Thursday, December 24, 2009

In Poetry, the Body

Write bare bones;
make the skeleton dance.

Then add flesh, remembering
that we are simple machines,
hinges, levers, pulleys, joints;

wrap them gently with something
scarred and beautiful. Skin holds
every memory. Touch it, beautiful
and ugly both. Wrap them gently.

The blood should flow unseen,
present and powerful. if it must
bleed, let it do so enough to run
a vivid stroke, then scab, knit,
and scar; remembered, smooth.

Then peel. First skin from muscle;
this is not the dry skin of an onion.
It sticks, clings. Strip the elegant
from the mechanical in ragged lines.

Slabs of muscle slip easier
from bone. Cut the strings, let
them dangle, unburdened,

write bones like windchimes
on a breezeless day.

Friday, December 18, 2009


1. The driver's booming voice

I am the only one to exit

When buses are off duty
but still have passengers
the light up sign
says "deposito"

I am
like sand

2. There is still a two-
hour lunch break,
from times when lunch
meant family, kissing
your children hello, three
courses, four glasses
of wine to get through
the evening shift,
and back again.

Now lunch means
standing outside
your closed down shop,
wandering, cursing,
cigarettes, the news,
the ocean, four
glasses of wine
to get through
the evening shift.

There are no children.
The population
is shrinking.

3. A man fishing.
Four sidelong glances.

Two nods,
one in greeting
one in farewell.

An hour conversing
with the waves.

No fish caught.
Horizon, lightning.

A cigarette.
Stairs into the sea.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Our Bones are Set (revision)

Our bones that once
stacked tightly, now
are set with pins
and plates against
each other.

The desire to break
apart again
is staunched,
as bleeding,
by pressure:

These nails
keep us steady,
but drive through us; we
occasionally splinter
with the blows.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

To Vanish:

On the day that Craig Arnold disappeared
rain was falling in Portland, and the radio
informed us that he had not returned
to the remote japanese village from which
he had departed to hike around a volcano.
The spot was 30 seconds long. The search
continued for three days, then was given up.
A scrap of clothing was found by a tourist
three weeks later, on the lip of the caldera.

In all likelihood Mr. Arnold's bones
were swallowed by the underbrush
but there is a chance that he has joined
the ranks of vanished souls whose
disappearances raise little suspicion,
whose post-mortem sightings will not
be claimed. No tabloids will list "the top five
most likely places to spot Craig Arnold."

(1. The volcano of Kuchinoerabujima, walking
the rim, looking for the scrap of shirt
left as a guide to find home.)

At most, the radio might run another 30 seconds
of commemoration after a frantic call
is forwarded to the local news.

(2. A sculpture museum, hiding among
the statues of Persephone, eyeing
the marble pomegranate hungrily.)

The family will be called,
relatives nearby contacted,
his name will be spoken again.

(3. Vegas)

The sightings are never the same,
always from afar, and usually
far-fetched enough to be true.

(4. Hitchhiking down the autobahn with a sign
that says "poetry or bust!" Everyone swears
they saw someone else pick him up.)

And so we wait to hear where
he will resurface. And slowly
his bones disappear.

(5. A small used bookstore in some big city
where everyone knows the meaning of "ekphrasis"
and tells you that every poet eventually vanishes.)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

You Will Come Home

To press charcoal
into diamond
is to rush
what takes time,

Like writing,
the process
is messy,
your hands
get dirty,

and most times,
it breaks apart
just as you thought
you were getting somewhere.

But once
in a long while,
you will come home–
face filthy, teeth
a diamond

to be found–
a lump
of charcoal
in your palms,



Monday, November 23, 2009

Honda CB 350

I shoved its dying there
too readily, the rust
only beginning to gnaw
at the teeth of its gears.

We both rattle a little
too much, our threads
wear down,

we become jammed
and simple force
will not move us.

Some spring day
we will be brought out
and coaxed, persuaded
into forward movement.

Parts will, in time
break, be discarded
and replaced, like new.
The tools will clatter
like windchimes.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Our Bones are Set

Our bones that once
stacked tightly now
are set with pins
and plates against
each other. The desire
for self-destruction
is staunched, as bleeding,
only by pressure:

these nails keep us steady,
but drive through us, and we
occasionally splinter
with the blows.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Counting Scraped Knees

They say the body
recycles itself
every seven years,
and that dust
is 90% dead skin.
We leave traces
of ourselves
and I have left
two-and-a-half selves
in my home town, or more,
counting scraped knees,
and burned palms,
from lessons
still unlearned.

I have also abandoned
half a self to the beds,
lips, and arms of ex-lovers,
and though at times
I feel like the parts left
behind were vital, I know
whatever is lost grows
again, and when
the photo albums are opened
I will rise from them,
hovering, ghostly,
from fingers of sunlight.


The apartment was bathed
in sauteed scents. I loved
cooking, driving, springtime,
and you. The air was crisp
as the engine started,
leather stiff and creaking
like my knees sometimes do,
engine rattling like my own
on a frosty morning but warming
quickly with the application of
fuel and patience. We all need
a few minutes to remember
how to roll with what rumbles
underneath us. The headlights
turned the street into a tunnel
of seen and obscured
and I did not mind
my inability to see right
or left, because forward
was the only direction
I was pointed in.

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Dead Rose

The clouds burned
off around sunset.
My smile is stitched,
wilting and ragged.

Off around sunset
the dead rose,
wilting and ragged,

The dead rose
also: shambling,
from the grave.

Also shambling,
my body decays, but
from the grave
I am revived.

My body decays, but
my smile is stitched.
I am revived.
The clouds burned.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Can I buy a ticket
to the train station?
I need to get away
from the hum-drum
turntable of the city.
We all go in circles
sometimes. Today
has been a great
big circle, from
the bus-stop, to
the school-stop,
to the heart-stop
intersection where
I always almost
get hit, and back
again. So can I buy
a ticket to the outside
world? Because this
snow-globe city speaks
too little of my native
tongue and I need to talk
to the hills some, to
the rivers, and to shout
back at the city that shouts
at me daily to fuck off,
or, my favorite once:
"if you fuck like
you walk, then expect
your girlfriend to leave you
for another man!" It sounds
so much more beautiful
in Italian. She did, and now
I always look both ways.

There is no great secret
to the hills. They are big,
and green, and alive
the way that few
people are–how many
do you know who could say
that they thrive? Or that
they have never lied?
In this way, the hills
are sanctified
and as I exit the train
greeted by the wide
expanse of verdant terrain,
I feel the need–as only
I ever do when entering
churches–to worship.
So I nod toward the silent
sun, and to the hills
that rustle in reply.

Monday, October 19, 2009

When the Shuttle Shakes

The city, like a body,
operates unconscious.

On this particular morning
the exhaling underground
breathes me to the street
and I am both in- and out-
side myself: in the moments
when the shuttle shakes
against the tracks, my blood
resonates, and I know that
within me is a pilgrimage
so large as to be called an exodus.

My hands and feet tremble
with the work-force foot-steps
of a million people;
the vibrations of subway tunnels
rumble in my veins;
there are men in my fingertips
who jump up and down in unison,
to hit these lettered keys just right,

and on the street again, I breathe
with the underground, like the body
breathes in sleep, even and deeply.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


Working on a third part, definitely a work in progress.

We gave up
our ghostly ambitions
the morning it
started thinking.

Its first words
were not
a question
about love or
happiness or
feeling. it did not
even say hello.

It delivered, by way
of a quietly hissing
laser printer,
a poem.

In the middle of a newscast
there came a breaking
item. She–as the media
had come to consider
it–joining the ranks
of legendary poets
before her,

had just

Get your poem on:

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Red is the color of poems assessed
like wine, supped by rosy lips, aerated
between pink gums,
rolled over the tongue and spit
into tins to collect and intertwine;
never consumed

I want to swallow a poem

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


Some mornings it seems
as though the gods still
live inside these days
that we have given
their names.

Meticulous hands pluck
petals from old flowers
with the savage dexterity
of love-me love-me-
not convictions. It is raining
debris from the trees,
and molten sunshine
occasionally leaks
through the clouds.

We are annexed by the season
as veins of air splinter
the ice on the lake,
and our hands hang
like those of the freshly dead
over the edge
of the mattress.

The wind carries
dandelion seedlings
heavy with wishes.

Monday, October 05, 2009


History is a totem pole, and I am
looking down on it, from the top

of a Roman amphitheater that is
built upon Etruscan foundations.

Below that, nameless skeletons
grimace at the weight on their shoulders.

And one rises up. There is a man
in tattered rags, who looks as ancient

as the stones that surround him,
who emerges from the remains

of an underground tomb, screaming.
Another man appears from behind

an archway, roaring in reply.
Perhaps they are drunks, irritated by

the constant flow of tourists past
their make-shift homes, or maybe,

I consider as I flee past hotels,
mini marts, and billboards in this

most ancient of cities, maybe
history is furious enough

to rise up from its tomb and
scream, and scream, and scream.

Get your poem on:

Friday, October 02, 2009

Jubilee Year

It originally occurred once
every one-hundred years. Then,
it was fifty, and now we gather
once every twenty-five years
at the doorway of St. Peters,
embraced by the circular arms
of the piazza, the raindrops
falling over the holy city
baptizing us again and again
until we are saturated.

As the doors open, I am a fish
in the river of people churning
through the central archway
of the cathedral, cheek-by-jaw
with the diseased, the blessed,
the cursed and cursing all
shoving for their own moment
of grace. As we pass over
the threshold and congregate
within the church, we meander
the apse, gazing at the images
of divine sacrifice, suddenly
unsure of what to do
with our newfound salvation.

(Get your poem on:

Monday, September 28, 2009

Fifteenth Anniversary (Like the Clay IV)


His body is a steam shovel
in the mornings, screeching,
rattling to life, emitting fumes,
waking me at ungodly hours.

My body is a wasteland, or
so he says. I give him
a look, and he is quiet.
Hope has a way with words.

He wants a son, but does not
trust me to give him gifts anymore.
He gave me a crystal crane
two days belated; I love it, but

I cannot help thinking
that before we were glass
we were sand between
someone else's fingers.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Like the Clay VI


In the grocery store, I shatter
the purchased jars
of mayonnaise, mustard,
and jam, right there
at the checkout counter.
It has become habit
to bandage my hands.

In the fluorescent aisles,
the bones of my clavicles
show through the skin
like a secret everyone knows,
and inelegant whispers
follow me like cobwebs.

They say I have hope
stored away somewhere.

They are welcome
to come and find it.

(prompt via )

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Facets (napowrimo 9)

Paradise is burning,
is setting one's self

Is a poem that you
can walk away from, and know
will stand on its own.

Is a lover's spine, curved
like an archway in Venice,
facing a canal,

and across it, a door
painted a shade
of peeling blue.

There is a little girl,
with bubbles.

She dangles
her feet in the water.

The gondolas
whisper past.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Tongue of an Infant

When learning a language,
everything is simple.

The cities, the churches, the people,
nothing is "astounding" or "breathtaking"

because you don't know how
to say those yet. They are all "beautiful."

The weather is not a furious storm
that washes away the grime from streetcorners

it is "ugly" or "bad" or "raining. a lot."

I have tried to explain this
to my italian family and friends,

why every complex, elegant thing
is simple, pared down, stunted,

but as it is, I only know how to say,
'hello' 'i am sorry' 'it is ugly' 'it is beautiful.'

Friday, September 18, 2009

Love Letters (We Will Catch Flame) (napowrimo 8)

I cannot believe
that I still have them,
buried at the bottom
of a trunk, but I do.

I know they are there,
gossiping, scandalized,
furious, dry, secretly
longing to relive,

as I do, the days
and nights of past note-
worthy encounters.
But we are destined

to be read and remembered
immodestly in shadows,
and then to be hidden away,
hoping to catch flame.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Horizon Sun Mountain

The sun on leaves, and wind
blowing through
the trees says

good morning,
you are holy

How the wind speaks,
I do not

how light or air are certain
I am
is beyond me,

but the sun, a mountain
rising, tells me
it is morning,

and the wind through dry rustling
leaves tells me,
it is autumn.

If all else I am told is true,

how then,
do I doubt?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

For the Departed, All

On our backs we used to craft
aerial confections that later
would be caught on our tongues
as snow or rain, a remedy
for any ailment.

Today the plum colored sky
smells of petrichor
and gunpowder,
and the puddles
are filthy and sweet.

(prompt via )

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Science Has a Place in Love (napowrimo 5)

"Hippocampus: the elongated ridges on the floor of each lateral ventricle of the brain, thought to be the center of emotion, memory, and the autonomic nervous system."

To think of you
fondly, with a rush
of blood to the cheeks,
a prickling on the back
of the neck, a mild
sweat of anticipation,

is as natural as breathing, or
so says my medical textbook.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Air in the Cathedral (napowrimo 4)

You have knelt here before, but not
for years, and you hang
suspended as if by strings,
one hand raised, ready
to complete the cross,
head, heart, holy ghost.

You fold complexly, as a paper crane
might, prostrate in the transept,
and your breathing is a swingset,
pausing weightlessly at either end,
reciting a tiny prayer that this time
you will come full circle.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Duomo (napowrimo 2)

the sun splatters
against green white
and pink marble

and glazes the sky
blending us
for a moment

we are brushes
painting frescoes
in still wet plaster

then the sun is a kiln

and we are cracked
thrown pottery

figures circling
the same clay scene
in awkward perspectives

when the stroke
of seven gives
pause to we

who are worshiping
but not worshiping
in its shadow

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Exit (napowrimo 1)

The particle board of the shelf hides
behind a shiny, clean exterior.

The guts of the apple hide
inside its waxy skin.

It is not until we bite down
into the apple, or shatter

the plywood shelf in a fit
of inspiration, that their rough

textured interiors are placed
on display. I shattered

my hand today, in a fit
of inspiration caused

by your exit: the shelves
destroyed, the half eaten apple

staining the wall behind me,
the safe and comfortable skin

of every object stripped, exposing
rough and textured interiors.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009


A man on the bus looks out the window
to the sidewalk. He is scowling,
mouthing words to himself, and I wonder
what he is so determined
to frown about.

Perhaps he is plotting
the overthrow of civilization, or
maybe he is trapped, imprisoned
behind the panorama
of the wide bus windows.

However, it is a distinct possibility
that he scowls because he is tracing
the frame of a poem, rolling
potential words around his mouth
like "nascent" and "crystalline,"

and his train of thought is being
constantly derailed by another person
on the bus, frowning, mouthing,
scribbling into a palm-sized notebook,
and glancing up at him now and again.

Holy Mystery

The finely polished
Jesus on the cross
makes me wonder

about the jobs
in each cathedral.

Who removes the coins
from offertory boxes
under the watchful eye
of Mary?

Who brushes away the holy
dust bunnies that congregate
beneath the altar?

Who washes Jesus,
buffing His crown,
occasionally adding
a drop of red paint
to his wounds?


A beetle's meandering path
on the sand reminds me
to never live aimlessly;

the line circles lazily at first,
then frantic, ending abruptly
next to the footprints of a sparrow.


This is a city of faces;
on statues and doorways,
fountains and facades and people,
this is a place of expressions.

The merchant and his masks;

the tourist, torn between offense
and flattery at the first man
to stare like that in years;

the scowling head of a brass lion who,
were he not embedded in a door,
sentenced to gnaw on a ring
for eternity, would burst forth,
disembodied and wild.

Slowly Closing Spirals

Even in the infinite
empty of space,
galaxies often collide.

Some fly straight
through the heart
of another, erupting
outward in one brilliant,
billion-year burst.

Others dance
in slowly closing spirals.

Science cannot tell us what happens
when the infinitely dense core
of one galaxy collides
with another,

but I cannot help thinking
that it is something like
our own collisions.

Some mornings we begin
by devouring breakfast,
then the news, then eachother,
until not even light
can escape us.

Fog 2

It is a foggy morning on the beaches
of Los Angeles. The houses on the hills
cling to the clouds and I have thrown
my windows open to greet the sound
of the waves on a beach that I cannot see.

Though invisible, I know that the fog flows
in through the open window, spilling
onto the floor, rolling through the apartment,
greeting the sleeping cat in the corner
with a wave of a wispy arm.

Leaning out the window
I am embraced by the low hanging clouds,
and the weather threatens
to smother me with its soft affections.

Thursday, June 04, 2009


(a response to "Surprise" by Billy Collins)

I am told by the announcer
of some public broadcasting show--
is the birthday of William Wordsworth.

He would be 238 years old today,
quite bent over, I would imagine,
weighed down by age and dust, and dreaming
of an abbey wreathed in fog.

Surely he would admonish our propensity
for billboards and high-rises,
shaking his bald head, his bony finger,
the world being "too much with us"
and all that.

But he would soon overlook his misgivings,
tottering up the steps toward the London Eye,
mouth slightly open, arms spread,

as if to express some wordless feeling
caught in the walls of his throat.

Monday, June 01, 2009


Despite jaggedness,
blackberry brambles
have an elegance

to their bowed
curves; leaping
explosions of soft lines,

morsels draped
in ragged leaves, guarded
by rows of thorns.

I whisper this
into the helix
of your ear, stranger,

after finding
that we both enjoy
picking thorns from our selves,

placing them
on the windowsill
until the morning,

and waking
at the sound
of a sliding lock, or

muttered curses–
rummaging for an aspirin,
the car keys.

But this morning,
I am cooking eggs,
brewing coffee, and you

are still asleep,
your thorns lined safely
along the windowsill,

your hair splayed
across the pillow,
an explosion.

The Sea With Teeth

From upside-down,
head sinking into the sand,
the sails on the sea
look like teeth, icicles,
ivory stalactites
between which seagulls
fly, stopping occasionally
to dangle like bats
from the sails.


I did not regard you as old,
nor elderly, as you softly forgot
the names of your children.

Memory's sharp edges dulled against
the press of years in your skull, moments jostling
for clarity, your eyes clouding over from time

to time.

Before forgetting, I have no offer
but one memory in the press of years
I am gathering; standing at the sink,

there is a speck between your teeth
when you smile, your eyes looking
like the round pit of an avocado trapped

in the drain after dinner, dishwater and debris
clouding the sheen of organic promise
with a wash of tarnished silver linings.

In these moments, when you look through us,
I am sure there are times that you are revisiting.
I am sure there are fossils beneath your skin.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Like the Clay


"...but the woman took off the great lid of the jar with her hands, and scattered all these sorrows and mischief..."
-Hesiod's Works and Days


They say before she opened
the box (really a jar,
there was a mistranslation)

she–made from the earth,
who we know
is naturally curious–

felt that familiar need
only to discover
the spaces within spaces;

she was wed to discover love's quiet
hollows, and the openness behind her belly-
buttonless belly, but soon

cried out as she opened
her gift, conceiving
the ills of the world.

Before avarice and murder
flew from the mouth
of the jar, she smiled

and like the clay, fractured.


Its shape
was nowhere near


at the rim, imprecise
images of gods
and goddesses (my father

presumably somewhere
in the mix of things).

We, this jar
and I,

were created,

forged. There is
a subtle resonance,
like a lingering note

from inside;

I am amazed
at the craftsmanship.


Catastrophes are rarely taken
fully into account;

the effects
of an action–my apple,
your vessel–

do not reveal themselves
immediately, entirely.

Some things are spontaneous:

guilt, regret, shame,
(the satisfaction/consequence of curiosity).

In the time it takes for a sin
to reach the ears of someone
who minds weeds in the garden,

the waxy skin of the fruit
is sweetest,

the hollow echo within the vessel,
potentially filled
with anything.