Friday, December 31, 2010

How to Block an Alpaca Knit Scarf

The skin recognizes
what was hair, what pleases
the skin to be close, don't

give it a name
when you drown it,
don't celebrate or take

too reverent a time
stretching it past normalcy
and pinning down

its length. That said,
be kind––the fabric is weak
when saturated, too heavy

to do anything but sag itself
long and lacking if allowed.
Sort the rest of the laundry

by color, steady
your folds and do not think
too much about the fur

on your arms, gold
in the dingy basement light as you
brush the hair away from your eyes.

Join the circus:

Friday, September 24, 2010

Savonarola II

"Your city is now the city of God."
-Girolamo Savonarola

What do you expect a man to say
when he wants nothing
but your salvation? It wasn't
the threat of damnation
that got to us––we could tell
the time of day by his shadow
in the cathedral––it was the boys,
fanciulli, who went door to door,
asking us but what if he's on
to something?
People have always
had a problem with the scrutiny
afforded by mirrors. It seemed
natural, that our reflections be
made enemies of ourselves.
You can't imagine how the palaces
shone in that dingy light,
the teeth of crenellations gnawing
at the city they overshadowed.
The proud, he said, fall
prey to themselves, and that was all
we needed to know about justice.

Friday, September 03, 2010


We had lunch in the train station, herring, pickles, potato salad, vodka. Everything Russian. I told him today is such a poem and that my friend says that everything is a poem.––What did he say?––He said, well, he laughed.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Lounge Car: Charlie

I bought a Volkswagen after my tour in Germany,
top speed of maybe 75. Just enough to keep up

with the autobahn.
The trains don't even chug
anymore, just sway. I say the most polished surface

in the world might be the top of the rails, which reminds
me of the bumper of that old Beetle
which reminds me

of the absence of cow-catchers on trains today,
which didn't catch cows so much as split them in half.

It must have been the chill of the water that did it, holding
out his left hand that looks like a fractured cup, that one

long fissure in the brown earthen mug that refuses
to part, fingers at permanent grasp around the palmed scar.

They don't give you a purple heart for washing dishes
but they do send you home with your gun and hope

you finish the job
––the war, some vendetta of the mind
against the flesh––yourself. He chuckles like the train wheels.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Lounge Car: Becky

The second time she ran away she ended up
in North Dakota, and works a quilt beside me
as we hurtle through the badlands.

The only time I ever followed my grandfather
down to the river, I first met a bear that was eating
out of his palm.
T-T-T-T-T go the telephone poles,

T-T-T-T-T go the shadows at a slant. He told me
sometimes friends shouldn't meet one-another.

The bowed grass and the flatlands convince me

that the bales of hay have rolled themselves.
The machines are all show. On the third night
the tree is tied with skulls at compass points.

The men, they cut, here
––she pokes my chest, left
and here, right, and dance until the horns break
through the skin.
Think about the forces

between passing trains, whether a bird flown
in between would feel the pull of east and west
and split, wing from wing, or if a balance

is struck between the points, and this bird (a starling,
probably, swooping over fresh cut grass beside the tracks)
could nest in the stillness of a storm that's all eyes.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Steganography III


It's the repulsion
of atoms that makes us

unable to touch.
The distance between rain

and pattering glass is the same
between hissing fist

and patient temple, bullet and
brainstem, infinitely divisible.

I am in danger of flying
apart at any moment, reaching

for a paring knife to halve
the nectarine with empty,

razor-sharp space, knowing
I will never grasp the knife,

cannot even reach.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


The easiest way to skin a hedgehog

is to use a bicycle pump to inflate it
(gutted and cleaned, of course)

over the fire, and scrape away the remains
of its charred quills. A man can eat

three, four in a sitting, the grease
he flicks into the fire burning brighter

for a moment or two, and we will
drink ourselves welcome

to sampling the spineless
creature, for the sake of invitation,

politeness, perhaps a bite of skinny rib,
a tiny foreleg. Like trying tripe in Florence,

because the wine was at hand to wash
my palette clean and the vendor

looked on expectantly. His grin says
he's seen it before, the moment

of knowing and pushing away,
the act of swallowing truth

after truth, the grease of it
covering my foreign hands, my smile.

Join the circus:

Friday, July 16, 2010


It's just that: the danger
                                    of allowing an angel to drive.
Your palms cupped over and found
                                    the holy bowl empty, the rings
of left behind dust that settled
                                    on the edge of its tense surface,
concentric. Concentrate, this
                                    is the prayer for when the choir's
crescendo won't break: let my scabs
                                    peel off in one brittle sheet
and throb with what I know but
                                    can't taste to say. And
                                    Let my feet dangle over
the knit rope edge of the hammock;
                                    the doves will have their day,
and I, the same from the ground
                                    up, when the saints have long since
stopped speaking.

Join the Circus:

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Like the Clay V


I learn from reading
the encyclopedias

that great
mechanical constructions––
boats, planes, machines

deemed fit for sacrificial
champagne christenings––
are female,

and I think this
is rightly so: helmed
and mastered by men

who rely on us
to not abandon them
to the deep,

and also that you
are sheltered within,
shuttled, nurtured, deposited,

though it is strange
to consider disembarking
as birth.

Like the Clay VII


The cat's hiss
is that of a short fuse.

We are all ill-
tempered these days.

You arrived
at my doorstep
all messed up,

hands badly bandaged,
a grenade


in your broken teeth.

After I replaced the pin
with a bent paper clip,
you told me between gasps

(the nerve
of a tooth

that it was the only
forbidden fruit
you could find.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Steganography II


I was told to wash my hands
before coming in. They looked
clean to me, but I learned

why they call it gray water,
and that sterility has a scent

––no, an odor–– like
formaldehyde, but nothing
like formaldehyde; of

preservation, of keeping
the natural course of things

at bay. We have never been
particularly good at talking
about death, but if I am

a new self, given seven
years to shed (even now,

my sunburned shoulder peeling
in ragged bits, broken skin
on my damp palms raised

and white from scrubbing),
are you?

Join the circus:

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Steganography I

"God gave us memories that we might have roses in December"
J. M. Barrie


Two days in, they gave your brain
room to breathe, and no matter

what mom said,
I always knew I'd seen the missing

crescent of your skull.

missing is the wrong word;
it sat on the bedside table

at the bottom of a mason jar,
some child's mischievous grin,

a narrow, bitten moon resting
nonchalantly against the glass,

out of place
but incontrovertibly

present, a slice of rind
screaming for the orange.

Prompt: I want to write about ______, but I don't know how.
Join the circus:

Friday, June 18, 2010


Part of the comfort of stars
is the marching procession
of empty between them. I resent

when you tell me not to look
at your finger as it conducts
my eyes. Its dull details––

scar from a compound fracture,
tendons that disappear
into walnut knuckles––

are more present than
the dim shining of the distant
and praise-hungry sky.

Join the Circus:

Friday, June 11, 2010

Pantoum 1

I forgot to tell you the gun was loaded.
We crossed the street. The corner store
that hummed a fluorescent tune
greeted us as friends.

We crossed the street to the corner store,
pushed forward by desperation
greeting us as friends,
and shook the change in our pockets.

Pushed forward by desperation,
past impatient, nervous,
we shook the change in our pockets
like windchimes in some August

past. Impatient, nervous,
my memory fading on little cat feet,
like windchimes in some August,
we walked into the corner store.

Memory fading on little cat feet,
humming a fluorescent tune,
we walked into the corner store.
I forgot to tell you the gun was loaded.

*"on little cat feet" is a line taken from Carl Sandburg's "Fog"

Join the circus:

Friday, June 04, 2010


Claudius' temples burned
after the application of electric eels
to treat his headaches, but they say

it worked, and who are we
to doubt? Blood-letting helped
treat typhoid until someone decided

to give patients bed rest,
blankets, fluids, and found that
we are capable of healing ourselves.

Egas Moniz won the Nobel Prize
for lobotomies. I measure the morning
with steel calipers and hope for the best.

Join the Circus:

Saturday, May 29, 2010

To Find Home

The trick, I am told by a man clad
in khaki armor, is to search for points of departure

and arrival. The exterminators have been around twice
this week, and the back porch has just stopped

reeking of pesticide, the unfinished wood
beneath the floorboards' peeling paint

soaking in the scent. The winter months expanded
the water in everything––the house groaned bloated,

unhappy to have taken in so much––and we, too,
grew beyond our patient domesticity, flaking off

in brittle sheets. After the eruption
of summer, everything emerges unsteadily. Even the wasps

wander the windowsills, the sidewalk cratered
with abandoned anthills. The exterminator tells me

it takes the lazy not-looking of an optical illusion to see
where the trouble originates. On this first

ninety-degree day of summer, a nail swelled out
of place catches between my toes, and the corpse

of the overstuffed couch that breaks my fall
buzzes angrily from inside.

Join the circus:

Friday, May 21, 2010

What Began as an Apology

I summed you up
                in ten pages, as many
                secondary sources, your craft
                synopsized, an A-grade term paper,

but I am unsure
                of what to make of this
                moment: the particular purse
                of your lips, the over-emphasized syllables

made monstrous
                by microphone,
                some proof that you––
                like the rest of us––squint unflatteringly

under the wide-
                eyed spotlight. You pause
                and the static makes the sound
                of flowers uprooted from soft earth.

Prompt via

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Sign Said

"Meet here after the apocalypse"
and I could have sworn

that the wiry flailing arms beating a circle
of drums were those damn art-house kids,

but on closer inspection from
my seat in the library

I saw they were children––not kids
in the sense of our casual dismissals, or how

you will always refer to sons and daughters––
but children, who probably don't think

about the ninety-eight percent of species
that are extinct, or how the sound of a crash

doesn't send us running until we learn
to associate destruction with tragedy.

The sign had a party hat attached
to the corner, with tassels like fireworks,

which are really just beautiful explosions.

Prompt via:

Friday, May 07, 2010

On Decomposition

His saliva drips onto my velvet lapel and though
we've been feeding him well, I'm never sure

if this time when he opens his mouth
it's just a yawn. We are all shedding

apart; my grey hairs resemble his more
each day. Even the whip sags, the old prop chair

going brown at the nails.
We're not sure what to do with him

after the spotlights close their apertured eyes
and he stands in his cage, waiting with his mouth

hinged open for hours, but we know Pride
is a word we used to be a part of.

Prompt via

Sunday, April 25, 2010


Down the street, the abandoned
smokestack billows

with swifts. They have begun
to nest in chimneys, too; you hear

stories about nestlings
falling out of the flue, of children

wandering into the kitchen
with an ash-dusted chick

that is squeaking, furious and blind.
The news says that proper procedure

is to place the fallen bird on the wall
of the chimney and let it climb

the rough brick back to the nest.
The climb may take days, we are told

but we should not let the worried chirps
of the mother, the chick's quiet scrabbling

above the fireplace inspire us
to further assist; they are not perching birds,

they are made to traverse distances.
Soon it is impossible to follow

their trajectories, swarming
from the confines of a smokestack

but it is enough to hear
the cacophony of their departure,

see the sunset blotted by wings,
know that they will not land

for eighteen months, sleeping
in flight, navigating by stars, catching

rain drops with open mouths
in the storm.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Poem Starting with a Line from Norman Dubie (NaPoWriMo 13)

St. Dunstan-in-the-East

His chapel fell into flowers long ago;
the city planted them, repaved the ash

dust, scoured pilasters, placed
benches and a picnic table right there

where the matchstick pews marched
headlong into the bombs.

Next to the climbing ivies, the morning
glories yawn blue and pink, a horseshoe

hung over the door below the cross
to catch its falling graces.

NaPoWriMo 13: Dubie.

The Kookaburra Laughs (NaPoWriMo 8)

The Kookaburra laughs
                 your laugh. I wouldn't
                 have thought it possible
                 but here you are, perched
                 on the arm of a tour guide,
                 feathers preened to shine,
                 his hide gloves thick to keep you
                 from drawing blood.

NaPoWriMo 8: unusual love connections.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Questions About a Photograph of Statues (NaPoWriMo 6)

Who or what in this picture could speak?

The statues of headless angels. The heads of long-dead kings.

What would they say?

"we have been stuck in marble halls for too long. Occasionally we are wrapped in plaster, duplicated, copies of ourselves shipped off to other locations, but never outside as we once were, guarding the temple doors. Even missing our wings, there is a reason we are positioned for flight."

Why is this image meaningful to me?

Occasionally I have felt stagnant, trapped, headless. We are both made of something so much heavier than air. We are both looking to use our wings that have been lost to the dirt.

When I look at it, what am I remembering?

Standing in the British Museum marveling at the amount of stolen art and architecture within: The Roman statues staring down the corridor at the head of Rameses. The head of Rameses staring blank at the Greek trireme. The trireme's ram aimed at the remnant walls of a Persian temple.

How does this image make me feel?

I am nostalgic for the feeling of being steeped in stolen history.

NaPoWriMo 6: find a photo.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Boxer (NaPoWriMo 5)

The poem arrives
with a black eye,
a split lip, saying
"Yeah, well you
should see the poet."

NaPoWriMo 5: make it personal.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Burial (NaPoWriMo 3)

In this photograph you were
leaping between boulders, hair
a shock of red in the dun
of the desert. I attempted to
recreate it, leaping over
a cavernous drop between
preserved ruins six miles
outside of Rome. I shudder
when the shutter clicks. This
image is on your headstone.

I am not on your headstone,
though a part of me is underground
with you, rotting beautiful.

But now the both of us, you
and the flower tucked in your
breast pocket, are dust and
your breast pocket is probably
dust, too, or a rag that some
creature has inhabited. I am
home to my grief; you are home
to ours. Some creature
is thriving on the home made
from both of us dissolving away.

Napowrimo 3: Something you are scared of.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Time and I

know that were the bells––
                 ringing hymns at four o'clock
                sharp––not ringing, the still
                 of that afternoon would have

been broken some other way,
                far-off laughter, the birds startled
                into flight, a rattling commotion,
                a grass-snake at my toes,

and the passage of time
                 would not have gone silently. Even
                 the body, with its ticking clock, takes
                 this business of the future seriously:

when discussing it,
                 we lean forward into its passing sounds.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

In the Parlor (NaPoWriMo 1)

There is no harmony
between Jefferson Airplane

and a tattoo gun, but both
spring to life from needles

against textured surfaces this
afternoon, "Somebody to Love"

and a bicep tattoo of the word
Mother; "Come Back Baby"

and the covering of an old
flame's name. The skin carries

a weight. Information. Travels.
The world. Looking in, the ink

is a roadmap deposited below
your surface, an anecdote

of self, a slow graffiti
to the tune of whatever

the artist puts the needle to.

Day 1 of NaPoWriMo '10. The prompt was 5 song titles from your library on shuffle.

Come Back Baby-Jefferson Airplane
Information Travels-Death Cab for Cutie
World Looking In-Morcheeba
Anecdote-Ambulance Ltd.
Slow Graffiti-Belle & Sebastian

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Galleria Bargello, August 2009

"Painting is silent poetry, and poetry is painting that speaks."

And what of sculpture? I hear the cheers
of the Israelites, the thud of Goliath's
head on the sand echoing in this prison-

turned-museum. David stands as tall as I am
(what giants will I slay?), some supple ideal
of soft flesh in cold bronze, and were it not

for the motionless nature of sculpture,
that forever-fleeting smirk, his young lips
of victory would have whispered,

"No poem is as polished and revered"
or, "Let us see you make something
worthy of a pedestal."

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Thin Skinned

Let the body be its own

poem; ink, scars, pock-marked, anything
but decorous. You are indecipherable

enough to keep up with the best
of them. Let the poem be

a cave from which words echo.
Shout and listen to them all

come back like bats, leathery,
blind, hearing their way skyward.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Unwelcome Guest

Melancholy wanders through
your livingroom, a bear

stinking of old things devoured
but not quite digested, her footfalls

heavy on the carpet, a shuffling
gait, snuffling for something you

have strung carefully in the rafters. You,
standing in the kitchen with the dish water

running and the radio on commercial
break, no knives in reach, the diningroom

table still strewn with utensils because
dinner consisted of cold––cold

spaghetti conversation (limp, unpalatable), cold
weather seeping through the uncaulked windows––

you wait for her to stop swatting at that
something, suspended above the sofa, just

out of reach. She is ignoring the din
from the kitchen and the food on dishes

not yet cleared, intent only on what she
can almost reach. She has risen

on two feet, when you decide that
that is close enough, and kill

the radio, turn the tap, her guilt-thick breathing
caught between sudden silences.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Running Stitch

"I cannot remember the last time I gave some-
                my weight." She says.

Because the body betrays us in its fragile
                the kneecap pushed so

slightly out of place, the uncomfortable
                almost elegant.

Your dancer limbs locked the wheel-
                                chair wheels
                with a grace we only dreamt

about. Sewn strands and tendons
                                tend to
                atrophy. They can only be

cut, stretched, and re-stitched–anatomical seam-
                "I am a canvas now."

The long wait in waiting
                transitioned us to mourning

the loss of your leg. No,
                                not loss–
                it is still there, but caged.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010


(Another influence poem, this time from Louise Gl├╝ck.)

The misting of dusk becomes
the ice of morning; the grace
becomes the graceless.

My friend the tree outside has given
up; she was fooled, I think,
but cannot speak to verify.

Between herself and the air,
something changed.
She wanted to run her fingers
through it; now they are caged.
We must not give up
as she has.

Above the fallen fingers,
above the hand and broken limb,
the brilliance of that life becomes
the graceless trunk.

Wander around her:
it is much easier to diagnose the dead.

From within the hand's
bitter disgrace, coldness and barrenness

my friend the power line uncoils:
she is on fire this morning.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Walk Softly

There is a moment,
after the climax,
after the revelation

and betrayal,
the resolution,
after the credits
have slid past,
your face shifting
in the shifting light;

our lips tire
of telling
and our hands
talk only tip-toes.

The skin of your spine is
an ice skating rink
that weight will splinter.

There is a danger in us.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Imitation, Trees

(An imitation poem in the style of Lucie Brock-Broido after reading The Master Letters)

The taste of a one-day autumn is that
Of road salt, crisp smoke; there

Is a you & a me & a me & the season
Surrendering to frost. Something red is falling

From your branches, gathering. I am not
Inhabited like you, but neither am I bored

By worms or beetles mulching channels
Through us–I am bereft of writhing

Things. Would that I could writhe. Your leaves–
I'm sure–pile differently from beneath. We are losing

Track of the one-day Autumns cut short,
salt scattered; I do not remember

The first bite taken at your roots–Quickly!
Cut yourself in half & count the rings.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

The Art of Destroying Things on Purpose

Some sounds
are indicative
of harm.

A wasp's wings
could never hum
a lullaby,

a chainsaw
is incapable
of building.

But other sounds
like to fool you:
your heart skips

when the phone
rings, and drops
when answered;

the angry buzz
of a tattoo gun
paints beautifully.

(Starting Over, day 2. Via

Wednesday, January 06, 2010


Watching ladders
of light climb,
brighten, fade
on the wall:
an old mop
and its bucket
of water, both
too saturated
with old messes
to clean anything.

We only move
the dirt around
when we move
together, but
the streaks
are moist
and new
for now,
and it is

(Starting Over, day 1. Via