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Category archive for: Poems

The Unimaginable World

If I stab you with the crescent moon, you can’t be mad at me. You can be surprised, but not angry. No one can admonish me for using the moon as a weapon. In the unimaginable world, a moon stabbing is perfectly acceptable. I know this type of romance takes patience. I’m busy in so many realms, I’m not always available. I sleep with my eyes open so I can keep you amused.

If I smother you with a rain cloud, it’s just another illusion. Don’t hold it against me. None of it’s real. I’m throwing stars at you, but you don’t even feel it. I’ve crushed you three times today with a mountain, and you go on as if nothing happened. I rose from the dead just to see what’s for dinner. I slipped though the silk membrane of time so you wouldn’t have to sleep alone tonight. I’m body and blood. I’m the good with the bad. I’m not what you think when you think you’re thinking about love.

from Ennui ProphetFind it in the library

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

Her version, with interuptions

Once she stole a boat—is this how it started

at night to bring the pond a gift—

it was a bird of salt— which was taken into its reflection.

But the pond is not the sea. This is where you lived.

The lesson of dissolve—but it was a bird—sifted

to the bottom of all her actions. Is this the start

of us? How she traveled to the sea—will you

is not open for discussion.

She went back for the worst winter—the worst

winter in years— and took him—this is where

to see how the pond—embodied by cold— ended

in an edge of ice on the sand. She knew it would be foolish

to go out on the ice. But she did. And he followed.

They started. They started to see the crack rising

between them. Meaning nothing—meaning

something must still be living underneath.

from AwaywardFind it in the library

Copyright © BOA Editions, Ltd 2009
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of BOA Editions LTD.

All the Boredoms in the World

I forget if young girls still sleep

with their boredom beneath their pillows

until a boy says, I love you.

My mother planted her boredom

in a garden but never said what grew.

There’s a pattern developing here.

No one is allowed

in the basement of sleep

but an old nun sits at the door

and sells postcards with a colorful,

but badly lit, photograph of it.

There are times when boredom is a hand

over a flame until the smell of burning flesh.

For miles that night, silverfish, dead, floating

at the surface, a piece of the moon on each.

I drove past people looking up at the roof of a bank,

arms motionless at their sides,

a staggering scene of languor.

It’s always a warm afternoon

when things like this happen,

a man on a roof preparing to jump.

from I’m No Longer Troubled by the Extravagance Find it in the library

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

Bonsai

You carry the tree home to me

like a baby from a house about

to burn. It was the potential

for fire that drew me to you,

though now, as you hand over

this gift I’ve longed for, I

worry if I can share my life

with something else so needy.

I study the instruction book: direct

light, lots of water, human breath,

and, every day, hands placed on

the moss at the base of the trunk.

Touch. Talk. I can do this. I am

determined this tree will live,

though when I discover aphids, tufts

of cotton caught in the leaves

like tiny laundry blown by a storm,

I panic, pick up the phone —

I am not afraid to say I need

help. The woman at the nursery

calms me: This happens, she says. Don’t

worry so much. I try — yet spraying

insecticide, I think if junipers had eyes,

this one would be crying like a child

in the tub. I’m told I did the same

as a baby — screamed as my mother

scrubbed my face raw, baffled by

the indelible dirt on my cheeks

until my sister, to my rescue,

realized they were freckles.

My mother never had a child

with freckles until I came along,

as I never had a bonsai with brown

spot — another phone call and soon I’m

mixing vitamins, spraying for lush color,

praying for leaves that spring back

when squeezed between forefinger and thumb.

When I must go away, I call long-distance —

Is it drinking enough, getting lots of sun?

Don’t leave it in the sink unattended;

it likes to be read to. I need you to say

everything is going to be all right,

say the tree is fine. Your voice across

the wire is a rain I’ve needed

for years; I tilt back my head,

softening into a girl only you have

recognized. The tree’s body contains

what I can’t yet explain.

When I am home, you pick me up, carry

me to the bedroom. Your skin smells

faintly of juniper. We burst in a heat

so green it singes my eyelashes.

from An Unkindness of RavensFind it in the library

Copyright © BOA Editions, Ltd 2001
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of BOA Editions LTD.

café loop

She’s had it easy, you know. I knew her

from FSU, back before she was disabled.

I mean she was disabled but she didn’t

write like it. Did she talk like it?

Do you know what it is exactly?

She used to wear these long dresses

to cover it up. She had a poem

in The Atlantic. Yes, I’ll take water.

Me too. With a slice of lemon.

It must be nice to have The Atlantic.

Oh, she’s had it easy all right.

She should come out and state

the disability. She actually is very

dishonest. I met her once at AWP.

Tiny thing. Limps a little. I mean not

really noticeable. What will you have?

I can’t decide. How can she write

like she’s writing for the whole group?

I mean really. It’s kind of disgusting.

It’s kind of offensive. It’s kind of

a commodification of the subaltern

identity. Should we have wine?

Let’s have something light. It makes

you wonder how she lives with herself.

I wouldn’t mind. I would commodify

and run. She’s had it easy.

I can’t stand political poetry.

She never writes about it critically.

If it really concerns her, she should

just write an article or something.

I heard she’s not that smart. My friend

was in class with her and he said

actually she’s not that smart.

I believe it. I mean the kind of language

she uses, so simple, elementary.

My friend said she actually believes

her poems have speakers. Oh, that’s rich.

I’m sorry but if the book is called

amputee and you’re an amputee

then you are the speaker.

So New Criticism. Really I don’t like

her work at all. I find it lacking.

from The Book of GoodbyesFind it in the library

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

The throat-flute uttering

The throat-flute uttering its constant note

of claim and name and wake and never-same

and nuanced cadences of sate, remote

days translated into a breathing frame,

knows its viewless voice is future’s lend,

surpassing present where it grows and dwells

momently, glancing vocable, to spend

blooming fullness as it spills and swells

in the air, ear, othered. Heard, is it the same?

Future-fathered, present-mothered—instrument

of mute contingencies its songs declaim

note by note by stopless increment

in the sounding, silenced. Audible degree

nights the note that lets mind’s nighttime see.

from NominaFind it in the library

Copyright © BOA Editions, Ltd 2008
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of BOA Editions LTD.

Under the Lemon Tree

Not rain, but fine mist

falls from my lemon tree,

a balm of droplets in green shadow.

Six years now my mother gone to earth.

This dew, light as footsteps of the dead.

She often walked out here, craned her neck,

considered the fruit, hundreds of globes

in their leathery hides, figuring on

custard and pudding, meringue and

hollandaise.

But her plans didn’t work out.

The tree goes on unceasingly—lemons fall

and fold into earth and begin again—

me, I come here as a salve against heat,

come to languish, to let the soft bursts—

essence of citrus, summer’s distillate—

drift into my face and settle. Water and gold

brew in the quiet deeps at the far end

of the season. Leaves swallow the body

of light and the breath of water brims over.

My hands cup each other the way hers did.

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.

Voices from the Rubble

I am through with this earth

and its twisted roots

wringing our veins

the soil has molded like wheat

frosting our vision and taste

every street has run counter to our travels

our hearts have been drained into the seas.

It is time for us

to dig

unearth the earth from itself.

from Seasons of Lotus, Seasons of BoneFind it in the library

Copyright © BOA Editions, Ltd 2009
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of BOA Editions LTD.

Stone

But for the thirteen letters

of his name and the chiseled

dates that a hyphen spans—

as if it were the only

vital bridge between

two chartless lands:

those vast oblivions

of before he was and after—

I might mistake this granite

for something winter heaved

carelessly into the thawed

New England light, a stepping-

stone in mud season, yet one

a farmer would nevertheless take

a shovel to, as would I

were it not so precisely set

flush with the green earth

and I could undo the mason’s marks.

from The Burning of TroyFind it in the library

Copyright © BOA Editions, Ltd 2006
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of BOA Editions LTD.

Sheep Child

I wanted a child. What then, this? The sheep

Stands dumb behind the fence. Stands dumb.

Demanding what? Pity? Affection? A breast full

Of milk? He’s up to his neck in his filthy fur.

Honey to the flies. Rancid honey. Each coarse

Curl dipped in it. The flies reeling. A sullen

Moment…Oh, Sheep, Sheep, this is my undoing.

That you have a thought and I would read it. I would

Put my head up to your smelly head and watch

The pretty pictures sliding past: Look! There goes

The flowerless larch, lurching over the ground

Like a skiff. And that black thing spinning in the dung

Is a truck tire stuffed with hay. And here, now,

Down from the elm, comes the crow, bully bird

Beating and beating the air with his wide wings,

As if calling the field to order…There is no order.

What day of the week is this? Wash day?

Bake day? What hour of what day?…Behind you,

Flanked by steely thistle, stands the old goat,

Contemptuous, uninterested, gnawing on the last

Of a Sunday dress; and “I had a goat once,”

The thought that comes to me, “I had a small

Black goat, who pounded his head against a tree

Until he was dead. His name was Bumblebee…”

Well, night is coming on. No it is dead afternoon.

But there is something about night in this cloud-

Shadowed field. Perhaps the stars are shifting

Behind the veil of day? Perhaps. Perhaps…Oh,

I would turn this pretty. You see the cowbirds

Riding the boney heifer by the overturned bathtub?

The birds are dung-colored, yes, but when

They rise and swim together they change color,

Brown to red, the way the light changes color

At dusk. And, yes, the swans by the back fence

Are foul-tempered and mean as sin, but look

How their necks wave about now like the stems

Of lilies in the wind…lilies blowing in the wind…

The goat snorts and turns his back. He has

Swallowed the last of the dress…Oh, Sheep, Sheep,

This is my undoing, that you have a thought

And I can read it. Dear Monstrous Child, I would

Nurse you if I could. But you are far too large,

And I am far too old for such foolishness.

from The OrchardFind it in the library

Copyright © BOA Editions, Ltd 2004
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of BOA Editions LTD.

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