Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Poem a Day: 30! The last one.

When the End of the World Comes

I'm going to be in my kitchen, washing oatmeal
out of a plastic bowl, or soaping my aging body

in a hot hot shower, turning red, or perhaps dreaming
that I'm babysitting my friends' toddler and messing it

all up, or outside in my backyard, on my knees,
trying to figure out how to plant tulip bulbs, and iris,

digging in the dirt by the garage in old gloves
that catch the sweat at my fingertips, grunting and

cursing gardens and flowers and my stupid impulse
to keep the pretense up, or my love of the luscious

petals peeking up in spring, the drive that has me out here
as if praying in the dirt at the world comes to a close.

On the other hand, it makes more sense that I'll be
in front of a classroom jammed with bored undergrads,

9:30 AM, their heads bobbing on their stems as they surf
in and out of a doze, and I'll be waxing more and more

rhapsodic--as if to wake them from their torpor--extolling
the power of a short story by Sherman Alexie, describing how

he flips our stereotypes about Native Americans, revealing them
to be human beings with the same longings and needs

as the rest, the same damage and sadness, but facing greater odds,
and how he makes us appreciate storytellers and still

feel deeply sorry for them, nerds and orphans, social exiles,
as they strip themselves naked to the passion bone every day,

spinning tales out of the polluted air, and yet their neighbors and
once-friends walk past them as if they already don't exist.

Why?  Because, I'll be saying, like the rest of us, they've let the world
beat the love out of them--love of stories, love of family--

and the epiphany that they need each other more than money,
more than fame, more (even) than respect.  Listen, I'll say,

heating up as the world pinches to a sudden close,
like the rest of us, they're all already half dead, living their own

private apocalypse, treading the floodwaters of despair,
alcoholism, poverty, racism and self-hatred, the crushing

of their culture under the wheel of the "American" (television,
shopping malls, drugs, power).  Oh, I'll say, heating

up even more, sweating under what I have to deliver to them,
they're all living in invisible prisons -- the reservation,

masculinity, marginality -- don't you see?  We can't forget
the stories.  When the end of the world comes, I'll be trying

my damndest to get my sleepy students to see the beauty
in the storyteller's slow unraveling of self, in his continual

act of sacrifice, the way he tells the truth but no one
listens, only we have to listen, it's the only way to survive

the agony of living, and they'll be in their seats looking
through me with the same gaze as the storyteller's ex-

best friend, the one who nearly beat him to death once
on a basketball court, because he was bored and frustrated

and had reached the end of his leash already, they'll be
staring at me with pity and wonder, amused but distant,

idly speculating about what might make me wave my arms
with such abandon, as the light outside grows suddenly

infinite -- wondering what everything means, at last, and
what it all matters, if anything, in the end.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Poem a Day: 29

On the Same Topic

I used to imagine what it'd be like
to be that girl, the one in class who sits

in the back, face covered with long dark
wavy mermaid hair, the wraith in pale skin

who doesn't say a word, who won't raise
her hand, who in her slight loveliness is

more ghost than girl, floating in the sides
of our visions like quicksilver.

I wanted to be her, mysterious and secret,
wanted to hold my metaphorical cards close

to my slim chest, wanted to carry with me
that Mona Lisa smile, wanted to be vapor,

intangible, odorless, shining like moon
light on dark leaves.  I wanted to leave no

mark on the world.  I certainly didn't want
to be the girl I was -- that pudgy babyface

sitting right in front of the teacher, her arm
always itching to raise, the words pushing

against her lips, tangling into themselves in
their rush to be free. That girl waving

as if drowning, shouting loudly with every
fiber of her freckled body pick me pick me

oh please pick me

Monday, April 28, 2014

Poem a Day: 28

Dear Poetry,

Today I'm going to turn to you first.
Why? Because I'm still sleepy, and

it's gray out, a lowering atmosphere,
the wind cold, tunneling through our

thin coats. I need you next to me,
pushed against my chest, burrowed

into my white skin. Papers can wait:
letters, books, classes to finish. You,

dear poetry, hide somewhere behind
the clouds, only revealing yourself in

bursts, showering golden light on me in
dreams that vanish with waking.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Poem a Day: 27

This Poem That Almost Didn't Get Written

Turns out I almost forgot to write
this poem, engaged as I was in the
ordinary business of remembering,
incorrectly, where I am supposed to

go and when -- instead of writing this,
I went this morning to a meeting scheduled
for next week, only tweaking to the fact
that I was in the right place at the wrong time

when I buzzed my way into the vacant
building, navigating around stacks of chairs
hunched like silent sentries in the doorway,
and checked, in that awesome stillness

that only a renovated church can contain,
the electronic calendar I use now instead
of my brain.  Yes, I almost forgot to write
this poem in the relieved aftermath of

the Big Party, happy to have my girl
home again, safe, after a late night of
revelry across town, and hilarious finery,
and serious adult-yet-not-adult play-acting.

And I almost forgot to write this poem
because of the pain that paralyzed my head
when I cracked open my eyes this morning,
the ache that collapsed my skull

and laid me out, moaning and half-
drugged, on the chaise lounge.  There's
no poetry in that, of course.  Note, too,
that I did not forget to do my homework,

nor did I fail to eat too much candy, or
to reread, for perhaps the 10th time, the story
assigned to my 9 am class. In addition, I
managed to purchase a new sweater and

pants, coffee at a crowded local shop,
and feminine hygiene products.  And now
that I look up and see the clock inching
toward dinner with dear friends, I realize

I've been living poetry, of the most
daily and absent-minded kind, rather than
writing it.  And I guess, when all is said
and done, that I'm okay with that.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Poem a Day: 26

Reed Street Pastoral

Lazy Saturday afternoon
Weak sunlight in gray speckles on the dirty wood floor
Rumpled blankets on the sofa

House cleaned yesterday but already
Flotsam indicating ongoing life:
Scribbled papers, hardcover Harry Potter, tossed pillows

Lizzie bumps upstairs, preparing for the big dance
Warbles a song to herself, thick hair curled and sprayed
Into expensive swoops

Willow out for a well-deserved walk, pulling Dave
On his leash through the drowsy neighborhood
Unseen cats tangled in a pile on our bed

Refrigerator thrums in the empty kitchen
Underneath it the swoosh of distant traffic
Moving in all four directions

Friday, April 25, 2014

Poem a Day: 25

Omission v. Submission

Today I discovered I'd left
two whole days
out of my course calendar --
just deleted them from the future
as I was composing the syllabus
last December,
and I wondered what it is
about my brain that does that--

lives three months ahead of time,
gulping down clumps of days,
chewing through months,
then hiccups somehow
or vomits,
spewing a few hours into
a timeless void,
a neutral neverland.

I don't want to be so distracted,
and obsessed -- a chronological
control freak
who thinks she has her hands
firmly planted on a wheel that,
it turns out (time and
time again) doesn't

I'd like to be, instead,
a gray haired hag,
a woman relaxed into her
aging body,
a spirit who lives
in and for the moment, mind
still as the seconds slipping
past, a noticer
of every sensation, the sort
of person who
turns her hands down to the floor
and grounds herself --
instead of turning them up,
begging for that extra hit
of energy
to clash with the two cups of
burnt coffee she downed
right before yoga.

I want to bend down
at the end of my practice,
for the "teacher in all things,"
with grace and attention --

but I fling myself into my lap
with clumsy monkey wonder,
already mentally rushing through
the next hour's trees,
flying high and fast
away from the ground,

up into a sky filled
with shimmering leaves and
sharky clouds and
diving parrots that
may never actually

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Poem a Day: 24


Conduct yourself like a lady. Wear
dresses that fall below the knees,
stockings, sensible shoes, high-cut
blouses. Avoid garish make up --
corals and pinks are best. In your case,
you better not use more than lipstick.
You don't want to emphasize that big
mouth. Wash your hair every day.
Keep your room neat and tidy. Shave
your hairy legs and armpits, and for
god's sake pluck those caterpillar
eyebrows.  Say please and thank you.
RSVP to dinner invitations promptly
and remember to write THANK YOU
cards. Try everything on your plate.
Compliment the chef. Sit with your
legs closed and hold your fork and knife
gently, like this, by their handles.  Speak
softly and only when spoken to --
you have a tendency to shoot your
mouth off. Make sure your napkin covers
your big lap. Chew with your big
mouth closed and keep your elbows
off the table. Always ask others about
themselves -- no one cares about you
or your ridiculous ideas. Never call
a boy ... let him call you.  Play hard
to get if you want to be gotten. Who
will pay for the milk if he can get the
cow for free? Never accept a last minute
invitation; that means you were an after-
thought, and they don't really care
about you. Always walk on the street
in pairs and never at night. Go to bed
early, and alone, wearing a long night-
gown. Save yourself for marriage.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Poem a Day: 23

Dear Friendly Target Employee

I appreciate your smile and the eye contact
as I make my way out of the store. I might
also cherish, in another setting (and at
an earlier age ... definitely at an earlier age),

your somewhat exuberant walk -- the
bounce in each of your steps as you
lift off your toes just a bit, launching
skyward. And your red shirt, which

definitely looks ironed, drapes stiffly
over your lanky (perhaps concave?)
chest, making me suspect you might be
a bit fragile, a tad vulnerable, despite

that leonine smile. But I also suspect
that it was your voice, loud and
commanding, I heard blasting over
the shoe racks, ten minutes ago, where

I stood examining the flats, that it
was your voice ordering an unseen
employee to "USE YOUR PA" and
"TAKE A BREAK," your voice

drilling like a warning bell into my
revery, your voice that must've moved
that gray-haired old man with the flat
bed cart into the next aisle and then

bam bam bam into the shelving,
like a frightened and disoriented bug
hitting the back wall of a kitchen
in front of a big black boot.

And, if I can be frank, your massive
beard and mustache, reaching like Noah's
(but vigorous and dark brown) halfway
down your hollow chest?  Well, that,

dear sir, that bouncing flap of hair --
it looks like a small beaver attached
to your grin, and I have to say that it
scares the everliving crap out of me.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Poem a Day: 22

Glows Like God

My daughter has to write a "testament of faith" and
read it aloud to her Theology class. She's reading me

her speech.  She says she lost it -- her faith -- somewhere
along the way, that she and God (an Old Testament

father) had a falling out, or, better, a falling away, the
first time in the third grade, and then again later, and

try as she might, she can't believe in a Force that makes
so many who need him the most, who pray to him daily,

suffer, she can't love a god who denigrates women, she
can't put her faith in a man who whispers to Abraham:

kill your son, or who tests his most faithful to win a bet.
Or who inspires such murderous hatred that no one

inside or outside of His sainted circle is really safe.
"I don't believe in God, though I've tried, but that

doesn't make me an immoral person," she says, her
voice quavering.  "I try to do good, every day. I try

every day to be the best person I can be to the people
around me."  My daughter has been thinking this

speech for over a week.  My daughter has been speaking
these words in her head for years.  I can tell that she's

afraid that people she loves will love her just a bit less
after she labels herself an atheist. But her voice gathers

strength, and depth, and her head rises from her body
with honest pride, and her face glows with a righteous

shine that reminds me of God, the closest I'll ever get to
It -- a pure and disinterested Love, the light between atoms.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Poem a Day: 21

Prom 82

My dress was ivory and rose all the way to my neck.
My date, Josef, valedictorian, said he usually didn't

like girls too much-- they were silly and didn't care
for ideas, and that he hadn't planned to go to the prom,

but if I'd go with him, well, he'd change his mind.
Mom bought me a pair of pearl earrings that screwed

together behind my ears. Josef arrived exactly
on time. In the pictures Dad took of us, lined up

on the piano bench in our concrete house
at the top of a half-developed hill, I look dead

bored, my eyes sad, as if I'm waiting for
a metaphorical bullet to smash through my head

and put me out of my misery. At the dance hall,
a Mexican cover band jangled out a version of

"Funky Town," singing "Wone you take me to
fffffucky town," while a group of girls, drunk on

rum and each other, jumped sweaty in the middle
of the floor, exciting my jealousy like liquid metal

heating my veins, and I stood up, saying nothing,
to dance into their midst, while Josef watched rigid

from the table, hands folded, holding his back
ruler straight against the shouting and the music,

against the blur of the champagne he'd brought and
refused to drink, against the revelry and the end

of our high school careers. The room swam in my
head til I floated. Toward dawn I found myself kissing

and kissing a boy named Roland, grappling with him
in the hallway, then as the sun rose fell asleep,

alone, curled into my princess dress,
on Josef's hard back seat, and didn't dream.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

A Poem a Day: 20

What's the Use of Dreams?

S asks that in her journal,
about the number of people

she's met already,
at 21, who have given
up on them,

or who can't meet them,
who sit in bars crying to strangers
and into their expensive beers

about the loss of them

and she makes me think
about the nature
of dreams,

how we chase them,
how we most of the time
can't even see them

(they blur and stretch,
slip and jiggle,

lie to us or
make us lie to ourselves,
dress themselves

in the fashion
of the masses, hiding
their perversity),

and how sometimes they turn
into nightmares
so we can't even

run from them
because the ground turns
to quicksand

and the faceless monster,
the dream that pursues us,
carries a gun

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Poem a Day: 19

Eye Contact

Hey guy at the YMCA, don't you
remember me? As you bull past, a bare
"excuse me" passing your tightened
lips? Don't you recall sitting for a
semester in my class, your face alight
at times with an idea? Don't you have
any memory of the time you told us
how you stayed awake for 72 hours
playing World of Warcraft, pissing
into a bottle? I do. And how could you
forget lingering after class, asking me
questions about Beowulf, trying to figure
me out, how to make me like your
bombastic essay style? Or the way you
and that red-headed iconoclast dominated
discussions, letting the rest of the class
watch the metaphorical ball sail back
and forth over their heads, happy
to let you both have it? I thought I
was the one with memory problems.
Or -- and this makes me stop short
with a small pain -- you do remember,
every minute, and it's an act of will
that slides your eyes from mine, that
compels you to deny those hours, that
injects steel and vacancy into your face,
as you push past with narrowed lids,
implying I'm in your way, that my
fantasy of humanity is just that (a
fantasy shared by silly old ladies),
that time moves on, implacable,
like people, and that we never connect
for long, if we ever really did.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Poem a Day: 18

Resurrection Vacation

Good Friday appears like any other: sunlight
wan, temperatures wishy-washy, grass green
only in ironic patches, flowers waiting (in theory)
for more propitious circumstances to show their
delicate faces. School across the city has been

cancelled -- thus the children next door smack
a basketball with irregular force against the side
of our crumbling house. I must put my cluttered
house in a sort of order, expecting JoAnn's visit,
her ministrations with vacuum and bucket ...

... I must clean a bit for the welcome cleaner,
as any other Friday not obliterated by ice or
snow. Robins call to each other from still-bare
branches; little girls screech at each other
across the empty street, voices rising like

flesh-eating bandsaws, surgical instruments
determined to get at another girl's heart through
her hard breastbone.  When did Jesus roll away
the stone? I can't remember the order of events,
either in my own life or mythology. Time

stretches and stalls. Was Friday good because
of suffering and revenge? Or has Jesus already
died, forsaken and stabbed?  Is Friday when
Jesus is tided into the tomb?  And are we waiting
for some sign of a new life amidst the old?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Poem a Day: 17

What Happened to the Audience?
      -- to be read aloud by Samuel L. Jackson and posted to YouTube

We called the poetry reading for a Wednesday night
and invited the entire campus, send a special invitation

to the writers and the English majors, to honorable members
of the literary society, and ordered five pizzas in an act

of cosmic hope, in the spirit of poetic love, but only six or so
poets or so arrived, trailing children, roommates, lugging

laptops crammed with poetry, crumpled sheets of paper
scribbled with it, smart phones filled with its melodic burblings,

blinking with owl-eyed semi-confusion (as if they just
woken from unplanned afternoon naps and didn't quite know

the time, only that they might be late).  Where have all
the poetry lovers hidden themselves? we wondered.

The seats remained conspicuously empty. Not even the building's
100 years worth of ghosts bothered to attend, we suspected --

no doubt out in De Pere celebrating Hump Day in translucent
splendor, troubling stoop shouldered mill workers at the

Midway Bar with vague melancholy and a prosy dissatisfaction
with the status quo.  (Nothing poetic in that.)

So the small collection of poets accepted their abandonment
with a measure of good cheer (they're used to it), sitting

in the building's fantastical chairs, its beautiful cathedral space,
talking of everything but poetry -- high school and popular culture

and embarrassing moments from their not so distant and distant
childhoods, while their would-be listeners wandered the outside

world bereft of poetry, no doubt cold, too, and alienated, perhaps
longing deep down for something ineffable -- some bright image

or clever string of words, some flight of linguistic fancy, to
possibly contain or name this sense of desire, this feeling of

complete incompleteness, or the dizzy feeling of clinging to
a planet that, as ever, rotates calmly on an invisible axis

of indifference, spinning and spinning, day after day,
through the same old space.

April 17 2014

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Poem a Day: 16

I Will Not Make This About the Weather

I tell myself, waking
to the stillness
that suggests
another blanket of snow
lies outside
the closed curtains.

Yoga at 5:30 AM
makes me melt.
A man with long hair
groans rhythmically
as we move,
saying uh uh uh uh
as if making love
to the burning room.

At breakfast Lizzie says:
"We read haikus
in class yesterday and
my favorite went something
like this:
Writing shitty poems about snow/
for the rich/
is not art"

I say: "Was that Basho?"
And wipe the crumbs
off the counter
Instead of:
I don't like haikus and
I don't like 20 degrees and
I can't hold myself for more
than 10 seconds in plank
with my right arm up
and weighted and
do you have everything
you need for school
before I push you out
the door and taste
the silence?

"It was Basho or
Buzon or Iko or
some other guy
I can't remember."

As for weather:
no new snow.
Just a strange meanness
that wanders the street
like a cold fog.

Two houses down,
a FOR SALE sign
appears in the lawn
and I'm glad:
the taciturn couple
have never smiled
as they move in
and out of their cars.
They managed to
have a baby we
didn't see until he
was walking.
Once the man, who
went with JR, next door,
to high school, said
to him: Keep your kids
off our yard.

Meanness hangs on
the frozen wires.
Meanness bubbles out
of the sump pump,
freezing the grass.
Meanness lies
at the bottoms of
these glasses as I
wash them.

Writing shitty poems
about the weather
is not art

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Poem a Day: 15

Tax Day

Oh, I remember that first paycheck, back in college,
Pittsburgh, when it was “the most livable city” in
the country, when minimum wage was 3.25 and I 
was just 20, and worked five or six hours a week 

for Elaine Powers Figure Salon, jumping on a podium, 
slapping my hard thighs, counting loud, crammed 
into a tight T and high cut half-leotard, shiny stockings 
and hot black legwarmers (the uniform I’d been obliged

to purchase before starting the job), my hair shorn 

on one side, the rest curled with chemicals, fashioned 
to fall with rakish insouciance over one mascara-
bleeding eye; when I whirled and twirled and sweat

and shouted to Prince and The Clash, then slalomed
back to campus through rush hour traffic on a creaky
old 10 speed (once Mom's), flying down and then
slogging up hills; when I debated the Cuban Missile

Crisis in class and went home to bang out angry
poems and papers on Chaucer, killing my typewriter;
when I missed my boyfriend, the one who'd flunked
himself out a year, so much that I took up with another;

when light fell into my parents' old bedroom (mine
now, like the bike) in the house I now hared with four
strangers with a kind of gray grace; when I filed my
first taxes, noting as I did that I made no real dent

in the American economy--that, in fact, according
to the charts, I didn't need to file because I'd made
nothing, or nearly so, and would be getting everything
back (a hundred bucks or so and change), all those

sweaty hours earned with hard labor and sore
muscles, to the driving disco beat, where women
worked after work and before dinner to make sure
they (like me) didn't take up too much space.

April 15 2014

Monday, April 14, 2014

Poem a Day: 14

Forgiving Our Fathers

I want to forgive my fathers for their various sins --
Roy for dying before I could know him, Tom
for taking his place, Roy for leaving a vacuum in his
wake, Tom for drinking his darkness like gin and

sucking us all into his poisoned center. After all, it’s not
really our fathers’ fault, is it, that we have to suffer? They
only do what’s been done to them, programmed to pass
on their painful inheritances like the taint of drunk

blood, like the gift of a new name.  Our fathers fracture
and recreated us in the same ways that their fathers
once crushed and molded them -- putting us back together
with rotten glue -- so that as we grow older our bones

ache against the invisible breaks, our hearts labor under
the veins’ unseen divisions, and our bones disintegrate
under the force of a thousand ineffable kicks. Really,
they couldn’t help it -- lugging with them, as they did,

their own broken bodies, rent with ghostly fissures.
Perhaps we’d be better off, then, forgiving ourselves for
our inability, at last, to ever truly forgive them. We were
all cracked in turn, beginning (of course) with our hearts.

April 14 2014

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Poem a Day: 13

Singed Sonnet

When did we first encounter the mood ring?
That thin slip of fake silver, with its flat
eye, a shiny blot, starting a black thing
and transforming, on our fat fingers, back

to a murky green or a dust dull yellow,
showing us our buried secrets -- our small
angers and hidden rages. We weren’t mellow,
we weren’t silently happy.  No, we all

uncovered under-skin fires, red hot
grudges and orange resentments, tiger stripe
frustrations, khaki boredoms.  We slipped on
the magic circles and, like lizards, striped

the colors of our inner walls, uncloaked --
at a single spot -- as burnt to the bone.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Poem a Day:12



Mary Shelley wakes from a dream, from looking
in the ugly mirror of a pair of horrifying yellow eyes,

from a dream of Science's frightening future -- a
souped-up, tricked-out world spinning through

crazy space into the infinite, where fathers give
birth and run screaming from their sons --

and scribbles Frankenstein in a fever dream, a
sweaty afterbirth, swaying in Swiss firelight, hunched

over a stack of curling papers, ink dripping
black blood onto her stained sleeve, while Percy

runs away over the glaciers with Byron, leaving her
with a sickly son, a dead daughter, and the challenge

(one he probably doesn't think she'll meet) to out-
write them all. She must prove herself to her not-

yet-husband, and to her rejecting father, and to
her famous dead mother. She must prove herself

worthy of their absent love. No wonder, then,
that when she looks into her soul's black mirror

she gives birth to the creature: her alter-ego,
a moving mass of dead bodies, an "abortion"

who grows up overnight and who asks for just
a crumb of the love he sees all around him.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Poem a Day: 11


The Right Words to Say It

I’ve tried to write this again and again, but the details
slip, and the right words stay safely in their box. But let me

begin again: one August, long ago, we packed the new car
(Mom wanted the Audi Fox but Dad picked the Dodge Aspen)

breathless with luggage, waved to Dad and Dave Hess,
standing like brothers on the sidewalk in Pittsburgh, and

headed south, just the four of us, Mom and Erica and Conrad
and I, shipping our lily white bodies and native language

to the border, holding our American hopes and fears in
our laps like  flustered doves in cardboard boxes.

After Brownsville we hit Matamoros, Mexico, floating past
a Mayflower van in the ditch, three men in faded Cowboy

t-shirts watching it crackle, fists on their hips, faces creased
with unreadable smiles. Yes: this image sticks.  And also

the dark glances from people on the sides of the road, and
the rutted yellow road, and the cloud of yellow dust that we

raised in our wake, coating the rows of shacks thrown
together from road-signs and rotted wood with a golden

choking halo.  Is this where we’re going to live? we asked.
Mom shook her head. At least, I think so – I can’t remember.

At the hotel the man at the desk smiled like the men in the
ditch – so sorry, they had no reservation for us.  Crying, we

drove to the dirty airport to pick up Dad, his face already
sweating in the airless room. Don’t worry, he said, we’ll

sort this out. After all, he’d brought his stern brown eyes and
his flat stomach, his muscular biceps and his excellent

Columbian Spanish, his Zapata mustache and his fancy gilded
passport filled with diplomatic stickers. He waved it

in the deskman’s face like a magic wand, transforming
the man’s shit-eating smile into an obsequious little bow

and then a key, which he placed in Dad’s palm with a flourish
like a bird from a hat.  Dad grinned, hefting our luggage,

muscles bulging, and herded us to the room. I think I felt
a little empty.  I definitely felt scared. We’d achieved a moment

of cultural clarification: we could not speak the right
language. Keys will appear and rooms will open only

for the right words, the proper smile and papers, for
flexed muscles under a good-looking man’s shirt.

That night, though we didn’t yet know it, we set down our
boxes of hopes and dreams and lit them on fire. We let them

burn, silent, then lay down on our beds of ashes, awake
together in the suffocating room, listening to Dad snore,

our heads swirling with dust and shacks and unknown words,
with airports and roads and fists and smiles, with strangers

and row after row of locked rooms, knowing nothing, really,
but this:  we were a hell of a long way from home.

April 11, 2014

Thursday, April 10, 2014

A Poem a Day: 10

Back in Dreams

Now that my daughter’s 17 I can’t help but remember
dark days at the end of high school, when, in the filtered
light of massive Mexico City movie theaters, washed

black and white by The Elephant Man or Saturday Night
Fever, I groped, innocent, clumsy, with a relative stranger –
no one important, no one I really knew or even cared

to know, or in the backseat of a speeding Rabbit,
three lanes of Chilango traffic zipping past in a stream
of gray exhaust, shoved my fingers into a long-haired boy’s

back pocket, tasting the smoke at the back of his throat,
the whiskey on his unnameable tongue, as he fumbled
under my shirt, chapped palm chafing my new breasts

in their tiny bra. These memories trickle back in dreams,
as if that’s where they must belong – blurred, partial,
trailing a sense of uncanny danger like a corruptive

perfume, nibbling at the edges of the present moment.
Damn that girl. I want to wake up and shake her images
off. I want to believe she’s a phantom, a dream image,

someone else, alternate reality, not a real rewind girl
living in that teenage metropolis. I want to shake free
of her sullen poems and her silly longings, her need

for love in all the wrong places. I want to be done with
her happy sadness, the taste of foreign mouths, her
angry misapprehensions of sex, sex she can’t get, and

the desperate tides of emotion in her marbled house,
waves that wash her up behind her locked bedroom door.
I want to be done with her harsh laughter and her dirty

jokes. Most of all, I want to disavow all those photos of her:
how she curves into herself as she might into one of those
warm strangers, holding her elbows pinched in her small

hands, her arms pinned against her chest, as if to keep
something precious in, as if to prevent herself from, finally,
exploding into polluted parts.

April 10, 2014

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

A Poem a Day: 9


Black Hole

When in doubt, look out the window and write
whatever comes out. Like: the blue in the sky is

a washed out hue, and clouds scud across it like
cotton floss, flotsam shredded at the bottom of a

forgotten bin. Ugh.  No.  Think instead about birds:
fat robins pulling hapless worms from damp lawns,

each squirming mess a reminder of nature’s cycle,
how death leads to life leads to death, that (boring)

infinite circle of rot and rebirth.  Oh, for God’s sake,
Laurie, don’t ruminate on all the bodies stacked by now

underground, sealed like Spam in metal coffins, or
about your own eventual immolation. Don’t worry.

Years from now, someone will scatter your ashes
over one of the oceans, and you’ll disappear, but today

it happens (at last) to be Spring, and so time to focus on
more amazing matters: lambs in Scottish fields, sunlight

at 7 pm, the approaching end of another semester, crab
apple blossoms waiting under their shiny branches,

summer freedom with its slow hot days and relaxed
reunions with old friends.  Laurie, Laurie, Laurie –

get your head out of your existential ass for a minute.
Everyone knows it’s a black hole. And certainly, nothing

(good or fine or holy) ever came out of it.