The sun threw down its red-pulsed track
of endings—I’d rather have driven straight
through the night to a day at the beach, though
on the way back the car would begin hissing,
as if a great rage had been beaten into the steel
like song. At low tide we set a course over wet sand,
dry sand, sand flattened, wind-chased into gullies
and mounds. Like children, we heaved the ball
with the butt of the stick, called it air croquet.
Later our son would paint the sea and sky meeting
at some point of confusion, his parents glued-on bits
receding into the blue and white nonchalance
of the afternoon. Where failure was expected and winning
miraculous, and everything could be explained.
How the sand closed over our feet like slow water.
first published in Comstock Review
In doors that have opened and slammed shut,
among heads slumped on the tables of wine,
in a voice polished by frosts and upheavals.
In longing, turning its back on the violins,
in trees closing their arms. In the glass
of an afternoon, its blue half hour on empty.
Among eyes, dragging you in. Cut yellow
of lemon, salt poured down. In the green boat
of a bed, beached and the water retreating.
In a curious bird, sound of spilled water, hand
made of mirrors. In rain on the acid page, a chorus
in the pond's throat. One arrow on a branch
practicing silence. You never know who is praying,
just at the moment, not the first time you hear it.
The Bitter Oleander, 2012
from Middle English rum from Old English rume (roomy, ample, spacious, unencumbered, temporal, liberal, unfettered, far-reaching, abundant) from Proto-Germanic rumaz from Proto-Indo-European rowa (free space). Cognate with Dutch ruim (wide), Scots roum (spacious, roomy), Danish rum, Icelandic rumur
1. suitable scope or opportunity, as in room for doubt, as inthat cloud in the shape of a fist gives me room for thought
2. people, as in when anyone mentions poetry the room becomes silent
3. a space that holds or can hold something, as in I long for wildness, a nature which I cannot put my foot through –Thoreau
4. something capacious, as in (a): clearing (sky, forest), (b): form (sonata, stanza), (c): intent (a space leaves shed through), (d) need, as in pipe down! I need room to think
5. ant. a space confined from other spaces by walls, ceilings, floors
6. comb. form to create a space, to free from obstruction, as in make room!
7. adj. open, unencumbered, loose, lax, ample, spacious
8. var. leeway, tangent, meander, margin, latitude, play
Like a linen sheet on a clothesline
or curtains in a sick room the child
lifts with her hand, like the featureless
walls of an asylum, white fever, a winter walk
with dogs, breath like a plume of smoke
veiling the trees, heavy as billows lifting from fire,
warm as the steam from an engine, far off
as a white note 57 octaves below middle C
singing from a black hole in space,
the fog inside a white dress,
the body pressed through the skin by sound,
white matter of the spine, the smoke
of words, the white cells entangled
in a mesh, a hedge of white thorns,
bone calcium, cartilage glass,
the acne, the wen, the spits like clouds, filaments
of the cell at the moment of division,
fat like a hearth, like a white winter fire,
the spot inside the eye which bends light,
a white stone cataract, falling water becoming air,
air inside the lungs, sleep without dreaming,
the placental bath of drifting matter,
of urine, semen, tumor, of the egg,
the gray matter in wet paper, what lifts
from the garbage heap, the breath of seagulls
and horses, the air caught between blind trees,
clouds of the last things, the body’s x-ray
vision, the fog after sickness
and recovery, rain and the end
of rain, words on a blackboard, erased.
The Bitter Oleander, 2008
Before my lungs, before
the oxygen’s indifference, there
was the river and I was in it
as my father was, dreaming
of boats, of the speed he would lay
into the keel, how he would take
the river’s glitter and chop, how
he would play the river, win
or lose, fast curve or cold baptism.
Would everything fall away
from him in the water, what he loved
or didn’t, his wife, his children,
fall away and come back with him
out of the river? And did my mother
dream sometimes of water, spread
hands across the yellow-veined stones
the green and brown ones, as if
to trade away the buoyancy
and hard heat of her life? For how long
and why do I see myself out of
my own body, cool and solid and bare,
my human face exchanged for the skin
of water? If I’m the river bottom
I’m looking up through clear water,
a child who once jumped off a dock
and went down fast.
Bellingham Review, 2004
A box hinged in the middle and open, like a
replication of two confinements, something
to escape or be lifted from. So form
appears as imposition and restraint
answering what is deep and unquestioned
and constantly misspelled -- commitment
one such word, like a shrinking, and life
struggles onward drinking freedom
in sometimes bitter gulps. But here,
the brush of an artist bristles against
one edge and two oranges spill from a shape
like the wooden clothespins of another age,
a figure shrouded in white, arms held
to the side and backed by shadow and light.
When I was a child, someone took my photograph
at the beach, and whether my pose was due to cold
or wind in my hair or the need to rise to an image
of strict behavior, I am stiff as a soldier. Held
by the camera’s insistence, I was what I was.
But now I see one edge of the box is missing,
and the pale figure balances loosely before
emptiness and an orange fire. As leaning
from form and its blackened edge, the heart
clamors from a body that can only partly contain it.
Cream City Review, 2003 Poetry Contest Winner
What could happen if something like a knife
like hands along the furrows of the spine
unbutton from bones the drum of the trapezius
and free the muscled wings? Days when the back
knots, when a woman walks by, eyeing
the sidewalk, her arms filled with the borrowed white
of daisies, and I think she has dusted the things
of this life so long her cloth is ragged, unspeakable.
Is it wrong to think of a lit candle inside her,
the liturgy of incense, wine’s hearty erasure? Wind
strung like heaven above the street buzzes the avenues
of squirrels and crows, and the encroaching maples
of the afterlife shed like lounging dogs. Since
I have rejected their medium-length shadows, which
rosy virgin of hope saves me from myself? Pink
tears harden to plastic beads. A woman lies down
to let shadows drape her back, a scarf of heat
as green afternoons pause her face and her sister
and the dog. Cars drouse, dreaming of offices,
and verbs change gears. Where I feel is strange
tickling, aches, the stump of wings, some wild
indifference singing grief is grief and gone.
32 Poems, 2003
In the painting their faces are blank
as a good place to lie down in, dreaming
of a boy who’d arrive with kisses.
Unaccountably green, their skin flattens,
and the seven windows of their souls
are small and shuttered. So lost
in unspeakable thought they seem blinded,
as once when I lay in fields, my cousin
over me, his fumbling distant
and tangled though in grass I was buried
already. Nearly metallic and smooth,
an apparent order drones in flight
above mountains whose identical peaks
gnaw the sky and the men who are smoking.
Pipes droop from their mouths
like the yellow tongues of dogs. When farmers
burned the fields a plume of straw
and vapor rose straight from the ground.
Without wind the air was inward
and still as the great thing went up.
As the men do not speak. Their mouths
are wholly consumed with burning.
American Literary Review, 2002
Away from the light that bleeds all night
into the sky, we have stirred the dust
and pitched our tents to wait
for the moonless night, when light falls
and then rises into pin-point stars, into dust
and gas of the great galactic smear, this
Milky Way, our home halfway on a rough-edged,
spiral arm. Saturn in Aquarius, Jupiter
in the scorpion’s claw, the dim blue wanderers
so far out, though the stars are farther,
they will be lifetimes rounding the sun.
Down here we have turned away
from the lavish moon to be dark, to lose
sight of our hands and move like shadows,
trusting our feet over unknown ground.
All night we tilt our mirrors to the light
and name a familiar sky: Cassiopeia, Andromeda,
Cygnus and Perseus, Ursa Major snuffling west.
All night the ancient stories burn: beauty’s
brag and the sea’s revenge, hubris, devotion,
the lovers breathing under their animal skins,
until Orion, the long lost husband, rises
before the dawn, and we lie down in the mercy
of darkness, each star intimate
as all we have ever longed for, and lost.
Willow Springs, 1996