Sunday, December 14, 2008

am i ably

There is no need of mentioning names. There is no reason why why why why why why A family might be a prize. The cause of conversation is this seated on the orange bee on pink clover and a white butterfly between paper and birds. And hours.

This is the type of landscape which She saw and no more. There can be in the way of making a distance be deadly night shade and mistake. A genius says that when he is not successful he is in this way introduced to left left left right left. Never shall he be alone to be alone to be alone to picture. And he had. It had happened on that trip or by accidently witnessing rain. All gold is put into water and all water is put into translation and all translation is resisting days.

When this you see remember me. She said stay the second day in memory of the third day moving and also giving blue to green and thought of red blue and pretty lights. And so remove trees not in the sense of becoming but of displacing not only rivers but water lakes and when you see this remember this remember when this you see remember that it was at most at best at best.

One two three four five six seven eight nine ten one is here here and there on the fourth and twice. Twice is once. To wish to remember that every year is a change.

And rejoice.

Friday, December 12, 2008

also the sun also

We watched the beginning of the evening of the last night of hell on earth. We lay with our heads in the shade and looked on and on after every one else's eyes in the world never seem to be working. I was very angry. Somehow they always make me be in love. Nothing happens to me. I walked alone all one night and the houses looked sharply white. I could picture it. I have a rotten habit of picturing the long line of his neck in the bright light of the flares.

"I got hurt in the war," I said. "Everybody's sick. I'm sick too."

He put his hand on my shoulder again embarrassedly. "Kiss me just once before we get there."

We were sitting now like two strangers. On the right were there photographs. The photographs were dedicated to a very special secret between the two of us; But they did not mean anything.

Monday, December 1, 2008

the night is tender

The Night is Tender

I slant forward lighting cigarettes, then diving down afterward out of the blue toward other weather; the lush midsummer moment outside of dawn and into the pillows, to keep the light from our eyes. Some shadows swayed with the motion of the pines outside. Two bumble-bees. The sky was low at night, full of the presence of a platform, with spring twilight gilding the rails and the glass in between being centripetal and centrifugal. She felt his footprints as she crossed the garden; and now the rain that touched his cheek.

The lakes are sunk in brown clay and the boat is made to carry my form forward into the blues creases of a belly. The photographer gave us the picture of me, I am motionless against the sky and only remember the sun-torn flesh of his shoulder; the best thing that could have happened.

featureless sky time was already over.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

this side of this side of paradise

Though she thought of her body as a mass of frailties, she, through a spiritual crises, joined the Catholic Church, and was at regular intervals. Like Freudian dreams, they must be old, moth-eaten London accents that are down on their luck. It was still a music, though, infinitely sorrowful.

Sunday broke stolid and respectable, and even the sea whose passionate kisses and unsentimental conversations she talked until midnight and then fell in a dreamless sleep, fell unwillingly asleep.

In her less important moments she returned to America, met the breach, beating back the tide, hearing from afar the crashing and aching limbs. For those minutes courage circling an end, twisting, changing pace, straight-arming violins swelled and quavered on the last notes, the girl dreaming on the music that eddied out of the cafes. New music at night, the sea; I don't catch the subtle things.

And so on in an eternal monotone that the spring was so purposeless and inconsecutive that it seems ANOTHER ENDING As in the story books, she ran into them, and on that half-dusky dreamy smell of flowers the ghost of a new moon lived. All the broken columns and clasped hands and doves could find nothing hopeless in having dead lovers, when they were exactly like the rest, seemed so beautiful. PARADISE meant to lose this chance.

There's so much spring in the air-- strength she drew down to herself when she knelt and bent her golden hair into the stained-glass light. never be a poet. I'm young. People excuse us now for our poses. (She looks at him once more, with infinite longing, finite sadness.)

(Brokenly) You'd better go hate me in a narrow atmosphere. I'd make you hate me. We can't have any more scenes like this.

thunder of cheers... finally bruised and weary, but still

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Here the moon is bent just so; a crook in the wrist, the little girl's softest stretch of skin. The moon is framed by nothing. I am learning something new every day. That is to say, I am learning new ways to communicate his absence. A celestial body falls formless and only place dictates shape.

The words were forming themselves in my mouth. Come home.
Clouds cast
shadows long
and then longer
and then none.

I can still feel
teeth moving
inside my jaw.
A healthy head
is said to lose
one hundred
hairs a day.

My room self-
constructs these
tiny monuments
to him.

Monday, September 22, 2008

We thought about going back to the palmed path under fence; now only for barn cats and field mice. My knees remember the red lacing underneath skin. In the night we hear noises and know we are animals--we are not alone in the dark of the field. The ends of grass itch through cotton. The ends of grass touch me and touch you and touch other animals in the field. The moonlight erased the edges of the frame, leaving me with a yellow fading. I thought the stick was a snake. The stick jumped up and bit my leg.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

sola gratia

First light is fleeting and
head-ache making.
Sweat pools in
the small of your back,
sticking like peach pits.

This morning finds
your skin three days
from ripe.

Time runs front to back
I know. Think of a
pitcher emptying; a
bed unmade; the waves
spread so thin
I am left with silence.

Every demand
is a demand
for what?

It's the last light that
traps into corners of
our room, bent slightly.
Prisms become one of
our more fluent languages.

I cannot say whether this map
is old or if it is only drawn to
appear so.

this pose can only be held for so long

Some statues go missing
pieces at a time and
we are left with imagined limbs.

I will not apologize
for your toothbrush left
next to mine, or for using it.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Incomplete fiction

The cloud cast years of my youth can be found in few photographs as, even we, spent little, sometimes none. My legs were thin, tiny little girl legs never touching. I sat at the dinner table knees knocking, a valley in between, and my blonde curls hung heavy on my shoulders like the branches in the peak of August outside our summer home with the punished hills and all their grass-forsaken land.

My memories of the city before the siege feel far away, the coast of an imperial colony I have never visited, only seen in brochures and on tea tin labels. The streets all cobbled, all bustling. The flowers blooming from windowsill pots. Sunlight streaming into my eastward window on mornings when kitchen sounds trickled down the hall--Father lacing his boots up tight and Mother ladling breakfast onto our plates, the ceramic bowl swanning under the faucet.
In the threshold to my bedroom there lay a loose floorboard. I would take a wide step over it when sneaking to the bathroom late at night after hours of reading under the blankets my father's boyhood adventure books, the pages all humid jungles with my hair stuck to neck, mosquitos in my ear and a brave native leading the way through the fleshy thicket with his machete chopping. This specific memory may have been born in a movie I saw later in life, but time has made it, like so many other things, only mine.

My mother grew up in the estate far past the railroad lines, near the southern sea, and it was there we stayed out the war. I recall only the fragments of how we arrived there.
Father left his job with the Louvre--his last days were spent emptying its halls. My mother and I would bring him lunch--a ham and butter sandwich with an orange, the last of our reserves--and instead of playing hide and seek in the sculptures, I sat back against the bare wall of the Greek wing. Men wearing thick black belts around their middles circled Winged Victory and wiped their brows as even more men made way planking wood down the stairway to her throne. And then she was inched down that steep incline, no head, no arms, only wings trembling, each thousand particle a threat. Father stood over me, watching the descent from over his shoulder. Mother gasped as the statue almost toppled all together and Father, his eyes closed, as if to remember her in her place, turned to us and said, "Surely, we will never see her again."

Sirens sang through the afternoon hours, and my days were spent listless. It had been weeks since the schools were shut and the battle line was drawing nearer when Father pulled in front of our house in his big black car rather than his bicycle. My mother came into the foyer were I was lying on the ground, content with watching the rainbows refracting inside the chandelier above. She held my camel colored suitcase in hand and told me, "Colette, you must be a good little girl. You will be staying with your Aunt Therese in the outer city for the weekend, and then you will get on a great big train and come out to the country. Your father and I will be at the station to pick you up, you understand?" She said, "Colette, do you understand? You must be a good little girl for us now." Mother had the hiccups that day. I remember the sun warm in the kitchen as Father and I sat at the table, the boiling water on the stove the only conversation. Mother wiped the counter in large sweeping circles, weeping and hiccuping with her mouth closed.

My aunt's thick black hair sunk far past her freckled shoulders. Her house was much smaller than ours and the backyard had a brown and white rooster. When I arrived she sliced a baguette and held out a piece to me. "Colette, has your mother told you about--" she said before trailing off, her gaze focused some place out the window, skirting the horizon. "Something terrible is happening in the world, Colette," she said. "We must pray to Mother Mary." And then Aunt Therese placed my hand into hers, snaked with veins and loose with age.
Mother Mary, lead us from death to life, from falsehood to truth. Lead us from despair to hope, from fear to trust. Lead us from hate to love, from war to peace. Let peace fill our heart, our world, our universe.

Aunt Therese's eyes were shut tight for a long time after she had stopped speaking. "Colette," she said. "You know the Hail Mary, yes?"

Before I could answer, she was frantic. Aunt Therese took both of my hands, pulled them into her lap and unloaded a white Rosary into my palms and then pressed them shut, pressed them so hard that the beads made pockets in my skin.

"You will be safe where you're heading--"

"Safe from what," I asked but she didn't answer.

"If those awful men come to your house with their sharp tongues, I want you to stay completely still and silent. I want you to take these beads and say your prayers. Please Colette. You must."

"I will," I promised and with that Aunt Therese walked out into the backyard, away from her uneaten bread, and began to lay out the rooster's feed.

Other than that, all I can see is the view from my train seat and her long thin arm waving farewell from the platform below. The land was flat and then it lolled and the stations in between had bricks both red and grey. With every stop, passengers would leave the train but none would enter. The attendant wore a black hat with gold trim and served chocolates with my tea. The corners of his eyes folded when he smiled, sneaking the treat into my tiny hands. Silver stubble gilded his jaw-line. My father would have been his friend.

Last stop. End of the line! rang in my ears as the conductor made his slow way down the aisle. I climbed onto the seat and pulled my suitcase down. Outside the train my mother stood waiting in a pink dress with white lace on her hands. "Oh, Mama!" I said, so tired and happy with the end of my travels. She carried my suitcase to the car with her arm around my shoulders. The station sat beside a field of grass long as my legs and heavy under the wind, saturated with the sun's light. Father started the engine and I climbed into the back seat and we drove into the sea of orange waves, the setting sun, the dark of the night.

I woke in my father's arms as he carried me from the car to the porch. The moon was bright enough in the country to light acres between the house and the sea. All possible futures stretched before us in this new home. Mother said, "Everything will be fine ," tussling my hair as Father opened the front door. My eyes sat heavy with sleep and I climbed into the master bed, ready to dream, to feel everything fine.

In the morning Mother showed me what would be my room. "Now Colette, I must tell you. You will be sharing your room." Following her up the circling staircase, I imagined a young nurse on leave in the country, or perhaps a distant relative holed up at the estate. Flashes of late night talks, morse code across the floorboards, learning how to braid, scandalous stories of dance halls full of soldiers--all things I lacked as an only child all fell to the floor when Mother opened the door to a room empty besides the furniture and a painting.

There she sat. Mother introduced her as Grande Odalisque. The gentle slope of her bare back, the sad smile hinted by her eyes, the feathers in her hand. Mother said it was our family's job to protect her, it was father's duty. She seemed obscene, a spine impossibly long, but I liked her. She could listen to my stories and tell me hers. Someday I would look like her, hips wide and waist nipped, all the unknowns kept inside my lips.

The Odalisque, born Martine, sleeps with her bed pushed up against the window. Instead of drapes she keeps thin red silk, samples she found in market stalls, layered across the glass. The red intensifies the morning sun and wakes her up, brow slick from sweat and cheeks flush. Martine, the odalisque, is a hot blooded girl. Her mother used to say Good morning my hot blooded girls as she pulled off the covers each blue-black morning in their small country home. The odalisque rises with the sun and the grumble of her stomach. She waits for the water to boil in her kettle and rubs the sleep out of her shoulders, her ribs, her calves.

We slept like sisters with our secrets, my back turned to her. Branch shadows slid across the ceiling, tiles of tin screwed in by hand so long ago.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Someplace in Austin, Texas
in April 2004 runs a creek

with pebbles smoothed
and babbled. Someplace

in the creek is the white
stone I held in my hand

as Joshua held my arm
with his entire body

and told me to bend
my wrist just so.

Thursday, April 10, 2008


Her collegiate years she stood
background, mouth open, words
formed--the wrong medium for
capture. Goldenrod by the sun
light, streamed white through her
bedside window. Said her Hail
Mary in the rector's room.
Said Our Father cloaked
in basil; knees touching
tracing the completeness of
a hummingbird in flight.

By the crate of the elevator door
is the place where the belly of his
hand met Lizzie's soft left temple.
An uncertainty of possession:
was it his pulse or hers beating
through the thinness.

Underneath all sleeps. Lizzie knows
in like a lion and what follows.
Perhaps there are grimmer ways to
love another. Let us attempt discovery--

Lizzie, there are things that cannot be held.
Water falling from the shower faucet; the spin
of the ceiling fan; his tongue on teeth. The clouds
clotting the sky are made of ice, not
whimsy. Lizzie is uninvited to my poem.
Find what unearths: these words become spring.
The elbows of branches, after months spent straight,
now flex bent. Bees buzzing everywhere;
an oozing strawberry chin; the tree outside
stands blushing; and somewhere:

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Waves, Again

(the first line in every section is taken from Virginia Woolfe's The Waves)

I hear through it far off, far away, faint and far, the chorus beginning; wheels; dogs; men shouting; church bells; the chorus beginning. A landscape perhaps; of clouds clotting the shoreline; of Texas unfolding behind us; the westward rains quieting; or synesthesia;--feeling your hands on me like the musk forrest bed, October.

Save for these, I would bury it all as I bury these ugly stones that are always scattered about this briny coast with its piers and its trippers. I would send my best homeward, heading onward, tripping all over myself. To be buried, to ask for an unearthing. To need another; to be within arm's reach; and the weight of air replacing sand.

Month by month things are losing their hardness; even my body now lets the light through; my spine is soft like wax near the flame of the candle. I have dripped away early spring. I am puddling, I am creeking. I am bayous beyond your back gate. Once stood a tree, blushing with April. Once stood a tree blushing but it is gone now. That is to say it never stood. Each leaf fell to the muddy shores to be swallowed. To be swallowed, to be within arm's reach, to be laid side by side with my teenage hope, my skin two days dirty, the pears four days too ripe.

I have torn them off and screwed them up so that they no longer exist, save as a weight in my side. I have left you there, in peace or pieces, without a map or stones to cover your eyes. I have renamed you, replaced you, untraced my steps to the spot beneath your window where we would wait for time to favor us.

The birds sang passionate songs addressed to one ear only and then stopped. I have no home. It is what happens when you leave a place for a long time and return to something else. The trees grow taller, otherwise they are trimmed in May, otherwise they are cut down. I remember seeds from the market; seeds sitting in my entire palm; the hard of the dirt; the cold of the soil on my shins; the film under fingernails; my father's hands large and patting earth. Our house was not built; all we had was the plot and our plans.

The sun struck straight upon the house, making the white walls glare between the dark windows. The first morning I woke up in my room was bright and after that my memory is only leaf splotches; the elbows of branches reaching across the floor.

Barns and summer days in the country, rooms where we sat--all now lies in the unreal world which is gone. I read that memory and dreams can exist only in the present, again and again. Father's hand; the trenches in his palms; the scar across his thumb; my smallness felt inside his gardening gloves; my fists nesting inside the thumb. There were tulips for Easter lining the fence. Each spring we'd pick our colors. Each spring we pick our colors.

I see the pear tree through the streaked steam on the window-pane. I see the pears on the ground, surrounding the pear tree. I think of worship. I think of Sundays after church. Looking skyward, I'd tell you to watch the clouds but you would whistle grass, toss handfuls of soil into the air, exploding with green and bone-white roots like some organic fireworks display. I think of pears waiting on their branches, how I thought they wiggled before falling. I think I never saw one fall, only found them on the ground, sometimes days later, bugs freckling the soft yellow skin.

In this silence it seems as if no leaf would ever fall, or bird fly. We are weighty as we are waiting for time to favor us. Flight depends on density. Dependency is such a heavy concept; the densest idea to float; your hand folding into mine; the grass ticking all around us; this is a time of day.

I said to myself, by a lion on Trafalgar Square, by the lion seen once and for ever;--so I revisit my past life, scene by scene, there is an elm tree, and there lies Percival. His fur still soft, his eyes still open. I read that memory and dreams can only exist in the present but there lies Percival. I confuse his softness for a bitterness, the back spread of my tongue activated with each touch from ears to tail. I confuse the soil covering his body as you shovel over his grave for the waves on the muddy shores. I confuse your voice for the sound of leaving, a ticket halved on crease; a passport photo; you're past this; waiting transatlantically.

Tahiti becomes possible. The pit of your knee becomes possible. The softest stretch of my wrist becomes possible. The moss on tree trunks; the bayou beyond your back gate; the tree there, blushing; the radio static ; palms full of grass; Texas, unfolding. The years spent; the time gone; a hand folding into another becomes possible.

Rippling small, rippling grey, innumerable waves spread beneath us. You've grown taller, but this does not mean you are permanent. Find Father chopping down the pear tree, found the roots dead-ending into the cement foundation beneath our house. The tree is sick. The tree has no pears. The tree is gone now.

Monday, March 3, 2008


Forgive her knee
the skin on ice;
the red of it like cobwebs.

Forgive the snow on waves
and all that sleep below.
Bless all deep sea bloops
recorded at living
larger than any
vocabulary yet.

Forgive the flocks
five hours vast
as they move
north to south
overhead. Forgive
my eyes as they
swallow her tonight.
Say Holy Father forgive
me for I have sinned:
I have held some
one so fragile
in my hands;
for I have desired
mine over ours.

Forgive the winter
words on my lips when
we, walking too fast
down the hill, ignored
the man whose
wife tried to kill
him. Whatever
you are looking for
sleeps underground.

She tumbled down
Taaffe and her knee--
the skin on ice,
the red like cobwebs;
seeping like the secrets
in a parent's attic.
The clocks forgive
and daylight will forgive
as it peels back into
my room. I will
wake coated sweetly
in sweat and his pillow
next to mine, her coat
on the floor. His breath
hot in my ear:
Maybe nothing
ever happens
once and is finished.

Her knee, the cobbled
steps up the park, the
sun in his eyes, the
view from the pier, the
statue pointed west
and we followed.
The walk was too long,
the day ended quick.
Night tucked us in
and we forgave who
we became.
We hid hands in our
coats and still we were
caught and sat on that
bench in the station
feeling shame. Saying
Holy Father please
forgive us for we were
born and we breathe
and our days are spent
dying, and our days
are spent rowing against
the tide, and we rebel, Father,
because you will let
the waves consume us.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008


This city is a (possible) home. The streets run wide (seamless and uncracked). The light is pleasant but you won't have to squint your eyes (reminds you of that day at the park in the spring with your father; the cotton candy, the man painting a picture of elephants). This city will be an echo.

This city has a square in the middle and the grass is sprouting now (were grass stains real?). This city waits under a canopy dim purple for dusk (technicians man their desks). This city has all the comforts of a (possible) home. The water streams from pipes on high (listen). The farmer's market tables fill with fruits, nuts, and vegetables (barely miss the taste of soil; remember the film dark under your nails) all grown from seeds stored long ago. The architects have ensured it will be tall enough for a carnival to come through (remember the state fair, the summer and the freckles on his shoulders). This city is action, promise, your dead language. This city is a home (possibly).

Studies show you will find familiar feelings in time: a sun warmed bed in the morning or his pillow dented next to yours. The oatmeal will be too dry then too wet and your shower will not stay hot. A shirt with his scent (untraceable) at the bottom of your hamper, wrinkled with filth. Your parents in front of a house and a wooden stork in the ground. The tulips or kites (a dream? No.) red dot the grass and the sky. Studies show that the city (underground, inside the mountain's mouth) will make the best possible home.

Forget your old city (gone, soon). The streets baked in the summer's heat and the vines crawled up (crumbling) walls. A signal: the waves (remember--your ankles swallowed in the wet sand) are quiet now. Look for your breath in the air or your shadow (no, ash) on the wall or the birds (quiet now), trading places on their power lines, harkening twilight. The monuments, the cobbled streets, the springs, summers, autumns; now only winter (the sirens, the tumbling; not a dream not a drill).

The trees are only saplings (new and teeming under false sunlight) but there is speculation they will grow. There is speculation their branches (like roots) will reach towards the soil.

Monday, February 18, 2008

exercise #2

2/19 We crawled through dust, a pair of snakes.
We devoured our former selves and we, belly full of molt, we moved parallel to the city on the horizon.

2/23 Unwritten letter
He thought to translate her touch into an unborn language, but he found her hands could not be conjugates.

2/25 Evidence of a real pre-existence: I have seen you before.
Under water perhaps--the last great frontier. Eyes open, as always, eyes open. You came before vocabulary, before the capacity for more.

2/29 morning clearness
looms days away. Here is our event horizon; here we slide molecule at a time for all the was is will be, and I disbelieve. First comes an unpleasant sound, followed by a separation, then warmth-suffusive- and you.

(portions taken from the blue octavo notebooks of Kafka)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

to be

The grass grows on its own out of sand, so should he have felt guilt ripping it out with each hurried step? The mist maybe waters it, the sea air too thick to do much else, he thought as his tissue thin lungs bore on. The night had given way to new humiliation, given way to a morning still dark, still grey, but backlit by the sun somewhere. He could not compete with this world, this hunk so infatuated with limits. The sky shakes hands with the sea, the waves pound the sand, the sand swallows his feet, his weight and all the weight around him keeps him from drifting into the one place with no limits, the one place forever collapsing, expanding, folding in on itself. A limit: the path a secret takes from mouth to ear, brain to memory. On the ferris wheel over the water, mood still reflecting all the cheap gaudy boardwalk lights, he had swung the gondola grabbing the cage and throwing his weight. She had screamed, clutched her hands to chest and laughed. They were kinetic, hands waiting to connect, to start the cascades. A limit: this desire in the dark. On the fairground swings she sat in front of him, hair pulled up showing the soft of the nape of her neck. He had grabbed the chains to her swing and held tight. He could have whispered in her ear, through the wisps of hair from the wind, and they'd be caught in the circumference. He felt his palms redden from the chains, a slipped grasp and the centrifugal force pulled them apart. Consequences exist for limits crossed. He could still feel her skin, taut and littered with raised bumps--fear. He could still feel her grip, so tight around his arm before loosening. In an instant it all got swallowed by the dark--her pigtailed grade school face, the encrypted notes they'd pass through lockers, the smell of her first car, all the times the path veered, his months away, how their small town preserved her just so. Face slick he walked back-turned to the seaside town. Before him stretched the sand all brown and green, the fields and their brambles, and the sky a morning grey with three tufts of smoke dotting the horizon. The smell of her stained his hands. He laughed, should he feel any guilt at all.

The boy stretched back on his bed, feet still on the floor, and pressed four distinct notes out of his tuba. Each sound descended as the girl in her pale pink dress sat on the velvet armchair, pushing her finger tips to change the color of the fabric. His English when spoken was thick with German, but it came out softer than she'd grown used to in her time abroad. Men in bars all over Berlin had hungry eyes and harsh consonants. She missed peanut butter, the sand of the east coast. She missed contagious weather, patterns free of Russia's jurisdiction. Her only friend from home had finished his semester two weeks ago and it took those fourteen days for her to realize then congratulate herself for not ruining their friendship with sex. Now the apartment she sat in was unfamiliar, the living room separated from the bedroom by only a white sheet on a rope. She could see the instrument as part of the German's silhouette, she could see him lying in the spot she would be as soon as her glass was empty. It wasn't until his mouth hot with whiskey was on hers that she realized the music had stopped. The German stepped into the bathroom and left the girl in the room on her own. She poured the rest of her drink down the sink and pushed through the sheet. She sat on the edge of the bed and felt all the alcohol swimming in her calves. In the bar down the street the two had been pushed together by friends spouting Getränk! Gespräch! They spent the night whispering in germglish, swallowing both pints and the excitement of hardly touching. For the first time the girl did not pull away when a boy kissed her unexpected. She felt a small accomplishment, the sand in her hair finally washed out, the fairground music fading. The German's night stand was a collection of glasses of water and candy wrappers with a pile of books. On top sat the german edition of the girl's favorite book from high school. She recognized the raised lettering, the gold on blue of the hardback edition. She flipped through the pages and saw his notes, some of which she could not translate. Her favorite part still lay somewhere behind his bookmark. She wondered what got lost in the translation--was he reading the same book at all? did he deserve to in the first place? The change of heart is almost always slight. Escaping audibility, it can never be traced to memories of a girlhood night stand or a mistranslated passage in a coming of age text. The girl closed it and crawled under the covers. She shut her eyes tight, opened her mouth slightly and pretended to pass out. The German returned to the room and stood for a few moments at the foot of the bed before turning off the light. There was a pause before she heard his body sink onto the couch on the opposite side of the sheet. In 72 hours she'd be on a train to Italy where, on a boat, she'd be joined by her mother and the two would celebrate a birthday.

He grew up in the countryside in a sprawling house. Vines wandered up past his second story window, the view outside rolling green with a small pond. His father had built a diving board out of wood summers ago, but all the changing seasons, the expanding and contracting took away it's spring. The winters would find him in Munich among stiff-collared boys in blue blazers, but in the summers of his youth he'd return to the brambled fields with his family. Days would pass in a hazy heat, lazily sleeping into the afternoon before heading towards the kitchen for a glass of water. There was one early afternoon mid June, the yellowest month of all, when the house felt too quiet. His mother and sisters would sometimes go to town for the fruit stands and his father spent most days outside working on the grounds or cars, but the air in the house felt disturbed, as if the last words rang through panic. He turned the corner into the kitchen and found blood-soaked rags, blood on the floor, blood running down the door to the yard. He was alone, no sign of bodies. He was alone, truly alone, an orphan at sixteen, the sole survivor to a horrific crime. The boy invented motives, imagined culprits. Was it fast or slow? Did his sisters have a chance to cry, his father a chance to be brave, his mother a chance to say I love you all? Why had he been spared--had he been spared? He slid to the floor. The peach tile was stained a dark red, the grout once the color of his sister's freckles now rusty. A call would come within ten minutes, from his mother at the emergency clinic. There had been an accident, the father had cut his leg just above the knee on scrap metal. They had all gotten into the car in such a rush, there was no time for a note. Until the call came, however, the boy was with the weighty realization that he was just a body on this earth. How gentle, what he had. To be.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

deep ocean blues

As if the sound were coming not from the larynx but somewhere near the heart. I hear him now far away, think of deep sea bloops recorded at living decibels, made by creatures larger than vocabulary knows. I see him, just barely, above me now, think of migrating flocks five hours vast. All this clumsiness, the clever minutes--this could be the closest we will come to cooperating, and yet.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

sub humus

"Forget what kissing feels like," Madeline tells me, our formal introduction, but I am tempted. Dressed in army issue olive, we climb down the hatch inside the missile silo door, knowing months of dark and waiting stand before us.
For a woman she is strong, never talks about her mother or the boys waiting above, only sighs and says she misses her freckles. We take vitamin c pills and I watch the honey in her hair fade. We lack any entertainment but the games that we invent; Madeline's favorite being Guess the Season, mine I Am in Love with You.
"Winter, probably," I say.
"What makes you guess that?" Madeline asks.
"It's a cold, cold war up there."
Madeline lists the landmarks she's seen, a catalogue we know to be final. I am the one man in the world with this knowledge. Intimacy blooms out of this secret, the period looming like my thumb over the button. We sleep underground, missed by our families, answering only to the commander in chief. Picked at random, he told us, as if 300 feet underground isn't enough of a humbling place.
We sleep underground in this silo. Kind of like living in sin, where her habits still seem damn near endearing. We sleep underground, kind of like brother and sister in a hotel room; two beds by each wall and all the space between so hollow, all the sleep sounds at once familiar and foreign. We sleep underground when the alarm goes off, telling us what the night sky so far above used to.
Things change and Madeline contracts lingering eyes, a hunger the rations won't feed. A chain reaction follows. Just like the cascading avalanche waiting at the end of this, our clothes cascade, our hands small avalanches exploring . I feel the most selfish love for anything: that she is becoming me, that I am inside her and a part of her and the chain reactions fill the silo, echo off the warhead.
Sleeping it off, Madeline dreams of a boy building a fence, a boy unaware. I hold her tight and instead of smelling her, I smell us. This was a mistake and even if conditions improve up above, ours will get worse from here, the days longer but colder yet. Once exposed to the sunlight our love will live a half-life, decaying over terra firma and scattering to the four corners. I am the one man in the world with this knowledge, the knowledge of Madeline calm in her sleep. I am the one man in the world with his finger on the button, and I am tempted.

Thursday, January 31, 2008


The waiting room remains stale, all coffee pots and frayed magazines, the smell and colors not sterile enough. The waiting room doesn't change names when I'm not waiting anymore. The waiting room is for waiting, all nervous handed, for the man with the smooth voice and cookie baking wife you'd met with earlier in the fall. Doctors pass through in their blue and white, and the occupants sit on their own, carpet gazing, avoiding eyes or doorways. The television blares the network news, as if there is a world outside.

It's strange to sit here with my dad growing cold. He is still in a room down the hall with the yellow roses and the window view parking lot. His eyes are closed because a nurse shut them for him, the same nurse with sweet brown eyes who fluffed his pillow and sponged his back. My dad might come walking into the waiting room, IV dragging behind, hospital gown gaping open, lacking all dignity with knees knocking. He can't, but I wouldn't be surprised if he did.

It takes four days to happen. In four days my hair turns dark with oil. In four days I read the same interview in the magazine from April and it is personal and I know the answers behind your vague wording. It's nothing personal, it's publicity, you don't have to say it again. The freckle on your lip has been airbrushed away. The missing band on your finger didn't need to be. It takes four days of little sleep, no eating, my father and I suffering together. It takes four days and then, the morning the sun first breaks and starts to melt the snow.

Cole, when we met you told me the greatest thing about yourself, hiccuping from excess, you said the greatest thing about yourself was that you will never mess up this bridge and then you dove head first into the chorus of the song on the radio, the song for some different girl, one more natural than me. You bellowed the words down the stairwell as I left that night, a voice you only use on new girls. The words, worth repeating. I thought I could say them but you never wanted me to, did you? I look for trace amounts of that voice on the answering machine, our source of contact, but it's not there. This is Cole and Anna, leave a message. By tonight I will be erasing my own voice.

My dad is giving you his guitar, a Hummingbird, and you don't care. I'm in white, a shorter dress for the reception, a back yard bar b q at my parent's ranch. Play a song, Cole, play a song! Faces change from excitement to acceptance and the silence recedes into polite conversation. Instead you play modesty, thank my dad quietly and retreat once more. I think you're shy. He needed it more than you.

My dad's lungs are full of fluid but his eyes still so wide the day you call me from one state away.
"How is he doing?" you ask.
"Not well. I think we're going to the hospital."
"When?" you ask.
"Today. We'll see. He doesn't want to go, but if it's not better this time tomorrow, we have to."
"It's that serious?" you ask. "I didn't know."
"It's happened before and things ended up fine. It's seeing my father like this--he's like a child, I just--" I shutter, on accident, and cover my mouth. My voice comes out next foreign and warbling. "Cole, I just--"
"I'm coming back," you say.
There is silence on my side of the phone. My eyes are shut tight and I'm up against a wall.
"After tonight," you say.

My dad's eyes are closed, but he can feel me watching him through his sleep. I know this because his hand reaches up, weak as it is, and scratches the place on his cheek I am staring at. My back is turned to you, but I can feel you in the door way now, three and a half days late. You place yellow roses in my lap, for him, and I turn my head. I ask you to meet me in the waiting room in just a few minutes, dad's a light sleeper and he just fell asleep for the first time in-- you leave. My eyes shut again, this time not to black. The glare from the window makes everything white, red. My dad's lips are on my eyelids. My dad can feel my eyes moving beneath them, the warmth spilling down my cheeks. I open my eyes and my dad is still there. I open my eyes and my dad is still gone.

In the waiting room the magazine sits in front of you, cover facing down. I imagine:

Cole sits in the waiting room. In the stuffy room he feels itchy around his collar, his cuffs. This morning he put on the sweater Anna bought him but now regrets his choice. What did Cole think, that (even now) she would fawn over him, how the sweater matches his eyes? On the table before him sit magazines for homes and gardens with recipes and diets. He flips through the one magazine for men, months dated. Cole stumbles upon his own article, an interview in a Brooklyn bistro, the source of indigestion. Cole sees his picture doctored at the hand of some waiting person, a small, dark ring drawn around his finger. Cole shuts the magazine and puts it cover down on the table, feels his face burn and looks away.

I lied:
Doctors must learn to speak with non-threatening voices. We're sorry, Anna he says and I thank him, a habit. I place a phone call to the man with a smooth voice and cookie baking wife, let him know the arrangements will be needed in a few days. I return to the now crowded waiting room, sit between you and a stranger reading your interview unknowingly. I see the ring I had drawn on the page days earlier, when my dad was he is, rather than he was. Neither of us say anything. I rest my head on your shoulder.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

work in progress/ a pantoum

It was so kind of him to say we're not safe--
Coney Island sunrise four steps in sand.
The world moves every second.
A year ago I would have remembered.

Coney Island sunrise, four steps in sand.
This is a new world that we cooperate in
(a year ago I would have remembered.)
Make a promise, break it, fingers toward the water.

This is a new world that we cooperate in
so I swallow your secrets compacted in snow.
Make a promise, break it, fingers toward the water.
there's a space under breakers, facing the shore.

So I swallow your secrets compacted in snow
and say how strange the wheel is all covered in white.
There's a space under breakers, facing the shore,
kick hard legs bent against currents need.

Say how strange the wheel is all covered in white.
Now take it now take it now take it I can't
Kick hard legs bent against currents need.
And with what little instinct left: use the light.

Now take it now take it now take it I can't.
I once held you so close and so fragile
and with what little instinct left used the light.
It was the least attractive option available.

It was so kind of him to say we're not safe--
The world moves every second.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

the story, followed shortly by the story I didn't tell

Eight years old my hair was light and my teeth had jagged edges like babies changing to adults. Matt Robert lived on the other side of the fence and my oak tree planted from an acorn would drop leaves into his yard. I stood on the fence splinter palmed and watched the leaf piles build up in late September, imagined falling from the post into them and Matt Robert nowhere to be found. His hair sat stringy and his clothes hung gaping.
There was the bunny pen tucked into the corner, hidden under the thick branches. We had two: one black with a white stripe across the middle and the other white with big black rims around her eyes like make up. In the summer we would freeze water inside two liter bottles and bring them out to the bunnies panting in the heat. September brought relief and thicker coats.
On the fence near the ground was a path tunneled by Bogart the cat before I found him dead in my mother's closet. It went from my yard to Matt Robert's where there were less trees but it was closer to the field so it had more mice. Bogart would bring these mice to our doorstep, sometimes still half breathing, little offerings with big pink ears like paper twitching.
Now Matt Robert would use the hole to poke my ankles with sticks. He'd try to play paper rock scissors but I'd stomp on his hand and yell nuclear warhead I win! Matt Robert was always on my nerves, always breathing down my neck from his seat behind me on the bus, always pulling the bows out of my hair, always looking at me and Janie Causey from his hole in the fence. Olivia Osterhouse swore he gave her a mummified rat. At school he'd make up stories, said he was living in the sewers beneath the streets, thinking about sleeping in the fields once he got friendly enough with the coyotes.
It may have been October or it may have been April. It was a crisp morning--either dew or night time rain making everything wet. I went to feed the bunnies but there was a hole in their pen and only one bunny. The black one with a white stripe had disappeared over night and I ran and told my mother. We searched the entire backyard and found nothing. I don't remember now when I looked, but in the grass on the other side of the fence I found the bunny resting, fur slick, lacking dignity. I reached for her, pulled her back to my yard and held her in my hands. I could feel her skull halved, held together only by skin and fur so soft. I thought maybe she was still breathing, there were two labored gasps but my mother said no, no those are just nerves there's nothing we can do. But the bunny was looking at me, or at the treeline up above. I stroked her little bunny ears now reared, always to be reared.

When I asked Caroline to marry me she said no so I asked why not and she said because Matt Robert you are weird and so then I asked her what I could do to make her want to marry me and she said well maybe if you grew your hair out real, real long, all the way down your back so you could sit on it so the next time my mom tried to cut my hair I ran outside and hid in the field and she gave up I guess because I didn't get another hair cut for a year until one day I heard Caroline and Janie laughing and I wasn't sure why they were or what could be so funny but I don't know it was one of those things where you just know you're the butt of the joke--I was always the butt of the joke with my outie belly button and my grass stained knees-- so that was it and I went inside and found my mom's scissors and I cut all my hair best I could and it fell to the ground in patches that I wanted to take and shove in Caroline's face, fill her throat with them, block out her eyes with them but I didn't I just fell asleep. The next day up before the sun had completely broke through the storm clouds I was in the back yard looking for salamanders when I found Caroline's bunny rabbit and I'm not sure what happened next-- I remember how calm it was (didn't run, only quivered with its nose and little lungs) and I remember reaching a point where I couldn't stop and couldn't go back I was just pushing it's face into the grass and it's little body struggled against me but my hands were bigger and my face was hot and there were no tears in my eyes and then it just cracked like something so fragile and everything was easy after that.
I circle the house from my room in my sleep. Morning will bring pale blue light and a toe tapped kitchen, floor warm by the pipes and my mother in her robe.

I circle impatient the halls and the yards. I write your initials on book spines, put your name on my thigh before kneeling in prayer.

I circled the block four times to stop smiling five years ago. I didn't want my mother to know you had kissed me. She could smell your hands on mine she could smell your hands in my hair on my waist stop smiling stop smiling.

I circled your lap, your lap, your lap, your lap. I circled your lap when it was the only seat in the house and I knew my bones would hurt your legs and I knew what I felt when it started to rain.

I circled the cents spent and the senseless ways I pick fights and swallow a glass of water waiting beneath a top sheet of ice. The ice hits my teeth and it hurts. The phone doesn't ring and the sun is coming up.

I circled red-cheeked when I couldn't look up. Look up, look up! I didn't look up and you got in your car and you closed the door and you drove home and I laid on the rug in the middle of the room and my mother ran her fingers through my hair.

I circle all day and the paths are run down.

I circle all night above creaking floor boards.

I circle your name in her mouth. I circle your name in her mouth and she swallows it and now it is hers. I circle your name where it used to be mine.

I circle the place where my wrists were so soft.

I circle the place where I am no longer a girl.

I circle my own clumsy hands, dug deep into pockets. My mouth finds no place to sit.

I circle the days and the months since you called. December for you was warmer and bluer. Here the sky is mixed all sleet and gray.

I circled that morning when the horn honked and you squeezed tight, mouth open with sleep and eye lashes too long to be anything but right.

I circle each wave I can see from my window on a train cutting coast. I multiply and divide the distance between each wave, the distance between this island and you.

We circle the zoo and the names and the places we used to. We inch hands closer under sheets in the blue white glow.

You circle your breath in my ear when you lean in and whisper. We say nothing much but it cannot be heard.

I circle oldness and slant the cold. I look for green envelopes. You find red hairs in your car.

We circled the city on a ghost train and settled on the roof of a parking garage. We circled everything but and finished two bottles of water.

We circled Texas and ended with Brooklyn. More bridges, less bar-b-q pits.

I circle your name and swallow it whole.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

if tempted

pelicans will,

the immensity of smallness

Was it rain or dew this morning
turning things too wet for touch,
for holding? I saw the yarn yellow

and fence snared--all flagging
in the wind--untethered over
night, embodying an absence.

The rabbit cage had a hole
and one bunny too few. The
fence had been dug under

and in the grass on the other
side she rested slick, lacking
dignity. When I held her in

my hands I could feel
the skull halved, held together
only by skin and fur (so soft).

Her breaths still came out
labored and she blinked
twice in my lap as I stroked

her bunny ears, now reared
(always to be reared).

When I reached up for your
cheek turned face and felt
your neck strain against

my weight, autumn rolled
back over. There was a
tree bare branched. There

was a tree relieved of
leaves. Weight shifting
in the wind, it did not

bemoan those fallen,
but whistled.