Skip to content →

Category archive for: Poems

My Father Dreams of Horses

If your daughter is born

and her legs aren’t made

for standing—if her feet

are painted hooves, if her legs

aren’t made—if your daughter

is a wooden toy you dance

over a still field—if you must make

her limbs—if you carry her

to the river but the river

is made of horses—if you ride

into the forest—if flames—

if your daughater is made

like you, is built to burn—

if you wade into the horses—

if flames—if you cannot keep

her from burning—if she will not

keep—if the horses burn—

if your daughter is born—

from TeratologyFind it in the Library

Copyright © Persea Books 2015
Used with permissions of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.

New American Forest

This is the new American forest.

You seduce me with the food you gather,

I seduce you with the food I gather.

We don’t waste. What we are building

benefits from each choice piece

as well as from each salvageable piece.

We’ve come here through the groves

of hemlock dying with pests.

We walk through the standing dead into living trees,

through the forest and farther until we reach the stream.

We follow as it gathers. We walk to the falls.

We were mad to be in contact with each other.

Now we are in contact with each other.

We are in contact with branches and leaves,

air, sun, with the darkness at night.

As we walk the narrowing trails,

pushing back thorny branches,

everything becomes denser, darker, more in the middle,

less beginning, less end, more lost clung together,

more rising on wobbly legs.

We slept in the open at first,

now we make a place for ourselves where we go.

I know that I could swell with you, but

you could also swell with me.

Look, we’ve actually become thinner together,

taking what we need, saving even more.

from Having Been an AccompliceFind it in the library

Copyright © Persea Books 2011
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.

VPOD will be back on January 16

We are currently on hiatus but we will have more poems up from Persea Press starting on January 16th.

In the meantime, read more poems!


We had no latex love to give

in blighted, half-remembered scenes:

to hollow boys in acid jeans

who asked to lose their will to live.

from ProprietaryFind it in the library

Copyright © Persea Books 2017
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.

Mary Massages His Feet with Perfume Worth What a Worker Makes in a Year

I would have Lord as Judas did wondered and maybe if

I had been brave as Judas was

I might have said / Something about it why the

Perfume Mary massaged Your feet with wasn’t / Instead

sold and the money given to the poor

A few years back I worked Lord in a factory making

parts for truck / Engines I think I wasn’t sure then and I’m not sure now

I didn’t mind the work except the standing hurt my feet

It got so bad eventually I had to quit

I was a temp anyway and I didn’t care what the boss thought / I didn’t

know who the boss was but

I didn’t want to disappoint the agency

still / Eventually it got so bad I had to quit

But at the last station I worked for the first time I got to sit

Nobody told me Lord I could

Nobody told me Lord I couldn’t I just grabbed a stool and sat

Like anything I made there Lord I couldn’t tell You now what

The name of the thing I made there was

But sparks flew from the machine and burned my forearms

past my gloves / And Lord I didn’t mind the sparks I got to sit

I got to sit Lord at that station for I think

a good ten minutes / Before a worker I had never met

Threw her gloves down and walked from her

Station across the floor / To tell me not to sit on my ass anymore

And then she walked off somewhere disappeared in the pallet stacks

I hadn’t said anything back / Or honestly I might have said Okay

Not drawn out quick and scared

She was the only woman I ever saw

close to my age on the floor

After she disappeared / A man who worked at her station at

her table slithered over asked me / What she had said

and said she was a bitch and told me not to worry

But after that I didn’t sit

That was the day I quit / I tell You now I know it Lord it love is truly is

Stronger than hate

Only for those who can afford it

from The Animal Too Big To KillFind it in the library

Copyright © Persea Books 2016
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.

The Frozen Monarchy

after Tomaaž Šalamun,
A Ballad for Metka Krašovec

Deep below the bowels of a boat, cutting

through breakers no trouble, carting survivors

to god knows where, aware on a sunny day

of its sinking, so many years ago some have already

forgotten, you can see them: the cities

and piers, fun parks and parliaments, how they’re

in line to be punished. They last in a spasm, locked

in shocking ice. It glimmers a shade of blue, the same

hue for everyone, for the looters of nests and altars

as for dandies with a finger on the trigger, deep down,

where slackened wishes to be forgiven have tacked

like metal to ice, with a grimace of pain. The oldest

would know the song, it sounds like a face

from the fairy tales, pronounces the prophets different

from despots, although they all feel the cold, save

those who wanted to save themselves by climbing

the slippery crests of a slope to shear the surface

and swim. There, an old captain my country admires

dances on deck in his bare feet, and buttons from

blouses and whitish teeth are sprinkled all around,

Trieste—Vienna, September 2001

from Without AnesthesiaFind it in the library

Copyright © Persea Books 2011
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.

Polar Explorer Capt. John Cleves Symmes (1820)

Outside his Cincinnati windows, a street game in full swing.

Some kid shouts Safe! Another jeers Symmes’ hole!

A fight breaks out. Inside, Symmes keeps pressing

his human face against the frozen wall of what

is known, not seeing through but melting into it

his own features, his own strange form. He wanted

explanations for the plenty at the poles:

caribou twice the size of white-tailed deer,

white bears dwarfing black, schools of herring

that return each year fat and flashing, more fish

than ever could fit into an ice-choked ocean.

Shouldn’t the north be barren? Wouldn’t the cold…

Hope effervesced in him, bubbled toward utopia. Americus,

he’d say to his son, there is more to discover

and we’ll be patron to it. It could almost pass

for science—the icy ring and sloping verge

that he proposed, a concavity, a hole four thousand

miles across at the globe’s north end, and,

for symmetry, six thousand at the south, another earth

within our earth, more perfect, richer, the borealis

streaming from it like a neon sign.

from Approaching IceFind it in the library

Copyright © Persea Books 2010
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.


Carrying little, wearing a weak

headlamp, a mile in, stumbling

and wet, the cave walls

like my own insides and I an animal

painted there. Darkness

filling in my cartoon lines, my blank self.

I am inside a hole

in the earth, with pots

of ochre and ash. My offerings—

your hair, the print of my hand.

from Red DeerFind it in the library

Copyright © Persea Books 2015
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.

Evidence: 1A, Item 1

To those who plead Not guilty I say: a poem

is a field. Exhibit #1: I haven’t said a thing

about my hand in murder. I repeat: a poem

is a field. And inside this particular field a man

yells “Hee!” to urge a bull toward the border

between the unpaved earth and the road.

When the bull reaches the end of the field,

the animal turns. The man, my uncle, gets up

early to start the work and finish by noon

then polish off a bottle of rum at a card game

with his boys. But first, at some point, the bull

will get tired and my uncle will hitch a second

bull to the plow. The poem is a field. What enters

the field enters the poem—the man, my uncle,

his several beasts, the plow. But then a boy,

my cousin, comes running to tell my uncle

a man is dead. The bull stops working. A man,

a bull, a boy are standing in the middle of a field

and what’s entered is the news of a murder.

The boy won’t bring the name of the shooter

though he knows who he is and who paid him.

The man, my uncle, looks out at the hills then

at the boy who brought the news and who is

weeping now. If I think I’m not guilty then

how come you still don’t know where I stand.

The ditch is in the field. So is the road. My uncle

yokes a third bull and moves on. In lecture halls,

I was taught I can make a field appear. I was told

to erase myself from the field. And then, just

outside my family’s smoky village, I entered

a real field with hip-high cogon grass. I followed

my uncle and cousin who slashed a path. I carried

a real bucket and a real blade and three children

hurried behind me. They called this field holy

because it belongs both to the newly murdered

and the decades-long dead. If you’ve chosen

to erase yourself from slate, I already know

where you stand. I was taught to sweep the crypts

of our beloveds then kneel at their stones to rinse

their death dates with fresh water and scrape

with a knife the contours of each letter etched

in granite until our family’s name came clean.

from Brooklyn AntediluvianFind it in the library

Copyright © Persea Books 2016
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.

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.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication, website, exhibit, etc.) do not necessarily represent those of the Idaho Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.