The Seamstress And The Tailor



I remember her trying me on, hands

                          slipping through holes in my words.

                                     fingers dripping in adjective oil, tying


the nouns and pronouns together

                    for fear they might be unwound or erased

                                  like so many names in the poems before

                                                      her own walked across the page.


Thus began our obsession with fashion:

                              the when to strip down and tease the light

                                                    with every trembling violent verb,


the when to dress up and shelter the skin

                                       from all things cold in a stranger’s eye.

                                                               But only things that are cold.


When the sanctity of speech is threatened,

                               the ten commandments on the stone of our bed

                                                       bouncing like Babel with no line breaks,


an unholy syntax of do it or else, expecting too much

                                from lovers of words, only then do we slowly consider

                                                          what cloth should grace the body gone silent.


Relics of the runway we are not.

                                  The seamstress in me and the tailor in her

                                                     are bound by garments made of trees.


We bleed paper from metaphor’s marrow,

                                       red ink suffers the least in this world.

                                                       Everyone knows that by now.    

Published in Common Ground Review                             






A Ghost Minority

Some people come to this B-movie town for how intense simplicity feels, for what it’s like to be extras in a world, drunk on beauty, and sad they can’t be more. Down on Front Street, restaurants and stores border the Penn Cove shore, where not long ago baby whales screamed as their mothers were dragged away onto boats to live behind glass until death. But they died then, unknown to the world, in front of a camera’s glass eye.

Oh, Coupeville, I’m only one percent of eighteen hundred minds, a ghost minority telling the world what the majority won’t. Like why Pratt’s feet in his grave point north, to throw off the angels on judgment day when they come for the Saints of Sunnyside. And why he built a cabin for his boy to live in, shielding his ears from the flesh he loved through twenty five feet of silence.

Other unmarked historical scars are not important now, not as important as the words in my mind diving at me from a raptor’s height, like Alastair Reid’s, “Islands seem to take revenge on those who regard them as personal Eden’s.” I do not staff the Welcome Center to a world made famous by mussels and clams, where anyone’s likely to open and close and find something missing inside, something smaller than a whale.

Published in WA 129 Poetry Anthology


At The Corner Of Heavy And Acquaintance


Somewhere, someone

                                    is so tired of you,

the sound of your name

                         makes them heavy with acquaintance.


Heavy as in a metal jock strap

                            protecting them from longing.

Heavy as in when hearing hello

                           their spine becomes a cobra.


Remind me, again, why my hand

                              cut a hole in your throat:

object removal, a flower vase,

                      a window your heart could

escape through at night

                             to teach the world a lesson?


Tenderness rarely occurs to me

                    at the hour you shame the moon,

turning it yellow as a caution light,

                       where you decide you can’t decide

if you have the power to shine.


I wish the end were different,

                        beauty blooming instead of rocks

in a grave beneath your chin,

                       words falling down the stem of your neck

in the window of a store on a street we loved

                                            where faces stopped to listen.

Published in Sheila-Na-Gig




Different Degrees of Radiance

                                                                                      For Laura

A hawk hovers above the fields dying edge,

like a laying on of hands, like yours,


always, so steady, benevolent,

unlike claws fouled with flesh, more


like the calloused palms of a saint

praying the rosary of my spine.


The light’s decision to shine here too,

content with the radiance of different degrees


is why Fir trees agree with a frozen sky

to stand till the ice says kneel.


The luminous, calm, daily vow

of four muddy feet on the middle path,


brings an end to the power of hungry ghosts

fed from wings of delusion. Unlike yours,


so wild with deliverance, that force

me to worship the ground.


Published in the Birmingham Arts Journal









Confessions Of A Pentecostal Buddhist


Baptized in the church of Pygmy rattler fangs

hanging from my foot like prayer bells in Tibet,

the water, I submit, was cold and confidential,

a lesson from the gospel of drown me Lord quick.

Obedient and skilled at the gestures of deliverance,

those hands knew how to shake and bring down fire.


Clouds of smoke crossed my eyes

from yards ablaze in Selma, then floated

to St. Petersburg where ash found a home.

Daddy’s letters from Saigon proved a man still loved me.

I sucked the envelopes of air and kissed him

on the stamps. Momma’s little boy became


a man with freckles, a buzz-cut adolescent

with apocalyptic leanings. Thinking Arsenic

must be sugar’s evil twin, I tried to poison her

with Sweet and Low, but only made her kinder.

Thus began my interest in pink bags with powder,

a way to live with lightning without the coming storm.


Walking on the wild side to a land of naked strangers,

this novice of the night mistook daylight for the devil.

Many years would pass before the cushion and my mind

had covert conversations about the here and now. 


I remember when they started, where I was,

and what we said.  It’s why a candle burns 

on the altar of my flesh, swaying back and forth

between the wounds and wonder.

Published in Permafrost Magazine






The Architect’s Son


Every boy is an architect’s son.

Every son’s neck is a skyscraper burning

a hole in the heaven of fathers. In time

the rain will come, but tears will only

extinguish the rage for maybe a day

that feels like a year, or until

the skin grows numb to the light

and darkness puts on a baseball glove

catching everything his mouth throws at you,

one hard word after another.


Leather is the love, you thought was a hand,

she said was a dragon’s tail.

No mother in her own right mind

would dare break the architect’s pencil.

Lead poisoning, God poisoning,

a rattlesnake’s song humming loud in my foot.

If only the grass would have told me,

that earth is a refuge for pain,

I could have used the venom in me,

instead of the ink in my pen.


Publshed in Assaracus Review


Eleven Hours



Darkness is nothing

                               if not expectation

turning its back to the light.


Rarely does the spine agree

                       to the fingertip’s shadows,

so sheer and blue,

                        climbing the stairs

to your mind.


Which is why

                       when you rolled back

toward me with your hands


tied behind you, telling me

               that the smoke in your eyes

meant the tunnels in flames,  


I lingered there,

                     dropped the coal and

let the engine sing.


Eleven hours

                   from Berlin to Paris

 and nothing caught my eye,

except the smoke in yours.

Published in Dewpoint