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Category archive for: Poems

Arrangement

Between us, coffee

and the scrim of city air, a cast

off the gleam

of heat, still present.

A poor flower in a plain

vase for me to look at, else.

Then a little talk lifts,

the detail no more etched

than your beautiful stainless

face, and opposite me,

from your place in all this light,

do you become hidden.

from Inside Spiders

Copyright © Persea Books 2013
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.

The Grown Boy

The fog let in, it breathes

its smoke beneath the shut door

where—dirtcake, scarecat—

he lolls in his bad bed.

The paintings look down

on the piled planes of his bones, the oval

of his face drawn on the pillow,

white on white in the darkened dream as, years on,

and gone from the locked past with his belongings,

he appears again whole, holding my provisional gift:

pomegranate, the meat and seeds

the heart he eats from his knife.

from Inside Spiders

Copyright © Persea Books 2013
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.

Why Grits Burn So Bad

As I make a late breakfast,

my 8-year-old cheers

@ the promise of grits. Surely

there is a little Southern woman

in her soul. You wonder

how grits could ever

be a weapon, flung

hard from the hand

of a lover scorned, the way

the grains wrap & cling, refuse

to be lonely. All that flesh she loved

burning now, past simmer, full

on boil. I can only feel sorry

for the Reverend, any note

he ever sang pale

in the company

of hot warble. I spoon

a healthy portion

on my daughter’s plate

& shiver. If

you reached the end of this poem

& all you can say is, “Shouldn’t it be

‘Badly,’ not ‘Bad’?

I bet

you’ve never been loved.

from dying in the scarecrow’s armsFind it in the library

Copyright © Persea Books 2018
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.

Late Apology

The bees came by the hundreds

and by the hundreds was she stung,

their little shell-bodies working like a net.

And when I saw her dead in the creek

(bee queen of my dream)

it was the first time I feared being found

face down dead like a coward.

from To See the QueenFind it in the library

Copyright © Persea Books 2013
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.

Algonquin Afterthoughts

By the time you swear you’re his
Shivering and sighing,
And he swears his passion is
Infinite, undying—
Lady, make a note of this:
One of you is lying.
—Dorothy Parker

Or else our drunken tumble was

too true for daylight’s pleasure,

too much in vino veritas

troubled the gods of measure

who sent bright draughts of sunshine down

and sobered up my treasure.

All night rapacity had come

as naturally as breathing;

we nibbled on each other’s necks

like greedy babies teething.

How soon an empty bottle makes

one feel a blissful free thing.

“Aspirin, aspirin,” he implored;

I fed him several pills,

and when he wondered where he was

it gave me frightful chills,

but still I told him of the party’s

unexpected thrills.

Words woke us up, reflection turned

affection to regret:

“After she left me I tried not

to do this, but I get

so lonely”… so I showed him out,

warbling “I’m glad we met.”

But now I crave the swift return

of scotch-transfigured nights,

like Chaplin, horrified by his

rich friend in City Lights

who only recognizes him

from liquor-gladdened heights,

sticking a tall glass in the man’s

upstanding hand (the clink

or worse awaits poor tramps like us

if scamps like you won’t think)

and meekly scolding, in a voice

weak with nostalgia, “Drink.”

from Silver RosesFind it in the library

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

Circle

and the road twisted on to his loveless

house and his cornfield dying

in the scarecrow’s arms.

—Robert Hayden

Today the sun

has fists, not rays. Nothing delicate

happens here. Watch

the beating that goes

ignored: The Circle, evening,

the monument in call

of war, a common Indiana

ranch w/the roof

ripped off.

Boruch says the Midwest is sieve, pass—

through, permanently

in transit, flux.

It is the get-here-to-get-there,

the sun’s mapped fists

in an orange 6 o’clock

beat down, the tenants

strewn about the concrete circumference, liquid

in states of rest, skin & bone

poured over the curb

of South Meridian, splayed

beneath a mailbox, propped against

a garbage can outside

St___b___s. The suits’

& walkers’ heads turn,

sidestepping the future

they escaped, eyes on

a latte, the next block.

Today the sun

has a better haymaker,

a better uppercut,

a wicked right/left combo.

Today the sun

is perfecting its roundhouse,

& his size 14 keeps connecting

left jaw, right jaw, you would cry,

but there’s no layaway

for tears. So you cuddle up

on an asphalt couch

next to your brothers & sisters,

the Styrofoam maracas

of cups & change lulling you to rest

like the pluck

of kalimbas in turning

signals, the basslines

car horns hang

in exhaust

cruising through your living room

on an airless city night.

from dying in the scarecrow’s armsFind it in the library

Copyright © Persea Books 2018
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.

Compasses

My friend told stories I could not believe

of sport among the professoriat,

and toss me clue books if I seem naïve,

dull, spinsterish, inflexible, old hat,

but I’d always assumed that, having taught

of constancy, of compasses that roam

the wide world yet still know true north, men brought

at least a smattering of metal home.

No chance: the only loud sigh-tempests here

were those she could not muffle as she pried

fat gobs of wax from his infected ear;

the only tear-floods anybody cried

were hers, for all that wasted paraffin

lighting up words that never quite sank in.

from Silver RosesFind it in the library

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

Runaway Bride

Before they fell they waved like flags, the leaves,

and as they broke, there became a lovely order

to the dying.

The water spider moved

in no hurry at the bottom of the drained pond.

Everything seemed as it should.

Because I could

I even spent a while throwing apples

at a fence post. Over and over, my arm hurled

the poor things farther and farther

from the tree that had released them.

from To See the QueenFind it in the library

Copyright © Persea Books 2013
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.

Continuum

After days of murder, more bodies

than nights in a week, you would think

we’d say Enough. Instead,

more blood. Don’t think

it’s just the dealers, that side

of law not in your nature.

It’s expectant fathers on morning walks,

it’s businessmen minding their business,

selling denim on Sunday afternoons.

Yesterday, my student, who doesn’t believe

in gun control, said he wanted to write

a poem about parenting & the right

to bear arms, how slipping on one side

affects the other

(you guess

which way that goes).

& though you won’t find me w/steel

in the small of my back (@ least

not by my hand), I know the peace

a poem can bring. So I say, Yes,

write. & he goes back to his seat

nodding his head, the room filled

w/the voices of his classmates

comparing Dove, Simic, & Wright,

the push of my chair

back from my desk to stand & speak

like fingernails

on a chalk board, like a scream

when a gun       fires.

from dying in the scarecrow’s armsFind it in the library

Copyright © Persea Books 2018
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.

A Dream Vision

Two phantoms came to me one night,

the first a student of opera

and hard knocks; approaching

in a gown spattered by bloodstains,

she bore on a scarlet tray

a gleaming golden pencil, said “Complain.”

The second, more flower girl

than demented bride, strewed petals

from bottomless pockets with one hand,

held in the other a purple pillow

with a silver pen upon it, whispered “Praise.”

Half-awake in the predawn

I tossed and turned,

raged and burned,

blearily staggered from bed to window

and wondered which fled ghost

would sign her name to the phrases I was forming.

from Silver RosesFind it in the library

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

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