I will speak to you in stone language
(answer with one green syllable)
Touch the secret where
the heart in me began,
vibrant in the amniotic pool.
A startle, perhaps, to a certain way of thinking--
the schism of another
Curled in water, the spine perfected. Fetal and
blind, I bow.
Private, those stations of the fire.
And ahead, that promiscuity called November.
Naked limbs. The orifice. Sap configured,
the same over
So it is with ghost strata in the canyon and the mating
hawks of spring--
pattern stained above each dwelling.
Our cold lineage, space. Friction and flint,
darkness set afire.
Slowly then the syllables arrived of only
and once. Distinct. Solitary.
The intimacy of time.
Moon on the rise, egg-shaped and full of eclipse. It darkens my sheets at dawn,
such a wobbling arrangement to start the new year--
end-knots of silver loosening
the myth of constellations:
Kuan Yin's foamy Dragon,
Phoenix startling from the starry ashes.
And here I am without a clue--on top of and beneath an untouchable scrim
At sun-up I bathe and blunt the nails on both hands.
Who knows how insistent the mind can get about need,
about words, syntax, and the rolled-back nature of plot.
An hour a week to work on a silly book? Ego always wants
a pinch more. Another man's way of thinking.
And how many pictures were shot as Teacher pinned him to hours
in the past? He stuck him there, photographing each grimace.
Slowly, student fell to pieces.
What good came from feeding the sick man pints of ice cream
to keep weight on, to keep him alive in his hut behind the big
Then that man with the robust mind was doing it again to aspirant
up to his chin in hospice sheets.
Watch the former circling the bed
to take close-ups with his cell phone of a dead man's face.
Lines deep enough for study.
KUAN YIN DISAPPEARS
Why were Kuan Yin and her compassion stolen from his
bedside drawer? Ordinary brass deity beneath some socks
at the hospice. In war does anyone need to be taught how
to kill, strangle, and smother? Boots slog up and down, and
have for a such long time. Farmland of pigs, babies, and
the ancestors flash in flames or drown in the river.
It's time to spit, the nurse says, entering the room. Time to leave
time behind, I think, and stay in touch. We hold hands for days.
He cannot smile. A squirrel with full teats scampers along
the garden wall. I almost think I see her young hanging on
for dear life, for milk, for anything offered in the vines.
He tries to shape syllables that miss and mix and fly by
like sparks of another life. At night in the sterile bed, he
struggles up and down with warriors, sometimes in a river--
mostly in the oldest region of the brain.
dreams his face--mouth singing that old trance melody.
I wonder if it's Orpheus again, and if he can wait
and trust longer.
Molecular notes from a head with no body--
Study my lips, this kind of detachment tears life to pieces.
The audience, motionless, lets their faces drop.
(Night-bird cries from years away--whippoorwill,
whippoorwill. Farmhouse in a field where for a summer
it flew back and forth outside our bedroom window.)
Then there's the jerk to stage-right, and I'm spotlighted,
naked on a toilet--the kind with armrests and wheels
you can die on beside a soiled bed.
It's me on display before the remains of my audience.
Audience with the queen, I ask, and they sigh, what a shame.
I shut my eyes to go blind--secret cove where no one
ever will find me.
Then this figment of dream subsides, and I'm in the next
day transfixed in real traffic. An Alpine waltz pours down
from an attic window. A boy yells, hey lady, don't wait for your
friend in the middle of the road. Three-quarter time,
the mystery of the world unaccompanied.
I will speak to you in water language
(answer with a canoe of lightning)
thinned kiln-broiled as lazily (slow)
the face composes
so that one night past childhood there'd be recognition
in the eyes of another.
Block of clay the long rendering (the time it takes
for postpartum flux to slide forward)
Blue flesh and the upside-down screams of forced entry.
Face-first, and sent forward into the days. Seasons.
The year marked. (dusky clay calendar)
Limbs named and sponged. Each orifice coolly numbered.
Possibility, how did you arrive at one child with a candle?
It's the skin of your canoe I see through--tincture of faces,
lightning atop the river.
a beggar's prayer kneeling and truculent in the womb,
we were a study in need--
beginning fluctuations rocked out to the morning
field. Damp soil of birth.
Come, Aphrodite, deliverer us from earth--sing
the ocean scales for one world with others.
(long line of the landed beasts that knocked us first into
feeling something approaching empathy)
How to travel the umbilical, severed, and that the long
rope back home?.
Vertigo of vertical time
or endless leagues across the ocean bottom?
Choice fears roar along the coast.
There too the sun moves up and down with purpose--
oily reds embedded in basalt. Such pious rosey sheen.
What was it-- evolution by revolution--pressed
deeper into us-- the dread dream of endings.
When he handed her the pale iconic mask in a parking lot,
the nearest trunk flew open to waves of light on an inland sea.
Byzantium brushed peacocks into dying pines, and low gold
bees moved from bud to blossom, paths the young take.
The gong struck. Streets went dark with samskara-- fists
in every garden. Phases of time that knew just when to drop
down hard. Signs of waste, of laying waste. With that in mind,
she pressed a finger to the cool one's temple then down her
cheek, saying, Point silver arrows at my travels, charge my clouded
mind with what eternity can do. That night a hand unscrewed
her head, and sprinkled pollen on the heart.
( : river
Walnut Street ends at the bend in Broadway. That's where the first house stood, along
with her child-bed, as they called it. Small mattress curled like a feather to the wall that
curved with Broadway and the levee as they followed the wind of the rising, falling
Mississippi. She vibrated when trucks took that swing in the road, braking, hissing
with early morning deliveries for Hatch's Market.
IN BED AT NIGHTI
In my mother's house there was no heart.
In my mother's heart she was always looking
for a home. I threaded stories of her, ones neither
of us had ever heard. Soft ones with feathers at the bottom.
When my son had a daughter, she came into this blueness
knowing details with a past.
One night in bed playing puppets
with the covers, she made the smallest whisper, You know, there's
so much sadness in the world. She was three, and I almost
couldn't hear her.
It was dark in the bedroom, and inside her head. She didn't hesitate
but thought in stride with the world. Hem of the sheet humped up--
cave in a city on earth that soon could go away.
Branches of Birds, Kingdoms That Float
Owl asleep in a willow while the child sits on the levee with her storybook. O*W*L makes that windy OWELL
noise--night bird's name she scratches in the dirt with a stick. Branches of Birds: Kingdoms That Float,
her favorite book the year she turns seven. For Tink, 1925, inked in silver on the black page. Almost good
enough to eat--that page with a fat gold moon painted among bare branches. Her cat, Gray, will want to hear
more about that, even if he never listens when she reads
to him. And any day now, a raft is coming down-river for her,
and whatever else wants to get aboard. No one can go home for supper. The river is there for her daily, but
in bed at night she gets mixed up and starts to miss not having a mother--the women say "died right after
she was born." Then Granny had to leave too. Is she missing one or both of them, and whose slippers are these
her feet kept getting lost in? In the furry dream Gray fades from the levee, then the sky.
Before my mother's looking glass, I hold this photo of her as a child with the silent gray cat in her lap. Imagine her years from then
pregnant after Pearl Harbor--and there I hang being prepared, not quite ready to crown--birth muddled by predictions. A world at war.
Jyotsana means moonlight in the jumbled
city of Delhi, so she plays her queen of diamonds
on the green tile table while the ocean shimmers
off the coast--gold spotted leopard of dawn.
The sun paces itself on the far side of the planet. Warm thoughts
move in and out, tirelessly, so by twilight she asks a man to meet her
at the cave opening. He says something about his plans being worldly
(definitely other than hers), and that he must pick up one who flew in
by air. A peacock, she hopes, knowing this will not be the end of her lust
for birds. To counter, she asks if that man can guess (which he can't)
what makes her sing in her sleep for its a password to her dimension.
Others are variables on a feeling right below the navel where the grass tickles
as she moves towards the Cave of the Loon.
With such consummate wilderness
in mind, the woman in diamonds shakes all her facets loose
as the sea turns its face aside
THE TIME IT TAKES
Buddhism holds that after forty-nine days,
the deceased begin to transition.
He liked the time it took to read a book
and wanted someday to write one.
The doctor had to considered words carefully before saying,
An utmost need to communicate comes with speechlessness.
I do not recall her name.
Weeks into wishing, I learn to see what's absent
with sheets on a moonlit puppet.
Solitary pear, my prop. Pollen trails the lost around.
Two of us in your hospital room that afternoon: you mindless
of me or who I ever was.
Tonight, I knew you'd come, the cicadas
that loud. It just takes time to make it up the tangled ravine,
and into my room
Watch the patterned weather,
the design of the slow, returning
Clouds roll by, each shape a whole new
species with no purpose yet in mind.
They cast illusion on rhythms in my whale.
By evening, I want a nocturne on a formal
instrument. Wind blows on the bare branch.
It turns me small,
my shadow long.
POLISHING THE GLASS STORM
Cryptology speaks ( ~ * / < \ ) in gold and silver
Coded shapes masks to hide behind
while being presented with (or present in)
a new life
(Frequencies buzz with interpretation
Breathlessness of the first fly-away-or-stay thought-question
as Eros magnifies heat enough to scorch the brain
Bees in a crazed terrarium--swarm creatures all
(polishing the glass storm)
Why so . . . Ba Soul's job it is to hover speechlessly
above the strapped imperial mummy--
myth Ba erects skeletal joke of naked-as-you-go poor
old kings and queens relentlessly tied and bundled
The body counts (forwards and back it does)
Numbers count too--
rigmarole of forever then those endless days
Pronouns: the he/she/it/ and they of it and of course the royal we
who cross every boundary and will not be set aside
SHUT a directive lovers and young souls deny
Iris recalls the missing petal--pressed to a glow, it's an energy that won't succumb
to circumstance. The twilight of what left, rising and eerily real. No future like that
of the fresh survivor no past like that of a relic--dead pheasant shoveled from
the road, but for one wing prone and blowing in my headlights. Another refusal
to leave at once and go quietly
SHADEI tracked it through branches, then deeper into the woods,
these flickering variances in green. Splices of sunlight
we measure time by.
Early water clock, how it turned
the molecules to logic. Chirp of seconds--our need
to always know what time it is
Shade clock. Sundial. Brass pendulum with its propensity
to fall toward earth again.
The gravity of time,
seconds that tock and tick and trick us into thinking
water's the same twice. Go figure midnight and the river
as if they hold the twin of all that disappeared.
I've felt through shadows in the dirt, and wanted
to be like that. Dark and humid.
not these passing thoughts, my questions
answered by minutiae. Equivocation--headlights
blur along the ridge, travelers caught in fog.
Years ago I held a match to glyphs in a limestone cave, then
walked the old path down to the river. At noon it stopped
That's when I floated facedown on the current--
my body offering anonymity to each small thing below.
TALK OF WINTER
Delirium of broken placenta,
snow on the path makes her ride home
The sleigh the sort that wolves can't leave alone.
Teeth snap in her sleep.
Organs, a ripe darkness on ice.
Then dreams of the panther in bed, its paws
on both her shoulders.
Wet winter smell of big cat. The two of them
A strange place to end up.
Who said, Don't be afraid to show how it started?
. . . island covered by sleet, and afterwards they never
could get each other out of the blood. His. Hers,
while the ghost capillaries traded oxygen back
Thin blue storylines inflate.
She bit her tongue, and it was still his blood in her mouth.
Sap in the maples froze. Talk of strata and winter sadness
under a delicately pricked roof.
Ping, ping, ice on tin.
Time, unreasoned and amorphous.
Beyond the window shines the blue containment of noon,
and every day the dog trots into it, pees on the clover,
then makes headway through the timothy grass,
his coat full of seed. He has some idea of where to go
and who wants him. And since he's no skeptic, he goes--
rye, corn, the whole fermenting season ablaze,
a dog running off as if to make August history.
Who's to say his is not the lithe world that swayed
around pharaoh's daughter and the baby
in the bulrushes.
And this same sun overhead heated the earth when voices flared
a final, frantic time for Joan on her pyre of wood. Exact, those
moments in the reeds or staked above the fiery sticks, while
a dog flops down after hours of futile adventure, the ravine
filled with wings and an undergrowth of eyes.
How diminished she was after settling
for the underworld--a malcontent
in Hades household, her thoughts unspoken.
That sibilant shhhh, shhhh, Eurydice--like
the owl's who-who at dark in the branches
of another life. Here there's neither night nor day.
No break, no brokered hours. Only an unwinding
spool of gray. Some dismayed Shade must have
stuck a hook in Eurydice's mouth, whispering,
do not speak or swallow. Weak-muscled tongue,
a dying thing. She knew when Orpheus looked
about what would be exacted, her future set
as a cosmic reckoning. No reason why.
Nothing left finally but his singing, floating head
and she a silent creature accompanied by her body.
Buttocks and hips that sway like death in the saddle.
Spectral too, those wild Maenads who ended Orpheus
for not rolling naked with them by the river. At night
she dreams other women's fury. Fate bows and steps
aside. Part female, half fish, she's subterranean
with the blind albino eyes. Cavern silt, gill slit, and
cold skin--she's lashed to the mind of Orpheus,
his backward glance.
BRIGHT STRANGER (in part)
--North Rim (8,000 ft.) facing Red Butte. Transept path.
On the north side of this ancient dwelling (only a stone or two high
by now), I sit after dreaming of my office mate last night: Two of us
in our own cramped cubicle separated by the backless bookcase,
unsteady ladder of glory-be-to-the-brain. Pink and sprinkled
with quartz are the stones in this makeshift foundation: 5' x 17'.
I pace it off, lodge it in my mind, and at center are remnants
of another wall. Another crumbled attempt at solitude, one rock
layer, then another--high summer shelter from long ago for
humans to sleep inside. A woman passing on the trail
mutters, Just face it, as her man slumps into, I guess you're right,
and neither see the shades of canyon light. Resin glistens in a
pine--ruts where lightning leapt up a tree. While above,
that old sapsucker sun keeps shining down. In my rucksack right
now I find the card marked SKY-CREDIT for the miles we once
crossed. Rivers, villages, and mountains. These words Sky-credit
are arced by a rainbow and three commercial stars offering a ticket
soon to somewhere else. Always, another time than now. Credit,
the promise to savor. Vintage credit, I think, strings of imagined
coasts, our reward for delay. Everything stored for the future. And
only months ago, fox maiden danced in canyon heat--glimpse of fur
and flame in the branches. Fox on the move, fanning the blaze
with her tail. No plans or energy to save.
Clicking her teeth, the sparks fly. A forest on fire.
ii. a beginning
When counting backwards, spring birth means autumn
rutting. Auburn fur caught in barbed-wire across the fire road out to Lovers Pointe.
Fox barks in the canyon.
Clouds shadow the river.
So, why this remains of a central wall in such a small dwelling? Two groups of bodies given cover for nights. Not as solitaries, these people migrated to the rim for summer, moon shining into crevices and gorges
known as the ancestor's land.
How many embryos floated loose inside this canyon? Androgynous shapes, organs not yet complete in the amniotic pool. A boat prepared
for each to cross the water.
The raft midway to rest upon. And westward,
a rainbow bridge from temple to temple--Zoroaster, Shiva, and Brahma
--those red rock spires that point out the heavens.
female scooped by current and quartz.
and hawks filled with the cries of broken glass.
For those who take note and are (sinking by the minute)
there is the north star to be clear about
The mind salient and lucid
spots the white horse in snow for what it is,
the rooster at dawn as no other.
Point and counterpoint. The journey.
A song sparrow
sat beside me a moment ago, turning a cup of tea
to warm vibration. Filling it.
There's little sadness when the traveler departs.
Stones are cold that circled his fire. After all,
who was the one that said, Look at me or be done,
and stood up in the boat.
Something to consider--that pearl on the night horizon,
and how we'll not pass this way again.
Quiet drifting river, no fingers to trail north this trip.
Clips of a life.
And cross-eyed with prescience--double-vision of the wise--
he whispered, Let's sleep on it and see what dreaming
That far away from the present. Implausible
faults, crooked seas. Whitewashed faces.
Oars in an empty boat.
. . . .
Who was the uninvited guest who followed another
down, and returned?
A kept secret.
And did your finger to the lips mean hush, no words
or spoken tongues will ever capture this one?
And had Swenson expected an answer when she wrote,
how will it be to lie in the sky/without roof or door/and
the wind for an eye. . . how will I hide?
Low down and blue as the sky is up and endlessly out there,
I lie naked on my balcony in the sun. The cat purrs
beside his bowl of water, garbage truck grinding
up the mountain.
I've sewn a bluebird wing on the kite, my skirt
hemmed and folded beside me as a helicopter dips
overhead. I could be a sleeping snapshot of beauty,
each of her tasks complete.
The pyracantha hedge grows taller around me.
In mid-thought, I'm walled in and put down
for a hundred-year nap.
and the house becomes transparent,
more like a vase layered with cloud.
I fade to sepia, then to the shade
that won't wear off.
That April the rock garden was my refuge. Ocean stones
I placed around the concrete garden saint that stood by a dozing,
broken-hipped deer. Reports of you came from miles away--
certificate ready concerning one no longer here.
AERIAL PHOTO-OPS OF THE BIOME
Above strata of fossilized coral, the condor flies
as it did sixty million years ago
when no digital distancing
could make life look hazy. Should I sink farther into my bath
water or head for the canyon ledge, bloody rabbit in hand?
Full frontal-view of anthropoid time--
my snowy robe parted.
Humans wander far below as they have for the past
month, or so, focusing on the dominant range of colors
in their world.
Pistachio, medium rare, Pacific-fusion green,
sugar blues. Espresso mean. A boy gulps a bottle of Jolt,
then charges the ice cream stand, shrieking.
Ninety years ago my grandfather appeared to be and
was truthfully in the process of leaving the family.
He locked his front door, and was next spotted
years from there selling cars in Kansas City.
Sound of small change. Gold ring of keys,
and heavy men with soft cowhide wallets.