulteri is funnier looking
    and not Monterey either
and I thought God must have had Linnaeus in mind
orders of trees correspond so well between them
and I dropped to sleep wondering what design God
had meant the human mind to fit
           and looked up and saw a great bird
warming in the sun high on a pine limb
tearing from his breast golden feathers
    softer than the new gold that
    dropped to the wind one or two
    gently and touched my face
I picked one up and it said
       The world is bright after rain
for rain washes death out of the land and hides it far
beneath the soil and it returns again cleansed with life
           and so all is a circle
and nothing is separable
Look at this noble pine from which you are
almost indistinguishable it is also sensible
       and cries out when it is felled
and so I said are trees blind and is the earth black to them
Oh if trees are blind
           I do not want to be a tree
A wind rising of one in time blowing the feather away
forsaken I woke
and the golden bird had flown away and the sun
had moved the shadows over me so I rose and walked on