Archive for the 'poetry' Category

If you dig it

(death of a hipster, for Scott)

If you dig, it might be a grave, a ditch, a row for planting, an intractable problem.

If you dig, you might really like it and snap your fingers or light a match, and the faces brought into the match light might have hollow eyes and young lips and an indifferent approval.

If you dig it, you might dig deeper than you meant to, and the digging might
grab you by the ankles and your skinny black pants and drag you into that cool
cat tomb, your plain white face drawn away too soon to have a single line.

And they will snap their fingers and light their matches and drop their single roses each one of them onto your grave or into the ditch where the water is running high and full of seeds, and who knows what might grow from that planting, who knows. A plain pale face, some sugar snap peas, a rose bush, a morning glory, rising from the dirt, the water, the dirty fingernails, the faces growing lines in your absence.


When the Caissons went rolling along it was hi hi hee and the field artillery and
the grit and blood and cheery whistles of pink cheeked soldier boys even with death one skin away. Made the greatest generation, that’s what I heard. Saw it in black n white on our 12 inch TV, grainy, mythic, thin and distant.

Do you remember the posters, propaganda films, war bonds, bandages? Me neither.

But I remember live footage, young American soldiers and little Vietnamese children, skin peeling off, eyes like raw eggs, and the shaky boy soldiers when they came home, pumped full of heroin and fear, nodding off then exploding like death blasts in rice fields because something went boom. The tail pipe, the radiator, the plane flying high over head, breaking the sound barrier. Boom. And the sweating young man, the panting child, running, striking, do we think really of the glory of war, do we really?

So they sang. Young men with burnt skin and hubris crushed out like cigarette butts. Young women with dead lovers, Asian children with missing limbs, not the pretty ones adopted in the later round of after effects.

So they sang. Songs of protest and resistance, not loss and longing. Forget love. Send me back my legs, my skin, my heart broken by violence.


There’s a hole in the roof

and the stars are shining through.

There’s a hole in my shoe,

sand rubbing on my right foot.

There’s a hole in the bucket

dear Liza dear Liza

and a place to empty,

a place to fill.


Sometimes emptiness

is a place, a presence that calls

for attention, calls as clear as a bell,

a baby crying, the ping of a text

from your one true love.


Sometimes emptiness

is a silence, an absence of

call. No ping, no singing

bell, no cry.


Take the sound and no sound,

the presence and absence,

put them together and there

is the whole, the whole thing,

the stars shining through,

the grit on the foot,

the feeling that everything

will pour out of the bucket

and it does.


It makes you want to cling

to that imperfect bucket,

just to feel the constancy,

the breathing motion

of empty and full.


Overarching clouds on red bluff; a bridge is made. I am here with answers, answer man says, shakes his head. We have no questions today, only red wind, blue song.

Bridge overarching high clouds pulls parallel chords, voice and structure, webbing falls

across red bluff. The answer man says, I am here, here. Quavering in high wind, wind keening and rocking this bridge we stand, open mouths, open throats. This singing is carried

away, answer man says. His voice is thin as spider’s silk, thin as air on high chord, where bridge meets bluff

red clay meets cloud, red sun falls blue heavy bluff, dust to dust to dust.

Name Day

Patch of skin, paste made of bone, bits of cartilage in a jar. Around me a spiral of blue scrubs, a gurney spins, mask floats mid air. Somewhere above, I hear an incantation from the wizard of anesthesia: count backward from one hundred . . .

morphine dreams of lions licking flowers, voices not mine say rest, lie back.
Inside these foggy walls I’m three years old again, fearful that someone
is changing my name.

Coming back, I wake holding tight to a starched skirt begging please hold me, push the button, send me back down. I can’t move, can’t speak, can’t rise beyond this fluorescent pain. A warm black hand unlocks my fingers, calls me milady in an island voice, pushes the hair off my forehead. I fall past the pain, past all dreaming as I watch the silent drip of comfort in a small plastic bag at my side.

I was silent for three years as a child, when the bones were cut from my face. Three years of no mouth, a name I couldn’t say, a name she tried
to change. I didn’t know how to answer when mom called me other names, so I didn’t answer at all, spent my days riding wishes like horses, chanting in my missing voice . . .

give me bones in my face I told stars, told wells, told dandelions, told apple stems, twisting not for true love like my sisters. My true love’s name starts with B, he is bones in my face. In dreams he calls my real name, and I answer in a clear, steady voice.

I go to sleep thirty years later, and wake with wishes granted. This face is stronger now, filled with skin bone cartilage where before was nothing but voiceless air and the battle to name an absence. I say my name with bruised lips; the force of new bone makes me ache. I didn’t know the hardware of wishes would batter me, burn me so deep.

Dad hated my cancer, he gave it my name. Mom hated my cancer, fought it and me with a rage that burned her dry, left nothing but bone she couldn’t give and new names for me she thought I would could should want to say.

But this is my name, don’t call me any other. I couldn’t speak, she couldn’t listen, and we became mute. We became mute.

In this room, with new bone and my name on the chart at my feet, I wish we could talk. I would say, if you could hear, that I know you were with me. I know you carried me to birth, then through that hospital with my blood soaking your dress. But I have built this face with bone and skin from my own body. I have earned this name, and it is mine.

Name Day was written many years ago. It has an interesting history as a performance piece, and has been used as text and conceptually in dance, music and theater works.

Spring scramble

Dark chocolate jumps from hand to mouth,
Crusty bread sings aioli not hymns.

On the rooftop our just washed sheets dance and flirt,
April wind sees them waving, so much like old friends.

I chew my pencil for juice and for comfort,
scramble my metaphors like lizards not eggs.

Lettuce opens like a rose, fork hovers full
at the first cool mouthful of spring.

I saw

I saw – I thought I saw – the outward flight of birds
rising up from the water, this watery tomb,
this sunken parish.

I saw – I thought I saw – the roots of a drowning oak
reaching out, gasping for air. The children dancing
in the mud had keys in their mouths.

I saw – I thought I saw – a bridge, broken down broken
down I thought I saw a white fox cry,
beautiful in the moonlight.

Conceit is not a disease. A monument is not a disease.
A plaque remembering another another
tragedy is not a disease.

I saw – I thought I saw – the birds circle home,
the moon rise on the silvery water.
Let it stop there. Let it stop there.

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