Poetry: AV11-Poetry


Anxiety’s Raiment

Steeped in anxiety’s raiment. I go out. I come back in. Memory’s
vacant strap. There are always small birds twittering at
dawn. Battery life with its hollow echo. It’s eternity when the
power’s off. Coming back on. I row across quiet as if we were
bedmates counting each other’s fingers and toes.

After two centuries of increasing loneliness, I hang my little purse
on a peg. Each pedestrian hunches beneath her singular umbrella,
while light from the grand boulevards gilds it all. There is a
photograph that could not have been taken. A demolition artist
holding a cluster of forgotten ligaments.

Every notion breaks light as through a washed blind. I stir the air
with my commonplaces. Chemical response. Thinking it over.

There are so many nests at the very height. Cacophony’s flutter. I
know it must cease soon. Air my most industrious companion. Flared
out. Lantern fueled by water, wasteland. I bury the toxin deep and
then step back. Clothespin to my nose.

Barbed wire staves off the birds. Mows the wan the newly
warm. Replaces sinew. Sun’s out and I’m caught in catastrophe’s
elbow room. Gridlock’s chatter. Just a sketch now. A partially
destroyed event left out in the public domain.

two peas in a pod

if mind just is brain
raw silk as supple as
seeking many raptures

if mind just is brain
raw silk never as supple as
hunting for such raptures

if silk just is raw
rapture as supple as
seeking brainy oysters

if silk just is raw
rapture never as supple as
hunting for such oysters


The body is skittish
The body lies in a neighborhood
		scraped away when built
								lair in the swale
						         causes meteorological disturbances
Dormant edge where wood becomes word
		already on the outs
								boys squirreled into knots
						         peel off their soles
Season of intricacy pushed out to the suck
								as a fraction is an object
						         of resurrection
The body sequesters
The body roots in observation
								bridge filed down
						         to a pass key
Alley crop up and coming
						         aromatic cedars are shorn of their nests
The body is deeply weathered
The body lives in loam
		filtered through the leach
         						         calcium knobs roil underfoot
Where the agility of the verb is subsistent
						         in a raucous aviary
Season of rotation sketched onto the site
								code of rings and dots
						         pierces the tympanum
The body unsettles
The body succors on translation
						         Eustachian tubes bursting into bud

Post-historic fable

As a female, I come to this subject with consternation about the heroine’s taboo: fleeing headlong from ravishing afflictions, she enters the vast negative to find quandaries erupting as the limit of space. She becomes involved in a forested area where chance and luck fret at the periphery of objects. Inchoate desire brings attachment to the self-portrait. Events take place over a missing hour: to pinpoint where, she queries when. After her adversaries shoot the pale green weeks, she rubs their scruples against palpable realignment. Although no intimacy of wrongdoing takes place, invulnerability ebbs away.

she’s eager to set off in the blue environs. hell in a prom dress. a boy asks to borrow her mattress. he brings starlings with him to wreck havoc. intimacy is in fact ruptured. is he even awake? there’s no logic to affection, plush to the touch. repeatedly (each time it comes to mind). she attempts to identify the species. everyone is eating something different. it’s a consolation. a package containing a ream of blank paper. escritoire in English. no border between to lie on as she does.

                                        but someone else is now mistress of elusion. expected to plant something verdant as a donation. contributors are written into parts: her so sharp, fractious (the next morning). she has some connection to both sides. and voila! she passes around a stack of photos. carrying the deceased up the mountain and into the room. the general impression is one of shoulders. and mouths wide open. she’s still alive to write my name under the lintel. all’s in order at this end. all is chaos at the other.

                                        mystery night drives by in a sports car. uncertain going somewhere. this new version. beauty pageant in a pastry shop. when she thinks about living there, her life line goes flat. her first clue that she’s not where she thinks she is. I might know where she was headed when she left for Paris. but his arms are filled with wooden batons. smudged eye shadow is something wrong with her. they’re traveling on a map, a painted canvas I turn into a bracelet. as the pattern shifts, it becomes more intricate and spontaneous. pretty hard to miss, but she’s on her own dilemmas. there’s also the question of who will sleep where. engulfed in a sea of flesh.

I mistake the moment of the heroine’s pleasure. Her impossible weight in our difficult city.

We Look & See

I am erratic, a man without skin. I have given up believing
in night and my soul pinches at the thought of harvesting
ideas. Ideas like the mesmeric effect of insinuation
on the flat surface of a river. Ideas that any song that is sung,
out of tune by a nicotine-stained man who stands outside
the window, can be heard across an open square. Once,
in a hospital room far away from suitcases and friendships
of the middle class, there was a chance and maybe a choice.
Now everything is faded past in the mirror of books and dust
that lies thin and plastic on my coverlet. Two more drinks
ought to do it. Ought to be enough to wash the stink of morning
into the street and down the alley. The phone rings. One. I wonder
if the voice on the other end has any meaning. Two. I remember
a cream colored napkin with a phone number. Three. She said
her name was Lucy but the scent of her hair said Rita. I forget
for a moment there is no way to stop a bus from leaving
the station and once the smell of cigarette smoke gets blown
into the wooden slats on a forlorn bench it is time to go home.
Half way through four it stops. The silence is raw like innocence
when it is left to dry on the sidewalk after a hard rain. I should know
better but I pick up the phone and listen to the dial tone as it buzzes
and then beeps its way into the soft core of midnight.

monosyllabic love song

we could have gone anywhere—

down the street to the package store
where dreams are wrapped in amber and soft clear light,

to the end
of the story where that girl in braids
you crushed on in the fifth grade
works at a library

rides the subway home to a two room walk up
and cries herself to sleep.

the sun is moving away and the street begins to cool
down, soon the moon will own
the avenue and blind eyes will trade up
and down peddling their wares to buyers
who don’t know what they need

on the corner, a woman in flats
and a black sweater changes her mind
about the weather

she cups her hand against the flame,
smiles at the man next to her—
the wind tastes of sulfur

and I am a myth, a hostage falling
into the gap between desperation and opportunity.

Days and Deeds

There will never be enough rain to whet my appetite
for what comes next, another drink won’t fix the hole
in the wall and another cigarette seems a waste of good
fire. There are days with deeds that are better left undone
and plans better off left unspoken. The Number 5 glides
down the street, the thwack, thwack of wiper blades
and the mean hiss of hydraulics drown out the sound
of drizzle against my pane. Last stop. Last chance.
Better make it work, baby. This one is for the world,
for the earth-the sand that shifts beneath waves and waves
of mutilation. This one is for streets crippled by cabs intent
on pulling the sun forward because time doesn’t know
reverse. Don’t tell me we aren’t dying because even stones
stuck between the tire tread can feel the betrayal. Go ahead,
cruise down St Francis, watch women dance in the windows
while the moon lays ground work for indecision. Piece by
broken piece the day will reassemble itself—the alleys, shiny
from greed will lose their signers and hustlers, morning
will tuck them into tight corners where even the wind gets
lost. On the corner there’s a bus stop and in that moment
between ticks of the clock I can hear the answer you’ve been
looking for. It doesn’t shine and it’s far from smooth;
it’s crooked and won’t bend no matter how many prayers are said.

Mother’s Birthday in Paradise: 1967

At home on Date Street mother slips into
a cotton shift after knocking mangoes from
our neighbor’s tree. Their fruit and some

crayfish from our backyard stream make
up my supper. Walking to meet my father,
she pretties her hair with one moon-bright

Magnolia. On Waikiki he gives her jade tears
to hang from her ears. Twenty-seven silver
coins spent to match her years. Waiting

up for them, gut-rubbed by the raw desire
for food, I stare at the painted pig
that lay shattered on my bed. He broke it

for a jeweler’s box instead of the market bag
promise of flesh after a season of rice. Their
once-upon-a-time still keeps me
sleeping meat and potato dreams.

In Morning

She wakes framed by his arms and edges
of old sheets: strained white linen
long ago hauled from cedar. Languid
her husband curls close by her hip,
while her eyes remain fixed
on the photo of a girl wrapped
in white satin. She is stillness,
a vessel filled with fresh picked
cherries waiting beneath
the June sun.

Yesterday Was My Birthday

In the company of
a goldfish trapped
in my throat.
A hot triangle.
The sun falls apart
in a clear plastic bag
a child carries.
It dies before home.
In the opera house
a pig in the bathroom
Boiling water.