Saturday, April 22, 2017

Touring Egypt

Touring Egypt

The nest above the garage belongs to a finch.
Mine is the savaged arm below the pillow —
raised veins, petechiae — dozens.
Ghost today, memory tomorrow,
age deals this unexpected sanction
of intimate loss, the body’s lurch
apart. Oh, for a package tour of Egypt,
vector idly picked to intercept
this slapdash, two-bit lurch
toward derivatives I don’t sanction —
rude death, wait for tomorrow.
Impelled to nurture another dozen
(lice & worms fattening the nestlings’ pillow)
each spring this blithe finch.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Atlanta, 1955

Esther, John, Carol, David

Atlanta, 1955

The whistle — descending third — meant home.
How wonderfully far that familiar sound
traveled at dusk to children bicycling round
suburban streets yellow with ragweed bloom.
Tonto, Geronimo, wannabe hounds of hell
played hide & seek in half-built houses
pressing on pastures of last-chance cows
fated to fuel Atlanta’s urban swell.
Up to the school, down to the pond, a zoom
around a corner to the corner store
where no one had coins so our gang
leader stole. We seemed impossibly far
when dinnertime tolled & pronto — hunger pangs.
Oh! There were mothers, whistling us home.



Driving home I shake at what I’ve done —
handfuls of grapes prised from their stems,
their tart flesh juiced between my teeth,
the bottle of cold beer a welcome balm.
Four ticks the women struggled to release,
troublesome barbs lodged in skin,
the imminent threat of Lyme Disease an old
refrain, fables victims told, the flood
of horror — leeches fastened to tender skin.
Sleep continues to be my best release —
dark, cotton, arm under pillow, balm
until I wake at midnight, heart in my teeth,
slung from the highest trunk, branch, stem.
Guilty, I am. Oh for this dream to be done!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Sea Glass

Sea Glass

Collecting sea glass, high tide,
I raced toward the rocks, away from swash
until I forgot. The swash rose past my knees.
I stayed on my feet, I swayed, I waited, then peered
at backwash for minuscule bits
of orange & red, green & blue, pearlescent
white, shells worn thin as mica, rocks
blotched & streaked, fossiled & pitted, hollowed
& cored. Next I knew a streaking wave
sideswiped a second seeker, bloodied
on gravel-strewn sand, muscled by forces
beyond her ken, she rued her salty camera
& phone. We come from Nevada, she said,
we have nothing like this at home.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Jorie Graham

Jorie Graham [WSJ]

Orpheus and Eurydice
by Jorie Graham

Up ahead, I know, he felt it stirring in himself already, the glance,
the darting thing in the pile of rocks,

already in him, there, shiny in the rubble, hissing Did you want to remain
completely unharmed? —

the point-of-view darting in him, shiny head in the ash-heap,

hissing Once upon a time, and then Turn now darling give me that look,

that perfect shot, give me that place where I’m erased. . . .

The thing, he must have wondered, could it be put to rest, there, in the glance,
could it lie back down into the dustiness, giving its outline up?

When we turn to them — limbs, fields, expanses of dust called meadow and avenue —
will they be freed then to slip back in?

Because you see he could not be married to it anymore, this field with minutes in it
called woman, its presence in him the thing called

future — could not be married to it anymore, expanse tugging his mind out into it,
tugging the wanting-to-finish out.

What he dreamed of was this road (as he walked on it), this dustiness,
but without their steps on it, their prints, without
song —

What she dreamed, as she watched him turning with the bend in the road (can you
understand this?) — what she dreamed

was of disappearing into the seen

not of disappearing, lord, into the real —

And yes she could feel it in him already, up ahead, that wanting-to-turn-and-

by his glance,

sealing the edges down,

saying I know you from somewhere darling, don’t I,
saying You’re the kind of woman who etcetera —

(Now the cypress are swaying) (Now the lake in the distance)
(Now the view-from-above, the aerial attack of do you
remember?) —

now the glance reaching her shoreline wanting only to be recalled,
now the glance reaching her shoreline wanting only to be taken in,

(somewhere the castle above the river)

(somewhere you holding this piece of paper)

(what will you do next?) (— feel it beginning?)

now she’s raising her eyes, as if pulled from above,

now she’s looking back into it, into the poison the beginning,

giving herself to it, looking back into the eyes,

feeling the dry soft grass beneath her feet for the first time now the mind

looking into that which sets the _________ in motion and seeing in there

a doorway open nothing on either side
(a slight wind now around them, three notes from up the hill)

through which morning creeps and the first true notes —

For they were deep in the earth and what is possible swiftly took hold.

Saturday, February 4, 2017



The silver mike in a soundproof booth
overlooks side-by-side turntables
screwed to a raw plywood bench.
A tight space. While one song plays
to the live feed I unsleeve a fresh
LP, guide the spindle through
the center hole. My anti-static brush
sweeps the grooves. I choose the cut, set
the needle, rotate round to the first sound,
& as one last note fades, I flip
a knob to swap the feed, toggle a switch
to start the new song, rate my segue.
One-girl DJ, now & again
I name the artists, the bands. Mostly I spin.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Sea Lion at Dog Beach

Sea Lion At Dog Beach

The dogs find the body first,
fin over teakettle tumbled by surf
up the tide line onto the beach
of kelp-strewn sand, pale meat
where seafaring creatures
chewed at the drowned hide,
nothing remains of the head, no eyes,
fins limp & folded, backwash
lifts & swirls the shrinking corpse
away from the nuzzling dogs,
their owners’ shouts, bathers gawking
beside, so close, so raw.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

W S Merwin

W S Merwin

The Present

As they were leaving the garden
one of the angels bent down to them and whispered

I am to give you this
as you are leaving the garden

I do not know what it is
or what it is for
what you will do with it

you will not be able to keep it
but you will not be able

to keep anything
yet they both reached at once

for the present
and when their hands met

they laughed

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Charles Tomlinson

Charles Tomlinson

During Rain
by Charles Tomlinson

slats of the garden
bench, and strung
to their undersides
ride clinging
raindrops, white
with transmitted
light as the bench
with paint: ranged
seven staves of them
shine out
against the space
behind: untroubled
by the least breeze they
seem not to move
but one
by one as if
suddenly ripening
tug themselves free
and splash
down to be
replaced by an identical
and instant twin:
the longer you
look at it
the stillness proves
one flow unbroken
of new, false pearls,
dropped seeds of now
becoming then.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Harry Humes

Harry Humes

from The Bottomland:

by Harry Humes

Three we found sheathed in ice
after a late freezing rain.
They were like glittering bottles
stuck on a branch,
their small eyes watching,
eyes that could see
rabbit guts half a mile away.
We lowered them in a sling
and carried them like logs to the shed.
Our daughter traced a finger
over the red turkey heads.
She lay next to them.
They were longer by inches.
Suddenly a horny leg broke through,
a shoulder, some wing feathers,
and then the stench of their true
design drove us away.
We left the shed door open and watched
from the kitchen as they wobbled out,
fussing their feathers, stretching their wings,
bouncing grotesquely, then rising easily,
beautifully, the world’s real
pragmatists using the slightest updraft,
scanning the landscape, scouring it.
Their whole being was set for this
Puritan hatred of living flesh,
this love of neatness.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Adam Fell

Adam Fell

from I Am Not a Pioneer:


Light falling on snow
is naturally cast upward,
but we are not designed
to fully contain the glow.
We wake in the dark of the woods
and must go forward.
When we are killed, we respawn
a few feet back until we solve
the error that wrecks us.
Each time, our bodies make
a sound like yielding,
a comprehension, a crumpling.
A burning barn glitched
behind a restless static of leaves.
Hatchlings on the beach at night
scuttling toward the city,
mistaking it for the horizon.
Devotion extends forward
despite our bodies’ failures.
We leap and leap across
the voltaic rooftop letters
of a falling HOTEL sign.
We kill its current, watch it startle out.
We barely reach the ledge.
But barely is sufficient in a moving world.
Our flashlights make the cattle leak
from pens to pockets of drying grass.
To face ourselves, we respawn endlessly.
There are not fresh hoof marks.
There are fresh hoof marks.

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 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.