DEDICATIONS, PLEDGES, COMMITMENTS. For the past. For my own path. For surprises. For mistakes that worked so well. For tomorrow if I'm there. For the next real thing. Then for carrying it all through whatever is necessary. For following the little god who speaks only to me. --William Stafford

Thursday, September 11, 2008

What I Should Have Done

I should have cut a hole in the ceiling
to let my prayers out, words
like smoke from incense pots,
unable to rise above that bloody altar.
Look: here is where you should have slept,
your ear only an inch above my heart.
See: this field of stars above the watchtower
that we might have counted, bye and bye.
Now the sky is full of dark matter,
and though I were rich as Herod,
the baby-killer of Bethlehem
(who was richer than Caesar), I can
not get you back, even though
I would rub salt upon your infant body
and powder you with mustard seeds,
and wrap you up with swaddling bands
embroidered with your genealogies.
Here is the singing bird I'd give you,
the pony, here the toy soldiers,
their cannons in flames.
Here angels play, out of sight
lest they terrify us, though we lie
prostrate, trembling on the ground,
we eaters of entrails, we breakers of bones.
The first to bring an offering
and the first to be offered,
like a burning ram, I continue
to follow your lead
like Nahshon followed Moses, loving him
too much, walking out before him into the sea,
walking out until the water was
all the way up to his nose
before the sea finally parted.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008


"Our birth
is but a sleep
and a forgetting."

--William Wordsworth

I am
before my mother carried me,
tethered me to earth
with a silver cord,
before I flew prayer feathers
at my Father's knee,
there, where a million moons roll
like black-glass marbles
into the curved valleys of space
before I ever dreamed of earth,
or things of earth: fish
or rocks or bread,
before the luminous waters
of my birth washed me clean,
I am
I always am

Friday, August 01, 2008


and even if you haven't asked
the ferocity I see in your eyes is really praise

the left eye overflowing with a compassion of tears
the right eye damned where the Father stands archived and

disguised the promise is that the hand that gives
takes away nor bird nor snake nor fish can stay it

nor ringed fingers nor hard stones nor veils
nor things visible or invisible nor words

nor the blackened silences of things half-formed
nor oaths nor obligations of a thousand years

of clouded windows and passing lovers or strangers
it is there in the etcetera of praise in ruined newsprint

lifted by the wind and blown and dissolved in a sea
of rain water and even if you haven't looked

it is there in both the promise and the praise
it is there in all of these and none of these

it is Alpha and Omega it is the Beginning and the End
thank you thank you thank you oh thank you

Tuesday, June 10, 2008




these marvels,

today being another

ordinary Wednesday. You study this

group of ordinary objects: seashells, flowers, curling leaves,

until your eyes burn, your heart nailed to these visions like ripe metaphors

rattling to get free. Like Leonardo of Pisa, you have an abacus, that just might move you down the rabbit's hole

with Alice. Lewis Carroll knew the Secret: add the previous two to find the next. The Farey Tree, Goedel, Escher, Bach and Mandelbrot are famous now as Mother Nature, with her eternally born again

chambered nautilus, her dandelions and daisies, chronicled teeth, swarms, cellular automatons, algorithms, fractals, black holes, dark matter to the very ends of observation, seeds growing through your floorboards and out your windows, rearranging chaos into immaculate order, the world rich with order, the Hindu mathematics of it all: Fib's rabbits hopping toward infinity, like Pi.

(The Fibonacci Sequence: 1 1 2 3 5 8 13 21 34 55 ... etc. Syllables or words. Add the previous two numbers to find the next. Like Pi, it could go on forever. Remember that old campfire song that never ends, it just goes on and on, my friends....)

So, what did Asaph and Chloe speak of in their early hours, over breakfast, heads together, the eggs and oatmeal congealing in the bowls, coffee cooling, toast growing cold? Did he mention, in passing, how he had discovered this tiny Martian moon, a mere
eighteen or so kilometers across? Did he mark its triaxial shape with his inkpen upon a napkin, and did she respond by calculating how its mere 27 x 22 x 19 kilometers were equal to 17 x 13 x 12 miles, and did she wonder aloud, if one were standing on the surface of such a tiny world, and gave a great leap, would one escape its gravity and simply keep on going to some far planet of one's own? Did he wonder if a woman in society should avoid education, and concur with the great Doctor Clark of Harvard, whose study concluded that the intellectual development of females would proceed only at the sacrifice of their reproductive organs? When Asaph turned away to butter his cold toast, did she spit in his cold coffee, and go upstairs to stand at the window, looking out?

(NOTE: Asaph Hall discovered the two moons of Mars. Chloe Angeline Stickney, a professor of mathematics, gave up her career when she married him. He had been a student of hers, and he and his classmates made a game of devising questions and problems they were convinced she could never solve, yet she never failed to solve them. After their marriage, when he refused to pay her "a man's wage" for assisting him, she refused to continue her work. Three cheers for Chloe!)

The moon is a hole
cold wind wears a black slicker
the last bus goes by the board

#26 Hallowed Ground

In the temple
of our flesh,
we follow Adam.
We are the earth.
The earth is us:
a Holy Family.
Rescue the Princess

Oh, do not try.
She is bought and sold, and
smells of old cheese.
She has lost her story
and does not want
to be rescued.

She is what she is,
will never arrive, never
depart, be welcomed,
or suffer. She is
what she needs: a bed,
a cigarette, a coffee pot.

She is blue, a sort of mold
grows where it takes
getting used to, but she will.
You cannot give her anything.
She is all on her own.
This is her career.

People go by, and
mention her name, but
save your breath--
this Princess will never
be fixed. Do not
defend her. Do not

The Charmer

The Charmer

You found the story
telling how the Indians
put a fish
under the planted corn
the adventure illustrated
in your third-grade reader

It happens now somewhere
everywhere everyday that this boy
plants rice
while they watch
he bends over
the bewitched rice or corn
the red or white beans
the potatoes and melons
the squash
like the angel
who whispers grow

Maybe he simply charms
the fish to leap out
of the water
into his hands
in the red dawn

Tatay's white umbrella red
under the fairweather red sky
washing them all
with morning light

Nanay and Nanay Gurang
the Very Old hesitate
studying how he bends over
the grains
how the earth and water
closes over them
like a blessing

The fish is for dinner
Thursday, May 22, 2008
What They Said To Him

You can see him there, a boy among the banyan roots, with light falling like coins through the leaves, his book stirring with dragons and spotted leopards. They are taking him where he'll never again, with shoes and suitcases and boarding passes, travel. Turning a page, he finds yellow-eyed wolves and their pups, the bones of rabbits. See how his bare toes curl when the animals talk, turn up when they lift their large, rough paws, their lacquered claws, their roars, off the paper and up into his body, as wild as theirs, and his fingernails and toenails grow long and tough and curved. He roars. He feels the ground shake as they pass out of his body into the jungle, past the snake that winds through the highest branches of the banyan tree, past the fixed white-eyed stare of parrots looking at the August moon. Someday, before the winterfall, before he is old and spread thin, and the book is dust, and the black owl of night overtakes him in his heavy shoes, he will remember what they said to him: Follow our tracks: we are still your people. He will remember all their names, and what they said to him.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Blessed Be

There, high in the tree hangs a paper-wasp nest like an over-ripe fruit.

Beside the wasp's nest, linnets have built a nest of their own: strange neighbors.

Something about those two windblown nests reminds me of lions and lambs.

Unlovely In His Bones

Unlovely In His Bones

I know a woman lovely in her bones
--Theodore Roethke

I know a man unlovely in his bones
by any simple human measures, still

of ill health, with body parts and passions
as rotted as the pistons of an old

Plymouth, yet, sweet in his pure and tender
soul, who would be raised from his sickbed by

angels, sharp-edged but in no great hurry,
spinning on their graceful harpy wings like

falling-down galaxies. He raises his
obscene middle finger toward the coat-rack

in the corner, in the half-light, spinning.
I know how it is, how space flight is a

risky business. I wonder why in a
universe where angels dance with ions

in a hundred visions and revisions,
Prufrock-like, why is this final, deadly

apparition not an angel? Would not
an angel, any angel, even an

unlovely one be better than this per-
verse revolving coat-rack in the corner?

With Love,

There are a hundred paths
through the world that are
easier than loving. But
who wants easier?
-Mary Oliver

Wasn't it good, though? Wasn't it good,
all of us there together, awash
in Mr. Richard's California light, awash
in color from your bold hand, wild
as the Day the Yankees Lost the Pennant?

Alive, and racing Kije's Troika through
a white shower of strings and little bells
toward a sky and an ocean as blue
as a Carolina day?

Now you are a prayer, or what a prayer
should be, knowing you may have
closed your eyes, but this is no dream.
It comforts us. The God you met waits.
God--a figure like the sun, a face
of copper, of gold, with the merciful grace
of the little girl in red stockings who also waits
to take your hand. It comforts us

that whatever it Was,

My stone has hands
It sleeps in the cradle

Of my hands,
Drinking my fire

My stone grows hair
In wonderful curls

Down its silky back
It loves the ice

That breaks me
More than it loves me

It sings of boots
Of blackbirds dying

Of the cracking of heaven
My stone knows black and white,

Was there at the hour
Of my birth

Understands cemeteries
Is flexible
Why I Love Poetry

You know, the number of people who love poetry is about the same as the number of people who love to wear Davy Crockett hats. So we are a rare and wonderful people!
I think I was, maybe 9 or 10 when I discovered poetry let you say things you could say no other way, and when I was 15 or so, I found that poetry offered a way of understanding things I never understood before. Poetry sparked a new way of feeling, of insights and images I had never imagined: that someone could write The force that through the green fuse drives the flower/ Drives my green age; that blasts the roots of trees/ Is my destroyer moved me to tears.

Edna St Vincent was my first love. Dylan Thomas was my second. After that there were suddenly too many to count, like stars on a good night, after the first one or two.

Mary Oliver writes of praying in words I think apply to poetry as well:

It doesn't have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don't try
to make them elaborate, this isn't
a contest but a doorway

into thanks, and a small silence in which
another voice may speak.

Like Abbe Joseph says in The Sayings of the Desert Fathers, stretching his hands toward heaven, his fingers like ten lamps of fire, "If you will, you can become all flame." And we all understand what that is like, don't we? And we've all come through the doorway into thanks, and most of us have found the silence in which another voice may speak....

And if this isn't clear enough to be useful to you, stick around. Hopefully one day it will be, and you can become "all flame."

Just pay attention.

Love, she murmurs
under her breakable manners
to the special jockstrap,
counting wins and losses,
finding new delicacies
under each heavy-handed syllable.
She knows the score:
it's nip and tuck
before the final round
where, unmannerly,
she pulls the trigger,
smokes a screaming bullet
as a breadloaf
into his gut,
a second into his groin.
The afternoon
churns red and white
as Robintino's checkered tablecloth
and the red pasta on white china.
His wineglass tips,
spills onto his trim
and familiar white vest.
It is a long joke
with no ending but
a ruined vest.

(That's about enuf to piss off the good humor man! Understand, she never intended to kill him, just wanted to put a scare into him, which she did. She knows he has more moves than a bowl of jello--when he saw her there, face red as a tomato, you could've knocked him over with a feather he was so surprised. Too bad. He was on a roll, you might say, and he was stumped for about a second when she started pitching bread loaves at him--thought she was crazy as a loon--but then again, she might've come at him with the bread knife! He knew she'd caught him between a rock and a hard place, but hell, life's never all fun and games. Too bad about the vest though. It was almost new.)
They Never Told Me Not To Go There

They never told me not to go there,
and there is a certain holiness in repetition.
I am not innocent:

I know where the body's buried
and what goes down at every streetcorner.
What comes up is always waiting there

pinched and brown as a scroll
of inkstained goatskins, a chant unrolled
upon a stick--the poetry of innocents

awaiting judgement. The left hand
never knows the right hand's doings.
I recall the phrases written there.

The priest intones a litany,
a sort of requiem: Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison,
Kyrie eleison--filaments of innocence--

the price of repetition, and of waiting
without conscience. But there's a price to pay.
They never told me not to go there,
I am not innocent.

Friday, May 02, 2008

His Mate

Their calling voices clash over the great dark fields, each of them alone.

The Great Horned Owl

Listen: the call of a Great Horned Owl, lovely, if you're not a field mous


Red bird rising
Deep blue day
Born again: green

Sports is not my long suit, yet
something like a softball catches
summer visions of my dad,
sainted, with a wad of gum
sanctified to one purpose:
stuffing it in the umpire's
short-winded, surprised pie-hole!

Out there, somewhere
you have real faces, like
or unlike, mine. People
I pass on the street
might be you. They are
all going somewhere. I, too
am going somewhere.
Sometimes our eyes meet
but only for a moment.
Was that you I saw
last month, at the airport
going to Buenos Aires, or Seattle?
Was that you behind me
in line at the supermarket
buying wine and flowers,
oranges from Florida, avocados
from Brazil?
Do I know you?
My face is a keyhole.
Your face is a key.
This little glass contains
the world, unlocked

She wears a straw
Sombrero to hang the clothes
On the line
It keeps the sun
From her pale freckled skin
She carries the wooden pins
In a green-flowered bag
Tied at her waist
The wind whips water
From the corners of the spotless
Sheets the long pants and
Endless shirts, figures
Writhing in a blast
Like men afire
Racing like couriers with
Meaningless messages
Her red hair twists around her
Pale freckled face
Like flames
Her tiny white hands fasten
Each pin like a candle
A row of candles
On the trembling line
She bends over the basket of
Wet clothes again and again
Hushing the baby
Who weeps at her feet
Tomorrow she irons

I once saw a women,
Call her Isha, heart and bones
Formed, in fact, chosen, like Eve
In Eden, by the breath of His mouth,
By a rib in the sweet dough
Of her flesh. Before she emerged
Was it like a fire, then? Like coming
Out of some great silence
Not dark, not light, but out of some
Infinite blank page set so suddenly
Aflame: No Thing, igniting some dust,
Some tinder, with sparks, bonfires, conflagrations
Of particles created, colliding, decaying,
Like everything she knows as real?

And After Word, under a harmony of
Constellations, after the naming of animals,
Those beautiful beasts in the rumbling seas,and
In the seeded fields, knee-deep in grass, or
Above her, touching the air like God
Walking on water, like men and caribou
In marshes, planting rice, like women
Dancing under trees, like children digging
For treasures, like the painter with his
Oils and brushes, like the doctor with his
Medicine bottles and his pills, like the soldier
With his rifle and his helmet and boots, like the
Boy with his book, like the murderer and
His victim, like the drowned, and the saved.

It is so hard to be chosen; to be
The Beginning of The Rest of the Story
Is to divide and expand forever outward
In a sequence of possibilities, growing greater
With each division. We are mere followers.
As simple as that.


The moon is a hole
cold wind wears a black slicker
the last bus goes by the board
little david

your smooth soft freckled body
and the quiet fury of those children
in grass up to your knees
that burns like fires in the fields
kites that fly in circles
naked jaws and neckbones of skulls
the shaken joy of snowflakes
crawling lines of blood, and the spit of guns
and the sleeping gift of seeds
a fucking handful of shit
lucid shoals of children's laughter
preserved, a needle in the brain
a bird's egg in the hand
the stone that killed goliath
your soft clinging mouth
exhausted children calling, calling
like the lamb before the lion
the kid goat tied to a tree
like a kiss upon the brow
the tap tap of a drum
a bed that's warmed by love
faraway no thing moves but
the silence of a secret
the blinking of a crow's eye
where church bells thrash the morning

Friday, April 11, 2008


Your hands can smile
With touch
Your pink nails laugh
With their half-moons shining
Smelling of things grasped
And let go: deliveries
And departures

Day after day
Hands are your navigators
Across smoke rainclouds
Starlight leaves ice
Over and over
They tell the story of your life
The left one
The hand God gave you
The right
The hand you make

They are a library
Clapping time
For the rest of your life


Ice is braided against the air,
curled and roped like the girl's long hair
bright as frost,
in the hands of the boy who could take a dare.

Curled and roped like the girl;s long hair
are the roads that might take them anywhere.
The hands of the boy who could take a dare
are strong and fierce.

But the roads that might take them anywhere
are not straight but forbidden,
and strong and fierce
is the face of the sun, that won't let go.

Not straight, but forbidden,
they go nowhere. The day is cold.
The sun that lies, that won't let go,
turns the ice to a vapor that fogs the air.

They go nowhere. The day is cold.
The girl is gone. The sun is bold,
turns the ice to a vapor that fogs the air
in the hands of the boy who could take a dare.

(Egad this was HARD. But I tried. It's been a long time since I tried to conform--to patterns. I don't even know if this is close to what it's supposed to be. Non-conformist that I am. It's hard to find lines to repeat that hold up and to have the piece as a whole make sense. This was really HARD!)

I'll remember ya, honey
think of it as a gift
I was lucky
yer a lucky bastard
yer the one that got away
in an empty and amorphous space
it became confusing
the lighting was different
windows, things like that
it had almost a documentary feel
of new things and old things
because you have new tools and you always want to explore
everybody couldn't help but notice
it's the kind of journey you go on by yourself
in those days everything was very exciting
they did everything before my time
unfortunately there was a lot of night
day, night, I learned, so now
I will pray for you
once we began to shoot
everything was dirty for whatever reasons
done with something you might find in the streets
I just simply
pictured things a different way

Oh, may there
bright angels to
you far and may they
sing lullabies in your own tongue. May
you not

fierce dark face
the man who led you to this fearful
dark place.

Oh, let there
a mother, who
smother you with mother-kisses, 'til
you wake.

The body of 7-year-old Hser Nay Moo was found last night in the bathroom of a South Salt Lake basement apartment in the complex where she lived. Hundreds of volunteers searched for almost two days before she was found. One of the searchers said, "I'm scared. I'm hoping for the best, but every time I open a Dumpster lid...God forbid."

We are all mourning for this tiny girl who wore her Sunday best, a pink dress, pink shoes, and a pink jacket to her tragic death. Someone has tied a pink sign with pink ribbons to a tree outside the apartments. It says: You are never so Lost that Angels can't find you. Police have arrested a young man for her murder.

God bless Hser Nay and her family.
The Idiocy of Trying to Justify a Mortal Position

The Borg says resistance is futile
Amalgams of culture, collective
Hive mind. The stuff of our spirits says
That we all come from the same substance.
What is eternal? Skin color, or
Poverty, or inequality?
Reward is no justification
For suffering what is offensive
Through the birth process, either that, or
Is it just random? Or because they
Were strong? They are all potentially
Dangerous. Lift the veil. Let us see.

I see you everywhere except in dreams
--Karl Shapiro

Someday this poem will be
a memory, like
the ten dollars you got
winning the spelling bee, like
the sweet smell of the tobacco pouch
in your grandfather's pocket,
the grandfather you adored, how
the gold string that tied it vanished
like a coin drawn into a magician's sleeve
amazing the child who watched,
who was you, the child burned
by illusions that turned into dreams,
the child, awake now
to the ruin of old age, but you
cannot heal her, you cannot cry.
You know no words of comfort.
You pronounce her dead
and move to a far country,
sunless, without air.

(Grandpa and me, ca 1942) Xanadu,according to Coleridge, was a vision in a dream, a fragment, a sunny dome built in air, a savage place holy and enchanted, where "the sacred rived ran down to a sunless sea."
A Woman Without Arms

A woman without arms
is still a woman, nonetheless,
given a torso, two good legs, a head.
Without a mirror
she falls in love with herself.
Think: Venus.
Think: Winged Victory.

Think of wings that have been interlocked
so long, folded like an apron, unfolding
now as intricate as a moth's.

She has abandoned rings,
fingers, files, polish, gloves, bracelets,
for these feathers. Yet
she hungers for touch, for the
astonishing grace of nakedness, the endless warmth
of flesh, the chill of water.

She has forgotten how to hold a pencil,
how to play the Tarot. The harp
sits silent in the corner, gathering dust.

How does she eat? Make bread? Who
will feed the mare? Who
will water the fading plants, and gather
sticks for the fire, and turn the pages
of photographs, those foursided pastimes?

And where are other angels,
so long unseen?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

PT: Opprobrious Words

I was going to sit this one out, but, what the helk...(my 4-yr-old grandson says "we always say 'what the heck.' Because 'what the helk is BAD.'") I guess I was born to be a rebel.

Opprobrious words
Once said, as courtesies like please
Or thank you, or even
I love you

Will float
Like plastic goldfish
Doing tricks
In a cheap bowl

The first rule of nature: everything
According to its kind;
Opprobrious words can not
Be taken back

Blooming everywhere
Over bare ground, through insects
Gravel, dust, marking intricate trails
One molecule at a time

(LOL! I just looked at the definition: it said "Contumelious reproach." Contumelious! Indeed. It also means "shameful, as 'this dark, opprobrious den of shame'." I found some other neat words nearby: opsimath, opsonic, opsonin, opunyia, oquassa....)


"Sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within."

--Galway Kinnell, "St. Francis and the Sow"

You bring your problems down upon yourself
free in their error, full of
your own hot air
raising the great gas balloon of you
upward, every time you open your mouth

unstopped by any loving hand
that would tether you to ground
to earth, the greatest good, to sorrow

you don't understand this: things
are not always as they seem
you have to get out of your own way
suddenly you forget yourself you're grateful
for their affection

for keeping you
with all your strings, grounded
infinitely loved, forgiven

then, like a child, innocent
you let it go, because
these are the very hands you trust
you know you can trust, the hands
consecrated to the work
of keeping you safe
and bringing you home


I keep diaries in my head
at night I write on sealed pages
in dream codes, a sort
of dot-dot-dash Morse himself
couldn't read, keeps them private
old loves recur, taller than they were
twice as bold
dressed in dimestore suits and ties
I never saw them wear.

And my father
who never heard of Neruda
Gu Cheng or the Cultural Revolution
rocks calmly on the porch
and speaks to me
of bread and milk
I'm sick he says
and wants to say goodbye
as if he were not already dead.

This is a book
my grandchildren will never read
the key is not in my hand
not even in my pocket
never will my children say
Mama tell us of Olden Times
and turn these pages that open upon
old houses, old rooms that suck me in

like Alice through the glass.
This world is mine alone
where the voices and the windows
the old mingling of bodies
and the landscapes are buried
what's here is one raw nerve, exposed
and aching to go where I never can
to grasp the fleeting things
that would disappear.

(This is an old one. Sorry if you have seen it before)

Rethabile Masilo, @ Poefrika, an awesome poet from Lesotho, in a recent post of his that asks "who's your hero?" lists (among others) Steven Biko, as a person who "faces injustice and speaks out against it." This is for you, Rethabile. And for Steven.


Geographers, in Afric maps,
With savage pictures fill their gaps,
And o'er unhabitable downs
Place elephants for want of towns.

--Jonathan Swift

Naked and manacled
In the back of a Land-Rover
Cannot be convinced of
Mankind's essential goodness.

The men who have done this
Go out to kill
Believing in the mercy of God,

In the music of love.

Humankind moves in a celluloid dream,
Subscribes to pain. When we wake,
Your bruised black limbs
Will have pushed out roots
Watered from your blood.
Black women will prepare them
Like gari,
Black men will eat of them,


And be strong.


Fear follows
me like hungry cats
at my heels

Feed me
their small teeth sharp
I have put out both
meat and milk

peace offerings
but they do not eat
nor drink
they are not pacified

I have nothing left
to share with them
they remain
hissing and wanting



(an excerpt)

And if the sun
should cool enough to freeze us
or explode to supernova
and thus incinerate us all
what alien ears,
on hearing a concerto of whales
a cry of birds
sent out in orphan Voyager
may celebrate our fragile hope
our itching curiosity
with what in alien delight
may pass for sacramental bread
and wine?

"In Dreams you are never eighty"
--Anne Sexton

At last, Love,
the girl sighs, melting
into the embrace of the blueberry-
eyed sailor she'll never again
lie down with in this life
except in dreams of
sixty years past, where
her skin on his skin is rosy
and warm with life.

I have waited for you,
she whispers, for so long, so long,
and the sweat beads like silver
on her upper lip.
Her laughter is mild, yet
under her bare feet the stairs
burn, consuming the kitchen
with its frills of daisies and jam,
the study with its tiresome
globes and catalogs,
the bedrooms with their odor
of babies being born,
semen and blood.

All the doors are open
to the burning stairs. She would say
O my God, my Love, at last,
but there are no words because
his lips are on her lips
and the blaze licks at her sleeves,
her skirt curling like a paper doll's.

When she wakes, between her thighs
is a wrinkle rough as woolens,
deep as a pit. Her tongue's a knot.
Her face is gray as a potato
and full of eyes.


60 miles above Midway
The silica tiles glowing
At 2300 degrees Fahrenheit
With a red light, or white
Or blue like any other early
Star, and somewhere
Off the coast of Florida
The sun rises and a flight
Of pelicans waits inland
For splashdown
36 sunrises after ignition
The blue-flame engines burn
Meteorlike, it falls

The birds fall and rise
Above the blue-green glitter
Of the tide
6-tenths of a second after
The last bird dives into a wave
The slight deceleration
The last roll reversal at Mach 2.6
A tail of flame and a double
Sonic boom
Followed by a whir
Of wings


Who would understand
The satisfaction of
That day the gull
Tipped south
Steered by a north wind away
From whatever was fixed

Light and lacking focus but
Committed to air

Who would understand
The truth of it
But someone arbitrarily reborn
In a stranger's nest

Who would understand
The exhilaration of feathers
Above all the graffiti
Of civilization
Like a soul glimpsed
Leaving the body done

To My Daughter

Blood of my blood
your name remains unwritten
on church records
school rollbooks
letters of intent
or love or sympathy:


I write it here
a message in a bottle
cast out
with the wild grace
of my hope
all that's left
before your veiled eyes
flickering down the dark
carry it away with them

Anniversary: Keep Away

After forty years
Your face is one
I no longer recognize
Among other half-remembered faces
Of children grown
Lovers gone
Friends departed

In your endless rage
I know only
The red wilderness
Of burnt Mercury
I would be glad
For some small thing of Earth
A red carnation

Once keep-away
Was something children played
Now I listen to you breathe
You sleep in pieces
This part of you
That part of you

I think how as a boy
You hid a pocket knife
In the top of your Commando boots
Had a nosebleed at Grand Canyon
And threw your unsold newspapers
Into gutters

Now you lie buried
Belly down in pillows
Mouth open
The outlines of your dreams
Of Guam, of flight, of Halley's Comet
And the end of the world
A trailing current
Of your death

Leaving no notes behind
No messages

There, high in the tree hangs a paper-wasp nest like an over-ripe fruit.

Beside the wasp's nest, some birds have built a nest of their own: strange neighbors.

Something about those two windblown nests reminds me of lions and lambs.

WI: A Letter

I know a woman lovely in her bones
--Theodore Roethke

Dear Omniscient Whomever,

I know a man unlovely in his bones,
by any human measures, of ill health,

and filled with parasites, with body parts
as rotted as the pistons of an old

Plymouth, still, sweet in his pure and tender
soul, who would be raised from his sickbed by

angels, sharp-edged but in no great hurry,
spinning on their graceful harpy wings like

falling-down galaxies. He raises his
obscene middle finger toward the coat-rack

in the corner, in the half-light, spinning.
I know how it is, how space flight is a

risky business. I wonder why in a
universe where angels dance with ions

in a hundred visions and revisions,
Prufrock-like, why is this final, deadly

apparition not an angel? Would not
an angel, any angel, even an

unlovely one be better than this per-
verse revolving coat-rack in the corner?

With Love,


"I have a problem. Everybody I ever loved
I still love." --Alice Morrey Bailey

What I wanted most was
First, a sort of lusty voyerism,
To stare boldly
For a long time,
Neither of us speaking.
Then, for an icebreaker,
I would have touched his hair
Where pale blond had silvered,
Would have taken his eyeglasses in hand
To better gaze on passions
We would not name. Without a word
I'd have taken his coat,
Have taken his hands in mine,
Turned them, looked a long time
At the palms, the nails, the backs,
Would have touched the hairs
Growing there, and touched
His arms. At last,
I would bury my face
Against his chest and breathe of him
Until the inside of my head,
My lungs, my cells, are filled
With the scent of soap, after-shave,
Sun--whatever it is--
That makes me want to cry.

And sometimes, especially with snowmen when the weather has changed, there are NO SECOND CHANCES. True story.


Your hands can smile
With touch
Your pink nails laugh
With their half-moons shining
Smelling of things grasped
And let go: deliveries
And departures

Day after day
Hands are your navigators
Across smoke rainclouds
Starlight leaves ice
Over and over
They tell the story of your life
The left one
The hand God gave you
The right
The hand you make

They are a library
Clapping time
For the rest of your life
What if Never should come again

I must get a new bird
and a new immortality box.
--Anne Sexton

What if Never should come again
Or Why like kisses should happen along
And shatter the day that Daddy made
And Mama shuddered that you were born?

But what if Ever could happen along
And some like They should come again
To swallow the dark that swallows us all
Before we lie all slithery down?

Then we all would shout for the dark to break
Like mahogany splinters and those dark bowls
Of our eyes our hearts come back like birds
To a Somewhere place more here than gone,

Where Sometime frets in the wings for its cue
And Time that begot us and made us new
Is Father and Mother and Lover and Son
And we all are Many, and we all are Few,

And we're counted, One by One.


Mid-life I discover
the girl is gone-- the house
she lived in
inhabited by strangers.
Is this the crisis
I was led to expect
would unbury itself
from my mother's flesh
and spread like an infection
in an untended orchard?

My father took fruit
from wild trees, cut out the worms,
sugared the remains in honey.
The knobby red pieces drowned
in his sticky bowl like candy.

I used to think those wild pears
and apples bitter, the shriveled
orchard overgrown. This was a place
where men were kept
like yellow dogs in pens.
Like all things
it was transient. The black-haired
bastard boys who stood
at the wire fences,
the slant-eyed women who cried,
unable to embrace this insanity
are faceless and formless now
as the shadows of those skinny trees
they left behind.

The truth is
old orchards must be burnt
with all their worms, and
new trees planted. The strangers
who plant, mid-life,
luckily may find a girl in the ashes,
raise her. At least
she may have her share.
The sleeves of fire
may make her beautiful again.


"I will eat you slowly with kisses
even though the killer in you
has gotten out."--Anne Sexton

The pinkchalk dye
marks only wagging strings,
fringed needlepoint tracings
and balloons, pulsing and collapsing

in unseen hurricanes.
It does not reveal
the soft underground place
where pain drums at the bowel's door

like an oiled machine.
It shows how ribs
imprison the black heart
kicking at its bars

like a drunk
raving of the blade,
the blade,
God, the blade.

Annie knows.
She knows the body
is a damn hard thing
to kill.

A Letter To Cecil B. DeMille

Remember me,
Ipana Pearlywhites:
bit moviestar
from the Forties
who might've played
opposite Bogart
and George Raft,
but didn't?
pillars of ivory
once graceful
now gone to dentures,
whose especially talented
agility of hips
and imaginative tongue
taught men a new language,
whose willing flesh
became a garbage dump
for every twobit producer
west of Bakersfield?
To look at me now
who'd ever guess
this chaste rhythm
of breath under breasts
that used to rise
like helium balloons
but sag tonight
like used condoms
once fired little crimson
cherry-sucker syllables of sugar?
No one.
I am become a history book
of refrigerated kisses
preserved on celluloid
between the pages.

No Passion Greater Than the Mind

No Passion Greater than the Mind
Devours the Body or the Soul --
And all I know of Base Desire
By Mind was Body told.

My Soul kept White as Ivory
B'ignoring where the Body's sent --
May drop a Tear and shed a Sigh
Before this Passion's spent.

* * * *

Mind Is A Tiger In A Cage

Mind is a Tiger in a Cage --
Soul is a Desert Flower
That withers for Little Space
And dies a Little Hour.

Mind is a Tiger in a Cage --
But Flesh is Recompense
When Soul so Curiously Fades
For Want of sustenance.

(Two a la Emily Dickinson, who also Lived in Her Head!)


Night risings--listen--
the freefall of an apple
a flurry of wings


Lies in November


My stone has hands
It sleeps in the cradle
Of my hands,
Drinking my fire
My stone grows hair
In wonderful curls
Down its silky back
It loves the ice
That breaks me
More than it loves me
It sings of boots
Of blackbirds dying
Of the cracking of heaven
My stone knows black and white,
Was there at the hour
Of my birth
Understands cemetaries
Is flexible

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About Me

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1. In dreams I am often young and thin with long blond hair. 2. In real life I am no longer young, or thin, or blonde. 3. My back hurts. 4. I hate to sleep alone. (Fortunately I don't have to!) 5. My great grandfather had 2 wives at once. 6. I wish I had more self-discipline. (I was once fired from a teaching position in a private school because they said I was "too unstructured and undisciplined." --Who, me??? Naaaahhh....) 7. I do not blame my parents for this. Once, at a parent-teacher conference, the teacher told me my little boy was "spacey." We ALL are, I told her. The whole fan damily is spacey. She thought I was kidding. I wasn't. 8. I used to travel with a theater reperatory company. My parents weren't happy about this. 9. My mother was afraid that I would run off and paint flowers on my cheeks and live in a commune, and grow vegetables. I once smoked pot. ONE TIME. 10. I don't drink or smoke. (Or swear, much. Well, I drink milk, and water, and orange juice, and stuff. Cocoa. I love Pepsi.) 11. Most of my friends are invisible. 12. I am a poet and a writer. All of my writing on these pages is copyrighted. Borrowing (without acknowledgment) is a sin.