01 December 2009
When I fell asleep the nurse was still
laughing. I don't remember the
joke. And while I was sleeping they
drew the knife and cut it out. Out! And
in the dark of anesthesia I couldn't
yell, Stop! I've changed my mind.
They said to me, Don't be afraid. Then they
tore me open and harvested a pink plump pear of
an organ. And while they offered a sacrifice to
the god of bloody things I was crawling through
a sea of sage. Crawling. But my wrists were
tied. And my mouth was tied. The other
women walked past me with their baskets of
fruit. They pretended not to see me twitching at
There were no telephones where
I went and kisses were hard to
come by. And no one explained that
feeling of being taken from one world and
placed in another. That feeling. It was the
opposite of waking up on a hospital bed with
an ache where you're missing something.
30 November 2009
If there was a way to give him all without
giving him anything, I guess I've done it.
I guess. The bedspread was scratchy. The
blue Jesus on the wall quietly prayed. I watched the
second hand on the clock move around and
around, stopping to kiss each tick once quickly on
the way to tock. In retrospect, I could have been more
original. It's not like I thought I was the
one. Not really. That's probably what we all
say. In retrospect. But beneath the
sidewalk and the water pipes and the dirt was
someone a little uncertain who happened to
hold a lever in her hand.
29 November 2009
A cardboard boat, its mainsail a
torn-up t-shirt blowing in the
wind so a pattern of reddish
light twinkles on the water, crawls bit by
bit over the inky flat rocks of the
riverbed. It must have been built while
I was sitting here trying to mend another
hole in the sofa's upholstery. He is so far away
from me right at this moment. But there are
others, moments so close, moments of
fusion. Ice melting into water. This
tempestuous soul who only months ago
was blood and bones and water.
28 November 2009
Arranging and rearranging the hem of
her red satin dress, she pauses to
look at the camera. I do not expect
a smile or an offering, perhaps a
scream, a silent scream for
melodrama's sake. All angles are
her angles. At any rate, the
ghosts hide in the dark until
she's away. I knew her before
she had to put gold in her hair, when
her curves were round and soft. If
you believe miracles occur then
you've never been strapped to
the bed when she administers the
dose. Degree by degree.
27 November 2009
A little boy
stands on a box
in too-big blue jeans,
carrot sticks and
We rush through
dinners, school days,
barely stopping to
bend and breathe in
the sweet and salty.
He stands on a
cardboard box bare-
foot and plucks a
guitar, his ten fingers and
toes are gulls that
say good luck
slowing us down. The
boy who swells and
breaks like every
breath is every-
thing. The boy who
knows a clock different
from the one hanging
on the kitchen wall. The
boy whose laughter draws
honey from the
26 November 2009
Little snowflakes, little chalky
wafers, you flutter outside my
window. I stick out my tongue but
still cannot taste your
chill. There is a cold I cannot
catch! If you could nip, or bite--
close your arctic fingers around
my throat. Not this, not
this falling down without
frostbite, without numb.
I'm weary of watching
you wobble, stark as
bone, lifeless as the
shavings of a fingernail.
25 November 2009
Supper is full of noise. The
sharp staccato of celery being
chopped. Forks and knives
rattle against each other like
bells with broken clappers.
Grandpa grunts as he tries to
get out of his chair.
In the middle of
a whistling boy. Sneaker
toes tap linoleum. Sigh. A
pencil clucks and whispers across
the paper. Sigh. Pencil
becomes drum stick until
the song ends. Sigh.
Platters stomp and
tromp on the table. Glasses
fill with water. Chairs
pull out. A rushed
prayer. The rip of
crusty bread. Everyone
speaks at once.
23 November 2009
The first time it rained, I was
a wreck. I remembered
stories my new husband had
mentioned, stories of
basements slowly filling with
water, animals floating by
vacant family room
windows, taking a
rowboat to work.
I imagined my baby being
whisked away in his
bassinet down Bay Avenue.
I lifted him carefully into
my arms, with great
ceremony, like I might
never do it again.
I ran upstairs and tried to
pack a bag, a plastic grocery
bag, with necessities. What
was necessary? I'd never lived in
a city that flooded. Suddenly,
I was homesick.
The rain in this new place, this
strange city, the rain here is
moody and scornful. It assaults
frisbee throwers in the park, crushes
flowers and has been know to
steal umbrellas right out of tightly
clutched hands. The rain here takes a
joy ride and never looks back.
She leans over the landing and drops
pebbles into Budd Bay, the smooth
rocks work their way down her fingers and
out of her hands into the murky water.
The afternoon sun tints everything
an unnatural buff color, like
polaroids from the 1970s.
Her hair slips between the slats of
the boardwalk. Tucked behind a
pierced ear. Strands brush her
forearm. Protein filaments.
She drops another pebble. Plop. The
surface of the water explodes.
On a bench further down the
wharf an old man clips shades onto
his eye glasses. A woman with
curly hair sits down next to him and puts a
blanket across his knees. She shouts at
him to straighten his collar.
Surface tension. Ripples. Water lit by
late summer sunlight. Quickly it goes.
It cannot hold its shape.
21 November 2009
There is a rush of
wind, sheet music scatters like
dandelion snow, you lose your
balance. Off kilter.
You watch yourself
disentangle. They say
you grew the beard to appear
more distinguished. Older.
Just seconds ago your
fingers were skillful and
sure. Already you are
trying to recall how
smooth the keys felt under
your fingertips. The slight
resistance. The delicate
sound of pianissimo. The
when you floated away from
the sanctuary of the concert hall and
unraveled knee-deep in
20 November 2009
For years I've been looking for somewhere to go.
New York. New Mexico. Old El Paso. I have even
planned things out once or twice. Called the
numbers and received the brochures. Checked on
apartments and duplexes. Looked up crime rates.
And then, in my dreams, there I am searching for
a pine tree to sit under, a warm cup of coffee, the
bellow of the sea.
19 November 2009
The act of forgetting is a slow one.
So much sneaks back in.
The fallen feather of a
belted kingfisher. The smell of
pepperoni pizza. The manner in which
a girl in the street quickly says hello and
then tucks her chin into her
Remnants of debris.
I stumble on their tangled bits.
Forgetting to remember to
forget is a fascinating,
formidable thing. Each
memory opening always
18 November 2009
The black smoke rises like a
cat stretching after a nap. I used
to be able to smell it. I used to
like the smell. I used to do it on
purpose just so I could inhale the
withery scorch . In the middle of
the day I drive back to my place just
to watch a slice of bread go from
golden brown to charcoal.
16 November 2009
Grams is on her knees bent
over the washing basin, rubbing a
linen blouse upon the galvanized
steel ribs of the washboard. I try to
open the window, to holler, to ask
her why she doesn't just throw the
clothes in the washing machine, but
the window won't budge. I watch
her scrub--plunge, lift, plunge. She
is laughing. Her cheeks are
clouds and clouds are water.
I stare at the fuzzy blue dice hanging from the
rearview mirror and try to breathe through my
mouth to avoid the sour smell of his sweat. The
sun is hot on my thighs and I wish I hadn't worn
such short shorts.
I pat his arm quickly and sit on my hands to keep
my legs from sticking to the blue vinyl seat. The
radio has gone staticky but I don't dare touch it,
don't dare chance tuning into some honky tonker
moanin' the blues.
I don't know what to say so I keep pretending to
yawn, keep pretending he never said it. Each
time we pass a traffic sign, a whoosh like the
wind being forced out of an air mattress, quick
and all at once.
15 November 2009
Simian crease, sugar-stirring
spoon, Bob's suspenders, electric
circuit loop. Cocaine, a cat's
tail, steel rails running on
wooden ties. The point
spread, kohl powder
penciled around bloodshot
eyes, getting from point A to
point B. Kenneth's untied
shoelaces, the 50-yard
line on a football field,
grocery lists, the end of
a marathon, walls, a picture
frame painted gold. Song and
dance, the pink satin ribbons in
Kate's hair. Postcards from a
childhood pen pal, a filmstrip, the
string attached to a tea bag, the tone arm of
a phonograph, The stem of a late summer
sunflower, veins returning impure blood back to
the heart, a fading face drawn in the after-
shower fog on a bathroom mirror.
14 November 2009
Fashion magazines, broken-
down cereal boxes and
seven drafts of a poem in
a bundle on the curb.
The gray cat reclines on
last week's spelling
test, she bats a jigsaw puzzle
piece between her paws.
Last night's carry-out
still on the coffee table,
Kung Pao sauce weeping on
a brood of cut-out paper dolls.
13 November 2009
If Only Mama'd let me go to the county fair,
ice cream candy apple coca-cola stains on
white t-shirt, flea market tye dye sunglasses
hats with detachable hair, $10 entry fee vocal
dance instrumental bathing suit beauty pageant &
talent contest, down and dirty grass
roots lawn mower racing, beekeepers apiary
honey comb in wide mouth jar with rust-free lid,
to market to market to buy a fat hog, fortune
telling star tarot card palm in Gypsy Lee's hand.
If I ever build a house I'll paint it blue,
or green. Sea green. I'll build it beside a
river so it feels like I'm always moving.
I'll let ivy grow up the sides.
Two pink flamingos planted in the
front lawn to remind me to smile.
On second thought, no
flamingos. Yard statuary gives
the impression that I'm here to
On a log dark-hued as this ocean night we are cloaked.
The murk and mist mask
a too-big nose and
Everything is the ocean.
When I close my eyes, you sing I Want You to Want Me.
I will darn socks someday, some
day, and you will forge pots and pans out of
iron, but that life is thousands of
nautical years away.
What would it be like to wave, to ripple across the
surface headed nowhere in particular, to vibrate from
moment to moment? Veiled in water, waves,
name and number withheld.
11 November 2009
The lady looked at herself
(with curls and cheeks round as
apples)in a pool of dark still water
more slippery than a raven's back
its feathers wet with rain.
The women plaiting her hair
(none of them knowing kinship is
more fairer than guile and
envy) tell stories about the
lady's vanity and love of
looking at her own body (a
most excellent body, both up and
down) and their stories buzz
and hum until all the men and
women (especially the women) believe
the lady is a bad lady
(and a sinful lady and
shameful too) and they cannot
begin to explain (these women)
how they have come to feel
contemptible of their own bodies
so they begin to make excuses
(about a hair out of place, about
needing to check their lipstick)
for looking in the mirror.
Somewhere (with ribbons of
gold that flow and swim) is a
lady who leans over a vessel
(a bowl of painted glass) and
looks at herself (long and slow).
10 November 2009
Should Anyone Ask
It is evening. I have wandered off. Okay,
I've been abandoned. I am lost. My feet are
dirty. I carry a branch of laurel but still
my prayers are fruitless.
The sky is the color of wild greens. The moon looks
counterfeit and sad. The dragonflies make music by
opening and shutting their wings and the
toadflax nearly reaches my knees.
I will not chase love like a stray dog. I am
not a fool. I will leave these accursed woods.
But first I must wash my feet. And close my
heavy eyelids and sleep. Don't worry; it's just
a little nap.
07 November 2009
She plants poppies by the roadside
to cheer up the drivers on their way
home from work, because they were his favorite
flower, because he was a veteran, because his
blood, when it dribbled out of his ear, made a
red whorl on the white pillowcase.
She plants poppies by the roadside
because it keeps her hands busy, because
she loves flowers, because she wants to
bury something that will rise again,
because if she isn't doing something
with her hands they wrench and wring.
She plants poppies by the roadside
because her love for him is eternal,
because she needs something to take care of, because
it requires no intercessor, because the petals that
bloom out of the wrinkled bud are thin as
the wall between here and him.
One eye, half hidden by hair,
one blue eye, turquoise domes
in Bukhara, turquoise and
indigo, electric indigo, blue
larkspur and Miles Davis at
midnight blue. One eye
under one curved eyebrow,
a fermata, one blue eye,
unblinking luminous blue.
One eye, shuttered by two
fingers, one blue eye,
blueberry stain on blue jeans,
bluefire jellyfish blue.
One eye, screened by
black eyelashes, one blue eye,
turkish tiles blue, seashell
blue moon periwinkle blue.
06 November 2009
Everything was marshmallows
and running barefoot in the grass.
Giant pines, rubber boots,
trillium in the rain. The chain of
daisies made the princess.
Beautiful was dragonflies
and grandmother and calla lilies.
This is how the door closes: climbing a tree
in the backyard becomes a story
about climbing a tree in the backyard,
a story that opens the door
to memories, barely recognizable,
stories told again and again
until they gain significance.
Pierced ears, slumber parties,
a best friends necklace.
The knobby surface of a football.
The tremble of a kiss.
A boy who smells like thyme and
letters folded origami-style
buried deep in a pocket.
A strip of black and white
photos taken in a booth at the
county fair--found in a book of
american poems--the promise to
"stay cool forever" forgotten.
The black dog shot and
buried in the neighbors backyard.
The headache and vomit
of a first cigarette.
Being picked last, tripping
in the hallway, a bad haircut.
A boy kicked and punched
to death on a football field--
no one remembers how this happened,
how rage breached the thin blue line.
Falling leaves, frosted blades
of grass, a sun that sinks
too soon. This is growing old, this
is a story about a memory, a story
about the smell of grandmother's
pumpkin pie. About a hayride, under
the harvest moon. About climbing a
maple tree in the backyard.
05 November 2009
Maybe next time she won't spill over like a shaker of salt,
maybe she'll shake the habit, shake it like
a single-serving salt packet
maybe she'll slip into something a little more comfortable
(scratch the surface--
when it rains it pours),
maybe next time she'll buy the shamelessness on credit,
get wasted at the kitchen table, fingers clutching
the flushing white pillar of her neck,
(after the excavation--
a crystalline shower).
04 November 2009
Chemical-coated plastic smiles stalk me from strips of film that spill out of little paper pockets and drawers and boxes,
luminous white lips that glow eerily even through closed eyes.
The blue, licorice-scented hyssop is in full bloom
but I sleep until afternoon, and rise to walk through the dark hallway and bump into a cold wall covered in photographs.
When I dream, I see images of feathered hope perched
on a black bag full of trash and leaking barbecue sauce, he sings
the sweetest song, but I'm wearing earplugs.
02 November 2009
I got out of bed to see if you left the oven on
And tripped over a pair of blue clogs in the doorway,
I lay there starting to remember things;
The ocean in August, the moist of your armpits, a seagull we named Bob.
I knew there was no way for me to rise up gracefully
And the hero was snoring.
For a moment I panicked,
I'll drown, I thought. I'll drown.
But the green crayon next to me was unflappable
And reminded me that I had swimmer's legs,
Any fool can trip on the carpet, she reminded me,
But it takes a goddess to rise up and walk again.
The oven wasn't on. I walked back to bed,
the expanse of oceans at my feet.
01 November 2009
Though the past generally precedes the future,
there are occasions when we float
the way a Peace dollar hovers
over a pool of mercury,
the buoyant force of a mind
unclinging itself from self, a time dilation,
an accelerated glide along vertumnal lines.
We calculate the paths of kinship,
execute contracts on love, dispense fine print
limiting our liability, we grow hard
like a grain of sand, a grain that grows
like a dream when we close our eyes,
the globular glow
of a second awakening.
The wooden sign
nailed to the side of the outhouse
says: The turbulent strokes
of the seascape have killed
5 x 5 + 3 visitors, 1 let go
and flew 20,000 leagues over the sea and
was reborn as a starry night.
24 October 2009
10 September 2009
by Christina Hile
When she runs
her fingers through
I am ready,
ready to tear
off my clothes,
to arise as
but even in
the perfect arch of
as she smokes
on the threshold.
6, 7, 99
times, every time
it's going to
but every time
it finds its way in,
until it hangs
by silver claws
in the air,
When she traces
her tongue along
my intersecting limbs,
I am ready,
ready to lie upon
the willow branches,
to be her vessel,
to bleed again,
and again, three times
again, but even as
she bends, her back
curved like the
f-holes on a cello, it
lands feet-first on
my chest, heavy
as a stone.
the first half:
by Christina Hile
They paint red Xs on the doors of the dead
and here I am falling in love.
They come, still they come,
but his beard smells like thyme
and his fingers lace my hair,
Their desire hisses down the hallway,
blood-red poppies sprouting from their fingers,
and they slither in their white gowns
like they know what I want,
what I'm willing,
one hungry for my body
and the other for my soul,
but I'm falling in love
and it's sweet as wild strawberries,
and the frost that settled
on coverlet and bedside tray
is melting, melting away.
17 August 2009
by Christina Hile
I'm a premonition,
and lowers her eyes,
heavy with black mascara,
of eyeliner, melting
in the summer heat,
travel down her cheeks.
A premonition of what?
does it really matter?
are the color of sand
beneath the tight crisscross
of black sandal straps.
but she tilts
and the red dye
of her hair
glows like the bloom
under surgical lights,
the taste of iron
on my tongue
16 August 2009
by Christina Hile
Summer is almost over. We neglect to
mow the grass. We always said
things look better left to grow
a bit wild. The spiders spin
their white silks amongst
the lengthy blades of green. I see now
why you admire them, tiny creatures
with the ability to create their own worlds.
The tree you planted years ago
still stands, crooked and leaning toward
the sidewalk. Its gnarled limbs, the color
of damp sand, hang from its side like the arms
of a tired dancer. We were optimistic
life would find a way to thrive
despite our lack of interest in anything
other than each other's bodies.
The backyard is quiet now. No
rubber boot trails of footprints
trample through the grass and dirt
and onto freshly-mopped linoleum.
Making tea and walking
to the mailbox are ceremonies,
performed more slowly each year.
We always said
the world spins too fast.
This is poem #1
by Christina Hile
Even though the yellow August sun shines its strongest,
the air is cool and the wind is constant. It tugs at the washing outside
and rocks the plastic dime store thermometer, missing
its bottom nail, back and forth against the side of
the house. It scoots through gaps in the unpainted picket fence
and whips through the cucumber vines in the vegetable patch.
We sit barefoot on the back porch and eat hotdogs
grilled on a cast iron hibachi, the flimsy wooden handles of
the grill plates burned black from so many summers. She crosses her
legs at the ankles and leans her head back in the rocking chair
and we tell each other stories, mine full of nevers and forevers, and
mostly true. Her stories are the same ones she told last summer.
She would listen to me sigh, my legs drooped over
the worn arm of her rocking chair, and say, What on earth
you got to be so sad about, girl? She'd laugh, a laugh that
drives away sorrow, as she cut two slices of cream pie
as big as my head. She'd cradle my chin in her pillowy hand
and her fingers would smell like bread and lilies.
I sit with my bare feet against stone and
watch the sun set behind the maple tree, its leaves
flutter and crackle. In a matter of weeks they will
change color and fall, but right now they are soft and
green. They dance in the cool breeze like they were
meant to move that way forever, constant.
30 April 2009
I gave you this kiss before
you said goodbye—I give it
to you again—I want you to
take it, but you, of course,
are already dancing,
for mead—purple and
red—and the soles of your
feet are stained, and your hair
is long and loose and glints
like copper in the sunshine.
In the light somewhere, I,
of course, stand, trying to
give you this kiss—paper
angels perch on the
branches of an apple tree—
you are already dancing in
a dress of silk that flutters like
the poppies that grow
through the lumped stones
of your tomb toward
a sky that shifts shape
like the sea.
29 April 2009
Though times are hard
never turn your heart to stone—
never let it grow black as
splintery as shale,
eroded as limestone.
Let it bloom
like the rock rose
in the poorest of conditions—
turn your face to the sun
even though the road
you walk is dark.
Even in monochrome, her eyes are blue,
third eye blues, her self-
less eyes calm and bless
the church mice who whisper
Love is patient, love
is kind in the blue forest
of her eyes. In the forest
her eyes are never blue
but red, the color of love,
she crosses herself
before the red filter and whispers
May your presence bless
them. Her spectral red tears bless
the creatures of the forest,
even the butterflies that whisper
rustles and susurrations of blue
and know nothing of true love.
Her eyes are love,
they look to bless
the mole that hides himself
underground in forests
of dirt, subterranean blues
masquerading as nocturnal whispers.
Imperfections diminish like a whisper,
the photographer helplessly in love
with the beautiful blue-
stocking reaching out fingers to bless
him, her eyes a deciduous forest
and everywhere falling the leaves of self-
dom. Love is self-
ish he whispers,
but the words are swallowed by the forest,
her eyes the green of love,
lush and barbless,
intoxicating as a young girl's whisper.
I knew her when her eyes were blue, her self-
pollination a blessing, her whispers
of love patient as a forest.
27 April 2009
in the backyard,
I pulled a flower head
off the rose bush—
I smelled your
sweet, grassy skin—
your cheek brushed
against my lips—
I fell on the grass
between the back door
and the garden gate—
I lay there believing
the back door led to
the black and white
checker board floor
of your old house on
Dublin Street—and the
garden gate was an open
I only had to go one way
or the other—but I was
stuck in the middle—and
in that quiet, hesitating moment
the sky billowed and
rain began to fall.
When I go in to
give him a taste—
nothing but big brown
I throw my
expression on his
I cry because
now I want
to laugh too.
25 April 2009
Nothing is quite the way it
used to be—not my bladder, not
my breasts—and I am hungry
for only one thing: fish. I feel
more awkward than normal—
a gap-toothed girl who
dived in way over her head.
The doctors predict a
miscarriage but the child
swimming inside me is a
mother say that?—and some
people's predictions can be
In the middle of Spring, I let it
all spill out. Some of them are
fascinated, watching me like
a television set as I predict the
day of your birth, your sex, that
you're a late sleeper—but most of them
shake their heads and leave the room
as if I'm foolish, or completely mad.
Imagine what they'd think if
I told them that your fraternal great
grandfather—who passed on before
I ever met your father—visited
me in a dream and told me about
a newborn baby boy, eyes
the exact blue of mine, who
would be born to the sound of
fireworks over the Puget Sound.
24 April 2009
Her face has already given in to despair
otherwise her bracelet would not dazzle so--
watch it spin as she smokes her cigarette--
round and round--
her eyes are still as stones
but the perfect circle of that bracelet
turns like life.
23 April 2009
Fear must have crept over
me even as I sat on
the peeling white
porch steps reading a
Why did I sit and
read with such grave
stillness in the air?
I should have stashed my
book behind the hole in
the lattice wall and climbed onto
my brother's red bicycle.
What did I think
I could do sitting on
those porch steps?
Fear must have crept over
me even as I tried to holler for
help, able to do nothing but
rip out the pages of a
paperback novel and
watch the wind swat
them down the street.
makes it look easy.
She stands naked
on the night table,
hands resting proudly
over her large sagging breasts,
she is not embarrassed
by her swollen stone belly,
I've never caught her
checking her backside
in a mirror,
she doesn't pose
a certain way
to make herself look
slimmer, younger, curvier.
What is it about
Why do we find it
What if the next time
I have company
in my bedroom,
I take it all off
and just stand there--
eyes wide open,
What if I like it
I begin walking
with a sway,
like I carry
beneath my dress?
21 April 2009
20 April 2009
In the burning cathedral
of the strip mall parking lot
a butterfly makes an entrance.
Her tiny black feet dance
on the soft mesh stage
with nervous tension.
She shakes and
flutters her wings
like a gypsy's skirt
to the tune of
and starting engines.
As soon as her wings
are no longer wet
she turns her heels on
that one room apartment
she used to call home
and flies above
the sculpted azaleas,
above the plastic mannequins
in front the discount clothing store,
and right over the bright red roof
of the all-you-can-eat buffet.
19 April 2009
The white flag you see
behind his head
is just a foil. The
delinquent girls, they
take their clothes off and pose
in black stockings with lipstick too red.
When it's over, they crawl to him,
wide-eyed, holding their breaths,
waiting for his blessing. Or at least
a kiss. No one ever expects
the scorn in his brown eyes,
the disgusted tilt of chin,
the twisted shape of his brows.
You might be distracted
by the white flag fluttering
in the background.
You might look at him
from over the curved tops
of your sunglasses
and think you can
change him. You
might think the world
has stifled him with
with bourgeois conservatism.
Surely he has
never been truly loved.
In the background
is a white flag.
Or is it a napkin? A
bandage? You can see it
clearly this morning.
The flag is
a white bird
hovering in the air
over a landfill.
Behind his right shoulder
he has painted in
a bouquet of flowers.
Even the roses
make him angry.
18 April 2009
I remember my mouth moving,
words spilling out upon the hospital blanket.
I remember him answering
in between labored breaths.
I wanted to lean in closer
so I could hear what he said
but I was still afraid
to get too close to him.
I remember that everything in the room
seemed larger than he did
and that I kept clenching and
unclinching my fists
like they were jellyfish,
like if I opened and closed them enough
I could propel myself right out the window.
I remember looking at
the potted orchid
beside the soap dispenser
and how the labellum
looked like a polka-dot pocket
full of words left unsaid.
All I Want is Spring
I walk back streets
admiring the dandelions
in unkempt lawns,
the elegant curve
of a gnarled
cherry blossom branch, spontaneous
earthworms in garden soil,
from the maple trees, and,
overhead, a flock of
fragile and determined as
a girl in Sunday lace
who happens upon
a mud puddle.
the empty plains
I saw the child
a pink dress
clutched in her fist
the looming storm
the white cold
of the plaster mask
and her bare legs
to the mouth
of the tiger
leaves of grass.
The Tin Man
One must have a mind of Myth
To regard the pain and the suffering
Of impending death grafted with grief;
And have been crushed a long time
To behold the fractured bones skewered with steel,
The amputated leg still throbbing on the fragmented altar
Of pain killers; and not to think
Of any catastrophe in the bones of the x-ray,
In the dream of a newborn baby,
Which is the dream of the orchid
Full of the same tears
That are falling in the same blue sky
For the watcher, who watches through the mirror,
And, broken himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the everything that is.
When I Think About Love
I think about running in circles,
changes of clothes, new hairdos,
endless peanut butter sandwiches
stuck to the roof of my mouth,
and then one night, walking downtown,
there you were, and my phantom life
flashed real, and nothing else
mattered but this new fire burning
like the street lamp on 4th Avenue.
How Can I Write Poetry
when the boy who
draws pictures of knights on
the floor next to my desk
wants to play, to run in the grass
with bare feet? All my life
I have longed to be alone with words,
a l o n e ,
lonely even, to dive into loneliness,
that inky eternity beyond eternity,
nothing to distract me. But for now
there’s a boy slowly pointing
a toy sword at me, and
his laugh is like the echoes of a wave,
like a starry wave, like an answer.
I am watching
to see how it’s done.
So We Decided to Burn, Burn, Burn. . .
like the homes of
contract Chinese workers
laying the steel rails
of a narrow gauge spur line
from Olympia to Tenino
who escaped into
the snow of Christmas Eve
with nothing but blankets
wrapped around their bodies like
coat of plates,
like the Chinese hand laundry
on the northwest corner
of 5th Avenue and Water Street
while its owner was
rafting mill waste wood to
heat the laundry water,
like the incense and
fireworks of Forest Cemetery
where ancestral bones
lay waiting for
the bone gatherer
to carry them
Pulling back the
covers I am greeted by
some dark thing in the sheets
and put my face close to
see my son’s
steadfast toy soldier.
size he makes
up for in
I am ignorant on
all but the crudest points of
but I wonder if this
toy soldier is disturbing more
than my sleep. Perhaps he’s
wearing me down slowly: pushing
the checkbook just a little each
day until it falls behind
the computer desk, whispering
that annoying song in
my ear so I forget why
I walked into the bathroom and
opened the medicine cabinet, knocking
the vase of white carnations off
the kitchen table just as
I lie down with a
I want to toss
him aside and go
to sleep but the
toy soldier raises his
battle axe and I can
He does not
want me to
to roll over and
turn out the
light, he needs this
like I need
Half his army is
lost, the rest
is his last ditch
attempt to dislodge
me from this bed or
She sits up slowly
on the edge of your bed,
wearing nothing but a gauze bandage
as a reminder she is mortal.
She has long hair, ripples of brown
and red and silver.
She wears it
because she thinks
you prefer it that way
or because she uses it
as a curtain through which she flows, head bent
forward and chin tucked under, bobbing
like a bottle caught in the current.
You raise her arms
and pull the blue dress over
her head, leaning in
you lift her hair like
a veil, and kiss her papery
the smell of her skin so
far from pain, the dosing
you’re in lavender
up to your knees,
tentative, but no longer
needing to be sure.
I have a confession. I don’t dust. Not really. Not ever. Sometimes it happens. Accidentally.
Taking a novel off the bookshelf. Rearranging furniture. Reaching for the old blue teapot on top of the refrigerator.
You always said cleanliness is next to godliness. The path to righteousness is paved with damp cloths.
Dust ye: for the kingdom of heaven shines like a fresh coat of furniture polish.
I want to dust. I do. Just not as much as I want to read Ulysses. Or have a root canal.
And I’m tired of pretending. You deserve to know. So I’m just gonna say it and hope you’ll forgive me.
I’m a dirty girl.
I didn’t know how much I would miss the scent of
bay leaf wafting from the kitchen,
rolling through the living room
and settling over couches and coffee table.
I didn’t fully appreciate the comfort of
prized quills of antiquity,
both sacred and erotic.
I didn’t miss you until I dressed
the salad, until I saw
the flakes fall from my fingers,
little flecks of white
settling on chunks of bread,
dusting the bright green basil,
clinging to the tomato
like a long lost friend.
Along Water Street
You didn’t believe in reincarnation,
but you are the harbor.
You shed your faded pink blouse and blue jeans,
spread your arms and don the sea,
wrap it about your shoulders
like an inky blanket flecked with buttons of pearl.
Your legs are the pillars and the tired, faded boards of the pier
that hold up the people of this city, that keep me walking,
keep me watching for the sun to reach down from the steel grey
of a cloud-covered sky and kiss my eyes.
Some days I want nothing more
than to go back to sleep and wake
with one hand holding the red ribbon of a balloon
and the other tightly in yours,
walking the boardwalk
smelling handmade soap
and fresh roasted peanuts,
a time when the barnacles and limpets
competing for space underneath the wharf
didn’t make me think of cell division and metastasis.
I don’t know where I will go when I die,
if I will find peace in the dirt of a grave,
or if someone will smell me
in the saltwater wind
or see me in the turning prow
of a green and white tugboat
leaving the harbor
again and again.
More than nine
picked with honey-paws,
I prize you, Bear.
Born of the starry spoon,
keeper of the ancient sea,
your towering shape swabbed
on granite cliffs.
From an apple tree
you fell into my basket, Bear,
and never has such warm woolen awkwardness
swathed such an iron heart.
The problem with breathing
is that I’m conscious of it now,
the contracting diaphragm,
the exchange of gases.
I wake from a sunshine waft of a dream,
daisies in my hair blown away
by the haunting roar of my breath
as lungs fill and empty.
…this poem led to a 2nd poem….
How I still love the yellow swing
at the bottom of a grassy backyard hill
and the way my pumping legs pushed my body
higher, higher, higher.
I keep wanting to jump,
to demand my novel or a newspaper,
despite this choking feeling
I lost something in the clouds.
All morning I’ve been stuck
between curtain up and blackout,
pulsing in and out between a stage of bright lights
where the air smells of antiseptic,
and a pile of stones by the shore of a stretch of dark velvet
I’m supposed to believe is the sea.
I’ve never had a gift for ad lib,
especially in this non-life
where the pace is all wrong.
I should have made my exit
when I had the chance,
before they swarmed over me
hovering in their blue paper robes
wearing faces like masks,
lips curved in unnatural shapes,
close your eyes.
you won’t feel a thing.
The worst scene doesn’t take place
in the operating theatre, but after,
trudging through the anesthesia
of so many costume changes.
I lose all sense of direction
before coughing and opening my eyes,
no deus ex machina,
just a buzzing yellow light
pulled close to my face
and an audience
at the edge of my bed.
I’m trying to write you a letter
but the quill protests horribly,
each stroke claws at
the cheap recycled printer paper,
picking up bits of fiber, tearing,
the ink bleeds.
I wish you hadn’t sat next to me
on that narrow piano bench
and asked me to tea.
I wish you’d never folded your hands
around that chipped white mug
at the kitchen table and waited, waited,
waited for me to let my guard down.
I wish I hadn’t lain on that crimson blanket
in the backyard, your breath
smelling of oranges and bergamot,
and told you the stars were
exploding silver pearls
and if we held hands
we could become
the dewdrop on a blade of grass.
What I’m trying to do
is write you a letter,
but the feather itches my fingers,
the carpet whispers distractions to my toes,
the chair holds the small of my back
like a perfect gentleman,
but when I reach back
I touch only wood.
I wish I could walk, away,
and not end up in the kitchen,
sipping from a chipped white mug,
goose bumps rambling,