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Friday, April 20, 2018


What time is it, feeling man
Didn’t you used to live in history? ideas
replaced with glitter impossible to vacuum

so in your peripheral vision stardust
persists like a tear
in the shop in the afternoon

but songs
pose different questions than poems
asking for simpler assignments

quantum field portraiture thought
walking backwards counting steps
down lines too plain to read without

“shameful happiness”
(my foremost subject
I said at the party

responding to the “poetry” question)
or at least empowered by
“exuberance superfluous to facts”

my evolved eyes saw and my old heart
and lungs felt
red breathed clear skinned

while in my ear music never stopped
made not from emotion
but something else

an instrument that sounds when played
like you already know how to play
have played it all your life

that single terrifying song
until finally it sounds
no longer in your mind

like a cavity still without ingress
population depopulated
former site of a binary star

two cat eyes
whose two minutes ago face
your shining eyes

falling on
in the morning
make glow

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Poetics Statement

Language is loose, imaginative energy that wards off if not defuses what would be rigid and death-drivey.

And so poetry-as-therapy is as good as conceptual poetry is as good as a sonnet because it’s all transmuting one substance into another so it can breathe or glint or go real still and glassy-topped.

There is a way of breathing, tonglen, that I learned in New York when I sought out a meditation center after some tragedy of global scale, now I can’t remember what. You breathe in to suck negativity out of the world, try to purify it, then release it again.

Poetry as water filtration facility.

It doesn’t mean we have to make everything clean and beautiful; we just have to give it new form.

And because we are all facets of the great mind, it doesn’t matter who does it; if one does it, we all do it.

It’s okay if you can’t keep up. There are leaves being turned over.


The Woman with Her Head Resting Against an Antimacassar

I don’t get to be the same person each time, 
but still, think of all the atrocities
I’ve climbed out of. 
It helps to carry a rope. 
I sound ominous 
but what I'm saying is gentle. 
A rope accompanies you as you climb, 
shows you where you are going,
up, up.  
And, eventually, 
the people will want to be led out 
through the woods, pastures, fields, 
rivers, creeks, and streams 
to the shaded garden
where they will raise their children. 
Not all people will want this. 
Just the ones who burned down the last garden.


The sounds in the house
are the wrong sounds

Someone's breathing
is out of sync
with someone else's

The air in the house
is the wrong air

It's been rejected by one
taken up desperately
by the other

The house leans a little
& flaunts a few cracks
Everyone's afraid to touch it
or each other     

She says those have been there
He says I smell something dead
or stagnant
                      It's the water 
she reminds him

They turn from the house 
with expressions tuned      as if it had just arrived
in a white roar      all insistence 

As if they hadn't been all along         worn away
Eroded over millennia into stony essence

Identical ones, a pair


 Places where we stoop sat                  near so many stairs and benches                     
the same orange street lamps              Why did so many doctors take so long to explain nothing                 Grandiosity is the defense against depression                        
Her goal was to write down positive things and since then she’s written nothing    
How many statues of lions can one city have                                    What is seriousness                
Who is the most serious of them all               He says can we iron our shoes           
The big brother is the bridge and the little brother is the river                       


Your breath stinks because you talk so much about the past 

it makes you a walking graveyard

Poetry is behind everything

What are you looking at 

a list of things I don’t want to deal with

Governor of Soda

There are more good people than bad people

What are you going to do with this recycling that probably ends up in the oceans anyway

When is the right time for anything

You were turning pages marking carefully

Cut to email cut to baby cut to parents doing it

The time we set out of the train tressels

The time with corn

the time E I E I O

The time you threw an apple core in the woods

Damsel in distress juice is orange juice

Can we stop for a minute to talk about how beautiful elderly people are

What’s just as bad as slaughter is separating mothers from babies

and selling that as milk


 What does a teacher look like

There are very few people I know who are good at people

No time and no place to make mistakes

Hen of the woods

Flight from flight from flight until tears

Start a school

What was I doing whenever

Did anyone bother to ask me what I learned about the experience

Progress and progressive

What is progressive education isn’t all education progressive

Does anyone need to lose weight or have a food journal

Litmus for an intellectual community

Hating everything

Real vs confidence

Does an intellectual community consider its intellect or consider what’s being presented

Is being an apex predator a sign of victory or a burden

Orca whales seem so happy

A journal is the place where I can prove I am the kind of person I hope to be

Two people kissing at the bar how surprising

The coat rack was full of heavy black winter coats

and when I hung mine the whole thing fell over

Figure 16

 Anyone can say     he might have made errors in judgement    or most of the performers were the audience but         did the intended recipient ever hear you are my favorite professor      so far in collage?    The book most occupied       was the one counting   on modular dividers while the mail carriers      and adjuncts changed without notice Does anyone need          a general understanding when the obvious pelts us daily? Right under our noses       which have mysteriously departed or euphemism for being suffocated in the immediate death-trap         of planning or not planning for that which isn’t Paradox of discarded objects         that ought to be described                I would rather be a student     in collage than college in mess than mass         no paradise The dancers rearrange themselves to think about gravity      as agency then drape their bodies over the nearest available surface--     watermelon ottoman autocratic exaggeration each other each other           each other Attention glues to contact Instead of going to sleep she said           I’m just going to close my eyes and think about what I might dream about

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

small town longings

I want to go to the art museum
but I can’t
because there is no art museum
I want to go to the wine bar
movie theater bagel shop
I want to walk there
on a sidewalk that
doesn’t disappear
just stays a sidewalk
that takes you to your friend’s
house the corner store
a bus stop
someplace you didn’t mean
to go at all
that becomes a bridge that
right-hooks the air
from your gut
that turns into cobblestone
that leads into the park
doesn’t just end
in the middle of a block


Sometimes everything makes you irrepressibly
happy as the wind and the rain

sometimes and the rest of the time? What lasts longer
ice in the cold or ceramic in the heat?

Poetry is only the state of
not yet having all of the facts

or finding the happy materials smashed
by your own prior anger

riding gracefully into the poem
before the wars make anger obsolete

A simple proposition “Compared to what?”
on clay from which limitless tablets can be timelessly baked

pictures of words with edges
holding on to feelings like badges

True randomness would be one thing but this is just haphazard
My name is ________

like the number 7 and the number 47
weeks of alphabetical thoughts then weeks of mathematical ones

I aim for perfect moments of loafing but my idleness
is stubbornly imperfect

Eyes search a room
Electricity never stops

Look at it
through a microscope
its mind constantly changing

Should I love you
or trust you to the planets and the galaxies

and miss you forever ecstatically
in the glib way that blood flows

through you light passes through you while you think
over hot rocks and under waterfalls

like a ceremony celebrating coming of age
because being you must have been constantly renewed

and even if some feelings are morally or chemically different than they used to be
at least subjectively they feel the same

Do you know what I’m capable of
under your influence with your numbers, only more so

Can it be defined? in a dictionary?
in font too small to read? for eyes too small to read with?

Unfortunately, centurion, this body was never yours
these excesses of speed, size and color, noise and languorousness,

talking in your sleep except while you were awake
what were you saying?

words graffitied on a natural bridge

X is Y— blecks is bligh—
All the ideas piled up into one of those cairns

marking out the stony path on the stony mountaintops
Someday, I'll learn

how to have other conversations



And one night getting into bed she thought
Of all the other nights
Of the hours spent getting into bed
Of the hours spent before getting into bed
Looking at horizons
She corrects herself: there's only one
The horizon

The interstitial moments that add up
But not to any known amount
Or purpose       The horizon 
Why not plural? Why not to each her own
Each her own night
Each her own bed
Each her own getting into it

Each her own reading "Obscurity and Velocity" 
And wondering could she have felt obscure
When we so keenly needed her?
Each her own car
Each her own road
Each her own menacing mountain
Each her own or else

  • "Obscurity and Velocity" is a poem from C. D. Wright's Shallcross.

Be Still

We're not asking, but he poem craves
expansion. Or the poet does. A poet craves a poem,
mostly, and all the things that anyone craves.
I think about death and teaching
a tiny human-in-becoming how I can't always
be there. I'm here and it's terrible, sometimes,
and sometimes disastrous anticipation is wrong.
Or the anticipation is right but disaster
is wrong. Or it's not. The limits of law relative
to gender equity and transformation, for example.
You're beautiful and kind: How does your
lover open the door, chop an onion, recite
their social security number? How do they
manage their files? I am hostile when half
asleep, never loving. We touch feet under
an electric blanket. It's cold. It's April.


I Used to Think the Birch Trees Were Girlish 

and a wish grew in me

to see women spreading out
on both sides of a road.

Women and anyone who’d ever been or would be
a woman. Up and down the outcroppings, 
covering any and all geography. 
In the spring, a thin gold line drawn on 
to highlight the very tips of their very tips. 
Women and trees coming toward you with sticky fertility,
all the endings emphasized. 

The wish always frightened me 
as soon as it formed. 
Maybe it was the army I’d built? 
The kind of wood I’d chosen?
Forgive me, it didn’t occur to me, 
the land was alive 
and being crushed under all my wishing.

You’ve given every girl that wears your lipstick the gift of total ownership.
            ~ Don Draper

My 8mm family set my head feral my brother did something heartbreaking to a dog I told my sister if you’re going to hold the exorcism of a dyybuk or a slewy case of epilepsy why do it at night in a deserted mental hospital or derelict church & just because the windows are stained doesn't mean your flight will be holy doesn't guarantee you’ll crash through zoom sideways over the river glide above fishes & kids getting high on oxy under the bridge & just because I used my warning sister arguments until you pinched your eyes & chatted up the Virgin & told her about the records I stole & everyone’s presents that one Christmas & just because bees were elegant gods & your feet tiny princesses & your throat bright poison doesn’t mean the ground won’t come up real fast like Wile E. Coyote chasing the Road Runner only to meet a cliff that never existed to slam your body out of its green summer dress & strappy sandals & very best lace slip who even wears slips these days even during exorcisms & your hair spread it spread how it spread into wings & flapped hard enough to frighten frogs from our mother’s grimy mouth

Forgotten poem 1: Winter Interests

I've been opening old docs containing poems I don't remember writing at all. Some of them ain't half bad. This seems like a good home for them. Winter Interests

Phone rings inside.
A clear window,
beyond a bare tree.

Tough sparrow prefers
a bath in the snow
to a hung wooden box,

(he wore a watch a
while in the nursing home)

to seek white seeds
in frozen yards.


All suns are terrors—why has no one taught 
them else to be? The fault lies in distant 
nebulae. Wombs have so few names. The sound 
made for home is always bleat, a pause, want-
ing. A mother is not—not since the first 
universe cracked open, bled yolkrot—what 
you needed her to be. 
                                   No, she a damned crow. 
She got bright aches in dead spots. Innis un-
free nursery for strangling matter, innis 
cored heart we arise each other, poorly. 

We eggy unsuns—horrors all. But got we love? O  
yes. Our clay nests we ever drench in starry bees. 

"We Hope You Like Her"

In the first segment of the last landscape, you pick up
old poems you’ve written. They are the first poems you

considered worthwhile. Your mother leads you
to the master bedroom to show you your birth cards.

People dead congratulating you on being born. They say
Natalie Dawn—we hope you are a good girl—and mud

floats up your throat, the filter of a cigarette trapped
in the wastebin, the note to Catherine telling her and

scribbling out just when he let you out between his
legs. You remark on the roundness of your face. So sixteen

and precious. What a little baby. Three years earlier
he reached into your body and presented you the stone

of your name. Ah, Aunt Rose sends her love to the girl,
the members of the bereavement group say rainbow

rainbow. Daniel was the only boy for whom your parents
threw a baby shower and Great Grandma didn’t come

out of superstition. In his death, no more showers. A crib
from the money guarded the rest of you. A cage of blond

good luck. In the next segment, a letter you wrote and
a letter you crumbled. You tell us Daniel is the best boy

among us because he turned blue and stopped. You dream
and it is wretched as the horse whose hair has rinsed

with flame. You swallow spinach and it is wretched as
the origins of immolation, a sauce sprinkled with sacrifice.

The night is dense and you rest alone. You rest and it is
a boring sentence. You flare your cheeks. Dark seams of

skin taunt your body. A brother is dead who had never
lived. Isn’t this the curse? Light not a source but a necessary trick.


The Woman Who Vows to Stop Talking
about Fire As If It Were Something Else

When I open my mouth to say
how dangerous I am:
(nature images)

When I pick up a rake to throw the straw
out of everyone’s way so we can finally
get to the horses: 
(a handful of flesh)

We moved here so we would be 
(unbridled, incredible)
surrounded by water. Nonetheless, 
on an unusually warm and dry fall day,
my neighbors and I died in a fire.
(Autumn bears fruit) 
(I wander, I desert, I foothill, I timber,
and then I river home) 

(From the porch I can see 
light I have been)
(Will be)

I can’t stop doing 
what my people have always done:
(the golden maw of harvest time) 

Tuesday, April 17, 2018


What would I do
without women
making me feel at home
in the world

Their kindness
a kind of

It’s not rhetorical:
we know what
women did & do
who weren’t

couldn’t be
at home
(                )
(                )

did I ever tell you
it was Dar Williams
who introduced me
to Yoko Ono?


When I wasn’t yet who was
I even becoming I wore copper
lamé--a dress. Dresses were a sign
of coming out—cocoons shed
into wingstretch or sex. So

there was that. Was I that night
in a car? I think a flask of SoCo.
Behind the frames of the new
houses bright worklights yes (a hip-
bone shone white) but paved roads

no. Moonscar. There was the soccer
newspaper boy, there was love too
sort of floating between our slick
bodies like a dandelion seed.
Itchy. And here’s a thing: I know

to feel lucky about the love but
in all of history I am my sole friend
who came to hate the dress I wore
like a conspiracy—like tinfoil—as if
I were tart made for popping and in-

side, the lava. Once upon the arc of
anyone’s becoming, even brainiac
mine, Molly’s was the only possible
Bloomsday. Yes and yes. To give. To
give in. I don't know why or how

I peeled gilt leaf off my exposure.
If I had that acetone I’d send it
round parked cars and YouTube
makeup tutorials. I remember waking
one day, not the next, thinking

*my body is all I am* and that
maybe to a thinking girl that might
mean I should stop finding it un-
trussed, ungunnysacked, so hideous
only glitter glaze could save it.

It came to me. And it was just like
realizing (thank you god) there is no
heaven. I'm not asking you to believe
me, I’m just telling you it was
Just Like No Heaven—that song—

it came over me suddenly, just like.



They aren't that much like teeth
She was mistaken
The white stones she places
along the furrow

The handful of river dirt she held
in a folded page in her pocket
is a darker, redder shade
against the gray-black mud

Satisfied with the arrangement
she lifts and replaces
lifts and replaces
each stone     cedarberry      splinter of glass

Waves a hand over it
Her earthwork     Her letter
Each word drifts in the zone

of knowing      just above certain ground

Figure 15

Therefore I would rather imagine a form 
that shows me 
something of the breath
by taking it  in erotic theft  or mystery
Maybe it lives in a handbook (loose leafed and palpably unsettled)  a handbook unbound to accommodate its shifts and accumulations its ever extending footnotes long and curious trails tendriling out untethered         but we are bound a portion of the head book did decree bound to a bloated power coagulated termed and conditioned by the maskonthebackoftheheadbook not to be mistaken with the throatbook or scapulabook    the longthighbook thickthighbook sticky at the apex with wanderlusteggbooks their differences vast and infinite the vasdeferensbook the both&/orbeyondbook either my eviscerated entrails that spell my name correctly or the atlas bearing the solipsistic weight of the practicallydisembodiedheadbook cogito ergo summer cannot come soon enough I have spent the winter perched on my buttbook with its asshole mouth forever involving involved the slackjawbook the pinealbook of ovum and caesura but I digress          therefore the distance tasted me

Affect-moulding behaviour

(Milk) expression. Napoleon thought he was civilized
and civilizing when he marched his army to Egypt
in 1798. And in 1932 the Seventh Heavy Battery
of the Royal Australian Artillery alighted at
Campion in Western Australia to shoot migrating emu.
That was this morning. Is a breast pump face plate
replaceable? When babies who can barely
speak great each other with waves. Rabbits touch noses,
and I am strangely familiar with colleagues. We're
alive, please don't fire me. The breast pump face
plate is broken. There is no one to appreciate
how calm I am or see my abbreviated rage
toward this badly-made object, it's design unchanged
since the 30s. Abbreviated rage about metonymy:
that old cow. There's this idea that animals can
shake off stress and not take things personally.
There's this idea that we can suffer less.

You want to get on a plane just to get a glimpse of a woman’s thigh.
            ~ Don Draper

I was going to write about death will I see the magnolia I planted last spring grow tall strong as my boy I was going to write about death my obsession with portals death the definitive I was going to write about death how I bathed the elders as they died how the elders died from the feet up the two years I worked in a nursing home how they died alone this morning I hiked the beach at low tide a death smell forest trails water roared up their sides I was going to write about death when I saw the news a plane crashed a 737 fell out of the sky fell out kept falling kept falling I was going to write about death not a woman getting sucked out of an airplane window I was going to write about death not a plane crash a 737 an airplane I may have built I may have may have wired that engine I may have may have slung electricity across its fuselage I may have crimped and tied and knotted and bolted and tightened and polished its bright eerie wing I may have I may have 30 years in the factory I was going to write about death today but not this not this not this gleam bird that may have my fingerprints in its belly my breath whispered into its cold titanium mouth its skin I was going to write about death but my stomach lurched into my throat and won’t come won’t come won’t come down

Dear So and So [for Sandra Simonds]

 Why can't sheer / beauty kill this century / the way it kills me?
--Sandra Simonds, Further Problems with Pleasure

I am doing it, the thing you said could not be done,
writing this letter to you,
of all people, in defiance
of the anticapitalist hegemony,
which exists only in the mind
of my eighteen-year-old son.

Writing to you because I remember
the night we met, featured at that Famous Reading Series,
two mothers with children,
one single and one to be eventually,
each the author of one slim volume,
which you have done again many time,
and I, well, that's why I am here today, with my notebook and pen
in a secret location in Manhattan close to the arbiters
of All That Is Best in American Poetry, anticipating
the reading I wll go to later
that I will see my beloved teacher
and the others who were also her students
back before my life began,
when I was new to the city and in my thirties,
thinking I was starting a whole new life, that I had
already lived through really
I had not yet learned what it meant to live,
what everyone was talking about when they said,
"Life's a Bitch," "Life Sucks and then you die," when Sinatra sang "That's Life"
and someone was shaking in their shoes afraid of him.

Because you are younger and thinner and more beautiful
and I am just trying not to eat this entire giant oatmeal
chocolate chunk cookie-scone thing from an organic baker
in the Union Square Market, I will win this battle
but lose so many others, tonight I will not say no to vodka
and that night at the KGB Bar I had not yet learned to drink gin,
which I would get much later from the capitalist pig
(blond and tall and blue-eyed like every good Aryan)
who gave me a taste for Hendricks
from the leather bound martini set he kept
in the boot of his Beemer.

You, today, are my So and So, and it gives me the idea I should
write to other So and Sos, the women poets, yes, all the women...

Bloodlines aside we are sisters
for we have known the terrible nights
of the vomiting, diarrheaic child
the comfort and the endless endless cleaning,
the mama mama MAMA MOMMY MO MO MO
and the true love always
and the notes of goodbye,
the scent of paranoia in a ring.

I have been reading you
and here I am in very tricky territory


It's always a crapshoot when poetry
is bought and sold even for so
little money that poets have to be
publishers or professors or editors or bartenders
or non-profit managers or anything
that pays the bills better than poetry,
which is almost anything. Poetry is not at all
pulling its weight in the creative economy.

You, too, are a professor so at least
we do get longer vacations than if we
worked in Wal-Mart or even the Air Force base,
and oh I cannot picture you as a GS class
civilian in your emerald green dress with your emerald
green eyes and raven hair, like some civil service
Snow White in the Department of Defense.

So I will have a vodka or coffee or virtual glass of water
with you, read more of your poems and later
maybe tag you in the photo of your book on top
of my notebooks, the social
network of poetry sanitized for digital
feed, the characters blurring into gray
blobs of text as readers click
and drift away to check their phones.
I will still be here for you, reading
and writing and making America safe
for single moms and often desperate
and heroic So and Sos who after all make up
the electorate, the proletariat, and the pleasure principle
practitioners pow pow pow pop pop pop peep peep

Frog and Toad are Friends 16

 Babe stands over Griselda’s body and feels the wrong feeling. Jealousy. It looks like G went quickly, painlessly. Maybe an aneurysm. Of course Make Do has plenty of devices that can make it look that way. She checks Rabbit from the side of her eye. He wouldn’t notice. Rabbit has never caught her having a feeling she was actually having. Still, she feels exposed. Maybe to G, her body, her spirit. Babe’s unsure about spirits.  I’m sorry, she thinks hard. And then, I’m sorry this happened to you. Crumpled Griselda on Frog’s green shag rug. “Like spring!” he’d said. And they did picnic on it. Frog did toss yellow flower petals to wither on it, lie back on it as though high gazing at clouds, sing bittersweet ballads with all the windows open and the warm breeze making Babe feel alive in a way she didn’t quite like. Crumpled Griselda where once Babe proved she could still do a backbend, but her handstand got wobbly and she kicked the low metal table. Where Frog plucked the handkerchief from his pocket and the ice from his whiskey so that her toe wouldn’t swell. Griselda lying still on her side curved as a C with a thick strand of yarn clamped between her lips. “What is it?” Babe asks, not looking up from the navy yarn, fuzzed out at the edges, knotted with a loop at its end. “Dunno,” says Rabbit a good five feet away. He’s looking out the window, up at the tiled ceiling, crouching down, standing back up, staring at the clock. He’s figuring. Babe should do her part, but it hurts to Big Think so far from home. She doesn’t have all night, either. She left the eldest in charge, a frozen pizza, a box of mozzarella sticks, a bag of baby carrots. Not babies, they insist. They’re regular carrots cut little. Rabbit has pushed the velour couch against the wall so that they have room to lay out the sheet onto which they’ll roll Griselda’s body. It’s got a plastic barrier on one side and a sort of microfiber material on the other that will attract all stray hairs, fibers, particles. They’ll wipe the rug down with a cloth of the same fabric, vacuum, wipe again, vacuum again. Babe thinks how long it’s been since she’s run the vacuum at home. She tries not to think about what the children and cats track in. Sand is cleaner than mud, anyhow, she reasons. Babe looks full on at Rabbit, now. He’s wearing the same papery white suit she is. They’ll shed these later, burn the clothes beneath, and there really won’t be a trace of them left. Just like their appears to be no trace of Frog. Out the window, Orion is rising. Babe longs to lean her bare back against that cool sword of stars. Or maybe it burns. She longs to be large enough and away from here. She longs to go with Griselda, and thinks take me with you, G.