Archive for the ‘2013’ Category

We Were Little Girls

Sunday, June 9th, 2019

for Tammy, Talia and Sage

We were little girls without breasts or hips.
Your skin light brown, mine bilirubin white.
You on a ten speed, me a dirt bike.
Five boys surrounded the building site.
It had been raining a long time. There was mud.
Rich honeybrown Illinois mud.

We stepped in gingerly, until –our thrill!—
we were up to our knees in liquid earth.
We wrestled there like girls, best friends,
not to hurt or dominate or pose for boys,
but for the fact of mud slick on our skin,
matting our hair, staining our terry cloth clothes.

I don’t recall the tactical wrestling
as much as the practical joy, Tammy,
the daring doing of something girls don’t do,
and the awe of boys who did not join us.
We walked home caked and proud as the sun sank low
to your little white house with red brick façade,

set up on a steep lot we used roll down like logs
despite itchy chiggers. We rang the doorbell,
grinning. “Hi, Mom!” we chimed loud.
Your mother’s blue eyes were huge and mock serious.
“Not in my house! Out back! Garden hose! Now!”
Remember? Squealing, we poured cold ropes of water

across the muddy continents of our girlhood,
brown rivers tracing the valleys of our knees,
flooding the plains of our hopeful chests and sloping bellies,
skinny arms and legs raising hair like new trees,
raising up the brazen women we would later be,
quaking in the half light of a late September.


Three Bodies in Six Realms
Collage, 2013

Wednesday, December 16th, 2015

Three Bodies in Six Realms, Collage, 2013

Some friends once gave me 30 years worth of National Geographic magazines. A couple years ago, I finally put a few of them to use. This is my first attempt at old fashioned collage using an Exacto knife and glue.

Tiny Birds

Sunday, October 26th, 2014

Beaks buried in nectar,
Bodies buddhas,
Wings blur.

We study throats,
Rusty bellies
In books, windows.

My grandmother’s words
Were once full
Of hummingbirds.

Last night, every time
We kissed, one
Burned inside my dark mind.

When the feeder tips,
The tiny bird
Moves with it.


Mistaken Metaphors at Close Range

Thursday, December 26th, 2013

Some ancestor of the pyramids
Landed on Plymouth Rock
And started making bricks

To throw from a ladder
In the wide bearded sky,
Mistaking metaphor, boarding doors.

Fast forward: pawns knee deep
In ocean foam wring their velvet
Coats upon the shore. Kites grieve.

Revolver barrels gleam, growing
Boys evolve machine gun clarity
On screens. Televisions drown.

This is our Eight of Swords warning.
Beg your daughters, teach your sons:
Scribble golden pentacles on your arms!

in response to Mark Kreger’s art exhibit, At Close Range

The Bardo of the Sea

Monday, December 23rd, 2013

I’ve been knee deep
In the sea from the moment
I gave up duality.

TVs don’t reach me.
My red boat is always just
Within reach.

Darling, I bring you
A white package.
It is empty.

When you unwrap
The bow, it will be like pouring
Water into water.

We fill it with flaming
Tumbleweeds, open-eyed kisses,
Our own make-believe distance.

Oh, knee deep blisses!
Deep ignorances!
Let’s dive.

in response to Mark Kreger’s painting, The Crossing


Monday, December 16th, 2013

I was too big, he lied
and slit my mother open,

belly blinking
a great vertical eye,

and pulled me out,
blood pupil, iris child.


What is Left

Friday, December 13th, 2013

The piano (I bought
with the money left me
by my sister who left
the world eyes open
in her own guest bed
where our mother slept)
out in the abandoned
dairy barn, for which
there is no room
in this small
warm house,
and the stacks
of monochromatic
oil paintings of men’s
and women’s bodies
that were always only
ever mine, but for whom
there is a lack of walls,
will not withstand
the cracking cold,
the thaw.



Friday, November 29th, 2013

We could say the planet is a head,
Its nose the Atlantic,
The corners of its mouth
The tips of puzzled continents,
Its eyes the U.S. and Middle East,
If eyes were power,
If power were crude.
But darlings, the globe is no head.

What metaphor are we,
With 15 billion eyes and ears,
Wombs doubling life
Into gloved and unwashed hands,
Spilling what’s left
Into blind hospital buckets,
Deaf dirt floors.
What metaphor?

Perhaps instead the earth
Is a metaphor for us—
Ancient, once whole,
Always drifting,
A war of currents,
Frozen in our furthest reaches.
I would give up this globe
If I could.

When I wake up,
My eyes are no seas,
My voice is no America,
My skin is no Scotland,
My womb is no Switzerland,
My heart is no Ireland,
My hands are no Germany,
My name is no Wales.

Poems cannot hold me.
I am content to stand—
Unsure of land and words—
And walk across the room to you
Who are no Africa, no Omaha, no Mississippi,
But space wrapped in a man.
They’ll say you are a metaphor for me;
I am a metaphor for you.


The Treachery of Neighbors

Sunday, November 24th, 2013

We watch from behind
The wire that burns.

Have worried
The proper distance
From their box in the grass,
Its swinging doors.

Sometimes the windows laugh.

The curly cow
Throws cobs we ignore,
Comes and goes;
Glances linger
Over her shoulder.

Every dawn she disappears,
A silver breath cut through pasture,
Returns with many bags.

She chews
A grassy language.
Sometimes moos.

The big bull
And their calves moo, too.

This would be confusing
But for the vacant
Stillness in their eyes.

That we recognize.

Alone, each studies us
And breathes.

They rarely stop
In twos and threes.

How eerie
We never see them eat.


The North Wind

Monday, November 18th, 2013

Herds of tumbleweeds,
Hounded by the prairie rake,
Tremble on fences.


In morning’s hurry, I didn’t notice clouds

Friday, November 15th, 2013

So grey and low, like the cloud you brought
to bed November named, weighing not
of whales or weaning calves, but two small girls,
seventeen hundred miles between and three
and a half years of no visiting while you hid
in mountains, swam in the eyes of a woman
who could not love, heavy as she was with drink.

I bring my own cloud named October, leaden
with my long-dead sister, our fatherless childhood.
I am not your child, love, but I am proof.
Of what? What grows in the empty space
left by fathers? How many times will fall
return before you climb into the arms
of my fatherborn words: You are a good man.

with thanks to Rosemerry for the whales

A Lumen Who

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013

after Wendy Videlock

This woman is a lumen who
Would seem to understand

How all at once
She’s tube of flesh,

And flux of light,
And empty plant.


Yawning Towards Guernica to be Born

Friday, November 1st, 2013

It so happens I’m tired
Of not being able to tell you
What I’m tired of.

Dull thirty-eight-eyed apathy,
Here’s my professional smile.

Screen-livers, blissful killers
Of HD enemies,
Laughing Picassoless packs:

Here is uncold cold,
Hot tiny haiku ices
Pricking 3-D cheeks.

Feel. You study Guernica
For the dates, perhaps
The gentleman’s C.

How boring to be tired like this.
The day the paper is due,
Half the class goes missing.

Our apathy is bigger
Than absent Mondays,
Late October fog,

Carpet hallways
And free popcorn.

Tired of Excel sheets
And my own signature,
I swallow complaint.
Eat paper. Gag. Pay bills.

It drives me to seek
Nothing in everything.
Some brand of happy nihilism.

Brave the hollow!
Like Neruda’s woody root
Moved through,
Words spread out, destined.

Rhyzomic, blind and empty.
We reach to mean outwardly.

But let’s say our word-carved features
Are simply furniture rearranged.

We’ll never know who is sitting
In us, for how long, or where.
But surely, the who will get tired
Of the view and move on.



Monday, October 21st, 2013

I cut out five
People’s hearts
To find who
I thought was me.
Salt woman, I uprooted
While the family house fell,
Yet the walls still stood.
One of the hearts
Was mine, listening.

Its right ear pressed
To the floor, the other to the sky.
The colonel couldn’t have them anymore.
When I fucked myself over,
I was my own colonel.

Now I build the house
I loved and left, over and over
In my mind. Its bathroom
Made of slate and free light.
He who loves me now,
Who heals my grief, builds it again
For my feet. I shower there.

To construct peace, to make
Love, to reconcile/ to reach
The limits of ourselves/ to let go
The means, to wake.

When I wash off the mask, the one
In which I am swimming Kate
Or Virginia heavy with rocks,
His eyes are so soft
On me I can’t blink or turn back.

The voice inside
The mask said his smile
Has baobab roots. That is when
I knew I was worth my salt.

Salt in the seams
Of my dirty laundry.
I danced it for him.
He danced his for me.
We were beautiful.
We washed and folded
What wasn’t us.
Tucked it into magic
Drawers. Our eyes—
Always naked,
Four open doors.

No words walk
The path between them.
How is it this space
Is the house of every god?

with thanks to Julie Cummings for
helping me build an eight-room poem,
Carolyn Forché for the colonel
and Muriel Rukeyser for the fourth room

The Flood

Tuesday, October 8th, 2013

We doubted the water would come
and slept without clothes—
the privilege of the blithe and warm.

Valuables left down low,
we slept, sure four miles
of rising plains would swallow

the river, its tossled snakes
and mountain limbs, long
before it swallowed ours.

You folded into night and me,
Scant light, our fragile boat.
Uneasy waking, 3 a.m.—

highway and house
without a hum. No semis.
No power. No water pump.

(Proud child of apocalypse, I had filled
the jugs despite your gentle jibe,
Oh, baby, we won’t lose electricity.)

Curiosity dressed and drove
us to the bridge they wouldn’t let us see.
Fat men and flashing sent us home.

We never saw it rise, love, but of course it rose
a mile wide. Next morning, yesterday’s
unconcerned cows grazed on higher ground.

I only dreamed it dark and slow,
inching up the edges of my low-banked
mind, the cool swell eating my

silent roads and fish bone shores,
forcing us north of the river, of towns—
for three days, bridgeless, blessed.

Drinking from the hard well,
Love wrung out our water
while others fell and homes molded

one hundred miles west.
I’m not sorry they were blissful days.
Is that horrible to say?