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
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
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
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.
from Berlin to Paris
and nothing caught my eye,
except the smoke in yours.
Published in Dewpoint