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Category archive for: Poems

European

Toro, Tory, name your country,

I’m not here to call you names.

The last train leaves in an hour

unless it bursts into flame.

There’s no room for your kind

says the man next to me.

His eyes stare at the floor—

our shoes are countries.

His boots are Italian,

mine loafers from Spain.

His glare’s Sicilian,

my tongue is in pain.

NATO holds us together,

two birds without feathers.

from Chaos is the New CalmFind it in the library

Copyright © BOA Editions, Ltd 2010
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of BOA Editions LTD.

The Puffball

Was beauteously, bulbously huge—redundant

as a luminous moon—puffed and balled,

seized by Uncle Richmond from the deep woods,

plucked with both hands and brought

to the doorstep for our amazement

and accolades, and to be sliced and fried,

tasting like nothing but slightly singed butter,

which we happily shared back then, several years

before he collapsed on the porch at 85

with a heart attack, having driven forty miles

from Petoskey home clutching his chest,

sweat streaming after the meeting

where the argument was made to inject

toxic wastes under the “perfectly safe” shelf

of rock to mingle in the underground seas and sift

slowly out to the Great Lakes as has happened

before. He stood and said so, hands shaking

more than usual, so that on the dark road home

he had to stop for a minute near King’s Orchard

then drive on, legs finally giving way

on his own front porch, Lee luckily hearing

something like a branch falling, so he survived,

lean and leaving to range through the forests

after the fantastical and favor us with the tale

of it, again, or occasionally with the whole thing,

harbored and carried into our presence,

a careful joy, mysteriously magnified, come

upon as if the earth had started suddenly over.

from No Need of SympathyFind it in the library

Copyright © BOA Editions, Ltd 2013
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of BOA Editions LTD.

Self-Portrait in Ink

As the gone-

translucent

octopus

jet-blasts into evasion, vanishing

while its ink-sac spurts

a cloud of defensive

mucus & coagulant

azure-black pigment,

self-shaped

octopus imago in ink, so the shark

gnashes at that blobbed

sepia phantom,

pseudomorph

that disperses into black

nebulae & shreds

with each shark-strike

& the escaped

octopus throbs

beyond, see-through

in the see-through water, untouched—:

so, go

little poem, little

ink-smudge-on-fingertip

& -print, mimicker

& camouflage,

self-getaway, cloud-

scribble, write

out my dissipating

name on the water,

emptied sac of self-illusive ink . . .

from TheophobiaFind it in the library

Copyright © BOA Editions, Ltd 2012
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of BOA Editions LTD.

Possum

And if I made a bad meal, if leftovers,

my husband bent to scrape them into the bowl,

summoning our hound for the favor

of her indiscriminate desire,

his brows scowling together, yes, I’d open the back door

into the garage just to let the rancor out, the dog

stood in for me, her mad panicked barking.

I was pregnant, thick with it, thought to

become a woman finally, not that stick,

that boy I’d always been—instead,

a heavy figure forever wrong at dinner.

He didn’t want to be a father.

And yes, I witnessed the improbable nest

a stranger’s long labor, boogie board gnawed

to snowdrops lining the far corner.

We came face to face—rich silver of her ruff,

long pink tail sprouting wiry hairs like a woman’s bristled chin,

a quick palsy ran through her shoulders—discovered

the possum must have known it then—her ruin.

She met my gaze, lifting her plush and fragile nose.

Against my belly wall three rivers fed the blue placenta,

little matter moored by cable coiled in that water.

She stood her ground, lips drawn back,

teeth bared. Don’t tell me what love endures

or need requires, don’t tell me animals can’t make

mortal calculation. I knew she was carrying too,

building bits of flesh that fall into the world,

thirteen teats for a litter of two dozen

infants the size of honey bees scrabbling for the pouch,

and if half of what we sow is strewn on barren ground—

scorched, choked, devoured by birds—still,

all must be borne.

from Antidote for NightFind it in the library

Copyright © BOA Editions, Ltd 2015
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of BOA Editions LTD.

Where Are You Now?

I position my head on the pillow

where you told your last folktale,

mixing donkey, camel, mouse,

journey, kitchen, trees,

so the story grew jumbled,

uncharacteristically long.

I listened from the other small bed

thinking, not about the story, but,

it’s the last one I’ll hear from this voice,

remembering two and four and six

when this voice calmed me every night,

thinking, how will I live without this voice?

At one point, you hallucinated.

Politics came in, a rare speck

of religion, even a bad nurse

you’d had at the clinic,

frustration of long illness

tangling with the tale,

Oh Dad, you’ve been so brave,

to which you replied,

What else can I do?

and returned to the comforting

donkey, bucket of olives,

smoke curling up from twig fire

over which anyone, a lost girl,

a wanderer, a dying man,

could warm his hands.

from TransferFind it in the library

Copyright © BOA Editions, Ltd 2011
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of BOA Editions LTD.

At the Musée Rodin in Paris

in front of a window

facing south, two white

marble hands fold

around air.

A label on the pedestal reads

Le Secret.

Did Rodin also sculpt

the air between those hands?

Is it caught there ever since:

the mold of secrecy?

   I waited hours for the sun

to flow through them.

   All it did was cast

a shadow to the ground.

from The Hour Between Dog & WolfFind it in the library

Copyright © BOA Editions, Ltd 1997
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of BOA Editions LTD.

I

“Are you happy?” That’s a good place to start, or maybe,

“Do you think you’re happy?” with its more negative

tone. Sometimes you’re walking, sometimes falling. That’s part

of the problem too, but not all of the problem. Flowers out the window

or on the windowsill, and so someone brought flowers.

We spend a long time interested in which way the car would

best go in the driveway. Is that the beginning of an answer?

Some way to say who we are?

Well, it brings us up to now, at any rate, as the limitations

of structure, which is the way we need for it to be. Invent some muses

and invoke them, or save them for the yard, some animus

to get us going. And what was it Michael said yesterday? That

the committee to do all these good things has an agenda to do all these

other things as well, that we decide are less good in our estimation,

so then we have this difficulty. It just gets to you sometimes. We have

a table of red apples and a table of green apples, and someone asks you

about apples, but that’s too general, you think, as you’ve made

several distinctions to get to this place of two tables, two colors.

How can that be an answer to anything? Or we can play the forgetting game,

how, for twenty years, my mother would answer for her forgetfulness

by saying it was Old-Timer’s Disease, until she forgot that too.

On the television, a truck passes left to right, in stereo. Outside,

a garbage truck passes right to left. They intersect. And so the world continues

around two corners. The table gets turned over, with several people

standing around seemingly not sure of what comes next. Look at them

politely as you can, they’re beginners too. And they say the right question

is far more difficult to get to than the right answer. It sounds good,

anyway, in the way other people’s lives are a form of distance, something

you can look at, like landscape, until your own starts to look that way

as well. Looking back at the alternatives, we never had children

or we had more children. And what were their names? As the living room parts

into halls and ridges, where we spend the afternoon imagining a plant,

a filing cabinet or two . . . because some of these questions

you have with others, and some you have only with yourself.

from In A LandscapeFind it in the library

Copyright © BOA Editions, Ltd 2014
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of BOA Editions LTD.

Wildwood

 The lights come on in the valley below.

When did you last believe shutters were for shutting?

       A domestic penance:

    these accoutrements, spall and mixed

design breaking like ribbons of speech

              on ribbons of water.

   Dialect is the truest gift,

self speaking self

         the way the trees did,

   For we are one yet we are many

                 and we rise.

  There was a time I could not hear

   because my ears were stopped with pure honey.

           I was standing still.

At what point do thieves cease to steal

   our stories, our painted shadows?

              —Proverb and joke.

   Carefully I copy the image

         of empire’s currency,

abstraction of the leader, abstraction from the mode:

           thus sex as artifact.

   Lilith, take heart.

         I have not let anyone in.

  Scientists now project the pollen count

           millennia into the past—

If I refuse to remove my hand from the guiding thread

   it is only because I have not yet pledged

   allegiance to foreskin, shent villa,

       sweet crystal psalm.

from DisclamorFind it in the library

Copyright © BOA Editions, Ltd 2007
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of BOA Editions LTD.

The Geography of Detroit

requires no assembly. Requires the stubborn faith

of the abandoned child at the locked church door

clutching his get out of jail free card. Requires

the illusion of covering your tracks

when no one gives a damn to start with.

I felt I was off to a good start, then ended up

with swearing and a preposition. That’s how

it works here, 6 Mile Road to 36 Mile Road,

praying for the optical illusion of cliffs

to justify free fall.

Someone carved the history of the auto industry

on a piece of rock salt. That piece of salt

went on to melt a small slice of ice

and contribute to the construction

of the world’s largest pothole.

I was going to say, “That’s another story,”

but there is no other story.

Going to need some gas soon.

Shouldn’t be the last word

but it is.

from Birth MarksFind it in the library

Copyright © BOA Editions, Ltd 2013
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of BOA Editions LTD.

Dear Minnie, Dear Ms.

     for Minnie Riperton & Ms. Lucille

This earth

    of the dagger-toothed & hawks,

whose names we know,

taking bones for diamonds,

    full of hair & snakes,

earth eating you, slowly,

    below the sound

    of gold horns.

This earth

    with a jaw in its hand.

Brown-chariot, take-you-home

earth, chew you up

    with the quiet work

of animals & trees, underworld

    churning you through

    the dark engines

    of its appetite. This

earth we opened up

    & buried you in, our

treasure, we miss

you, we miss you

    with all life. This night

we think we will never close

    again. We are pinned open

    like a scientist’s moths

    to leave you there dressed

    in a box & earth around you.

This box earth, coffin

    earth. Teeth earth eat

your chest through, laced

by the wrangle of beetles & worms

    & ants who carry your bright pieces

like market cloth over their heads

    to feed you to the queen

    in the deeper corridors

    of mysteries & dirt.

Trust the queen is you.

Trust the mud is you,

& the soft, silver afro of the dandelion.

Trust the grass-whistle might be

your speech, high as the whistle

of the whale. Trust

we’ll know your shape, whatever species

in you answers when we put our faces

to the dirt & call you by

your old & human name.

from Kingdom AnimaliaFind it in the library

Copyright © BOA Editions, Ltd 2011
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of BOA Editions LTD.

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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