Mine is flinty at best, a fire struck with stone and char.
Cluttered with the junk
of music and metaphor,
it sometimes moves
through me brumal and wracked.
When it’s gone, I grow foot-sore from pacing,
with fear it will never come back.
But then, it does with its yes and now, bringing both
the tiny storms of summer—
the deep after-rain smell of earth—
and the sorry news of the world,
all of it sweeping toward me from a great far away.
I hold out my hands for its must-have grace.
Put in motion under a weld of stars
when good times are scarce,
it comes as a bridge I am called to cross,
cables harping in the wind,
the Milky Way falling toward me but not quite.
Never the same, it comes back.
I put my hand into its fire
until there’s no more pain,
but clean white bones
and my mouth
something like prayer.
Ocean Breeze Sonnet
The health care workers line up to smoke
in front of Ocean Breeze on Dixie Highway.
Who can blame them, stuck inside all day
with aging baby boomers who might blow
a gasket, shaking their fists—sundown
syndrome. They’ve just changed the clocks,
set back time so everyone can gain a little
life, but the poor beach down the street
is thinning like Sylvester’s hair. The waves
encroach like death. Soon there’ll be no sand,
no towers filled with folks from Great Neck
and Totowa who came here to die warm.
The health care workers will be glad they didn’t
quit, their cigarette tips sending small flares.
Fishing line spent
on wind waves
the wild streak
snagged and sailed
from a splintered pylon
a thumb prying
a question of who
owns the day
the tease of flight
stood on waste ground in absurd sunshine
watching the window
where they stretchered and removed him
but only in body
it was I
who was truly gone
beer without yeast
cake without cream
worm without hope
no obstacle now for the wind
blowing summer grit
right through my bones
meeting nil resistance
One sheet, a fleet of pleats,
valley-fold the front flap down
to crease a girl into sixteenths.
Keep her center stationary,
foot to eyebrow flat. Press lightly.
Shapes traced, fingertip print
foil paper, crepe, vellum crane
rising sun inverted, all the things
a woman might become.
Seamstress, scapegoat, socialite,
sweet, sweet songbird, nun,
harlot (only a fold between the two).
Orient her anatomy, then spread
open the accordion pleats.
Rabbit-ear her arms and wrap
the dress even front to back.
Turn her over now. Crimp
her neck. Make six reverse folds
on the skirt. For a hummingbird
throat, try the petal tuck.
A lady requires more intricate
plaits. Round out to taste.
Push in the nape and squeeze-
fold her legs, note crease
her feet, adjust so she stands.
To the End
So angry in the first light of day as he lay in his hospital bed
with the metal guards upraised, stuck on his heath for good,
demented but aware of the time and bent on fighting to the end,
old marine that he was who’d never been to war, but had
in his head, destroying his enemies one by one except
this one without any form—a cough, some stars, a twinge;
no more “good mornings” to the team of men in their uniforms
of scrubs and gloves—just “godammit” again and again,
so much vim still left in him as they stripped him bare
in his uric bed and pinned him down while begging him
to “please stop fighting” then strapped him in to a human crane
that raised him up like a missing piece and rolled him in
to the sterile bath where they washed him clean as he hung
in the air and dressed him there in olive green and brought him
back into his room that was not his room where they lowered
him down to his special chair in which he sighed, then grinned,
as if he’d won again and was ready now to greet his son
who’d travelled such a long long way to say good bye.
The Last Ever Monster Poem
Though I lost both my bolts trying to think
myself human I still have that fable
carved into my most ample forehead
from that time when the sky almost fried me.
Then again, I’m so fit from slipping out
from your torches and thrust forks (apart
from my heart manufacturing a mess of irregular beats
and these arteries blocked almost black)
that I’m busting out of this stitch and that,
putting more and more meat to these memories.
For behind the oft-pitched philosophies
aren’t we all fretful animals in lock-down,
sore at this world, which won’t have us unless
cowed by its blessings, speaking well of it endlessly?
Your farmers and midwives would have me the cause
of the mare’s many miscarriages, the eye
that stares back from the egg, so blood shot and knowing;
yet theirs are the notions that for eons
have emptied the trees of most song.
We once billed the future the final tour for the restless
but now it’s swallowed us whole, anxiety and all,
along with that legend that once had us speaking
the same arcane language as nature.
At first I was met with barn after barn–
the morning and its pedigree light barred and sullied by dust,
this idyllic childhood jogged from another’s doomed noodling,
until a bull with its devilish horns, its face this big festering grin,
seemed to blot out the sun and all matter not gotten
from manure or gnat-swarm seemed ascended to bell tinkles, lowing.
And once I’d heard the hellish in everything, I knew it all holy.
Can I ever forgive them, the fathers who knew all
too well they’d smeared heaven past anything blissful?
Oh God, I’m now numb from the lip up, bewildered.
By my brim any inference to my brain ends with bile and rim-shots.
I no longer dream of the womb they’d denied me,
the breast I never formed a mother’s name.
Instead I look back on my miraculous birth
and record all they took from me by contrivance and fire.
What they didn’t want to look at they struck from the books
but I have always been able to stomach the earth in its entirety.
For centuries they’ve been readying the dirt
for my clubfeet and smirk, my inexplicable size,
but it’s the sins I’ve inherited that will outlive their children,
singeing the pages of their tallest and most maligned tales.