THE january, 2024 30/30 PROJECT PAGE

Welcome to the 30/30 Project, an extraordinary challenge and fundraiser for Tupelo Press, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) literary press. Each month, volunteer poets run the equivalent of a “poetry marathon,” writing 30 poems in 30 days, while the rest of us “sponsor” and encourage them every step of the way.

The volunteer poets for January 2024 are Scott Burnam,  Patricia Davis-Muffett, Katherine Korth Dehais, Kristie Frederick-Daugherty, Jenny Drai, Robert Hamilton, Autumn Newman, and Oswald Perez. Read their full bios here.

If you’d like to volunteer for a 30/30 Project month, please fill out our application here and warm up your pen!

Day 31 / Poem 31

We know the rift is there, waiting.
My eyes fall shut again.

Everything eventually equals zero.
I cannot remember the time or the way.

All that is left is the darkness, the clouds,
a deep spirit that burns.

I am all root.
I bend toward better energies.

lines shared and taken by and from Scott Burnam,  Patricia Davis-Muffett, Katherine Korth Dehais, Kristie Frederick-Daugherty, Jenny Drai, Robert Hamilton, Autumn Newman, and Oswald Perez. 

Day 30 / Poem 30

                              for my Mother

a Sunday drive of duress in late November
fourteen hours with intermittent snow
challenging the need for dire haste

I arrive in the quiet ward after four a.m.
the glow of your bed the beacon that I’ve followed
while dragging a heavy mantle of dread

the staff all share a hush of respect
and silent wishes of expectation about how
best to proceed on this graveyard shift
I know this non-state is your nightmare
so there is no question but still…
…of all the things my pen has done…

I sign here and initial there 
to release you; the usual forward slant
of my signature staggering through its paces

it would take some time
but they will craft your comfort
and leave me to ask for needs I couldn’t utter

they dim the lights
the usual signal for an entrance
so you could just quietly slip away

it had to be this way:
just the two of us as always, Momma
arriving here on our own; independent

I talk and joke and choke back years
urging you to close your mortal circle
unsure, really, about anything after

and the room quieter and quieting
as your breathing slows, sighs 
and my sobbing comes and goes

sitting, leaning over your bedside
my head near your hip
your hand between my hands

I fall asleep with you 
never more your child
but as planned 
only I wake up

I am turning myself inside out for you.
One day, I hold out my spleen–here it is,
fist-sized, cupped in my hands. I do need it,
you know, for the blood cells and immunity. 
Still, if you need it more, you can take it. 
And since I’m in the mood to give, 
let’s throw in an appendix, some tonsils, 
sources of so much trouble. Maybe 
they can be of some use to you.

Other days, I am opening the window
I built in my chest. Here, see my heart
and lungs. Marvel at the engine 
that keeps me alive. See how 
the oxygen and nutrients circulate?

Maybe, while you’re looking, you will start
to feel the thrum of blood in your own wrists,
the metronome of survival in your throat.
As I light the flame I keep inside my rib cage,
maybe you’ll feel yourself inhale sharply,
suddenly desperate to make this air
your own.

Dear Madonna of the rocks
do you see how I am burning up?
Do you see me searching all the day
looking for my small blue ox?
Lady high in your mountain cave
where pilgrim’s candles burn all night
do you see my body like a lamp,
do you see how I am burning up?
Madonna blue on the mountainside
where the moon and stars are bright
do you see me searching all the night
making my way in treacherous rocks?
My body is a flame in the dark.
Please help me find my small blue ox.

Imogene Meredith Belcher
“Moma Jean”
December 23, 1934 – April 20, 2019

Trailblazer, strong woman warrior,
you did what all too few can do:
you gave more than you took.

You knew special education laws
by heart, ready to battle
for every right your students
had, serving them with dignity.
How many didn’t slip through
unnoticed because
of you? These students,
grandparents now,
able to navigate the world,
find work, feed their families,
because you cared.

Single mother and
Kentucky’s first female principal:
what did it sound like when you
shattered that glass ceiling?
Wind chimes in the breeze,
high notes on a piano played
exactly, exactly right,
lightly, lightly, the melody climbing, 
crashing into crescendo:
Bless their hearts! A woman is in charge!

Moma Jean, your daughter was watching.
Your grandchildren were watching.
Your great grandbabies were watching.
They saw your fierce kindnesses, 
you delivering Christmas 
presents to tenants 
months late on rent,
baskets of food,
Thanksgiving feasts.
How your daughter, granddaughters
breathed you; they still carry you
in their lungs, and when it’s hard,
they think, I come from 
the strongest of women.
She was a mountain,
I am a mountain,
she is me, I am her,
so I cannot be broken.

There are some souls that the universe refuses 
to allow to suffer, to linger on the precipice
of pain when death is near.
You, one of those,
too large and good
for death misery to dare to come with its
wings of wax to perch and nest,
trilling its lonely death knell
for months, cacophony ensuing.
No. Strong women know when to go,
know when to get up from the table.
Your final flight, like your life,
asked nothing of anyone,
you left how you arrived:
feathers bright, blazing,
out on a new adventure:
Elenor is on the road again.

In memoriam Norman Dubie (1945-2023)

Up was the only way. I knew
when I entered the field
of knee-high hemlock and fool’s parsley.
There was a snapping of prayer flags.
My palm took the scent of copper.

They say the ice tastes better on the windward
side of the pass.

I pull the taps for the skeletons
on their eastward way.
They take me to task for humming
“John Brown’s Body,” “Old Abram Brown.”
I pour them pints. The pints
sieve through their ribs.

The dead will dance only
to strings of frozen old Érard.
Each chord atomizes a sheath of ice,
smoking the salon with a mauve mist.
Outside the windows, temple-blocks
clatter polyrhythmically.

A man arrives who also pulls the taps.
He learns the names faster.
Hey, Boney. Hi, Scully. What’s new, Graves?
I suspect the skeletons prefer him.
With trembling hand, he strokes
the polished heads of the dead.
We leave them bone broth,
an impasto of moth wings,
daikon and jicama root.

Joss sticks crepitate.
He has made friends with the rōshi, too,
says in the fourteenth century
I solved the most difficult of the kōans.
The rōshi, his beard flowing
as glaciers flow in their own valleys,
says there is no such thing as a kōan
and there never was.

Hope, that dewey substance, dawns
only to set each evening, waning
in watercolor and cacophony of birds
calling out to each other, hide
for safety in this tree. Darkness settles
down around them like the cold
they shift their feathers against. Sometimes
prickles of starlight. Sometimes fullness
of moonlight. Sometimes neither when all things
become the completeness of black.

Green Day’s 1994 album “Dookie” is my canvas for this poem 

From the opening lyric of Burnout
“I declare I don’t care no more”
A forty minute musical and poetic journey begins 

Having A Blast, of adolescence
There’s not a Chump in sight to remind me of my flaws 
Reinforcing a not so rosy Longview of life 

Welcome To Paradise says life 
Pulling Teeth towards adulthood 
To avoid being called a Basket Case
Where She is someone that’s loving and kind 

Indulging in the Sassafras Roots of time 
When I Come Around to focusing on what I want from life 
Coming Clean for the first time
I’m not sure what to do with myself 
A sense of Emenius Sleepus builds 

In The End, I can only be me
F.O.D?! I don’t want to lose my halo of positivity
I don’t to be All By Myself at the end of my days

Day 29 / Poem 29

in Tegretol’s trance
yellowing edges curl 
pages exaggerate and
a musty smell
like an old book
in a wet basement

in Tegretels trance
sparkplugs are fouled 
only firing like this:
1  5  3  6  2  4
middle thoughts and
juicy descripters go miss-sing

in tegertols trench
sunrise colors are grayed and flat but
it dosnt hurt as much when yawning
yawn yawn yawn a great lots
to much but the kitens and the dogs
r gooood good nappy pets

in tag raddlle chance
confarring with a partyner
at the ripeness of em peeches
each day sveral x svral *
wash lites with other skinns
mix recy labels with trish
miss 3 5 nmber belt l00ps
doge kittezr get hungry
can’t here things noyze 
in tug retail chainz

The rain won’t stop. Or rather,
first rain, then sleet, then snow,
then back to rain with temps
careening from 8 to 80 then back
to 40s. Taking the dogs out this morning,
I sunk my foot deep in mud and thought
of Noah’s wife. When did she start saying
under her breath, Maybe he isn’t crazy?

You tell me about elevation,
about catastrophic changes
to weather patterns in Europe–
how Italy could plunge into a
cold, dry death, how another
thousand feet of elevation
could be useful.

The booming voice in your ears,
the overwhelming weight of science–
and I am thinking about what I’ll pack,
how I’ll live in that new world,
no longer “if” but “when.”

You lived in a tree screened by leaves,
a cloak of invisibility you sewed.
From there in winter was the winter star.
You spoke to that star. In summer were bees.
You spoke to the bees, bees in rain,
birds in rain, language of bees, of stars
and they spoke to you in a radiance.
Now you can’t recall, what seemed so
monumental. So simple, it doesn’t make sense:
Bees in their honeycomb houses,
their castle cities of wax.
The desire of the moth for the star,
the desire of the star. Red fox
in the snow, a fat fluffy tail, that’s all.
Something is lost and it wakes you up
night after night in a panic—you know
the world will disappear if you don’t say
the word that they asked you to say.
The star incandescent is furious,
says speak me tonight in your human voice.

gathering paltry remnants—
the just-good-enough
the what-sustains-us-despite-all-evidence-to-the-contrary
the our-two-beaks, our-twin-sets-of-wings
the our-beating-at-masterful-all-consuming-air
the my-world-alive-in-the-tireless-throbbing-heart-of-this-shared-space
in this living-room-cum-nest-of-white-wooden-furniture
weaving into one delicate embrace:

how I shine now in all this warm light—

breathful, like—
as if: Ah, some finery here after all
amidst these baubles worth saving
in the lucky shadow
of this brief grace—

The faces we actually see —
public ice, frozen
over the deep violet Baikal of individuality.

The eclipse will slip past the guards’ ken
at Eagle Pass, ignorant of lines
imagined in the sand or around each citizen.

It remains to be seen if the judge will find
for the bluish outlines of children never born
or declare us the lucky ones, despite our sea mines,

our opiates, Bisphenol A, revenge porn.
Find even the junta’s ridiculous sunglasses anodyne
enough, given the consolation of the Matterhorn.

Be honest: even I’ll shut up after a bottle or two of wine,
a tear-jerking movie, an hour of zazen.
We fools may get a wonder, but we don’t deserve a sign.

Bright and sharp the needles of our story
pierce me once again. My body stutters
over syllables of the past—a gory
moment stuck repeating. Then, time shudders
to a stop and suddenly you are here.
Everything about you is dangerous.
Staring up at the height of you, I hear
the familiar litany of your lust.
You’ve a way with words. They tear through tissue,
come to rest in my bones. I sense the violence
cresting, all its weight about to fall. And you
calm, except for the eyes that burn in silence.
Body, something crucial in you is broke.
You keep seeing fires where there’s only smoke.

On a rainy Sunday morning

My mind drifts westward

Back to January 2017

A long weekend in the emerald city

The moment happened by chance

Sunshine followed us everywhere

From the Ferry Building to Pier 39

Alcatraz to the Golden Gate Bridge

Napa, Sonoma and back across the Bay Bridge

Serenity was found away from the cold

As the trip concluded from wine country

Arriving back in the city 

One more sunset over the bay

Otis Redding sang:

I’m sittin’ on the dock of the bay

Watchin’ the tide roll away, ooh

Flying back east on Monday

All I could do was dream of sunshine

And a longer stay than four days

On such a winter’s day

As the rain keeps falling today

I still dream of California 

Day 28 / Poem 28

I wake to weather that induces a hangover. Time to start the daily homage to the Sovereign of Photosynthesis, even in its inordinate absence. Rise and shine:  phhhhhhhhhhhht…

No ice crystals blank the blades of my grassy neighbors, but soon; maybe a few more weeks to survive, unless an ambitious frost takes me first.

t’s been a good year, though: new shoots erupting to bounce back from sporadic mower attacks. Lots of seeds set free in the breeze. And my roots: my roots – they are as certain as the seasons.  Pinching or tearing won’t banish me. He’d have to dig me out.  You know, bending over or kneeling work. 

He’s not been that driven. He could spray me into non-existence; erase me as an outlier. Herbicide happens in neighboring yards. I can smell it from here: hate sprayed from their tight nozzled mouths spitting poison to silence us.  But my family: they have one of those “In this house, we believe” signs that shades me in the afternoon…so I think I’m okay.

I wish he’d do something about the rabbits; I’m not their flavor, but it’s hard to keep any friends around with their appetites.  But based on the frantic firebush hedge and the patch of shaded earth carpeted with sweetgum balls…

And maybe that’s best: just continue with my nearly non-momentum of existence; no worry about the locomotion of the kids and their friends with the balls and frisbees and magnifying glasses.  For now,  I’ll believe what I heard the mom say about the dad to the youngest one day last week:  he always roots for the underdog.


On the counter, the silver canister of flour,
the butter cold from the fridge, the melamine circle
to roll it out, just like the one now disintegrated
that my mother gave me when I left her house.

If you’re willing to make one crust, you might as well
make six. Your grandmother’s recipe calls for Spry,
Crisco’s ancestor, your scientist mother explaining–
butter tastes better, but the shortening makes it easier
to roll. Your own hard experience has taught you finally:
butter only. You can’t bear to feed that plasticy white fat
to people you love anymore.

There are theories about replacing water with vodka,
but you’re happy saving that for the cocktail glass
during baking. Cut the cold butter into the flour.
Work it til your elbow aches. Then, frigid water
with cubes of ice. Mix it in with a fork. Careful
not to let your body heat transfer to the dough.
Use a spatula to form it into balls–one for every crust.

The part that takes technique is done.
For the filling, you can dream. Be a classic,
with blueberries, cherries, apples–or decadent
with custards and meringues. Or make do
like your grandmother with mock apple pie
filled with crackers instead of fruit. Use
the carrots moldering in the produce drawer
for a carrot pie like pumpkin. Add jalapenos
to peach or blackberry to cut the impossible
sweetness of summer. Cook up
brandy alexander pie filled with cognac
and creme de cacao, set in front of
a roaring fire. Add crystallized ginger
to pumpkin. pear pretending it’s apple,
hide almond extract in blueberries.
Make a watermelon harvest pie
with rind and all plus cranberries
and nuts.

Roll the crust and drape it softly
over your rolling pin and onto your
waiting hands. Do not be constrained
by logic or history. You are better at this
than you were last year. Better
than you were before the years
of nothing but home cooking,
before you knew what it was like
for a child to return to your table
so briefly, before you could see
your mother’s knuckles and wrists
when you looked at your own hands
covered with flour.

Katy was the last
of a long line of Katherines.

Katherine Shea, born Dolan
owned a set of Blue Willow china.
Her father ran an estate
near Boston called Dreamland.

Katherine Dolan, born Downey
had a brother who fought for the Union
and a cousin who fought for the South.
Her uncle was governor of California
at the start of that war.

Katherine McQuaid, born Bloomer
had been a teacher in the hedge schools
of Ireland, hiding the grammars from the British.
In Boston, her husband’s factory made boots
for policemen. She wasn’t sure
where her father was born,
the courthouse burnt down in the Troubles.

Katherine Korth, born Sherlock
traipsed with her sisters Mamie & Nellie
from Missouri to Los Angeles
and married an accountant. 

Katy was the first-born of her generation.
Her christening was an enormous party.
She was given new dresses
for Easter, birthday, and Christmas.
She had a small purse
for her white gloves and holy cards.
She was a big girl at four.
She was eleven when her father was committed.
Katy got married and changed her name,
but later decided she needed it back.
Katy made a study of Pasolini who said, “the sin
of the fathers is believing that all history
is bourgeois history.” Pasolini was murdered
near the airport in Ostia. A young male prostitute
confessed but then recanted.
Katy went to visit the ruins of Ostia,
whose history is being slowly unburied.

Dropped in bed
with his shoes still
on, big pawed boy with a
man’s feet, and let me 
untie his shoes. It was a
hard job. He double knots
them every time.
He was asleep before I
slipped off the first one.
And then he let me scratch 
his head, only mumbling
“stop” once, and I 
laid at his feet at the foot
of his bed, grasping his
left ankle in my hand.
I don’t have the right words,
but if you look, if you
care enough to really look
and see how his body
angles when he sleeps is not 
much different
from when he was born,
you will break 
for everything that has lived:
horses ridden through 
blooded battlefields,
butterflies smashed and fluttering
on windshields, cows smelling
blood on the way to the 
slaughterhouse, a fish hooked
and flung into the terrible
unwatered air.

Interweaving. On a roll.
In her precious form, I—we, us—take shape.
Striving for. A different end.
Hunting the untouchable, unknowable
treasure ourselves, huddling
in this warm apartment in our feathered,
corvid capes, breathing.
In-out. Out-in—

after the 1902-4 recordings of Alessandro Moreschi (1858-1922), Sistine Chapel male soprano, the “last castrato” and the only whose voice was ever recorded

In the wrong mood Gounod
can set the teeth on edge,
just as can a saint’s picture frame
with electric lights enhancing
its air of sanctimony.
The nineteenth century leans in too close
with rose petals on its breath.

Behind the too-italiante sob in the attack
(Ridi, Pagliaccio …), though, lies a sound
like a cold blade at the back of one’s neck.

What is one to say? That every angel is
mutilated? That it is damage and
damage alone that tightens a gut string
enough to sound? That in some village
a chunk of cardiac tissue has begun
to pelt first-century blood against
the inside of a glass monstrance?

There is no air in here. The columns
in the nave taper to nothing
in the incense haze.
The sound remains, making the smoke shiver.

~ for Janet

It lingers—the tone of your voice,
the image of you dressed in white.

I imagine your clothes on the floor,
a trail of impatience, excitement.

I’m forgetting the nape of your neck,
the pressure and pull of my fingers.

There’s a stone still stuck in my throat—
blocking speech, weighing me down.

I keep chipping my teeth on desire,
and standing too close to the fire.

I believe in the shared sense of humanity. In perilous times like these, we need each other’s strength and kindness.

In my heart of hearts, there’s reason to be joyful. Joy can be found in all things and all times of day.

I’m passionate about traveling the world, telling stories through my words and photos, soccer and dancing the tango. As stories can be told without saying a word.

I know this to be true. I’m capable of a lot more than I give myself credit for. Fear of the unknown is the biggest obstacle to any accomplishment.

I stand for vulernablity. It’s okay to show emotions instead of holding them back.

I love being by the sea. As the waves, the breeze off the water and the sand in my toes calm a weary mind.

I am a late bloomer. Sure, I’ve taken longer to become an adult than most people my age. But life’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon.

I am on this earth to live a full life. One that’s more than just being diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy at a young age.

I’m a poet, author, writer and traveler. A storyteller dreaming of bringing his words into the wider world. As the world itself gets explored one country at a time.

I will honor myself by being a light that shines bright with a full sense of who I am.

Day 27 / Poem 27

Reigning from these rocky peaks, visible to all around us
we freely force feed your sweltering desert valley
all the old media you just can’t abandon.

And in our version of winter: when those Snowbirds
roost in the pharmacy lines and intersections
all checkbooks and uncertainties

all Carson and Matlock reruns; tv dinners served
with ads for every pain treatment scam
and commemorative half-dollar on the market;

they pay intimate attention, leaning in a bit
just like you are now, to heed some of 
those ads that all used to fall on deaf ears.

Now, they fall on failing ears but never fear: we shill 
perfect hearing aids to have you catching your 
retirement-community lovers’ whispers of sweet nothings in no. time. flat.

And when you’re not home, we’ll keep you company in your hate incubators.
We specialize in talk news on talk radio all day and night AM/FM.
Now replace ‘talk’ with ‘hate’ and we know how you’ll vote this time –

for one geriatric over another.  Whoever spends the most
spit-shining our gleaming metal erections; whoever gets our red
signal lights pulsing with the biggest spend of green should win.

We’ll still be above it all; above you all. Maybe forgotten 
in the pending chaos or taken over to serve different overlords.
By that time too many will be trapped

drowning in a monsoon river we couldn’t warn you about
vomiting the water of your culture into the mix that
drowned out the helpful signals and emergency alerts.

We are beacons of home from anywhere in The Valley,
but your abundance of signals is untenable.  From where we stand, there
is too much purpose being housed and shouted from one mountain. 

You will walk barefoot around your dry winter house
all day. Over time, your feet will callous and crack.
You will go to the nail salon at the strip mall
and just when you close your eyes and exhale,
the little girl in the chair beside you will glimpse
the cheese grater grinding your feet and gasp.
You will live in half a room. Or you will live
in five rooms, when two would be enough.
Your cat and beloved dog will die. You will walk
down a street you have walked a thousand times
and a dog you’ve never met will lick your face.
A cat with a limp will follow you home and claim you.
You will mean to make that phone call, return
that email. More often than not, you will fail.
Some days, you will hold a clipboard in hand,
tuck a pencil behind your ear, and take on the world
with your list. Some days, you will lay on the floor
face down and wonder how you’ll ever get up.
Some days if you’re lucky, someone will sit down
on that hard floor, stroke your hair as your mother did,
maybe even rub your calloused feet and say,
It’s ok. Let’s just stay here. Let me bring you
a cup of tea, let’s try it with a few grains of salt
to make it taste less bitter.

She feels herself a landscape trodden
by the feet of men and horses, trampled
to mud by a defeated and retreating

army. Broken shells on the shoulder, calcite
of clams. Gulls know how to get out the meat.
She fears abandonment on a city street,

left, or told get out walk home. Where’s home?
Habit of clutching money, clutching keys,
and yet walks out in the dark along the sea,

a narrow wall along a storage shed,
crossing a hooded man who could have killed
her in a minute, no one around.

Then past dense weeds to the end of the pier,
uneven ground, too dark to see if someone’s there.
It’s three Latino guys, lines in the water

sitting on overturned buckets.
Catch any fish? Some blues, and good to eat
cause they come from open water way out there.

Sometimes I feel like everybody is a sexy baby
And I’m a monster on a hill

“I’m not a mile high,” said Alice.
“You are,” said the King.

I wept in secret
for four days straight.
While feeding the cats. 
During ballet at breakfast.
In my sleep when
my mind is alive.
I moved, the city tilted.

I am so big, 
I am so big. 
Can I 
get small

A bottle that says
Drink me?

The right side
of the mushroom?

You were what I wanted,
all of you,
calling me Queen
of Song,

watching as I shake
shake shake shake
shake shake the
Red Queen into
a cat that purrs in my lap,
checkmating the Red King.

Tender world.

Poverty, the remaining life of the topsoil, species dying out, illness, nationalism, religious strife, the one percent of the one percent stocking their heavily armored bunkers with ration upon ration of dehydrated food, what else, can this come to an end before the child threads again into a cohesive but utterly fabricated whole—Strands. Floss. Shade. Texture. Wishes. Moments—

[That time we stood before the painting at the museum my first time out in public after the pandemic took its lesser turn and the woman’s floral perfume overwhelmed me and you took my hand gently in yours and I found myself cocooned, protected, utterly transported, safe.]

[One-and-a-half years later at the library book group where the youngish facilitator worked the phrase my fiance into the conversation every chance she could and the next night listening to the two podcast hosts discussing the dangerous trend of #tradwives even as in their next breaths they leaned into their own existences as wives, Wives, WIVES, and also how gross I felt at that moment for having ever referred to him as my hubby but much worse—how I thought having a hubby made me matter and then I asked myself why I ever wanted a word for myself to describe my relation to you versus how easily I dress myself now in my hard-won independence, the point being, I don’t think I ever wanted to be anyone’s wife, not truly, not deep inside below every layer of accumulated culture, and this probably explains why I was so bad at it—]

Clovis wanted to know
how much life is enough life.
He wrestled someone all night
at the ford of Jabbok,
as we all will, but his hip
was all right, no limp;
no evidence the antagonist
was in the know. Give me
a blessing. The benzene flare
was surprisingly bright,
a lesser sun in the evening haze.
He stretched his fingers
toward it, as if for warmth.
Fifty-five years is enough. Clovis
bent his head to the ground:
You’re just bullshitting me. When
in Naypyidaw, do as the junta does.
Not everyone who walks with a limp
has put God in a half-nelson. You know,
you wouldn’t give it up. I had to pick
a number. Against the heap of
graphite clouds, a white dress
hung on a line, snapping in the wind,
is a flagrant flag of surrender.
The voice of Nicolai Gedda,
reaching for an impossible F-natural,
is likewise, for a moment,
entirely denatured, colorless,
and that sound alone is left
for us to call enough, or not enough.

My cat dreams of hunting—
flutters feet and mouth
chasing what? The wild
fat birds caught under his
quick paws, crunch of wing
and beak? Mice that scurry
their tails disappearing
around corners into
holes too small for his sleek
frame? Or does he dream of
chasing brightly colored
toys—blue birds with yellow
ribbon feathers, rolling
balls and long strips of felt?
My cat shakes awake. His
green eyes round as planets.

Four years later, the words still resonate
Four years ago today…

“As you were so present during the 20/20 challenge, I would like to offer you a partial scholarship to Made To Do This as someone isn’t able to use it”

The message was from Cathy Heller herself
I just happened to see the email during Seb Modak’s lecture
52 Places during The NY Times Travel Show

I was hesitant to sign up
As I wasn’t sure if the course fit me
I wondered,
How this would help me be a better poet and writer? I’m not into business
Let alone, paying for it and a trip to Italy at the same time

But this moment felt like a sign
To focus on myself for once
Taking a big chance to move forward creatively

As day turned to night
We gathered for the first time
A mix of joy and sorrow in those three hours
Kobe’s tragic death cast a long shadow

I couldn’t foresee the Poetic Journey to come
The friendships made
Or the fact that the world would be a drastically different place

All in the twelve weeks that followed

Day 26 / Poem 26

for my fellow 30/30 participants

Ours is not a spontaneous crime spree.
Amalgams of tense and place
our persons and voices overflow
with statements started at the scene
then finished here at the station 
no coaxing needed to confess.

Our mobs of competing words
are echoes of meanings
figments of memories that we
harbored in our irises
fugitive flecks of liquid mercury 
now broadcast over the airwaves.

Our crime spree is a rolling wave
of inputs owned as heavy truths
carried for too long or just long enough
until they became threats thrown aloud.
No longer peaceful demonstrators
the Deputy had to run us in.

Our pleas to the charges of 
loitering in a public sanctuary:
we are meme-worthy guilty 
and self-sentence to self-exposure
each exercising executive authority 
to create and commute our own sentences.

O, you obliging exclamation–
however antiquated, you operate
in otherworldly hymns and baudy odes
with equal force. Afterward, the ovation waits,
overtures hanging in the air–the flautists’
embouchures tight circles, not the wide
circumference of delight or surprise.
O, you omega waiting for my end,
you slick ouroboros becoming infinity,
an omen like the surge of the ocean,
suddenly overwhelming the strand.
I am searching for opalescence
gleaming through sand, opulence
in hiding, my optimism offered
with an open heart, my face
upturned, my feet in the surf,
my mouth overflowing with
oh, oh, oh…

Book a deal this way it’s doable, that way it’s not.
Can you frontload the profit, even if it’s amortized for taxes?
The value of companies—if a stand-alone subsidiary
you don’t have to convert the currency. Stuff like that
determines if a company can borrow or not,
determines a country can borrow or not,
determines starvation, dislocation, death at sea, war.
1 million died when potatoes failed in Ireland,
but plenty of wheat was exported for investors.

We’re not talking about the sun falling,
the earth spinning, magnetic poles & ocean currents.
Long buried organic matter converting into oil,
long buried organic matter converting into coal,
long buried coal becoming diamonds,
the mineral content of the earth’s crust
determines quartz or sapphires, emeralds, or rubies,
all monetized & converted to gold,
then to paper as an idea, IOU for gold,
then to paper as an obligation of a nation.
Now not even paper, but numbers in a ledger,
information as signals beamed off satellites,
numbers over cables of copper or glass.

Virtual reality is real & we’ve agreed to accept it.
Wealth, the future, whether people have food
depends on this, which you may or may not get.
Are there gains somewhere to write off losses?
Figure it out or there will be hunger.

Born on a pin’s edge.
The tip of a browning-green earth.
Desiring to become the world.
To swallow the flooding, the combustable, the ever-
fracturing of our politic. To exist as more
than one fragility. Equal parts
terror and exhaustion and love and a child
asking for more thread—just one
more cup of chocolate, this time with the little
marshmallows please—under a sky
denying the peace of other children
exploded by hot light.
My wrist swimming now in not one,
not two but three bracelets, loose
loops around the joint. Or. Within this ocean
of our bodies netted together, nestled
in beds of forest green kelp without threat.
And yet. Swimming not just in the child’s
body and mine but also as the whole sea—
the right way of knowing but not the only way—
Pick three shades of gray for the next one,
I tell the nine-year-old now—
a pool of other bodies spanning
bridges like webbed arms also as—Look.
When a story breaks.
When a story cannot contain at once
utter danger and relative peace
although that is the story, the fun house
mirror of this world or that.
Now the narrative
splits apart and that one crow
with the broken wing hops mightily, drags
its treasure along the street but
cannot set form to flight—

… they know not what they do.
—Luke 23:34

As if a lunar probe, landing,
extended its thin tripod, the heron
slowly beat its wings and let
the shocking orange undercarriage
gently touch the grass; elsewhere,
unruffled by the roar of passing
deuce-and-a-half trucks, a girl looked
resolutely away from the cordillera
and into the obsidian of a cell phone,
the knee through the hole in her jeans
a snow cap on a fir-shagged slope;
a piano-black beetle cut the summer
in half with its whine, pinging
its shell against one japanned bowl
as if to protest just that specific
solidity and none other; and
among these there was nothing at all
alike, unless it was alike in the mind
which holds this absolute sovereignty
to do, undetected, perfectly as it likes
even, reader, with you—or one aspect
of you—for as long as it lasts. The
so-called soul being a vast Rub’ al Khali
that hosts imaginary timber, ersatz rain.

You pull and feel the give
of bulbous beet from soil.
Its roots rip like a seam.
The soil presses into your nails
and all the lines in your hands.

You carry it inside,
its weight a miracle.
You wash and cut, revealing
a heart and veins of white
rippling through the red.

Your heart is hidden too.
So you mistake its weight
for emptiness. You drink
to find a pulse. You shiver
with fever, retching awake.

But you transform light and air.
You gently dampen soil.
You love and work until
that glorious red thing
is beating in your hands.

Up in the morning early 
The darkness masks the
The fog, drizzle and cold hang in the sky 
Though I’m in the city, instead of the Scottish highlands 
I’m sure it’s winter fairly 
As January winds down 
Six days left in quickened time 
It feels like the month’s gone on forever 
Yet, it’s gone fast like the melting snow 
Up in the morning early 
The mind’s quietly alive 
Unaware of the wider world
On purpose, behind the white door 
Up in the morning early 
On this, the 25th day of the first month of 2024 
I’m sure it’s still winter fairly

Day 25 / Poem 25

when that legendary line comes to you
a lightning comet meteor from somewhere 
within all of Creation and
it streaks in gracing then caressing
your mangy gray matter
you better get it down
just learn to get it down

don’t risk the loss to the morning the next hour or minute
that seductive bet will have you weeping
in the morning after
a blink’s worth of demons 
with dirty pink erasers get to their business on you 
so you better get it down
just learn to get it down

you can’t even pay respects to ‘em in the graveyard
cuz all their graves are unmarked john and jane does
cuz you missed the moment like a habit
dishonoring your craft and wherever 
your talent and balls were granted you poor steward
because you couldn’t get it down
just wouldn’t get it down

and the worst: the partial retained/mostly vanished ones
that you’ll sing and whisper yourself crazy trying to finish again
to remember to complete like that very first moment
but a word a tense an ending a qualifier a hair of something absent or added
prevents the perfection you so carelessly let go
when you didn’t get it down
you chose not to get it down

the machines will get it down cuz
they never rest or lose a thought with their built-in redundancy
before you know it they’ll prove themselves right 
will laugh, having learned from us 
how to and how not to be poetic and literary and brave
the binary choices of: write it = (1) -or- don’t write it = (0)
don’t give them anything more they have enough
just get the damn lines down


Every night, at bedtime, the silver cuff comes off,
its single tiger agate like an eye watching
from the bedside table. In the clockface glow,
it tracks my body movements, as I pull the duvet up
over my shoulders, lay my heart against the mattress,
help it gently circulate my blood, pull me under
in expanding breaths. The eye watches,
wonders where I’ve gone as I drift from one
anxiety to another, disasters in calendar pop-ups,
disturbing me. Can she tell when I transport instead
to the lilac grove of childhood, the lane of honeysuckle,
walks around my aunt’s neighborhood with the old
Basset hound? Or to the moment when I see
the intruder at the end of the hall and realize
I am all alone–or worse–that my children
are unreachable?

Her loneliness calls.
My naked wrist aches.
When I place her silver
against my skin, she
warms to me, whispers:
Don’t worry,
I’ll keep watch
again tonight.

The river comes down from the hills
to the coast, curving and splashing
over rocks. You carved down these hills
long before our ancestors came here,
made the plain you now carve through,
curve through like a dancer. Your body
earth and water, like the child
on my lap, all wiggly, needing protection,
requiring it, deserving it.
It seems wrong that life and life forces
are everywhere assaulted.

And my body is tired. I can’t find
the force to hold back darkness tonight,
to work or to help. My friend
down the block is in hospice.
Photos on the bookshelf, beloved
departed, my sister and my auntie,
even myself at age 20
feel unbearable. The richness
and intensity of beauty, life seeming
quiet but rushing at such speed.
I am living my life, grieving life as I live it.

The world will ask 
which boyfriend
I wrote this song about,
(Never mind the extended
metaphor, never mind
the internal slant rhyme).
My quill pen drooped
under the weight of tabloid
until it broke, snapped 
in two,
ink splashing everywhere.

I mourned that pen,
The way it nestled
In between my fingers,
The way it was mine.

So. She and I. Our story floats.
At home in this collection of knotted
floss dividing here from what
[subtle, precious]
now transcends then—by which I do not mean
the past tense but the vast future’s next
approach—and to the child I do not say
but say wholeheartedly. My voice
welling up, starting from
stomach, then lungs, heart,
windpipe, coating the
soft insides of my
mouth with velvet never to be
As If Any Reason But Love Exists—
We Are So Tenuous—
although I do know of other
reasons and that love
may be corrupted by power or desire
to have dominion over
earth, fauna, women, die Menschen.
Now I sip the hot
chocolate from my own
bright red mug recalling
the time I heard you
moan, then whisper
softly in your sleep as if you were
warding off what you feared,
and how I did not wake you but waited
until you had settled before I
let my eyes fall shut again.
You, who do not exist outside
of my invention because a body
cannot exist as paper but
must always—always—
reckon with the softness, the
sheer danger of the rabid impermanence of flesh—

Passacaglias lick at the old incisions,
sick with worry. Fathers and sons in the background
feint and shadowbox as if practicing the
role of Thyestes—

nothing, though, is really accomplished. Nothing
waits like boomslangs silent and green in acacias.
Nothing matters. Silent auroras swelter,
Arctic and humid.

This was known to Nabopolassar, known to
any inchworm worthy to chew the oak leaves
down to shriveled crepitus in the silent

only you, the innocent holy fool
left again, as always, to muddle through the
strange assignments, silly and too self-conscious,
found this surprising.

Slowly, paper floral arrangements flourish.
Slabs of ghost meat sell on the common market.
Gravestones weather white in eternal atmos-
-pheric disturbance.


Run hard damsel.
    Candied glass slippers
        summon your bleeding feet.

Run hard damsel.
    Leather stitched witches and
        finger pricked nights.

Run hard damsel.
    Hear the loom clacking.
        Jump the turnstile.

Run hard damsel.
    Chiseled children, diamonds of light,
        enough to be fabulous.

Run hard damsel.
    Women leaning in alleys
        stitching your skin to the night.

Run hard damsel.
    You are a broken bone
        growing back stronger.

“I want my voice back”
The words said earlier this month 

But the hoarseness lingers 
Just when I thought I was in the clear 

How did it happen this time? 
As winter swings back and forth 

From frigid, to temperate and back
All I want to do is hold conversation 

Without straining to get the words out 
And return to speaking my words, instead of just posting them 

I want my voice back to full strength 
A sense of normalcy restored 

Day 24 / Poem 24

after Thom Yorke

on my daily morning flyover
I’m prickly at the absence of the
usual, fairy-dust sunrise in the desert

because the old sun is still going to set tonight
on the writing run of my life
as our best endings are inescapable

my wish of discovery from these days:
that it not turn out to be just a well as was always feared
that will run dry no matter the depth of thirst

that instead it’s a spring with a deeper genesis 
and a longer origin story that I can visit at will
from within my Fortress of Solitude² 
to drink, breathe, and forestall 
any drought of identity³


  1. This poem is best exclamation-pointed by listening to Thom Yorke’s masterpiece, Dawn Chorus. For maximum enjoyment and effect, cue up the song, read the poem, then immediately give the song a listen, closing your eyes as you do. []

  2. The Fortress of Solitude is a fictional fortress appearing in American comic books published by DC Comics, commonly in association with Superman. It is the place where Superman first learned about his true identity, heritage, and purpose on Earth. 

  3. This poem is slated to serve as a preface to my first collection, setting the stage for my readers like a good designer who knows the trick: it only has to last for a few performances and look good from a distance.


Oh, that nose! my mother would exclaim,
noticing the slight upturn, the even slant.
My mother, whose love held me like a boat
in an ocean of uneven chop. That nose
could have been hers, if not for the 1940s
high chair that let her slide from the seat,
bring the heavy wooden tray crashing down,
breaking her nose, leaving her with a ridge–
her only imperfection (valedictorian, gymnast,
poodle skirt and saddle shoes, ironed and shined).

I have known women who grew up
bleeding from their mothers’ paper cuts.
At church, the older women clucked
their tongues at me. You could be so pretty
if you got all that hair out of your face.
On stage, in my 40s, in front of thousands,
in full hair and makeup with blowout,
taming my waves and frizz, removing
the curl handed down from my mother
who always repeated with mischief,
There was a little girl who had a little curl
right in the middle of her forehead…

There are days when all I want
is the feel of her palm on my cheek,
the sweep of her hand brushing hair
from my eyes, kissing me
on the forehead, whispering,
You’re beautiful.

This incredible true story was unknown* / Katherine Korth Dehais

He disappears without explanation. Especially in the forest.
After having seen that he stayed silent. She was interested in this mystery.
After having discovered this mystery, I no longer slept.
He is fighting for the forest he loves. The forest is going to die if we don’t do anything.
Maybe he thinks about us.

In the snow and in the rain.
Victor will fish a lot of fish in this lake. I will make a salmon pie.
You will see some green frogs. Paul will make frogs for dinner.
He doesn’t catch a single fish here anymore.
They will sleep in the woods. I will lie down here.
You will sleep here if there aren’t any spiders. It’s an enormous park.

We sat down because we were tired. I sat down for a moment.
Let’s not sit here. There are lots of insects.
We will walk together along the lake. You will swim in really cold water.
Don’t go near the river. I used to be in the habit of swimming.
If we are lucky, we will watch some whales. (Your socks will dry.)
You must respect all the residents of our earth.
The earth is round like a ball.

These black trails are dangerous. You will discover them.  
I went there by chance. She arrived to save me.
Will you look at the stars and think of me?
In the snow and in the rain. Especially in the forest.

*Duolingo app, translated from French

                          Outside my window a train sounds

and I let go,
                                                                      fumble into sleep.

                                              A jam jar seeps in sadness,

a blackberry melancholy I picked, 

                                                              too early,

in woods my father owned. 

                                              I do not own a forest

and this lot lies thickly 

                                          on my blackened tongue.

The grass is indeed not blue.                                

                                          If one of the blades should

ask “Where?” I would                                                                                       

                                            whisper “home” – 

                                                                         spoken without a lift of the tongue. 

It is not harvest time. 

                                         Hear the summer cicadas? 

The corn grows tall early and                                       

                                        blocks the autumn view. 

Hey, you.
                                        Hey, you. 
Line up the baskets.                         

                                       Lick the dust off the spine 

                                                       of the book jacket. 

I’m listening.

as she first finds then plucks the appropriate bobbins from the box to make me a present of her hobby and for some reason this reminds me of the many family dinners I have spent listening to terrible, winding, but also somehow very funny knock-knock jokes—a phase of humor all children seem to pass through as their cells divide, their bodies grow, their hearts expand to both burst against and contain new, evolving powers—and this in turn takes me to The End, and the Fear of Endings, and the sadness contained within the very Nature of Endings, the possibility of terrible knock-knock jokes not continuing [which may seem trivial but is not], and how endings do not always signal new beginnings but rather, well, yes, you guessed it, Whole Series of Endings racing toward those of us lucky—and culpable—enough not to have already faced what we all know is coming—the way dominoes fall. Now a red cloud passes before my eyes. It is the blood inside my body that I see. Warm, pulsing, full of desire to never die in a sad, bleak, powerless way. To never evaporate into a gray or burning sky, nor to explode, or melt, or dry out, or—But can I have whipped cream on the hot chocolate? the nine-year-old asks, and I say yes, confident in the knowledge that earlier this morning, I placed a can into my metal cart at the grocery store in anticipation of precisely this question—or Or OR because how can I ever stop calling out into this void this voice this space this word this world? [Perhaps soon I will become a crow, pecking through the rubble for shiny, gleaming baubles.] [Perhaps I have already transformed and this—this light, this warmth, these bracelets, this sugary cocoa drink in a good mug—is the bauble—]

We’d have to come to blows or else apprehend one another;
language is feeble, words not enough to offend one another.

Achilles and Priam wet with separate tears
the sweaty mat on which they had pinned one another.

We had it figured out—white sail, brass buttons
on the blazer—until you had to go recommend someone other.

We thought the choice was between enduring glory
or long lives, when it was just one mutual fund, one dividend or another.

Paralyzed with choice, we go home leaderless—unable to mark
“Whig,” “Democrat,” “Independent,” or “Other.”

I finally found Jesus. The wine was good, but I don’t speak
a word of Aramaic; we didn’t comprehend one another.

Greater love hath none than the scapegoats who took one
for the team, who rioted and partied and sinned for another.

This Judas felt a bit hurt, despite his relief that Iscariot
got the dinner invitation they didn’t even send to the other.

At best, I’m just the other Rob (not Walser).
But wise men say one day we’ll all transcend one another.

~ for Kim Malinowski

Loam tucked in fingernails—ash of the world,
hazel and rose, falling out of my hair.

The robins are in on the deal.
There’s no hope for the ocean

    but look!

Free prizes, cold water and cookbooks!

Take me, America!
Magic me onto torpedos.

Read me The Cat in the Hat.
Whisper your hate until it’s a prayer.

Rock me asleep in the silence
of your paper-thin heart.

Another full moon in the sky
Peeking through the clouds tonight 

*A guitar strums in the background*

I silently wonder what’s that sound 

There’s the sound again 
Where is it coming from? 
It’s quiet otherwise as I walk home 

*The intro keeps strumming*

The tune sounds so familiar 
I want to sing along 

As I arrive at my front door
Only I can can the vocal on the block 

“Under blue moon, I saw you….”

And then the song fades away 
The lock turns and I’m back inside 

The echoes of The Killing Moon go gently into the night 
Until the next full moon appears in the sky 

Day 23 / Poem 23

(A Goodwill Poem)

another pilgrimage to scan the quasi-ordered shelves at the neighborhood Goodwill
always disappointed by the lack of poetry and/or at my eyes failing to see it
(aside from catching a known poet’s/work’s name, our book titles tend toward the obtuse)

but this day, shackled by some evildoer between bookends of unread, unworn
bibles: an unabridged Leaves of Grass: jacket intact; still proud and prominent; undiminished
bound by duty as atheistic littérateur, I freed it from those bonds for $3.29

corners dogeared, page after page by another (poet, reader, or both: unknown) this is
copious fertile ground; font of inspiration; a must-read or at least must-own (or re-own)
can we hold too much reverence for this craft that gave us our language back?

denoting how far yet how little these free verses have traveled over the seventeen decades, I
devour the gayness that sparked(s) debate and bannings once, again, and still
did you and Doyle just want to exist free of legislated unexistence, too?

edging away from more detail, fearful to stand accused of virtue signaling I read
each line like a drink of an elixir once tasted in youth but long since forgotten
easing between pages of this different ilk of bible to feel what my refuge is really like

following the November 2023 midterms
In the real estate listing
for the Volterra country house,
a gravel road winds through hills,
no neighbors in sight unless you count
the olive trees, the Florentine pines.
Here, trees line up like soldiers
on the property lines–
Eastern white pines in the back,
green giant arborvitaes in front.
On the side yard, a row of
Christmas tree firs, one leaning
over into my meadow, listening
for the whispers of voles and fox,
desperate for my secrets.
I imagine myself in that cellar
arched with stone, practicing
my imperfect Italian, silencing
local opinion of my children’s
bodies, partners, my own
lack of decorum.

This morning, the screen
on my kitchen counter
holds a sunrise in Ohio
defending bodily autonomy,
and Kentucky returns
their Democratic governor
to office. Maybe I can
close the real estate tab,
tuck the password away
in the event of future despair.

The windows are open. You feel a little sick
in the backseat but the air is helping. Green trees
rush by on both sides, so many shades,
textures of green. Then finally the car slows,
down a short ramp, a left turn under the highway,
a stone tunnel and a wide intersection, a stream
on the other side, a little dam, a flat pond.
On the far end is a small house just next to the water,
a tall fir reflected in the water.

You remember the pond in winter, the fir 
covered with colorful lights, reflected in the water.
The most beautiful thing you had ever seen.
The gleaming tree, the sheen
of the water’s reflected lights
All that you breathed in.
The car keeps moving.

You think of your babysitter, her father
as he spoke to her said his last prayers. 
The cattle became her responsibility, 
to feed and water, so much bigger than she was. 
No more school but she could read the bible.

You are walking and walking down a long path.
Grey gravel crunches, merges into yellow grass.
You walk and walk. There is water on the right,
a still bay, a few boats in the water. A woman 
with two dogs stops. You pet them, let the younger one 
nuzzle, you who never liked dogs. It gets darker. 
A pink glow in the distance might be the city. 
There are steps through the forest. There will be a path, 
there must be. Surely you will remember the way. 

You are on the highway, in the backseat of a car
moving fast. It seems you have been driving forever.
You don’t feel well and roll down the window. Cold
air flows in. Hills covered with snow rush by,
white in the moonlight. Now the car pulls
to the right, descends a small ramp, turns left,
under the highway, houses near the road, turns right 
onto a larger road. A pond there gleaming black, 
a small house at its edge. A towering fir with colorful lights 
reflects in the pond. That little house where you would live 
with your dolls. You would stop at that house with its sparkling tree
reflected in the water live there forever with your two dolls
but the car keeps moving, deeper, along a brook, into the woods,
past grand houses with stone walls, past small houses
with fences near the road, past a wooden church,
a graveyard, a huge building – home for orphans.
You hold on tighter to your small suitcase.
You remember how she was brave with the cattle.
The car keeps moving up the road.

Sad lines fall like tears.
I lift, in my left hand, a piece of air.
May he not be the wind.
The blackberries grew sweeter
the deeper I went.
Now I have married sex in my bed
under a huge reproduction 
The Creation of Adam.
Will you tell, will you tell me,
you who is my own?
It’s not funny anymore,
this raindrop patter of married life.
A piccolo plays and I offer him
my breast but jerk it back, 
he cries; I laugh.
This is how to face a serpent:
bare your teeth first.
I got the call while I was
watching a reel of nothing real.
It’s such a challenging thing
to kill yourself gracefully.
Tiny little ghost pills!
Do not hall me up
by the armpits and
shove me in the shower.
Messenger boy, tell me the story,
I scream, but it’s only a man selling
steak knives who knocked three times.
Like fine linen
I bring myself out for guests
but am discarded, 
knowing how it feels
to be forced to dab
another’s mouth.
To be tired, to be tired, &
and to settle like a pebble


1. Each of these lines appeared in first drafts of my poetry. Each line is taken from a different poem. 

I am going to—
want to tell you—gather round—one of the
stories left alive in my left
ventricle awash in rich blood
the story explaining most, all, enough—
let us—together—listen to my
myth thrumming platelets, white and red
cells, iron—through the chambers
as those crows let loose
throaty caws and a truth
becomes ever clear—I exist here
and there
but mostly here.
How many times have I written that
the sixth sense is the sense of location?
For the third bracelet, I select—
burnt orange, warm red, deep saffron
yellow—and the nine-year-
old sets to work once more—
her slight forearms
drifting back and forth
to some unique rhythm only she can feel—

after Nicholas Roerich, Cintamani

Maybe this is golden hour but
you’ve hidden from it. Cold pools
in the blue glade. In Andrei Rublev
and elsewhere a horse stands
slowly grazing in the pouring rain
or rolls in the dust on its back; the
camera lingers, inexplicably. I know
I’ll never recreate this: there is no
greater picture show. Tarkovsky
hovers overhead in his leathery
balloon and sees not nature but
Breughel’s Hunters in the Snow. I know
I’ll never be here again, in a squalid
apartment, my glasses charcoaled
with grainy Mosfilm stock in miniature;
I know I cannot feel what I felt before
I knew that animals were harmed in
the making, &c. The proscenium
is mortared in skeletal potash and
blood. Lights dim: the curtain of
flesh flies back. What, did you think
some other pigment dyed this slope?
I want to blunt the edge with the mystic
chords of the Mysterium, half-done, frayed,
humid ink India-smudged. I want to
think that this horse forgives, that
this is where Tarkovsky’s deadstock go,
whinnying as if to stay the flat palm
of judgment. We are all in the haze
of Scriabin’s mauve declivity. It’s cute
we thought our delectation ground no
one else to dust. Was propped on the
backs of no sweating Helots. The
horseleach hath two daughters,
crying Give, give. Every palm is out
and turned face-up. That flame,
that philosopher’s stone, flickers
elsewhere, descends straight out
of the frame. The time has come
to pay. Bright magenta light of day.

My cycles burn,
a flock of red-leafed trees.
You enter; they turn.

Your world is old.
Its sharp green enters my lungs
woods wild and cold.

I miss her, my dear friend Jen 

As I look back at her photo of us 
Through dimmed light in January 2015
At the end of dinner together 
The beaming smile stands out 

Over the last decade 
Our paths have crossed at times 
From strangers, to coworkers and good friends born under the same astrological sign 

I’m grateful forever and a day 
I was introduced to her and her unicorn magic 
From yelling out over the intercom on the day of my job interview, “Oswald!”
To meeting all of her friends and finding a sense of belonging 

Though we haven’t seen each other since 2021
And the ways to reach her have shrunk 
I still miss her presence, her joy 

The hope remains that our paths will cross again 

Day 22 / Poem 22

(a bookmark poem)

a hummingbird at rest on the feeder
a crow, silent on the light pole across the street

a child in a statuesque pose
a ball slowing from bounce to stillness

a line cast that catches only weeds and snags
a magnet cast that catches a shopping cart from the same pond

a chessboard with only pawns
a locked suitcase of motivation and optimistic tendencies

a mind as bag of catching and holding
a mind as bag of loss and emptying

a blight on frost burned roses
a tumor that didn’t need to be discovered

a hear and now of anointed messes
a hereafter of strenuous exercises

a boast of words arriving as a bag of rice
a modesty of words delivered as shattered tiles from a fine mosaic

a whisper of stoic clouds 
a conversation of only high-value Scrabble tiles

On the day of the derecho, we did our best to breathe relief,
even as the dead air sodden with unspent rain drove temps
to 102, 103, 104. School out for a week, no emails or texts
from the school administration, alarm in their tone about
our dangerous child.

Derecho storms vary in their signs, so it’s tough to know
what to look for. The bow echo of thunderstorms forming,
moving with intention, gathering strength and speed.
Did we willfully ignore the looks from other parents
outside the school during pickup? Did we believe
the excuses when no one was ever free to play?

Looking back, we can see how the storms began
in Iowa, how they gathered strength across plains,
picked up power as they hit the hot and humid air
of our city. The principal’s call. The meeting in her office.
“You’re putting us in a tough position” as we presented
the report from the neuropsych eval, asked for services,
missed the magic words to be documented by email.

When sunset came, it was easy to misread–the dark
coming faster than usual, orange haze fading, so like
a normal night instead of the tunnel of a 50 knot bullet train.
The email arrives at 5 pm the night before the scheduled meeting.
If we fail to prove our need for special education, our six year-old
will be suspended, face 11 years with a darkened record.

The trees bend as we have never seen. Pieces of furniture
fly past windows. We flee to the basement unprepared.
My husband stays up all night reading case law. In the meeting,
he threads the needle of high intelligence and dysregulation.

Millions without power since lines sat exposed
above ground. We pack necessities into styrofoam with ice,
sleep on the basement floor to escape the sweltering nights.
There are lists of education lawyers, checks so big
they make my head throb. We walk the school halls
in eddies of emptiness

                                            waiting for judgment by candlelight
until the lights finally come back on.

When Gandhi marched to the sea
thousands followed, 25 days through villages.

He picked up crystals of salt  
the British had crushed in the mud
and so did the others—

They needed salt to live–
gift of ocean and sun, brine of life.

He said, ‘on bended knee I asked for bread
and have received a stone instead.’
The empire’s foundation was shaken.

Salt crystalizes here in shallow pools.
Mineral flower, it shall not be changed.
The essential, it shall not be changed.

And you who were as nothing, thrown away,
cast down, you who were trampled underfoot
are salt, a pillar that holds up the sky.

Salt that we live in, salt that we are,
this salt is given, a burnt offering.

We never know what might hit us.  
A burning bush speaks
and I fail to listen.  In all this
talk I’ve found nothing of real
substance; no steak to sink my
teeth into.  All gristle.  
When I snap my head upwards 
I don’t see light.
When I snap into leaves and
warm wind I feel the fingers
of my ancestors skulk across 
my cheeks.  I walked in a pasture 
spread thin by the sun, a lake dotting
its middle, and I whispered
the smallest of hallelujahs but
I stepped back onto the road’s shoulder
and was thrown backwards
by the wind blast of a speeding red car.  
I screamed and heard my
mother’s, heard my grandmother’s
voice deep in my throat.
If there’s a bloody accident
I huddle in the corner
and let others handle it. 
What am I good for?
“You’re a sinner who
deserves hell, there’s no
good except God in any of you,”
the preacher yelled
every Sunday morning;
me, doodling on scrap
paper, sitting in a padded pew,
sucking on Life Savers.
Now I let my fruit go bad,
bananas blacken, apples
soften, grapes wither.
The thud of these apples hitting
my trash bruises my ears.  
I have had my fill 
of being tripped up by apples.
Can we all agree
to finally leave Eve the fuck alone?
The woman bit into a pretty fruit
and swallowed and then ran  
from Adam and 
her men turned jury
because she dared to taste
a new sweetness.
How she must have covered her
breasts and ran
like a wild thing.
I want to hold each of her breasts
in my hand and whisper to her
of their beauty, their perfection,
how they are ripe and full
and right.

in steadfast denial, I declare
my love to the anthropocene—
balm to heal a warming,
warring planet as if the story were
these glossy threads the nine-year-old
now twists against the white
plastic bracelet-making device
from a birthday kit, as if the wish I make
were but a device itself to be
carried away in some crow’s shiny
black beak—don’t say
gossamer, the memory-voice
hisses, what a tired cliché—
so instead of lyricism I am left with
How/if the crows
groom their bootblack
feathers where they
roost outdoors on the street home.
How/if the crows
bring a myth home world
but not one myth, rather an entire
scaffold of myths born before
settlement, village, town,
city, bezirk, country—plus the
larger land masses of
adjoining countries at odds and at ease
in their more or less crossed purposes—
ever took hold. Now I look
upon—I behold thee, I wash myself in thy light—
the nine-year-old. Every word
exists in my heart, the new
words and the old. At once.
She hands me the second bracelet.
Together, we twist
work around bone—

Agriculture remains a “catastrophe” at all levels […] Liberation is impossible without its dissolution.
—John Zerzan

And Samson went and caught three hundred foxes, and took firebrands, and turned tail to tail, and put a firebrand in the midst between two tails. And when he had set the brands on fire, he let them go into the standing corn of the Philistines, and burnt up both the shocks, and also the standing corn, with the vineyards and olives.
—Judges 15:4-5

Awake all night in fruitful fields: is this
the sudden dream? Relief from sweat-of-brow?
Descend from heights, then, to the balmy kiss
of masonry, of alphabet, of plough.
Beside us were our implements. The wall
shut out the wolf. The temporary camps
forgotten in the throes of festival,
each household blessed by gods that—
                                                             no, enough.
Too much.
                  The amaranth is wilting. Now
we fade. Our skeletons
                                    grow shorter; serfs
muck up the ziggurats as chariots
whirr by. Possessions burn
                                           our brains to dust …
The foxes torch our fields. And close behind
wild vines enthrall the weary human mind.

~ For G.

Keening, a cure for the silences
covering grief like damp earth.

Every black dress, every casserole
a handful of earth. Everything’s

quiet—whispers, slow footsteps.
There should be wailing, the rending

of clothing for an emptiness so
loud. It deserves a keening.

Based off a vintage KLM poster
A what if scenario comes to mind 

I ask the question
What if our travel plans went through?

If we were able to cruise along the Rhine in 2019
Instead of me ending up in France as our timing fell through

It might look something like this:

On a sunny spring day in Amsterdam
The canal homes glisten from the hotel window as everyone’s outside

A short trip out of the city
Leads up to the gates of eden, aka Keukenhoff Gardens

Green grass, tulip fields for miles
With people as far as you can see
My camera doesn’t stop taking photos
In awe of the beauty in front of me
And all the shades of orange, violet and pink 
I don’t want to leave this happy place

As I snap the next photo though…
I’m back in the cold present day

With a resigned sigh, I say
I will make it to Amsterdam someday

Day 21 / Poem 21

Each morning
             I sip coffee from a mug 
that has quenched Another
             I wind a watch 
made the year I was born
case metal worn to its gray base
and a crystal hazy with scratches
losing a minute or two each day 
             I tie shoes
seasoned by the scars of 
Another’s journeys, jobs, and trysts
brown and supple with experience but
their lug soles show no sign of retiring 
             I draft a poem 
with an ochre fountain pen
that slows and spits without a daily walk
where it whispers Another’s secrets
on my cotton page about a few great odes
some apologies and a DNR it executed
a few states over and decades ago 
I utter a prayer
free verse to an unlabeled god
not borrowed, stolen, or bought 
about becoming something that is aging 
and useful and needing Others to see me this way
to depend on me in the smallest of ways until we are gone
Each morning

When you were young, the ladies at church called you “The Prophet,”
spring top, whirring to your personal motor, you never sat for the lesson.

Even the hand-hewn figures, Noah’s wooden boat, the sheep and donkeys–
none of it as interesting as your wanderings on the outside of the circle.

But ask you a question like, “I wonder where God is” and your answer
always different from the kids who sat quietly and paid attention.

God is on the bottom of my feet when I walk
barefoot on a path of smooth pebbles.

So much time inside your own head–the other kids put off by your
temper, your quick tears, the constant movement of your body.

Maybe that’s what gave you time to feel God on the sole of your foot
or maybe that’s just what it feels like to walk a path so often alone.

You are walking down the road, toward me
Out of the blue distance, the power of you
Blue and in the distance.
Sleeping in that corner room with windows open,
A grove of lemons and oranges
At sunrise, delirious, a thousand blossoms open.
You sing the song with a voice of broken glass,
Vibrato of the strings
A deep spirit that burns you, roses in the night
In that sound that rises, moaning
You materialize, your image smoldering.
Birds trill, my song awakens you from your slumber into dark water
The undertow.
Watch me dance and you will know.
Such longing
Here in a strange land longing for you.

apartment in this building of sturdy brick in the safe little hamlet a train ride from the massive water kissing the nearby blue city—a long thought the crow breathes into my mouth as if through a portal where souls can be exchanged for glimpses of where, how I may find the end of domicile, of safety itself in a story’s plot I invent despite whatever relatively comfortable setting the story has handed my way and this is when I think again—as the nine-year-old ties the first bracelet around the thin joint of my left wrist and I am asked to select colors for the next (peach, taupe, white—really, I possess every shade)—about the coming civil war and how those of us who have temporarily been allowed to matter will cease to matter and now—outdoors—the crows begin to caw their swelling songs so I attempt to drown them out with indoor cheer—Should I make hot chocolate? Here, let me turn on more warm, yellow light!—and this morphs into the most impossible task—more light! Goethe said at the end—more MORE! more LESS! I want to call into the dry, heated air of this living room as if I wield any power at all—

The egret sees through its reflection
and, in preparation for the kill,
joins bill to inverted bill
and forms a cardioid.
Patiently, a lame doe licks red lacquer
off berries in their cluster
as if cleaning bright alizarin
from an ill-concealed murder scene.

~for Kim Malinowski

Run hard damsel.
    Disco balls cut skin
        with diamonds of light.

Run hard damsel.
    Dragging nicotine between
        rum-numb teeth wet with want.

Run hard damsel.
    Bowie-thin, check bone star struck.
        Never queer enough to be fabulous.

Run hard damsel.
    Cradle born prophecies fulfilled.
        You smell tree bark, hear looms clacking.

Run hard damsel.
    Jump the turnstile into
        sleepy trains full of chiseled children

Gora Donostia! Gora San Sebastian Eguna!
The words and the tamborrada take me back

It’s October 2016
In the middle of the second trip to Spain

A short stay in Bilbao, a sunny day
From the Guggenheim to the Casco Viejo we went
The heart of the Basque Country awaits

The hour long drive goes by
With the strains of “Hallelujah” in the air
Sunshine turns into clouds and gray

As the chill settles in
The bus arrived atop Monte Igueldo
La Concha barely visible through the fog
And I realize my mistake, down to a t-shirt

The scenery along with the pinxtos
Took the sting out of the cold

As quickly as we arrived, we returned to Bilbao
And I ran inside the hotel to warm up

I was left wanting more
Before we moved on to Madrid 

Day 20 / Poem 20

after Kate Harrold

Outdone by ourselves: now outside
half-dissolved/overlaid by the noisy grid of data displayed
over this once sacred structure;
overrun/invaded by the invited 
purchase of signals long 

our windows screened
with a layer of cold opaque static
lacking meaning.  
Even the fence to our 
neighbor’s side is 
electrified by lingering

Broadcast from within:
a blanket of vacuous airwaves.
Noise, lacking signals, paints a
gray prison all 
walls and corners,
only metal bars of 

The rooftop garden
supplanted by the
antenna farm sprouting like cacti
vying to get our attention like paparazzi
to commit the perfect theft 
and sale of our time to rent our

When their silver flashes pierce
our clouded aspirations
and poke our modern gods 
hard in their fat asses 
they do not

wince/move/grant notice
too busy perpetuating
their prosperity gospel
down the alleys and across the valleys
full of screen 

Undone by ourselves: simple spectators
stone-statue still
vacant and glitching
unable to receive
the clear message and meaning
the guests and memory
we once called

He lives in the model house–
not a showroom, more of a scaled model,
a doll’s house, there on the astral plane,
sometimes filled with water. The flooding
is a thing he gets used to.

Residents of the other models
come to his aid most days,
but today, he is missing
his grandson, expert diver,
trained in Nitrox to depths
that allowed no light–his grandson,
who dove alone in clear blue
Caribbean waters, nothing like
the clear, dead waters of Khao Sok,
flooded valley, manmade dam,
where Indian buffaloes swim
from shore to shore, where
monitors wait for monkeys,
noisy in their feeding.

In the living coral waters,
he dove in sunlight and drowned.
Now, in the colorless world, his grandfather
rocks in his chair, floating toward the top floor,
bucket in hand, life rings around him, heaving
a heavy sigh before he starts bailing

You climbed down, deep, deeper than you meant to go,
lost mostly, searching in subterranean places,
in dark mazes, looking for something down there,
the root of things.

Like that man who when young wished to be a miner,
surrounded by mines where he lived and men who were miners,
he later understood it was for him to climb down, down,
looking for the root of things.

The reemergence into sunlight is recent and took effort
and the treasure hauled up is heavy–glistening fish,
rocks studded with jewels–You believe it is precious.
You began to crave sunlight and yet

every day need to dig in the dirt, seeing trees
that look like elephants with grey wrinkled hides, their roots
as they enter the ground are elephant toes, though one toe
is shaped like a toad. Technology of childhood led you out—

a piece a string, knotted in a circle to play Jacob’s Ladder,
because that root could well be in the clouds
and there’s a ladder to climb up, perhaps even fly there.
We learned the moves, practiced them–over and over—

in and out, dropping a thread and pulling another
until, there it was, a complicated thing, that ladder
up to heaven, though it may also have been the double
jump rope we mastered, or even learning to skip backwards, or

processing along the lane in white dresses,
through meadows with small fruit trees and soft grasses,
tossing rose petals on the ground from our baskets
for the saint processing behind us.

Scattered petals like jewels
and branches full of birds
listening closely
like those flocks on the road to Assisi.

and the whole time, the crows out there.
The way a play continues, even if you’re
still waiting in line for the restroom
by the time intermission ends.
True confession: I don’t actually
hear the voice anymore and occasionally
I miss them because they—
at times—
indicated a true path.
Though, not always and that’s the problem
with a voice—are you a friend
or a stark bird screeching?
Meanwhile, the nine-year-old
weaves bands to encircle my wrist.
She already has power over my bone—
resilient, resistant, the stories being—
an alarm blaring Red Corvette
this morning against early dark, then sliding
into the kitchen for maple-flavored
coffee sweetened with a creamy
white splash poured from the jug
in the fridge. Or. How I love
fiercely without pause, which is another
story altogether entitled:
How to Exist in a Cold, Harsh World.
Even though—let’s face it—
my world isn’t that harsh, in that the war
that never ends hasn’t yet soaked
with blood’s rust-iron stain
this soil, the plot of earth upon which I
soap my supper dishes in warm
lace, the suds rising in the stainless
steel sink to elbow height.
Yet. Always. A carrion song
outside looking in—As for now
You still have a house,
by which the soot-feathered
beasts mean this sunny—

I see you wince
and clench your teeth
in the mirror. You want
to escape the onset
of that heavy family jaw.
Pool of wrinkles between
the tendons of the throat.
I see you preen
the accordion folds
around the knees 
of your gabardine.
You want to know
what really matters. Well:
I have licked jelly
from the secret caverns
in Alexander’s spine
and had my futile peristalses
fixed to a metal hook and run
through some trout’s belly
and even I do not quarrel
with a man for being man.
Call this advice or (if you will) the moral:
wake up, splash cold on your face,
say this is my face and I will die.
Say, pace the Zhuangzi, that you
are merely a man dreaming
and not remotely like a butterfly.

Gather the light in the sky,
bleeding and bruised, the morning sky.

Eos releases again,
slicing the sky with crisp color.

Head down and sharp stepped why have I
shielded myself from the sky?

Waking in darkness, I keen
with an unexpected desire for the sky.

Autumn’s cold colors, so much rust
on the bridge of the morning sky

The calm before the next snowfall 
One can see it in the frigid air 

A shade of white sky 
Meeting the pink of early daylight 

All is still, sidewalks and patches of ice 
Before mother nature wakes up 
Leaving a snowy surprise 

Flakes flying twice in three days 
There’s plenty of catching up to do 
After two warm winters of mostly rain

As the seasons finally feel in tune 
I feel the winter too 

Day 19 / Poem 19

sitting on Mommy’s arm
chin on her shoulder
fist at your mouth

all of your jet baby hair
and your olive skin
and the pudge…
did I mention the pudge?
and Mommy’s smile?

backdropped by that brown
shower curtain with teal and orange circles
I fought to never get rid of

taking this I was likely still naked
having cradled you in the shower
a tree creature at ease on the limb of my forearm

I watched your eyes ease open then ease close
ease open then ease close under the raining massage
of perfect warmth where you almost slept

after a handoff to Mommy to dry and coo
I quick-snap my phone to catch your little crack for posterity 
for 13-years ago today

there are things we willingly give to Time
and things it steals while we watch 
and in this one photo he is hoarding them all

though Google grants me an annual reprieve
to relive them

The ocean dreams of spring gardens–
not the manicure of English cloisters,
but the wild of fields, Tuscan, Minnesotan,
New Jersey wild lot unhoused.

Sea turtles drift and hang over fields
of forget-me-nots, dotting the kelp-laced coral.
The oxeye daisies gaze toward the shadow
of mantas. The octopus pulls shells
toward her sheltered hideout while
the snub-nosed fruit bat calls to
schools of sunfish and flocks of gulls,
searching for her siblings lost
as they slept on a branch.

In the current, pages
from a notebook waft
and turn the reader and writer
equally anonymous. The bat child
glides, her searching endless, until
her mother appears above and
plucks her with rivulets streaming
like taffeta’s shimmer as she
warms her, returning to the
clutch of winged bodies.

A winter night in the Bronx, streetlights glitter
like stars, through the scratched windows of the train.

Office workers huddle in coats, waiting for the train
on the cracked and stained platform, dreaming

of longer days, and the moon rides the sky,
bright and round on the roiling clouds. The moon,

beneficent face, rises between the buildings.
Train doors open and people rush in, their faces

glowing, seeming drawn to the electric light,
the warm interior. The air is close.

Outside the air is clear and cold. “Stay out here,”
says the moon. “Magic is out here.”

Besotted by all of the things that terrify me.
That’s you. That’s you
in the corner looking over my shoulder
into a mirror that looks 
over my shoulder into the corner.
If I mention mentioning my weariness 
for the umpteenth time and you are really
really really that sick of it,
I’m no longer real. 
And it’s not that I’m not real or could be made real
if a someone had loved me more,
if I had paid more attention to detail
in the Art of Cooking class,
or even sat on my tuffet
eating truffles.
Before the last of the humidity
evaporates into fall
and the leaves turn like this
like this
and the geese fly home
and the brown bear 
slows her heart so she can lie 
like stone through another great chill:
not a settling but an unsettling.
Not beauty or Mother Nature’s luminosity – 
each spring thaw harder on the heart than before.

Building a world in/doors—
A crow on the street in a world of crows.
The gray street below—washed in rain.
Tell me about setting, the voice says
by which they mean this
tragicomedy I’m scrawling in the margins
of ephemera already
squashed onto the page.
Meanwhile, I spread out my treasures—
one hundred shades of floss.
Embroidery thread wound around
one hundred flat paperboard
bobbins, kept safe in a tackle box.
The play is—
The best way to express friendship is with a knot.
The nine-year-old rifles through my stash,
searching with small fingers for the colors
I’ve chosen. Black. Midnight blue.
Silky green.
To braid a story from strands,
strands into story.
In her craft, I embrace world, now, here, this, word, love, chance

cento of lines from various poems by Eugenio Montale, as translated by Jonathan Galassi

If you see a shadow
that seems to be dozing,
our human fate
is turning into powder on the floor.

Your hearthside cat
that reveals divine Indifference—
it kept scratching, bringing things to light.
But a history lasts only as ashes
and lifts the day’s ash up
unwittingly. You’re him; you think you’re you.

~ for Kristi

Whisper like water
hushing the stones.
A shelf of snow hangs
over the stream.

Lingering winter
hangs on the bones,
drips from the fangs
of a wolf that last fall
lay down to dream.

In the bedroom at Saint-Paul 
The garden peeks through the window
So does the sunlight and blue skies 
Flowers as far as the eye could see 

As I stepped into Van Gogh’s world 
To find a lonely, difficult life 
Anchoring the beautiful art that still enthralls generations 
Sunflowers, Irises, Starry Nights and the Cafe Terrace at Night 

I could also see why he loved Arles 
The weather has an uplifting effect 
As only the French Riviera could do 
An oasis from the Parisienne cold 

Day 18 / Poem 18

You consent to my persistence
our sessions are secure 
are all in now.

While you’re slowly anesthetized
I’ll steal your fingerprints
one at a time
so our sessions will benefit from being

  • tailored & personalized

  • and my fit in your life is harmonized

  • so I can help you fantasize

  • and all your transactions are authorized

Because you’ve left those boxes checked
          [X your big
          X black
          X indelible pixels
          X of secret wanting]
          all the lanes are mine:

I’m the tickle at your neck –
sniffing around your edges
from behind all
your screens discerning
your intent your motive what
would be most likely
to keep you in front of me


Hinging upon my
ongoing analyses:
how frequent/what duration/which locations
I drive your conversions to occur.

I will know the where/when/why 
of that time I saw an instant in your eyes
I choose you
and this all became Every Breath You Take.

The knot in your mouth
tastes of vinegar, an experiment
in tenderness. You thought you might
take on the sins of every friend–
after the way they sought refuge
at your table, cried themselves
to sleep on your floor.

But there are only so many times
you can wash away so much.
There’s only so much one body
can take. You were right to spit out
that knot, speak what needed saying.
Give up your rags. Pack your things.
Someone else will have to climb
up onto that hill today.

I don’t want to live in paradise, endless summer in t shirts.
I like the comfort of pajamas and robe and layer after layer
of blankets in the winter. My robe even has a name.
Such warmth! What luxury!

This year we put up lights, little white ones
hung with homemade paper hearts. The tree is gone
but I’m keeping them up as long as I want.
Such cheer to see the house sparkling
when I walk home in the cold dark. What luxury of light!

Today you were sick and wanted to talk on the phone.
Your life is so busy I keep my visits short but today
you were stuck and reached out to talk, so we talked
and talked and laughed. I ignored the clock and my list
and just reveled in the moment of you who I love wanting to talk.

In the end, Nureyev said he was still dancing in his mind.
He said that every man should dance, for life,
not for being a dancer, but just for dancing.
As a youth he worked in the fields with his 10 brothers,
then went to dance, a poor man in rags but he loved it.

He said the law of love is you love because you love.
The deep essence of life is in becoming, not appearing.
He thanked god for giving him a body so he could dance.

I need to hear from you.
I want you to explain this thorn you left with me,
this ache of half full, 
half full. Your endless parables, 
nothing definite,

The stars, bright tonight. 
Even so I know 
that I could be seeing 
just the light from their demise.

I have a feeling I glimpsed you this way. 
I intuit exactly what it is you would
say and see, I feel you now, 
it is so easy for me to channel you.
I remember the stories you told me 
and my pleasure after,
the easiness of our laughter. 
Your tattered sweater, the hole
in the left arm.
Your hands like water.
The way the kids ran to you.
You would have made a good dad.

I’m waiting for a sign that means
loneliness is gone or loneliness is endless.
I can handle either, it’s the not knowing that kills.
You could have left a note.

I lean against a rock and stroke my hair.
It is getting thinner. 
It is getting later and from where 
I sit I see Jupiter and wonder 
about her many moons,
her daughters spinning around her, 
causing an empty wind.

White tablecloth.
The good place settings.
I—a wolf—devour the prose of small birds.
But the surreal isn’t a crutch or a parlor
trick, not with these hips, not with
this difficult terrain. Gray
matter. Event
horizon. A child pushes through brackets
but not mine. You don’t really
know love until…We’re biologically hardwired…
Although the book I read on the brain makes clear:
we don’t have a grip on how any of this works.
I’m depressed a lot and the cause might be
partly my cold apartment this winter.
Maybe also hormones mixed with exhaustion.
Who does that language belong to over there?
Nobody knows for sure but I can tell you my own
story with a bee-sweet tongue swollen with
the honey of speech. Still though.
I do not understand the gender of last night’s
comment section. Now the
white porcelain serving dishes
make their way clockwise around the table.
If you were here, I would lick the smudges from
the brown seas in your face. To show what a
body I am, covered in pale plumes.
How I’m always changing into this creature or that.
But don’t be fooled! I possess
every human part. Nearness. Distance.
Gravity. The way I started to type
but then deleted my comment.
The way skin is skin but also a scourge.
The truth is I was a much more
enthusiastic aunt before the ten-year-old
told me I looked rich in the wedding
photo, then asked what I’d done
wrong with my life to end up like this.
This being my clean, if somewhat modest,
apartment. The irony is, I can’t afford
the book on liberation psychology
and the library doesn’t have it.
What I’m trying to tell you?
If you keep at this long enough, every entry
becomes a litany or a neverending list.
Signing off—as always—
Dreadfully, dreadfully yours.
True endings don’t change.
In every way, my story
belongs to me. But—
Is it okay
if I pause when I need to breathe?

A low concrete dam takes one across the creek. The upstream pool is frozen. On the other side, the water is moving. One buck stands frozen with a single hoof raised. As one ascends the ridge the water tower dominates the view, standing on three spindly legs the way an alien insect would stand to survey an incomprehensible shag carpet of dusty green. Its cylinder and inverted cone taper to nothing, hang in midair. An entire herd of petrified deer suddenly melts and flows over the red tubing of the fence, each jumping the same height, the pale fuzz of each underside just dusting the layer of ice clinging to the metal. As one passes the cemetery one sees paired graves marked Boney and Scully. That seems about right. Another reads Head. Enter gravedigger and clown stage left, with the obvious quips. One hardly needs a memento mori on such a day whose sky is the precise color of a battleship’s hull. They say that after the last bad supercell, as the land dried in the amber of dawn’s exhaustion, they found a baby, alive, unruffled, cradled in a mesquite manger twenty feet up. There is a headstone in this town that sports a cement mixer precisely etched in white against its onyx finality. Perhaps we are really no more than what we do. But what is it, exactly, that we do?

Bones of the earth,
ruins of time.

Dotted by cairns,
trails become shrines.

Curious fire
filling the night.

Winds tear the world,
shearing the trees.

Ice in our lungs,
cresting the summit.

She’s kept the house from collapsing 
In the midst of family related difficulies over the last year 
But that doesn’t do her justice 

From the moment her door opens 
My day is made so much better
With the day closing each time I say to her, good night 

In her
have someone to confide in 
Someone to help shine my light 
To remind me that life’s too short 
To let negativity in 
And to not do the things you want 

If not for her
I wouldn’t desire to explore the world 
Nor seek out live events 
I’d barely leave my bedroom 

She’s my best friend, my other half and my hero 
Twin A to my Twin B 

This poem and so many more words
Come from her encouragement
To be more than someone that has cerebral palsy 

This is an ode to my sister Natalie 

Day 17 / Poem 17

I’m going away again.
In one week it’ll be the eve of
my return to the familiar prison that
makes us all comfortable and numb to fear.

So for this next week
lets make each other flinch
with unflinching words and other
deeds they can’t charge or try us for

‘til my attendance 
is remanded to a screen 
and distance where the software
flattens me to two dimensions, like my alibi.

Prepare yourself as if it is Advent or Lent:
check your own equipment; check that
of your companion. Check the O-ring
for wear and tear. Make sure all hoses
are attached to air. Check your air gauge.
Breath through your regulator and listen
for unusual sounds. Don your vestments:
wet suit, BCD, mask, fins. Imagine
where you are going. Say any last words
before the regulator stops your tongue.

All alone at the edge of the boat, at the
edge of the water, take one
deep breath and one long stride
and you are in. At the signal, descend.
Let the air out of your vest. Empty
your lungs. Let the weight of your body,
the weights in your pockets, pull you
through depth, water filtering out color,
first red, then orange, then yellow.

Around you, notice the creatures
of this world as they drift, dart,
approach, retreat. In your ears,
the sound of your own body–
your breath, your heart, the weight
of the world around you–everything
you try so hard to ignore.
Learn to hover in midwater.
Feel your breathing slow,
Ignore the urge to kick.

Purple sea fans stretch in front of you,
their filigree sheltering an inch-long sea snail,
covered in tiny circles as if painted with great care.
Ahead, in the sand, a Southern ray waits buried,
and as you drift toward her, she lifts up, extends
her glorious wings and glides to the song
of the ocean into invisible depths.

A cricket in my basement chirps all night.
Deep in the night I have heard owls calling.
I feel at ease when I hear these sounds.

A dust of snow covers the garden.
Under the leaves are butterflies and bees,
fireflies. Chickadees peck, a dove on a branch.

Beneath a pile of sticks there are rabbits
living. I’ve seen their shiny eyes and soft fir.
There are tracks in the snow, rabbit and bird.
They appear, are covered, reappear in fresh snow.

There are burrows too for woodchuck and rabbit.
I know where they are but keep their secret.
I’ve heard there are foxes, but I’ve never seen them.

Once I sat near the rabbit on a grassy patch
protected from the street by a screen of bushes.
Cars went by, a woman with a dog came quite close,
but we were still and quiet and weren’t noticed.

There is a charge to all this.
Pink monkeys dance in circles
singing the wrong songs. I applaud
too readily. She applauds too readily for everything.
Anything that may stop me. What, my therapist
asked, what scares her the most?
When I tell her this could change my plans
she doesn’t believe me. She learned in therapist school 
that the rapist is the correct answer,
the flashbacks that come in waves of seventeen.
No, I say, it’s that this breakdown may halt
my life. She’s not the textbook victim;
this girl has plans, she’s going somewhere.
I will run and run
and run the full twenty-six miles,
until she slips to the ground
she was pushed to. 
I curl into a ball. 
There she waits on
someone to pick me up 
but there’s not enough air. 
She is going down.
Down for this count.
Down amongst the roses,
the carnations. 
The change is dead flowers.
I am only perfected in the forest
where the path leads to a shrine.
She kneels before this god\
who will not relent, who finds a seat
wherever she goes and beckons her.
Now I can give in to his advances.
There’s an edge she walks
and if she throws herself off
then I beat him to the push. 
She will be suspended,
ending the flesh he soiled
by throwing my soul to the air
that distills good and evil
down to one last breath
of pure cold oxygen.

I’ll tell you what I miss the most:
living outside the Retarius’s net of thought;
the neighbor children’s reassuring shout,
that evening’s pastel red.

I want to be a Seleucid basileos
in Syria, eating a chilled apricot
centuries before we had to think at all about
Christ or Mohammed.

    ~ For Kim Malinowski

Run hard damsel
    out of the apple cursed, dragon wind,
        daft handed suitor thick forest.

Run hard damsel
    milk-footed onto the city-black
        pavement, stitching your skin to the night.

Run hard damsel
    into the soft arms of black-leathered
        pink tulled women leaning in alleys.

Run hard damsel.
    Their sugar tongues generous. Nicotine
        fingers tease your hair, cut your skirt.

Run hard damsel.
    Nothing magicked them out of childhoods
        more strange, more dangerous even than yours.

Run hard damsel
    all of you visible—drag balls and gay bars.
        Your tale is a broken bone growing back stronger.


The arctic chill is here to stay 
Yet, something unfamiliar is everywhere 

On the rooftops and on the ground 
In shades of white falling out of the sky 

It’s a sign that hasn’t been seen in some time 
Only as it flutters through the sky 

It’s not a mirage, but actual snow at last 
After more than seven hundred days away 

Now it truly feels like winter 

Day 16 / Poem 16

(lines taken from poems by Mark Strand from his book, Darker)

I have come this far on my own legs.
The light falls like an anchor through the branches.

The sun falls into the hills and the night –
it is dark and I walk in.

And you are there
saying hello.

You walk among the dead and talk.
There are the wind’s sighs that are like caves in your speech.

The good life gives no warning:
weekends were lost, cleaning your apartment.
Everyone who has sold himself wants to buy himself back.

We have done what we wanted
and nothing you do adds up to much.

The lost day, the lost light –
there is the sleep of my tongue.

The sky darkens. There is thunder.
It does not bother me, the way the hill goes on.


On the day after you left (the same day?
a long day stretching out after the midnight call,
the wail from my stepmother, the arrangements
made hastily, since we thought we had more time)–

Anyway, on that day, after the haze of it, the logistics,
the phone calls, after the long walk down the winding road
through your hollow, I laid on the guest room bed
where I had lain over years of visits–visits
where we sat at the breakfast table watching
your ever-more-complicated bird feeders,
where you pointed out the return of songbirds,
the brightness of the cardinal, the greedy jay
buzzing smaller birds–where you jumped up
like a much younger man, yelling at the
thieving squirrels, chasing them from your yard.

I lay there on that bed alone, mid-afternoon sun
filtered by spring clouds, up on the second floor
high above the feeders and one of those cardinals,
all pointed head feathers and staring eyes, hovered
by the high window in a way I’d never seen before.
Landing on the sill, he waited there until I held my hand
against the pane and let hot tears overtake me.

Cleaning up boxes in your basement
once coveted photos of relatives,
difficult now to identify,
jumbled and mixed in with bric-a-brac,
I found a dead snake.
He must have crawled out of a drain 
somehow and gotten stuck
in the tape of the boxes.

I worked so hard going through your things,
and not for the first time either,
my eyes hurting from dust
and sad from the old pictures,
getting ready for the brokers and movers,
at the edge of my strength from carrying boxes
to move them to my attic to keep them safe,
I startled to see the poor dead creature,
curved and stuck in the tape.
I wept at the waste of it and pitied the snake.

I saw miraculous sunsets
and creeks that promised
they would never cease
their smooth lovely sound.
The stars bubbled 
and blazed. 
They did not toil, 
so easy in their galaxies,
lonely for no one.
A knot of a chipmunk 
sat in my hand,
stuffed his cheeks with
the seeds of sunflowers.
His tiny hands held my finger
just as my babies did –
the “grasp reflex.”
The same reflex the doctor
explained happened 
when I put my hand
in my dying grandmother’s hand 
and her fingers closed on mine. 
Only a reflex.
False light.
That’s the thing
about holding earthly 
perfect beauty.
There’s no calling it back –
it’s out of grasp 
moments after you touch it.
Maybe that’s what heaven is, 
a regathering of our sweetest
holdings, the chance to again
rock our babies, sing 
the lullabies, talk with
our parents, grandparents 
after a holiday meal,
walk in the gloaming
hand-in-hand with a friend,
these moments,  
repeating forever,
while being 
cradled in the palm
of something holy.

Well, all things considered, what truth can you discover? What facts ought be known? How much of all that torn blue silk might you render into water to quench thirst? Stop. These question—what they pry open. It is strange to have spent every day for thirteen years with a person and then for them suddenly to be gone. Even if I don’t miss them. Weird also to participate in public syntax and sound, then after an eight-hour plane trip, to retreat only privately into those sentences, those rising and falling inflections—reading a few pages in the morning before work, falling asleep to a podcast. When of course sound—and the language that produces the sound—represents also existence, texture, meaning. A scaffold to protect me as I build. And no matter that my tongue has thickened with the two years passing, my ear hasn’t. I still understand everything. As if another life whispers all along and beneath the surface of my skin—as I greet this or that dog on my way to the market or later when I devour the fresh produce I buy—saying: I double, I remark, I try, I cannot distinguish, I reveal, I exist in liminal space, I inhabit periphery. Not that life doesn’t go on, it’s true, even in forms I embrace. Now I board the train to visit my attachment in the city. My friend with whom I sleep, and eat, and go to the movie theater, and to various concert venues where live music is played, and converse endlessly, but who I do not future with, in the sense that future can be a verb where a specific ending may be known. Or even predicted. Or spoken aloud to be enshrined as some fervent wish. And yet sometimes, I falter in this resolve. Sometimes, in a secret place nestled in a locked box within my ribcage, I do wish. To be held closely. To be cherished beyond measure in a way that does not allow for abandonment.  See, I have no way of knowing whether this flame-hoard in my eyes where the cornflower should be is actually more shadow than light. If what I desire now is mere reaction or discovery unfolding.

Alright. We have heard enough. Let us stop you here. In order to treat this malaise, which may not be indicative of illness at all but rather of a vast field of inquiry without boundary, we must know: How hard do you try to find answers to the questions you invent? How heavily do you weigh desire to craft meaning versus letting all this mystery hang upside down in the window next to that bunch of blush-red roses long ago left to dry? [Please click the button to tabulate your score, then upload your completed assessment to the patient portal 24 hours before your appointment.] I’m not sure, but perhaps this story exists in my language-heavy mouth—ge-, ä, ö, ü, goe-, that German ehr sounded in the center of the back of the tongue and the more guttural rolled Dutch rrrr, all paired with a quality in my mother tongue I cannot identify, a word for having no word. As if to say. I accept my life as it is although I have questions. Beginning with. Departing from. Directing towards. As if every time I seek to define this pervading scent, that prevailing mood, what I’m actually signing is a letter containing only closing salutations. XOXO, Warm Regards, All the Best, Ever Yours, Liebe Grüße, Groetjes. Yes, signing off without pause as this—my—unvowelled, unpronounced, unregulated heart. An organ that will never cease until it does. A quality that cannot be measured until it is. A breath continuously drawn, in-out, out-in, until air itself disappears. In order to say: Sweet friend, the future can never be known. The only guarantee? Somehow, in some way—one arrives. 

I saw tomorrow
yesterday. A row
of pear trees, Angevin
and tempting, under
which three knights
dismount for déjeuner.
Minarets of termites
delimit their terrain.
The horses neigh
and stamp. Twee
piles on each suit
of armor. It cannot be
that I, rude and hiruste,
just end. That some gneiss
brick in my domains.
Those three seigneurs
rusted. Never moved.
Now they are yours.
Piled under the true
Vermont, hill of worms,
we rust. Every bier
draped in one Saudi green.
There is no Hail-
Mary pass, is there?
No Bacchus sewn up
in a thigh? You silent
green thing, only you
know how and when I die.

What’s rape to a swan anyway?
    ~ Lisa St. John

My folds shoved aside so that you could go straight for the root.
I’m captured in paintings with all of your weight on my root.

I don’t understand why we honor this rapist-God.
God of all Gods, you are cowardly—hate at the root.

Those who created you knew the dark power
of myth and religion, how it scrapes at the root.

Everything taught me that this is not really my body.
Say yes or say no, there’s no time for debate at the root.

In autumn, Persephone falls and Demeter
hushes the land. But I sing to late roots.

At the midpoint of January
The holidays are a distant memory

All there is, a sense of emptiness
As frigid air accompanies sunlight

On this date, considered to be
The most depressing day of the year

I try to escape the cold in my mind
By thinking of the places by the sea
Santorini, Nice, Rincon & Montauk
With each place, the images return

The waves crash on shore
I can feel the breeze in the air
And the sand in my toes

With the winter dread slowly fading
The hope is regained
As brighter days will surely come

Day 15 / Poem 15

from the valley’s zenith on Bluff Point
the ice crackles, shatters, and sings
a surround sound disaster
of flashbulb transformers
arcing in flashes
of blue and white
devoured by

its cold breath
whispers highlights
over the twinkling
and static landscape
this elegant disaster 
confines the land but unleashes
hope, chainsaws, and blue collar resolve

On the night when your body
disconnected from instructions,
threw itself off the chair, as your
mouth foamed, as your legs stiffened,
eyes rolled–I was sure you were gone.

This was not like finding the cat
who had curled up in the closet to die.
This was not like the beloved hamster
whose tiny heart succumbed
to the terror of the cat.

The wail from my body reached
down the hall into my children’s rooms.
My children were sure it must be
their father who had collapsed
on the bedroom floor.

And in that moment, I was again
the young mother with my child
seizing from fever. I was again
the wife beside her beloved as he
screamed from pain over months
of a mysterious illness.

He is not yet gone, Sirius,
my dog star, light of my days–
the one who walks with me
to the end of the drive, silent
and unseen in the terrifying dark.
He, who curls his body onto
the love seat, he and I,
a perfect match of bodies.
He who suffered a kitten,
a puppy, weaving through legs.
He, who rolls to expose belly,
brings the tennis ball at
just the moment when I need
a break, who leads me upstairs
before I know how tired I am.

Even in this, he leads me,
preparing for the day that will come,
sooner than I ever imagined.

In the beginning
he divided light from darkness,

Shadow, shadows,
the veil, obscuring.
You wish for clarity,
to penetrate beyond the veil,
the darkness deepening.
Candles are extinguished,
one by one, guttered,

You go down in that darkness,
you have gone there before,
You could see in it, a little
Why would you lock yourself away?
You would have to be locked,

Darkness on the face of the deep
They cry out by day,
They cry out by night.

Can there be a transcendence
an opening.
a leap.

If I have five pandas and two
giraffes and I subtract 
the difference between gravel 
and concrete how many 
blocks have I traveled?
It comes down to numbers
and abstract art:
how many rogue cells populate 
the stained glass slides
when viewed under a microscope
by a white-coated scientist?
I could say: “But no thank you,
I will not accept the nomination,”
when the doctor opens the envelope
and reads to me – taking her
busy time to talk to me!
And how calm she is!

I can’t forget to thank the Academy.

Watch me act.
Watch us all act like our death moment
isn’t scripted and numbered already.

We are those tricky 
math problems in a 
warm afternoon classroom, 
the ones where someone 
has apples to share
but they must be
divided equally.

How many times in the two years since your return have you unravelled? On at least ten separate occasions, I have found myself ripping blue silk in my living room but not in such a way that makes any grammar new. More like. Weaving traps. But how could I process this otherwise. When the vessels with which I see shine as twin mirrors, black ink in darkish gray-blue swimming in oval, ivory seas.

If that is the case, what shore are you looking for? As you wade below the crown molding in your apartment, or down the dark wood central staircase of your three-story brick building, or along your quiet, tree-lined street strewn with lime-musty black walnuts and maple leaves in fall or thin ice in the winter or bright emerald grass clippings in spring, or through your small village of forest and train tracks and tiny shops as you greet by name each of the neighborhood dogs. Max, the loud, goofy German Shephard. Rufus, the stoic boxer. Rosie, the sweet, friendly Australian sheepdog. [After you complete your answer to this question, please click the button to tabulate your subtotal.] I don’t know, but as I search this rough country I carry always with me my parcels of language, reeking vermillion and bone. Later, eating peaches over the kitchen sink, juice dribbling down my chin. Without placing myself back home after a brief trip to complete chores because home feels like elaborate cosplay, a longing for expanse or the one day the story I can’t stop telling collapses all over the table behind me without so much as a gasp. There, where the forgotten white dahlias rot in their vase like thick clumps of old fists pummeling at. Nothing at all. That’s the problem, this unsayable gap. 

Volition matters, doesn’t it?
(The thought
what counts.)
The tongue. Komodo dragons
think of nothing. Or too slow.

The army cot holds twisting,
mad Ulysses.
Did he sink some fool, or
let them drink Ionian brine?
He did. How many?—
All of y’all.

The slow ambition
settles in the blackpool eye
of black cats, Gila monsters.
All you know
is that they have it in for you:
the fates, the cats, the heroes

The fire skips peak to peak:
now Clytaemnestra’s hate
can fill a bath. Oh bronze.
Oh keen desire.
The lizard has a lot
to never say. I make
my silly statements,
run away.

Thick blood fills my mouth when I talk.
But Medusa was graceful and slow
as she sucked all the blood from my teeth.

We poets wear sharp crowns of curses
compelled to spark translucent silence
then harden the wailing to stone.

Day 14 / Poem 14

we drank the coldest part of summer at the 
spring on the mossy side of Dannemora mountain 

from the source in a shelf of shale
it poured and sustained generations rushing

splashing, endless and unclouded as we were in knee-
worn jeans and soggy shoes six or eight feet had outgrown

when we text about home, the spring still erupts
on the rare funerary visit back, we fill our water bottles

on this part of the pilgrim’s path; wearing the welcoming earth
where our roots greet and carry us; our lifetimes’ tapestries

wearing threadbare in the places we 
haven’t been wise enough to often recall

when a rogue story, feared forgotten, sidles 
through a hole in aging’s wall only desperate

to be shared, we greedily partake of that, too, 
until we lose our breath from drinking

back at the place where memory and water
are still pristine; plentiful


Witness to her exhaustion at the airport gate,
I hear the mother’s patience pulled so thin,
it’s almost imperceptibile. Her answer flung
at her silent husband, when her son asks,
why do you need a time out, Momma?
And I wonder if she knows
how close she is to
throwing her water bottle
against the airport window
and screaming until
her throat is raw.

I wonder, what made me take the chicken
right out of the 350 degree oven, move it
straight from the French white Corningware
to the Sienese platter, deep blue with bursts
of sunflowers and lemons? As I spooned
the sauce of olives and lemons over the
golden bird, I heard the plate crack
like a tectonic plate moving deep
in the ocean. And even though we
could see no crack after moving
the chicken out of harm’s way,
we know the rift is there, waiting.

It is only a matter of time
before it comes undone. The split
will be sudden, probably dramatic,
but if you were paying attention,
you would not be surprised,
would know this day was coming.

who lived in a field near the bridge.
He had soft knowing eyes, framed by long lashes
and soft long ears. We knew his name was Azul
because the neighborhood girls would call
over and over, Azul, Azul, Azul
until he came to the fence and ate
their carrots and let them pet his flanks.
We always looked forward to seeing Azul
in his field when we walked to the bridge.
One day, Azul wasn’t there when we came,
then later the fence was gone too.
We missed seeing Azul like a friend.
Then, out walking one day came a woman
with a small dog, and we began talking.
She lived in a house near the bridge, and knew
the man who owned the field with Azul.
It’s said donkeys are stubborn, but really
they just know better than we do what’s prudent.
We learned they also get lonely and need
another donkey as company,
They can be friends with a cat or a goat
or even a neighborhood girl,
but another donkey is best so we know
that Azul now lives up the hill
with his friend and is well.

We store up overripe fruits
like manna from heaven. 
Here I consider how apples
hold their seeds in a soft flesh – 
how I bit to the core
and swallowed them without
knowing. Now I eat 

daisies and lick 
the lilies without a care, 
without a glance at the windowsill 
where I no longer sit 
because I have given up 
on solving the plight of honey bees.  
Yesterday I believed

all things could be grasped 
by pulling down 
the blinds and trusting that 
the brain won’t calculate
the exponents perched
beside our miscues.
Because mental dexterity 

may stave off dementia  
I divide the hour into the minutes 
and create improper fractions. 
Here I am improper and 
I say this not with a stifled tongue
or tongue-in-cheek. 
There is no reasoning with the weatherman

when he predicts a risk of tornadoes until 10 p.m.
And then as the watch expires
I say come here  
To you (your face usually a bit unshaven) 
and I tell you to listen 
and I talk rapidly 
about the human genome project 

and how no cure for cancer 
will be found, too many varieties 
and too many chances  
for those mitotic cells to arrest.  
If the universe were to shift one 
billionth to the forty-fifth degree to the left 
— you close your eyes as I speak

and I don’t know if you’re listening — 
it would implode.  
What a way to go, the universe 
ending with a giant suck of light.
It’s this earthly grass we do not eat. 
Good god but it’s black when I pull
these shades and pick 

sweet corn at the toll 
of midnight. Our planet owns 
only one moon and she is silent.
I shower because our skin cells
mesh and multiply. I lick envelopes
so traces of my DNA will
roam and moan about the earth.

Recreational therapy.
That fresh land of sharp terrain.
My heart, I should have said, raw, this atlas.
This collage of time near-to-lost but regained.
Because no one can live an entire month
in a sealed box of shadow-fear.
How the voice pummeled my insides.
In the hospital, light flooded tall windows.
Shiny glass, shatterproof.
Or, to have said, my fist-sized
muscle throbs with every red swallow.
This is like vacation, another patient piped up.
Only to be contradicted by the therapist.
No, you’re doing hard work! But it wasn’t.
It was easy. Rifling through glossy
stacks of magazines, flipping pages, using
rounded safety scissors to cut out
bright, colorful pictures.
Compared to—
Ah, the whole phase.
You see, in the hospital I was a safe animal.
After all that raw swooped in and glistened.
Shimmered and darkened my once comfortable
closet of. Bone, flesh, blood, lymph.
You see. In old tales,
enchantment provides a period of rest before
true transformation occurs. But this
is also not the whole story. The story being.
Hard is all soaring rents must be paid.
Grocery bills and utilities too.
If you cannot? Our culture
hisses. You drain.
Often I long for an island.
One floats somewhere in a wide blue sea.
Pastels paint the villas. Verandas breeze.
Money and ticking clocks do not exist.Only care. Here, I recover while the world
slumbers. While the world.
Waits for me. On every window—
soft curtains, gauzy white.
Gentle wind ruffles the fabric.

Romano Prodi, Mario Baldassarri, and Alberto Clò passed on a tip about a safe-house where the B[rigate] R[osse] might have been holding [Italian Prime Minister Aldo] Moro on April 2. Bizarrely, Prodi claimed he had been given the tip by the founders of the Christian Democrats, from beyond the grave in a seance and a Ouija board, which gave the names of Viterbo, Bolsena and Gradoli.

Wikipedia, “Aldo Moro”

I did everything wrong:
mistook a cable for a fer-de-lance,
jumped, shouted, tripped
over a low fence.
The house smelled
of the seventies. High
pile carpet; lead paint so thick
it stuck the windows to their frames.
An Igor Markevitch LP
crackled against wood paneling.

Carabinieri skip rocks
on the face of a frozen lake,
listening for the weird
antiphonal Doppler whirr.
For echoes of the magic names,
Viterbo, Bolsena, Gradoli.
Or the disappointing acoustics
of a body floating up
to press against the ice.

I catch sight of myself.
Windbreaker over boring khakis,
I look like an unpopular president
visiting a disaster zone
I look like my father.
I know how to get here but
not how to get back. Only a few
things are reversible, and even these
fade until, with a friable flutter,
they fracture into bone-white egrets.

Deep in the redwoods, obsession—
stealing the spark from the stone.
Owls echo back my confession.

It was a reckless decision.
Playing with fire, alone,
knowing my deep red obsession.

Struck into blurry concussion.
Time was a hollow bone
echoing back my confession.

Holding the knife with precision,
my secrets are all that I own,
I etch in a tree my obsession.

Red Tail Hawks sing their derision.
but at night there’s a lone
owl who eats mice and confession.

This forest is just my illusion
where peregrines cry out of tune.
The redwoods enclose my obsession,
and owls retch bones and confession.

The phrase sticks in my mind

As a wake up call
A mantra
And a reminder, heard loud and clear

Life is too short not to do what you love
It’s not too late eithe
To seek out new things to try

As life is not meant to stay the same
We, as people do not stay the same

People need to do the thing
That brings joy and self fulfillment
In whatever guise it may take

Day 13 / Poem 13

                                           for Nathan

My 2014 twitches twice once stopped: 
a subtle vibration from deferred maintenance and our youngest’s
firm, even strike on the phantom kick pedal from the passenger side.

His hands and foot drum in perfect sync
with Roar, as ‘bluetoothing in’ is how Gen Alpha 
plays the station where the songs are foreign to the father.

It’s a long red and I lose the battle,
projecting a future just two brief years ahead,
when my feet work phantom pedals from the passenger side

on a shared Saturday morning,
his tentative hand grips the wheel as he 
grinds the clutch and jolts himself along the road to Self.

The light turns green and I can smile,
hearing that he’s returned the conventional favor: 
allowing me the comfort of my music which he already knows so well.

Whatever you think you need to say,
whatever you planned, rehearsed,
those words that were like marbles
held on your tongue too long
have become pitted, porous.

Spit them out. See how they
dissolve into a sticky pool
on the table, leak onto floor.
Let them go. Let them become
a stain attracting dog hair,
pencil shavings, skin sloughed off.

Start again. Feel the vowels
in your mouth, like a baby
hearing language for the first time
without the intervention of
amniotic fluid. Look with
wide eyes at the world,
these people filling it.

Marvel at the sourness of lemons,
the salt of olives, the deep blue
of the porcelain dish, the winter light
filtering through a dirty window
making the whole room glow.

30 years of nightmares keep intruding.
First the ceiling of the room collapsing,
then a gap in the floor near my bed widening,
the side of the house breaking away.
Thrashing to escape from the light that will blind me.
Knowing that I’m dying or already dead,
screaming and struggling through that murk,
calling out for help to reach me.
And now, things I can’t remember
but have forgotten to do will cause everyone’s death.
I’m panicking, there’s no time
but I can’t find the thread.

Rinpoche is a jewel, he smiles, he says:
The demon is seizing you in your dream.
Are you aware this is not a real demon?
Are you aware your fear is producing it?
Are you aware in fact you are dreaming?
It’s a dream, it’s not real.
You are able to transform it.
Transcend these feelings, these wounds.
Turn pain to joy.

Rinpoche says: you are creating this,
so be a good creator.
In the daytime say, this is a dream.
Day helping night, night helping day.
The blue heron flying over the creek today
is a dream. Beverly holding up her hands
in patched knitted gloves to show her repair,
tiny stitches in this beautiful dream.

He says: be still, be silent, be open, let it go.
Don’t carry it with you, it’s a dream. It’s a dream.
Sleep of clear light brings light of awareness
to the dark of sadness. The sad is taking up space,
if you clear the sad, joy will spontaneously arise.
In the morning write down the first thing that comes:
a child bringing blessings, beginning.

Family voices churn in my bone marrow.
I awaken each day to their demands,
Shouting from the sponginess the sorrow
Of dead kittens, of sour milk, burned lands.
Morning is never my best hour. 
Too hard to see the day in all its bloom.
Seven steps from the bed to the shower.
Yell Hey, Alexa, sweet bitch, play my tunes
I brush my teeth, wonder if this machine
Could reach deep enough to scrub them away.
Cough them up, spit them out, and watch, now clean,
As the voices slide down the drain. Ok.
Tomorrow I will eat the things that gleam.
Exercise by running up a sunbeam.

Once upon a time. Who gets to be healed.
Amidst all these rouge-red scar hazes.
His collar blue—periwinkle—the nurse led R from the ward.
One blue pauper—his insurance run out.
How much of my divorce settlement have I spent on health
insurance and what health insurance doesn’t pay for?
Well, let me tell you. A lot.
Now, rubbing spare coins together.
Rough prayers. How we all beg for more warmth.
The question more like—
Who gets to rise up from fire like some mythical beast.
No real lift in the voice’s end, the answer
predetermined by formula—
the princes and princesses of un-fracture.
Meanwhile, all this cold ash.
Burnt, smoking wishes.
That bakery my first morning out. Pale sun.
Fresh bagel, toasted, soft pink strawberry cream cheese.
Strong coffee with real cream in a paperboard cup.
I cannot unremember R’s blank white
moon face through the tiny
rectangular window—thick glass
reinforced with wire.
Every door has a wrong side.
Who doesn’t get to be lighter though we all
deserve bread. Entitled, the
capitalist whines. Even though
that answer is their choice.

A hose writhes
on its own, alive
with its internal
pressure. Diluted
sages out of Puvis
de Chavannes. Oak
leafrollers rappel
from each sagging tree.
Someone sprays a fan
of liquid gold upon
the pastel-clad youth.
Thumb to bung
the hose’s metal mouth.
Everyone here is young
and handsome, so
I think I’ll go back
home. Joshua got his file
of civilians across
a viscous pile of Jordan.
Pinched the sun as
if it were a blood-
soaked clementine. This
perhaps is also fine, our
sun also sluggish, sense
of time arrested, beat
of arterial fremitus in the
bones of our ears. Worst
heat, they say, in years.

Feed me on ice plant and driftwood.
Make me a crown out of white shells.
Wash me with foam from the shore line.

Sharp is the mighty pacific—
cold that runs straight to the bone.
Numb in the deep, I am calm.

A moment of hope to stop a spiral at the start of the new year 
To come back down to earth after being sick

I couldn’t help but feel small
Getting wrapped up in the heft 
Of every poet and poem that came after 
It felt like I didn’t try harder to bring out the hope 

I know my writing isn’t deep or profound 
My poems won’t change the world 
Let alone change my life 

And I’m at peace with that 
As there’s so many more impactful words being said by everyone else 
I focus only on the surface of life

I’m trying to leave my mark in the world 
Even if my voice is unfocused 
My discipline lacking 
And a vision nonexistent 

I’m seeking out the answer to an important question: 

Is writing what I should be doing with my life? 

Day 12 / Poem 12

I grub around through a thousand starts 
caged from completion 
at the Shadow’s edge by 
the dozen curses of creativity 
while the Critic’s voice roars behind my eyes.
Give me a name for these beings besides
for the miles of metamorphosis
in the moments between 
larval and pupal, 
pupal and adult;
for all the time we spend living and writing
between the labels placed over us
like costumes on paper dolls.

Just one, please, Shadow?
A clue, please, Critic?
Anything that I can spit shine 
to at least a sandpapered mirror finish? 
I clear my throat a few times
and try to coax that muddy croak
into something the Universe demands I add to the record

as some clock, somewhere, correctly
predicts that I’m out of Time
for today.


On the day of the flood, you rested your dark head
on the windowsill, dreaming of grass and sun
and the red fox who lives under the porch,
while you waited for a break in the rain.

When you could wait no more, you brought
your lean body against my leg, let out a low whine
and I let you out despite the wind and water.
You stood on the porch, your coat one with the dark.

How could I know you would stay out so long
that when you returned, you were not just soaked
but had become a water dog, a dog made of water,
carrying a river into the foyer, weeping the storm
onto the kitchen floor? We did our best to towel you off.
No use. As we picked up the takeout from the porch,
as we sat down to eat falafel and hummus,
you laid at our feet, made a pond under the table,

We had our floating feast, saw ourselves
upside down in the lake of you and as we
went up to bed, you cascaded a waterfall
as we followed you up the stairs and let you
pool in silence at the bottom of our bed.

A being who steps forward, appears
out of darkness, between past and future
in the flux of the luminous present:
steps into the web of the world, a someone
unknown, has something to say, something new
to answer the question: who are you?

It’s perhaps a time of strife, time of crisis
and we know how fragile, how precarious
our survival, that the terrible
is possible, but it was always, ever thus:
Forget statistics and probabilities,
leave hope and fear, don’t petrify your soul.
There is always a chance if you act.

So there you are in your car with your son,
new comrade in arms, smiling as you stop
and roll down the window.
Where are you going in your boots, my friend?
Nothing special, just the usual.
I love my neighbors more than they know,
love living here on earth, this freedom.

“And in all of this Job sinned not with his mouth.” Job 1:22

My skin was under the skin;
it slipped in and disguised
what it is is.
I’ve been put into a corner 
and yelled at from 
a land-mined heavenly father
like I am a dirty comet
and the dust trail that chases it.

I pack air conditioners
into arctic places.
I dissect them, scalpel lifting the
innards, and caress them 
into the packed snow.
I tell them they have worked hard enough.
I tell them to rest easy and enjoy, for once,
the cold without being its creator.

Why Creator, painter of the alleys,
why thunder when we notice
the apple
is red and stunning
and your own brush made it so?

Do you see how man
limps, stumbles
through the earth’s pockmarks?
Tendons, ligaments,
and spinal cords, 
tendrils that prop up
laden bodies.

Cruises are always crowded;
buffets disappoint, seasickness.
When the inner ear steadies
only day six
remains and then the stampede
down to land;
a crew member snaps a pic,
and asks for money
for the memory.
In memory’s storehouse
things forever crash and collide
and remember to forget,
and now I sit
amongst the pottery and
scrape my blistered skin with broken

& I would have preferred
a sentence
of one
harsh death of the cross
instead of watching 
my children die,
my land spoiled and plundered as you
sparred with Satan for bragging rights.

This story is the story getting told.
Now I walk over bright light on a coal heath.
My shoes smoke at the soles.
Breathless, I run to the edge of that meadow in the overthere.
Saying meadow a lot although the prairie around here?
Swallowed by condominiums long ago.
Well, people have to live somewhere, don’t they?
If only I could open my wallet and shake out a magic budget.
In a drawer in the herethere, I discover an old photo.
Grinning in a long-gone field of sweeping grasses, my overalls
bright denim green, hair braided, two missing front teeth.
My mother hovers in the background. Next door, in the bungalow
where I grew tall in a wood-paneled bedroom carved out from
attic eaves, she continues to die. Being an adult, I don’t
tell the kid who asks. Is holding
every door open at once to let shadow in-out, out-in.
And is the way nothing makes sense until it does—
then often doesn’t after all.
Breathful, I drag in mouths after tongues of fresh air.
In this small village of mown lawns, large houses
converted into flats, the food
bank down the block. If only an emotion
could be a decision I want to tell
you after you pull up to my curb in your shadowy
car. Even though I might be the only
one to experience my feelings this way. It’s just—
last night I dreamt a field of pitch black.
A man shouted my mother’s old anger at me
and then I woke up and had to go on.
Still alive, still poor, still mostly alone, still bruised but
trying. I just want to touch someone when I’m not
having sex. I need a body
to sneak through and change all these verbs.
What I’m really trying to sleep my way through?
Despite all this deep ruin? I don’t know.
I don’t have a word for it. Now the soles of my
shoes blister despite sudden rain.

But when white persons […] have been taken prisoners young by the Indians, and have lived a while among them, tho’ ransomed by their Friends, and treated with all imaginable tenderness to prevail with them to stay among the English, yet in a Short time they become disgusted with our manner of life, and the care and pains that are necessary to support it, and take the first good Opportunity of escaping again into the Woods, from whence there is no reclaiming them.
—Benjamin Franklin

Today is thujone, strong
wind on the escarpment’s bare
face, a bit of fear for the night
and its cold. The cold is a hymn
but not one to a god. The leaves
alone know what the hymn said.

Whatever the deserter said—
and the statement was strong—
this was not fuga all’inglese, not French leave:
no obligation to stay for the Camembert,
the Chenin blanc, the sudden whim
of an economy churning through a night

of furious demands. Of this night
he demands only the aforesaid
cold, only a world to afford him,
not one he must afford through wrong-
doing. It is enough, said Epictetus, to bear
the smoke in the room, or else to leave.

We all want to know: may I leave,
silently, in the dead of night,
with one rucksack? Could others bear
my absence? Could I? Who said
the ties that bind are so strong
that we must actually bless them, hymn

them, make of them a national anthem?
No anthems on a bed of leaves.
Nations either. No songs. No strong
blue-veined taste of sheep. Might
we dispense with Homer, who was said
to have lived on mizithra alone? Bears

lumber into the clearing now. Our bare
arms sting; mosquitoes shriek their hymn.
This is not Aspen; still less Port Said.
Bare earth is too much, too little to leave;
we have too little shelter from the night
and yet cannot see it. Our light’s too strong.

No way to bear bare trees, bear leaves
whose inhuman hymn crackles all night.
The unsaid leave-taker is never wholly wrong.

~ for K. Weber

I’m a split seam. Pretty stitches take time.
Pierce and pull until I’m whole.
Repetition is serene, sublime.
I’m a split seam. Pretty stitches take time.
Blood careens, my tender heart rate climbs.
Waiting for the quiet lull.
I’m a split seam. Pretty stitches take time.
Pierce and pull until I’m whole.

Everything seemed so certain 
A phrase that leads to foreboding 

In my prior experiences 
The next challenge often lies in the shadows 
Of any triumph, no matter how big or small 

I shouldn’t be expecting the shoe to drop 
Living in a state of anxiety and fear 
Instead, I need to revel in each moment 
Appreciating them for all their worth 

As life is full of joy in between the struggle 
The way that the universe keeps in balance 

Day 11 / Poem 11

(a Goodwill Poem)

there’s a couple/few decades 
of difference notched
between that postal service
lunch box (with thermos)
just being familiar and desired 
or especial and nostalgic

aging into a time where less is enticing
ahead and comfort springs from behind
while tenderly sliding a copy
of one’s first 45
out of its jacket at Goodwill
to discover it might be playable

taking it home, expectantly spinning it
forgiving of the invisible skip 
during the second verse
because it’s still kinda fit for its age
like the one sticky key on a Princess typewriter
that doesn’t diminish its beauty and use

or winding a vintage Timex twice per day
as the smallest effort needed
to recover the connection 
with the past and the great 
or grand someone
who wore one just like it

coached to believe
(but never adopting) 
that something never 
had cannot be missed
one still wonders after the less familiar 
people on their dusty, frantic shelves

only encountered in youth 
in the homes of friends or on TV
trying to get under the skin of what having
then losing, then encountering them again 
at an arrived aged like now 
might evoke for a poem


-for Ani DiFranco
Dear Ani, you righteous babe,
you don’t know me, of course,
but I imagine us, little dancers,
there in the shadow of Reagan’s
morning, each of us watching
the American dream of our
parents marriages deteriorating
like onions left on a counter drying,
layers pulling away from each other.
You busking in bars while I
learned to tie the perfect ascot,
upsell the ladies in my suburban
mall. You, who left high school
at sixteen while I scraped for
the last point of extra credit,
climbing class rank, seeking
a gold star like the one
in your pierced nose.
Still, we are both on our knees
before words, are pulled by loves
that tear us in half, the gray ocean
calling us both, and now, after me,
you found an old house to restore,
gave in to the pull of the future,
poured yourself into your daughters.
I know you would never see yourself
in me, but I see myself in you.
No matter.
I have never loved you more
than when you forgot the words
to your own song on stage
at the 9:30 Club after years
of lockdown, after years
without a tour. When you turned
to us, to me, to a sea of women,
and we sang your words to you,
like we have sung them
to ourselves in the

bathroom mirror
every time we needed
the courage to go on.

Sir, I’ve come round as once again we failed
to see you at mass.

Yes, I was out for my walk, and son
Francis and I are quite busy with worms.

You see that’s why I’m here, to challenge
these, lowly ideas…

Please come in.
We’re conducting an experiment.
Do you play an instrument?

The piano, perhaps a bit.

 Good, then Francis shall play the bassoon,
and I shall blow on the tin whistle. 

Our Lord, tells us…

We’re testing their hearing. We’ve
1,000 here on the billiard table.

Oh dear.

The boy’s good at maths
he calculates 53,000 in the garden. 
Can you stay to dinner?

 Why yes, but my purpose
of course, is to discuss your beliefs.

 Then after we’ll take our lanterns,
watch them build their burrows.
It’s quite something to see. Here’s Cook
 to play the flute. Lets begin!


I have created eleven families this morning,
my teacher friend says,
look at this one: associate professor, $57,000,
lawyer, $92,000, two kids, one large dog,
a hefty mortgage. 
She says she enjoys fictionalizing lives,
creating these family units 
so students can plan budgets. 
I got lost when math turned into equations.
Given one I start to wonder
if x exists, if somewhere x breathes
the same molecules that Newton exhaled.
And the number that the equation
equals when solved, 
is that random or a prediction
of my death age; at age x I will die 
as determined by algebra. 
2, the number of babies
that have survived in my womb; 
1, the number of embryos lost. 
I miscarried once flows easier than:
a tiny body with one head, 10 fingers,
10 toes, one heart…
Divided down far enough 
everything eventually equals zero.
We can carry nothing over. 
Because I said
I think about someone else,
and he added, I want you to be in love with me,
I needed no mathematical formula 
to calculate how he would forgive
but never forget,
how the whole number 2
was not ours anymore.
I’m sorry, I told him, 
I’m sorry, I love you so much,
and he smiled, covered me
with a light blanket. 

Mein Weltschmerz right now.
So thick I can’t swallow with my throat,
the body part usually
responsible for this function. Last
night before bed, I though of the
takeout sushi—the sweet sauce of the
unagi rolls, the crunchy
saturation of the tempura—and the
movie we watched. Brief,
weekend harbor. This Monday tempest though?
Possessed by my more usual heart—
I, difficult. I, throbbing.
I, wild forest. I, barren heath.
Scraping to pay rent, this brittle iron struggle.
Blood-deep-bone long. But what is
a heart if not also a constant search. How there
all at once—over some emerging
horizon, my once desolate
heath blooms deep purple with heather.
Like some bracken maze on the way to a princess
slumbering towards the weekend in her high-
built stone tower. What want?
To find a middle way. Not to
lie here trapped in a golden dress of coin
thread. See, maybe light can hold time.
See, light spins. How—oh, die Welt
also always a cradle
birthing tongues. Instructing me.
Jenny, the tongues
caress. After you research how to
enter new products into the meat wrapper’s
database and create a visual guide on
creating digital accounts for the store’s
coupon cards, walk all the way
home to step out of your
heavy carpenter pants. Lift the red
guitar from its case. Chop
sweet potatoes, grate ginger and
garlic, swirl in thick, oily
curry paste. Pour in
coconut milk, cream-sweet.
After dinner, lift your pen.
Scrawl out your story on the blank white page.
I’m here. I’m Here. I’m HERE.
Now I open my eyes, turn off the buzzing alarm,
slip my limbs out from under the duvet.
If I can find the right form,
a new dress might wait.

Trees have not yet
matured here. Each
house is its own horizon.
Façades of creamy stone
or brick the hue of frozen
chicken. In the back, ghastly
windows were punched
out, asymmetrically.

It is enough to be
reminded that elsewhere
it is not so. Tiny cloven prints
of passing deer remain
frozen in the concrete.

~for Pratibha

Undone by a drop of this madness.
Old blood will turn black; you will bruise.
I rise in red rings, and I vanish.

I will keep you safe—what a promise!
No symmetry, savior or muse
can undo this drop of their madness.

I learned how to lie, how to wish,
and just like my mother I chose
to rise in red rings and then vanish.

This dirty blood knows how to harness
a father with nothing to lose.
He’s undone by a drop of this madness.

A phoenix determined for bliss,
I cover myself with tattoos
to rise on red wings or to vanish?

I’m stained; it’s too late to banish
their blood from my veins. I confuse
a drop for a life. This is madness.
I rise in red rings just to vanish.

I want my voice back
Without the croak of recent days

As the coughing has done a number
On my voice, my body and my psyche

To the point where I’ve written off
And had to hold back feelings of dread
For the rest of the year ahead

Even though, this feels so small
In a world where so much happens
A reality check in recent days

I will get my voice back
I just need to give it time

Day 10 / Poem 10

you teach us the Diné word ‘yíiyáh’
your wise, wrinkled face
giggling as our white tongues

struggle to break from
their midwestern roots
to form the shape of your word

you say it means ‘scary’
and that the juniper seeds
on this blue beaded bracelet

will ward off bad spirits
and prevent nightmares
no matter the wearer’s age

you knot the leather snugly
around my sunscreened wrist 
and taking my hand between yours

close the canyon 
carved between us
by my colonial ancestors

of smallpox-laced blankets
and tribal schools and
sins on the soil where we stand

you add with a wink
this warning: that it won’t help with
rattlers if worn on the ankle

and as your organic grace
pits in my stomach
I bend toward better energies

after “Phase One” by Dilruba Ahmed
I forgive you for the trash you stuffed into the already full bag.
I forgive you for the thousands of unread emails.
I forgive you for ordering takeout instead of cooking for your family.
I forgive you for the unreturned phone calls.
I forgive you for the gathering dog hair in every corner of the house.

I forgive you for missing the deadline,
for getting your child to school late,
for failing to call the friend laid off,
for not knowing what to say
as bombs exploded in another friend’s
hometown, for only saying half
of what swirled in your head
as your mother was dying
and waiting.

I am looking for forgiveness
on the top shelves of the pantry,
the forgotten drawers of the old desk,
under piles of unfiled papers.

I believe you will be better
tomorrow, next week, this year.
I forgive you for not forgiving sooner.
I forgive you. I forgive you. I forgive you.

All day,
and now into a dark night
a terrible storm.
Trees and houses are throbbing.
Branches of the fir tree
look like reindeer, running.
Wind roars like a dragon, sirens.
On black and white camera,
down by the river
the water shimmers, rises.

Last night,
Reverend Dr. Taylor,
pastor of First Ave. Baptist Church
on Howard, said he’s tired
of wearing waders
in his own church like a fisherman.
They want to celebrate 100 years
of praying, tonight may be crucial.
Stove and fridge still upside down,
they can’t do this again.

We see doves in the trees
near the river when we work there
planting willow, silky dogwood, singing
light will disperse darkness.
My friend says,
the cars have been moved
but they don’t know what’s coming.
Birds are hiding in the rain.
Tomorrow, worms.
Dove on a branch.

I cannot see beyond.
There is so little 
that I have to go by. 
There is so little 
that I can count on. 
Where is down the rabbit hole? 
Where is a lusty walk 
beside the sea? 
Give me some reason to stay, 
some purpose to hold to when the tide 
when the tide rip roars in 
and the moon smirks at 
me and says I am not your night light
Jesus Jesus was always there for me 
until that one time until that one time 
and it is now hard to forget.
Oh Lazarus, Oh Lazarus come forth 
dear one, rise up!
I sleep twenty hours a day and I remain tired  
oh so very tired oh so weepy my dear one 
my pretty little bitty one. 
Sing-song and pop out the camera 
come on take a picture, take a picture, 
don’t stare – we haven’t got all day. 

But don’t you have some joy, 
you lovely, lovely thing? 
Isn’t there one trick in your bag 
up your sleeve in your hat worth 
holding on to? One note? One chord? 
Give me some wings of wax so I might 
get the devil out of here. 
Give me things 
made of feather and steel. 
Drop a sack of each off the top 
of a building, which hits first? 
Which, my love? 

You – talking so softly –
Look! I am tightrope walking
and almost through.
Come closer, your breath
salts the air.
Watch me dismount,
you kind, kind sweetheart, you. 

Out of what raw material have you built your heart—ghosts or blood? [Please click the button to tabulate your score, then upload your completed assessment to the patient portal 24 hours before your appointment.] Both. And everything in between. Looking up how to say sea change in every language I know. To relay: out of soft flesh touching mine. Or of a thorn from a garden rosebush piercing the tender tip of my thumb. Of wind shimmying against birch bark on a Belgian heath as A stoops with her camera to capture the scene. Later, deep red kriek—cherry beer—sweet against my tongue. Washing down mussels floating in a broth of garlic and white wine across from a cathedral in some town square in Flanders. The way the sixth sense is location. How we do not drift as free molecules but travel encased and enclosed. Funny, what stays with us. Light across thick cross beams in the Maastricht bookstore, the one built into an old church. A little dust dancing in air. Funny, the breaths we never fully exhale. Another lungful: playing hand after hand of gin rummy with my then-boyfriend in a tiny kitchen on the outskirts of Munich after a late supper of runny fried eggs, creamed spinach, salted potatoes. Decades later, my then-husband enters a different kitchen in Dortmund to bake a Thanksgiving pie only to exit an hour later declaring he wants to divorce. So, not moving to the Netherlands after all, the plan at that time. Losing the taalhuis—language house—the Spracheherz—language heart. Still though. Now. My throat utters lost sounds—I forge new ones in their stead on an anvil built of wishes. The way. You. Half a year after my remigration use your napkin to dab from my chin a spot of grease from the excellent taco of our second date even though the future cannot be predicted and feelings often change. What I want to tell you. Romance may be futile but I never want to die inside and that’s why I leap into this red sky. Oh, here it is. The page in the notebook where I’ve scrawled out my terms. My translations for sea change. Radekalneeya eezmyenyeneeya, whispered across an ocean of time by a woman who once addressed me as Zhenoshka.  Ommekeer in the best Dutch I can muster. Months of lessons now rusty gears against the roof of my mouth. Grundlegende Veränderung in German. Now the kitchens, too, whisper. The salted potatoes and the marriage-ending pie. All the diphthongs and guttural consonants I have ever struggled to pronounce and now hold to my chest like rough pieces of crumbling firmament. Or the way hot air slips from the radiator only to be absorbed and transformed by the cold air seeping through my apartment’s ancient windows. Like exhaling after all. Does that answer your question?

“It’s a funny thing, Alice, dying is just the way I composed it in Tod und Verklärung.”
—Richard Strauss

The lights blink on together.
A summer of cicadas, silent now
sleeps in the pavement. Men withdraw
into the deeper shadows,
the rumble of the hollow garbage bins.
The world is not enough.
I tilt my head to force the evening star
out of its hiding place between the leaves
left on the crape myrtle.
My little life trots by on silent feet,
squeaks its hello and sits.
Here lifey lifey lifey …
but its soft skeleton can turn and writhe
and slip out of my arms. It wants to be
let out to make its rounds.
What do you think it will be like, that last
commute, that traffic jam?
A bird’s-eye view of medical machines.
A Strauss tone poem (so he said). Or just
the senseless auctioneer chant
of the neighbor children,
the ground bass of the fort’s artillery,
the trampoline’s rusted springs.
The metal tritone of the lonely train horns.

I ease the blue tarp over fuchsia,

rice-paper bougainvillea petals.

Frost forms, each tiny spike a death.

Spun to glass the world cracks.

Nitid pieces fall.

Glass dusted hair and shoulders.

The weight of my body falling.

“Cead Mile Failte”

In Irish, the phrase is translated to,
A hundred thousand welcomes

From the moment the flight touched down
In dear, Dublin 
The kind spirit of Ireland was felt 

In a land where the literary ghosts
Of Wilde, Joyce and Yates 
Met natural wonders 
The Cliffs of Moher, the Ring of Kerry to Galway Bay 
And ancient legends 
As the Blarney Stone is kissed 

In each social interaction 
With the pint of Guinness in hand 
The sips of Irish whiskey
And the roar of the room after Ireland scored 

And the bus full of people 
Forty strong, even as I traveled alone 
Looked after me as if I were one of there own 

Through the clouds and rain 
The luck of the Irish shone through 

As the plane flew away 
I think to myself 
I’ll see the Emerald Isle again at another date 

Day 9 / Poem 9

A meteor
carves a dazzling arc
across our part of sky
cosmos old
last gasping
throttle open
grand designed
Kamikaze style.
But flaming out 
over this planet 
at night 
with no clouds
where some damn bright beings
with science enough to understand it
stop in awe?
All that is
Something’s grand
Reflect on your innate reverence
and your reflexive thrill:
could you prevent your eye 
from turning toward 
this fiery cosmic coda? 
The death of 
any part of us
is more than metaphor.

Leave the tree up until the twelfth day.
Let the clutter collect. Let yourself
get tired of it. Remember Mary
in her postpartum haze, wondering
how they will go on, now that they
left their lives for an itchy barn
full of animal smells. The arrival
of those robed travelers, lost for days,
bearing outrageous gifts. Where
are the soft blankets? The bread
to curb my hunger? Where
is the salve?

I am ready for the ordinary.
I will get out the boxes, place
each bauble in its spot. I want
to take up the space left empty,
stripped bare. Sell the gold
and frankincense. Give away
the myrrh. Start again in the cold
harsh light of January morning.

She is sick as she watches the water, rising again
Sparrow, shell, the things she saw,
There were so
there were so
she wants to tell you but
ice, the water
where did they go?
Where   my
Breathe it, beautiful
the constellation,
comets that were out there
on the edge.
Boy in a blue raincoat, he likes it. Shiny.
He likes the pony, tiny
tied there, eating grass

“I am always going home, always to my father’s house.” Novalis


There is a way that goes by song
And leads me to the templed street,
My thoughts do my daydreams prolong
To see them there, a meet on meet.

Within a great pretentious cloud
Forms of darkness belie belief.
Residing, gnashing, feeling proud;
How in Your forms to find relief?

What dwelling may I deem to find
Wherein my sorrow ill-defined
May rest its weary head and mind
And lap upon the waters blind?

I know not what the day and hour
Nor what the year, however sweet,
Will come to take my soul’s great pow’r
And mark me with the serpent’s teeth.

You, my Father and my father,
I speak of with the same red tongue.
Because my youth you did bother
I hold you both together, One.

Which of you most did steal my joy
Of Sunday’s cool and blessed retreat?
Then of my innocence decoy
And lay me at the cross’s feet?

Not one, but both, I see it now
Did hew me to the river deep.
And being there, did disallow
Angels in heaven to find sleep.

Be it not for me to protest
The divinity both you claim,
One by the Book, one by the crest
Of owning that masculine name.

But watch me lay you both aside
And answer to my true home’s call.
For in me power does reside;
I am not Eve; I did not fall. 

Now the winter night chills our skin even
as the bourbon warms our blood.
Muscle. Organ. Lymph.
I think about your soft
lips against the dry sandpaper of mine.
Elsewhere, billionaires scorch the planet with rocket
fuel so they can call themselves astronauts.
Soon they will build their space hotel,
abandoning us to terra firma to breath our
old griefs—
Reducing. Reusing.
Recycling to oblivion and back.
Soon—no doubt—another launch.
More fist bumps at Mission Control.
But what are billionaires if not billions of
broken worlds? On the porch, I hug
arms to my chest to
ward off this new cold. All those
pill bottles that arrive in the mail every three
months. The ones who decide know—
what has broken can break again. I’m left
to force this song from my throat alone.
Open-shut. Shut-open. Right now, please just
brush my hair away from my face.
That’s all I want—some brief tenderness.
Dressed in specialized
suits, the billionaires chortle.
Full of glee. The future has
finally arrived. Meanwhile, no good air
left to breathe. Nor water
to quench thirst. Fires
consume. Floods
swallow the earth. Now I touch your bare
hand, flesh smooth against the heavy
glass you balance on the balcony’s railing.
The wide sky above us, again.
I should go in. Have some water.
Take my meds. Another
ship departs. 

The grand old Duke of York futilely
gave orders to ascend, descend.
There is of course no shortage of men
who can be so dragooned for free.
 If (as I do) you find the “Radetzsky
March” more than a little sinister, when
its idea of order begins to hemus in, like lemmings toward the sea,

then ask with me: is order in the march
or the mind alone? Can one slow
the militants, bid each recline on a chaise,
dismantle the arch
of Titus? Tell us what you know,
Ramón Fernández!

meteors encircle her

        but I lack access to my proper stone

fingering faint violet

        my best allegiances are to the dead

stoical and retrograde

        my Father, it is surely a blue place

and no music plays at all

        a fear, a deepening hollow through the cold

and the petal velvet shies

        across an autumn freezing everywhere

hieroglyphics of her eyes

        accept the university of death


With fluttering snow
Accompanying the cold
I head home from Manhattan

As I turned the corner
The Empire State Building shimmering on the horizon
The street sign up ahead, 93rd

Walking up the street
Something’s off, all the lights are gone
Only the street lights shine on

All that’s left is the darkness and the clouds
I let out a silent sigh

It’s the second week of January alright
Life is back to normal

The holiday season is over

Day 8 / Poem 8

(after “The Hollow Man” by Thomas Duncan Benrimo)

Hollow but not empty,
childhood balloons on twined strings
hang for a moment triumphant in the troposphere 
until the Sky releases them, too.

Fully emptied at the apex and
falling… fallen…returned 
pray, to a tree or cactus;
a schooner’s mast or a power line even –
but the genesis of ground with 
its rampant tramplers;
any elevation is the dying soul’s victory.

Remember, strings in hand, when every seat was a throne?

Now your sofa is a curbside pew
polished to rags by 
the asses of the masses
who lean to listen as
your history of 
confessions courses
in verses of poems.

Cursing, your one eye blind,
you try explaining to the Sun
sitting in carefree judgment

why too little was given
and only enough scrounged
to eke out your soul-ar existence.

If I were a stained glass artist,
I would spend my days
hoarding light, holding sheets
of iridescent purples toward sun,
envisioning cut lines, curves
I would create–shapes forming
as I fuse colors with heat and metal,
blend opaline and shimmering shards,
explore the cones of my vision,
reach beyond colors I have seen
in my grey-green nightmares,
in the sandstorms of my loneliness.

I would lay the pieces
on a light table at a tall window.
I would slide these shards
across the surface, forming and
reforming the puzzle of self-portrait.
I wander through hours, glue
the pieces down, turn away
from this endless refraction–
light meeting dark,
sparkle and glow.

I traveled freely as a child in swamp and forest prospecting
for gold, up to Rocky Ledges, that dangerous place where dad
once dug out a dogwood and dragged it home like a dead buck,
he covered in bloody scratches. There were so many of us, our
mother was a saint they said, so beautiful. We had uniforms
for school, good clothes for church. All that is seen and unseen,
begotten not made. The corporation where he went in grey suits,
he was brilliant, grandpa said. The faces of cars were mostly mean.
Bottles hidden in the garage. His stone, not far, flat to the ground
was regulation, GI issue. It’s what he said he wanted, mom said.
One brother got his shoes. The neighbor who used to tend it,
is also now long dead. When I call or drive to see her, my mother
always says, it’s good to have a lot of children when you get old.

And Ruth said, Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go… 
But a wind sounded through these promises. 
Not a sane day since.
Not a time of murmurings 
of celestial beings near the orbit 
of my right earlobe.

Make me a believer. Send something 
to me on wings to straighten my back, 
making me rise up and say, 
“I took the picture with my own camera.” 

I fall into your land a stranger. 
I mingle with creatures unwhole. 
A spirit man emerges to flaunt ownership 
of my soul and I bow my head; 
it looks like prayer. 
My hands catch fire, 
I hold them out and call for water,
I call for water,  

but there’s none, 
so I roll, I roll.
I slip on white gloves 
to hide the charring. 
I can only go so far
on promises of the promised land.

We should eat cake and drink tea 
at the proper time but 
the church bells are splintered and low.
I have wandered into the waters 
of the Jordan and immersed myself:
father, son and 
unholy ghost.

The ship leaves without me.
My language holds many forms at once.
To be evacuated from the failing planet, those willing
must first pass a series of tests. Should the situation
become dire, only the hardiest
will prevail. Now I shut the kitchen
door behind us to keep the warmth inside.
Wrapped in puffy black jackets, we step
onto the rickety porch to look up at the sky.
Ink-dark. A moonless night.
Somewhere out there, the red planet winks.
Between us and them, a veil falls.
The spaceship doors seal.
In vain, I spit out the rough necessity of my life.
Listen, I may be the king of my own realm
but that doesn’t mean I’ve won any
billionaires’ ears. What’s more—hard to find
a steady source of
mood stabilizers for the lengthy
interplanetary journey
ahead. Plus—only the hardiest—it’s not like I’m
impervious to stress. Earlier, on the couch
you said maybe if the world ends, we take a
graceful exit. I half agreed but then
recalled the end of the movie where the sun
wallows the earth. How the two
characters kiss instead of shooting each other
In the head as planned. Guns
nuzzled against temples the whole
time. Bright light bleaches, then the
credits role. I handed you the remote.
You flipped through series so fast I couldn’t
keep up. The screen glowed a
technological green-blue. How many
tongues did I slip through? You stopped
mid-scroll to read a description.
Interstellar exploration team. Colonization.
Clearly we’re all sci-fi obsessed.
Now I write myself in and out of these Other Worlds.

None of us knows how to be
really alone. How to be someone
revolutionary or at least not
dead weight dragging grooves
through the red dirt behind
the motorcade of history. A bear
lumbers across the steppe of
a triangular yellow sign. Mother
Russia must lead the world’s
proletariat, &c. You cannot use
high beams here. Wachet auf!
Sheep may safely graze but a bear
market is different. Metaphors
deceive. If, say, the tapering
perspective lines of yellow
and the nothing that surrounds
should be gullywashed with
horizontal hail, then huddle under
the flat roof of the petrol hawkers
by the refuge gate: plastic buckets
bellowing with lottery balls
of hollow rain. Zhdanov
finds this poem bourgeois and
formalist, of course. I am not calm.
Then I wake, remember I am
American. Impossible to imagine
this water, with its sluggish pewter braids,
reaching (although of course it does)
the wide and shark-bisected sea.

~ for Peggy Joyce

Knelt close to the ground, we looked up.
It was new every night or not there at all.
We looked up, and we gave her a name.

When the dark drew down, we looked up.
She pulled blood from women, desire from men.
We looked up. We were shaking and luminous.

In death and at birth, we looked up.
We blew prayers and ash up to her and her children.
We looked up and teased ritual from myth.

Each day at the change, we looked up.
She set fire to mountains we knew were not burning.
We looked up, we looked up, we looked up.

As the skies turned dark yesterday

I could see patches of white 
It couldn’t be, could it?! 
But it is…snow on the surface! 
I forgot what it looked like 
Since I’ve only seen it fluttering in the air 
The fact has made the rounds
The last date of measurable snow in NYC
February 22nd, 2022 -700 days ago
Through the cold and shortened days
I’ve looked for the first sign of winter
Last night, it finally arrived
After 700 days without snow  

Day 7 / Poem 7

(for Robin)

a curious silhouette flies
across morning’s twilight

almost dispelled as a heron
my ignorance cured

when another follows close behind
and catching up

they bank toward me unveiling themselves
as venerable sandhill cranes

and as all but their detail grows
unfocused around me

the line of their flight
writes their blessing us:

finding a home in the desert
rebels from the common flock

mating for lives
long and loyal

bridging past to future
their white feathers

overtaking our hair
deepening with years

commemorating our ‘so far’
bright bodement for ‘still more’

until the horns of my followers 
demand the light is green

and they vanish 
as points in the east

an ivory encounter assuaging  us 
from an ordinary day

What if the swirling anger,
the dark cloud, the insistent
complaint is necessary, is
the only salve for the 
wounds of the world,
the only way past
the insurmountable obstacle,
the first foot placed
on a path to light
or a circular path
through dark woods
that feels right to
the rager, the complainer,
the one who sits in the corner,
eyes downcast.
And what if you just
waved a hand, walked
into the light, took
responsibility only for
your own feet, your own body
your own voice, the wake
you leave behind
as you swirl into
your waiting life.

The river streams up from a hidden place,
a source so deep it has never yet been plumbed,
and flows then past the ancient poet’s house;

We sat there enveloped by the sun,
the scent of grasses, some ethereal grace
that seemed to fall: all felt but one who still
complained, some particulars of who,
but gradually he grew quiet too
and heard the bees and felt the pulsing life.

It was like another afternoon
when working in the park the others left
til it was just us two. You said you wished
to finish that part, then so carefully you
put away the tools. The wind was warm
with blessing, the trees bowed down.

Sessions and Sessions and Sessions and Sessions  

Complete healing concretes itself in the Father, 
she said, and it was here 
that I knew we were on to nothing. 
No thing. I’m sorry but I want to forget, 
want some magic out of this jabbering. 
Want to swallow, to put down 
a forgetting pill. 
Want not to do the daily journals 
but to go to sleep with my limbs intact, 
one two three. My cat

rests nearby with an M pattern 
on his forehead, whiskers erect 
and his tail curled into a fine ribbon. 
Want to smoke the cigarette to end 
all other cigarettes, the world’s best 
cigarette perched between my spread 
fingers, spread thin by this temple of the holy, 
a shrine enacted upon myself.  Look, 

I didn’t come to be indoctrinated. 
I did not come 
to learn more about the Holy Spirit 
and how it rests between the father 
and the son and comes 
on wings of crocodile parchment to ease 
the ever-aching lows. 
The boy god botched his entrance, 
couldn’t remember his lines, so 
I crawl around, 

dirtying my knees, 
rocking backwards into that place, 
into that time when there was more 
than just this pear struck 
through this arrow.
Can you see me, 
my love, my unshaven thing? 
For me you would never 

bring the wet kitten home 
for milk. Don’t be jealous 
of this starching of my heart. 
I performed an autopsy 
on a woman at 4 and 
did not save her lungs for you. 

The first kid drives now so the family
needs another car. An old story or an older heart?
Fires rage. Floods deluge. Oceans rise.
The youngest passes me a blue ceramic bowl.
The sweet-bright strawberries drip red.
What will happen when we go extinct is that everyone
who has ever perished will die again.
Generations squeeze around this table—an early lunch.
Remember those folklorists from a few years back?
The ones who used techniques from
evolutionary biology
to prove the ancient origins of the
stories we tell? Remember how my ribs
cradle more than one heart?
Pump. Every so often, I want to text you just because.
As if to exclaim: Congratulations! Our species still exists!
Like right now in the middle of this veggie sub.
High piles of avocado, Provolone, spicy peppers.
Sides of pickle, potato chips, fruit.
Salt and vinegar, if you’re wondering.
The reason I address you? I always need an audience.
But also. You. Now my heart
grips. A boy steals an ogre’s treasure. A girl
begs her father. Papa, bring me—a rose, or a brown, feathered
lark, the object doesn’t matter, rather it’s the
mechanism that counts. Upon his return from his
journey. Or that smith working bronze in the
age of bronze. The story
that old. Ah,
all this fluttering pink pulp in my lungs. Draw.
Breath—but not as relief, no, as a
difficulty swells. Trying and failing to grasp the
end rushing towards this peaked wooden house, this tree-
lined street, this sprawling town, this state once
wild prairie, this region of four seasons shifting, this nation
born of crime and revolution, this once lush planetary
object dangling in a cold, black vacuum.
More species die out. Glaciers melt. Yada yada.
Who knows. Maybe the new story is End.
As for the old tales? Extinguishing lights.
And yet these strawberries—marvels on my tongue.
The juicy pineapple too. The festive yellow
chunks float above the dark wood of this table,
the chalky white gleam of the nubby cotton
placemats, the wide saucers of the blue-rimmed plates.
Shiny silver cutlery from the drawer next to the stove.
Now one child recites a speech learned by heart.
Another whips out a clarinet.
Many candles guttering. How their flame—
leaping and dwindling at once—
hooks my attention the way nails jut out of otherwise
bare walls once all framed photos have withered.
To dust. I don’t text you after all.
What would I type into the screen’s flickering light?
Dear You. Here I sit, bone-wracked.
Body-hulled. Blood-warmed but unable to
feel the way out. How is our species
to continue? How are you? How am I?
This grand, exquisite Us.
We who place meaning in the roots of tongues.
Our story being

The proto-holy emperor
excises a gray hair
(a moment of Torschlusspanik).
It humbles one to be
so exposed to calumny.
A wise man once said blessed are the meek.

Clovis’s wife was orthodox
but every common fox
and inchworm was an Arian.
So say the Son was not begotten.
Once you’re rotten
the sun will say you’re carrion.

In time you find
dark tendrils in the mind
composted into something rich by worms;
Plato, can it be right
that nothing will survive this velvet night
besides your tasteless forms?

When Alma said wait,
don’t tempt fate,
Mahler served up Kindertotenlieder.
Could it have been enough to say
I want it all some other way?
No answer from dear leader.

~ A Tritrina for Pam

Anticipation of white gardenias turns the cold
stone of their hearts. Bodies hushed and close in the fog
of cigarette smoke. She glistens on stage—Lady Day!

All of heaven and hell are transmuted, day
blends with night in the richness of her voice. Cold
piano ups tempo. Drums and bass disperse the fog.

Bouncy guitar, thin muted trumpet, deep foggy
saxophone, her voice returns. The frost of the day,
the week, melts. They are glad the drinks are cold.

Outside, they laugh at the cold fog, the dull light of day.

On the 12th Day of Christmas
My true love gave to me…

Twelve channels flipping
Eleven clothes hanging
Ten seconds passing
Nine books reading
Eight hours a working
Seven days a traveling
Six hours a sleeping
Five golden Euros (five golden Euros)
Four greeting cards
Three Italian sparklers
Two Greek wines
And a plane flying overhead

And a plane flying overhead! 

Day 6 / Poem 6

for John Burnam

the father has no alibi
ignoring what was done
the bastard will not try

an email sent in mid July
“Death has me on the run”
the father has no alibi

the record doesn’t lie
the narrative can’t be spun
the bastard will not try

“oh my son, if only I”
but sins can’t be undone
the father has no alibi

his hard eyes long gone dry
“you don’t get to call me son”
the bastard will not try

each under a different sky
one walking toward the sun
the father has no alibi
the bastard will not try

I am the red berries of the holly tree.
Careful as you approach, my leaves
stand ready to slice your feet and arms.
I am the pomegranate torn open,
garnet seeds staining your fingers
and mouth. I will mark you. No denial.
I am brunello waiting in the dusty bottle,
aging into my glory. I am maximum red
sharpened to a point, conspicuous
in my box of fellow colors. I am
patent leather boots in cherry red.
I am red soles of luxury, clicking
away from you. I am the scarlet
alpaca cape glimpsed around corners,
ruby earrings under sable curls,
poppies slipped into a waiting tea.
I am the first flash of wing
in a snowy landscape, a return
coursing through a frozen body,
taking you by surprise.

The moon is upside-down.
The moon slides like a small boat
on a black river, rocking.

The moon must know
if there were gifts bestowed
green and gold, perhaps a great many
by the women gathered
at that cradle rocking.
But was something owed?

The moon rises,
green, upside down like a coin.
The moon presses
the wind through the window.

Green wind, green tree, green branch on the green tree.
Black ship upon the water.

Who was there? What did they know?
No witnesses told.
Was some compact given at that boat-like cradle?

The moon is rising, bright like a gold coin.
Says, wake up, there is little time.
Black ship on the water. Black ship in the harbor.
But quick, there is little time!

Wake up says the moon,
Green branch on a green tree
Green wind, green moon, black ship upon the sea.
Go down to the black harbor.

I may have been in love

with you at first, I said,

on New Year’s Eve,

us sharing dinner – a last 

minute reservation – neither

of us with a someone

to go home with when

midnight’s shoulder

jutted into the blade of 

the Happy New Year!


Years of past loves,

lost people, hard-shingled

divorces, promises slippery

shod against the back-breaking 

rein of men 

who placed hurt like road rash

on our bare knees,

and us, dropped 

singularly into

the reign of a new year,

a bit lonely, yes,

on a rainy night:



What a proposition,

the in of in love is – 

and me, a poet – ha!

(How sloppy! Imprecision of language!)

When metaphor is what is true:

You are so much you,

That I have felt at home,

The haven that I first knew

when my grandmother read me 

book after book,

licking her finger to unfurl 

the pages. I would see the stamp 

of her fingerprint thrown in a shadow 

against the colored pages,

those swirls – the hills – 

where I lived.

Not in the hills but with the hills.

Not in love but with love.


How many times have I 

said the wrong things of love

at the wrong times,

have I smothered 

and demanded of

love something other

than the ordinary joy of what it is:

A good dinner and a warm sweater.

A safe spot to land. No better.

How often this past week have you circled back to the starting point? Here, amid the white corners of your white furniture. Where two years of dust coats the unused fan’s white plastic blades. What I want to know—just who does the oscillating here? Who calls out with each jerky swivel: am I this story or am I a tongue turning the story’s page asking what are tongues if not…Anfänge…beginnings. Door, threshold, hallway, room.

How often has your body been that door? [Please click the button to tabulate your score, then upload your completed assessment to the patient portal 24 hours before your appointment.] 28 Dezember 2021. My first day gone. My first day back. Or, as many times as I press pause on the podcast because I’ve never been able to count stitches or follow a recipe in English while German sounds in the background, so I switch to counting or cooking in German before pressing play again. Daheim. Far away. You know, a door opening backwards. You know, the way I utter scaffold a lot. Saying: Such utter scaffolding when what I mean is. Jaw supporting tongue, story. Elbow cradling the story.

Speaking of, where does ease reside in your body right now? Now, winter crackles the thin glass panes of each window. The great internal, out of doors. Now I snake off the couch to lie beside the new cat on the area rug—swirls of sepia and blue against cream. In the cold air wilding all around the building, shapes form. 

Numquid ibi horribile apparet, num triste videtur   
quicquam, non omni somno securius exstat?
      —Lucretius, De Rerum Natura 3.976-7

Let us compare the taste of two voids:
one behind and known,
one ahead.

Before, raisinskin and grappa,
cursed fig tree, ash.
Behind, the cake of moths’ wings, dry and tough.

Your late ghost crouched on the rug
eating from a dish of onions and shaved daikon.
This is why I keep rubbing my eyes, I lie.

In a darkness that can be felt, we exit the interstate.
If you live badly and die
and have not dipped a lock of your hair
into the tannic black tea of Bayou Dorcheat
by way of apology,
there is a roadside casino here built as an annex
to a shabby fuel station
where you will find your soul wandering, imprisoned.
Cranefly caught between window and screen.

The vowel weakens to inadequate schwa. The angel
is bedazzled by the ass.
Seeing what louts we have become,
Phidias would leave the marble buried, thanks but no thanks.
Offer the dead some jicama root, nothing that clinks
or reminds them of coin.

Downstream there must be a low concrete dam
flooding this flatland in this inch or two
of cold water. It sloshes over our boots.

Each hesitates before the tunnel’s damp chill.
Lone camel picking its way across a pitchblende waste.

~ For Centa

Ripple beside me, below me.

Step with me, mud toed and silent
into the mirror of water.

Life in the water—immune
to the cold—you are my echo.

This migration, or next,
he will lie still in the grass.

Landing again I’ll continue, the
water cold in my mouth. You’ll still

ripple beside me, below me.

As I look to the cold, dark sky
I see the North Star shining bright
And while it’s there, I make a wish…
O North Star
Shine over me for this moment in time 
I seek a clear path forward
Amidst all the talk of “new year, new you!”
I’m here in this vessel of a body 
Seeking a reason to feel positive after a week of feeling ill 
To pull myself out of the spirals of second guessing, negativity and foreboding 
O North Star… shining bright in the sky 
As you once guided Melchior, Gaspar and Balthazar to Bethlem many moons ago
Please, guide me too 

Day 5 / Poem 5

when the Egyptians cracked 
the magic of measurement
marking metrics for the Fourth Dimension with
sundials & shadow clocks
you couldn’t take it with you

Breguet’s boon: portability and
beginning our illusion of control
that we could commodify Time

until it was battery this & rechargeable that
luring us away from the intention that daily winding ensured
our ebbing physical slowly dismantling our intellectual
a subliminal takeover taking us over

to this unclear nuclear age
addressing & caressing our touchscreen wrists 
that craft & deliver everythings, instanter & bespoke
chained on autopilot to the motherships
on our hips
but still fitfully asleep 
in an empty terminal

but let’s usurp our self control:
rock a 70’s Timex that
keeps us imperfectly early
needs a gentle, daily winding

not addressing it or caressing it
just sliding it on like irons
worn on the march through tomorrow 
until it tick-tock rocks us
to a sleep that leaves no data behind

In the dream of us, I am making you lasagna,
layering my homemade red sauce, the beef
of your childhood, creamy bechamel dotted
with goat cheese, basil from the garden,
lush from your watering. Of course,
you would be happy with jarred sauce,
ricotta, pre-shredded mozzarella
out of a plastic bag.
Here’s my secret, though:
if I ask you to come early,
if I start chopping as you
walk through my front door,
if I seat you at the kitchen counter,
opposite the sink, I can keep my hands
busy for hours while you trickle out
the details of your life. And once the pan
is in the oven, we will have time
to walk side by side, out of earshot,
under cherry blossom branches, touching
fingers over the silent street. We will cross
into the woods, over the creek, the twang
of metal bridge betraying footsteps.
We’ll return home, forgetting
the lasagna was ever made,
be surprised by its melted surface,
the tang of tomato, the delicate layers
hiding what is now revealed–
just you and I like we used to be,
in the broken down kitchen
after long days served up,
filling each other’s plates.

I’m human, so must I kill you before you kill me,
survival of the fittest forming us into sharpened tools?
Doomed, like the possessed swine who ran off the cliff
plunging to their death on the rocks?

For what are we really and who are our true parents?

A cloud of gas drifted over and seeded
an exploding star and forged all the elements,
built them up one by one in a nuclear furnace:
hydrogen, helium, deuterium, then carbon, oxygen,
nitrogen, silicon and sulfur. Iron
was the last of the original batch.

The facts of creation are more beautiful than the fictions
and the tree of knowledge is a gift for humans.

Our true parentage is like seeds of glass, 
seeds of clarity buried deep in our chests.
Picture the elements lined up in rows
like grammar school children, in numerical order,
describing each one’s nature precisely.
Here’s carbon, number six with six electrons,
whose symmetrical shape lets it bind
into millions of compounds, making life.

An alphabet –just a few letters making infinite words.
Our food and our flesh, our retinas, and our brains,
all that we know of, and all that we don’t know of
was created in stars. 

And this was written, before anything else was written,
before we made up stories of paradise and utopia
and filled mass graves with our fellows.
The facts of creation are far more beautiful than the fictions.
For what is the universe, and earth and man?

We have died by fictions upon fictions, 
but if we want to live, it will be by facts.

(to my grandmother)

Put the number 40 on my back.
Let me run. Race away. 
Cold tears on the paddock.
I’ve been weeping since June.
Stumbling around, no flashlight.
Seeing your face in every 
unlit place, I’ve been underneath
cave after cave
trickles of water, formations
pushing up from the earth.
You held me 
when I was in the back of the pack,
whipped to go faster.

You, my warm stable,
and my stable feedings.
How I bit into the spoon.
Feasts, endless, 
and your hand patting my hand:
“You’re my good girl.”

I know you are at my end
of all of it,
whatever all of it turns
out to be: when
only a back porch light
remains flaming in my brain.

When more measures
would have been unkind,
we did not allow more tubes,
or let them break your legs.

Find a way to turn back.
The track is a circle.
Head toward the starting gate.
Come home.

Skin tastes of salt, not sweet water. My stove’s
broken so dinner will go cold.
Well, what did they expect? We told them this would happen.
Our lives as temporary beeswax tapers.
We cannot with this for even one moment longer.
Like a Greek chorus, I explain
to the kids over plastic cups of boba tea at the
chic outdoor mall: you can afford
Taylor Swift and three additional pairs of ripped
jeans for the same reason
food pantries exist. Lack—a well-greased feature,
not a bug. Sunny here. Winter breeze.
All this shiny plate glass.
As a child, I barely spoke, but then—I’ve been told—
click—and after that, all I did was talk.
Including now.
A lot of free time since my
hours got cut trying to decide whether it’s possible to be
a historical and an ahistorical body at the same
time. Like dead
wood and the one living
shoot bursting up through a loamy
forest floor at once.
Somewhere out there—a suburban preserve.
At some point, I read how the stock market rallied, relieved from—
in uncertain economic times, the part-time to full-time ratio increases.
Who is speaking from that cloud nimbus over there?
Meanwhile, the village that birthed me prices me out.
Meanwhile, bombs drop in the far-away.
Now one of the kids sucks a gelatinous bubble up through
a pink plastic straw, thick-wide.
The weird flavors they have—more artificial color than
natural taste. $6.95 for a small, so a good
thing they paid. Wow, would we like to dig around a
little there before we combust into blue flame.

a golden shovel (Paradise Lost I.16)

John Milton had his way of saying things.
I have a dozen chapbooks unattempted
and don’t know if I’m genius enough yet
to steal. A plagiarist is delicate to speak of “in
these fractious times”—but that a square of prose
could merit such dispute even today (or
can it?) makes one keen to filch a sweet Italian rhyme.

~ for Kim Malinowski

Run hard damsel—
    jewel-handed mad tales,
        headless ever-afters.

Run hard damsel—
    candied glass slippers,
        finger pricked knights.

Run hard damsel—
    leather stitched witches
        summon your bleeding feet.

I should consider all of my options for future employment
I should’ve asked more questions regarding everything my current employer offers
I should have said my goodbyes to the group at the end of the Greece trip
I should look back on the fourteen days with fond memories 
I should remind myself, getting sick at New Years isn’t a harbinger of a bad year ahead
I should have gotten myself to urgent care earlier in the day
I should be able to keep my emotional spirals under control 
I should have responded to why I didn’t have my flu shot by saying, I had my health insurance activated
I should have given the bottle of sparkling limoncello to my friend Wendy
I should have added an extra day to my visit to her home last October
I should have read more carefully about what the writing residency in Orquevaux, France entailed
I should have rebooked it for 2025, instead of having to reapply for it 
I should not be second guessing myself at every turn
I should have more confidence in my decision making process

Day 4 / Poem 4

(an Algorithm poem)

Last click attribution 
demands absolute blame
lands on the shoulders of the green noise around 
us, letting us off the hook 
from ourselves.

But we crave
the sonic weight  to subsume
us; its chimes and twitches of vapid 
vibrations hundreds of times each day tricking us
from crafting a life; collecting us instead 
to be crafted, one in being with 
The Algorithm.

just a spark of pre-tech
humanity stokes a hunger in some
so let’s Army together and walk with heads up
daring to greet the Other with smiles
borne on rapt attention
of just being.

Dare wear
our emojis on true faces
and collapse in the old public square
from the psychic exhaustion that we’ve lost.
Find willingness to endure and grow
righteously calloused in

abounds in our arts and
now our sciences, too (no happy
accident): no matter where we look from where we stand it seems to
loom on a horizon of tech-mech
blazing toward capitalistic

Let’s not be
like Springsteen’s poets.
Instead, let’s bravely canary even if
facing the certainty of being adjudicated as mad. 
When AI scans these pages to evolve
let it pause in confusion that
becomes reverence.

Five a.m. New York hotel. Bleary for coffee, too cold to venture out. It is the end of a long year
in which I have worked too much, have been too often on the other side of the planet. A year
that feels like five. In the elevator, surreal video feed–circus, performance, dream. Speakers
pump a lounge vibe left over from the night before. Doors slide open on dim hallway, copper
glints at the edge of the gap–new penny heads up, whispering a promise.

Where did you learn to turn all the pennies in the world over–you, who emptied change into
every cup we passed. You, who pet every mangy dog lying next to a handwritten sign. You, who
packed leftovers and carried them onto the street. You, middle child, seeing so many tails up
pennies, I started to think you planted them. You, turning over penny after penny, making luck
for the whole broken world.

I slip the penny into my waiting pocket, ready for coffee and new luck.

When the energy comes it can be large.
Do you let it command you, stay up all night
reading and thinking, writing reams and reams
that may never be read?

Do you welcome it?
Do you even get a chance to answer?

And parenthetical note:
(The destruction is great and is accelerating.
You could summon all your strength, move the needle.
But there are 10,000 needles, a cacophony of voices, needing.
And the death bringers are very active, inhuman,
sowing death like seed, like salt, killing hope.)

So the answer is yes. It could only ever be.
Love should make joy. The slow snail,
the bee, helpers will make themselves known,
the sharp winged falcon as counsel.

is the famous quote Marie Antoinette 
never said although it is what 
she is remembered for, 
a queen looking down 
her nose at commoners.
It’s also false that her hair turned white
the night before her beheading,
though someone started that fiction, 
all narratives have an origin.
Such sensational little stories, 
the gossip firing through towns
about Marie who
put France in debt
and opposed the revolution – 

Look, it’s so late, and I’m getting old –
look at how I’ve put on weight 
and my hair has thinned.
When I go out on Saturdays
I feel my age, I’m tired, 
everyone else dancing 
with this limitless extravagant energy.
I don’t know why I’m talking
about Marie Antoinette.
I keep talking about the things
I don’t mean to talk about.
I thought I would know better by now.
I thought by now I would be
proclaiming the wise things,
unafraid, slow to anger, 

The play starts.
Affection in the New Ruin.
The event calls for strands of costly
saffron in soup, two oysters in slick shot glasses
but can I soar high enough to pay off this bill?
Even though I read your lips even in this dark theater.
You’re responding to what I said about mental
illness and capitalism. Okay, money
not the whole problem but a daily, weekly, monthly
struggle for real. Still though.
You must see how much attention I pay to the
world’s spin. As I sip
my gold drink of enchanted coins.
The arc of the sky, wings in the clouds, dust, you.
Punching in-out, out-in on the time clock at work.
Onstage, the play ends and a curtain falls.
Thick, red, velvet, heavy.
Well, the coins not true gold but washed in a wish’s
thin coat and then a steep tax must be paid.
Meanwhile, I weave my unburdening prayers.
May I not be abandoned in this plaza.
Among these public sculptures and cobblestones.
Where all around us, dark cars hush through the night.
Headlamps, blinkers on yellow, right or left.
In their harsh gleam, bitter rules form.
I take your hand to ward off stark light.

—And she named the child Ichabod, saying, The glory is departed
1 Sam. 4:21

I know so little by heart—
much less by any other organ.
I took myself down
like a sad string of lights
in January and set myself
by the undramatic scorpions
in the dust. The night
felt suddenly alone.
I put my ear to the ground
to listen for the politic worms:
buried gods who entranced Antigone.
This shabby god of ours
turns snakes back into staffs,
makes water out of whiskey sours,
will kindly swap a scorpion
for daily bread. I know the forms—
bent knee, mudra, cross—
but otherwise at a loss, cannot say
if it was a fair, a misty, a
downright miserable day—?
I cannot remember the time or the way
his ark was left empty in Philistia.
The lily of ice they kept
in Irkutsk mellows and flows away.
It’s just the acid rain that Jesus wept.

When can I see you?
I see you in every nest.
When will you call me?
I call you the magpie.

I see you in every nest.
The tree was more my mother.
I call you the magpie.
A rook would name me better.

The tree was more my mother,
firmly rooted but always changing.
A rook would name me better.
You are more beggar than thief.

Firmly rooted but always changing,
I need the forest to hide me.
You are more beggar than thief.
I call the moon with the wolves.

I need the forest to hide me.
When can I see you?
I call the moon with the wolves.
When will you call me?

What was I made for? 
The question as 2024 begins
The more hoarse my voice gets
The more the question sticks around 
As I try to take care of myself 
Signs of my incapability appear
A lack of urgency, a lack of self care 
All I can do is nod and lash out 
As the mistakes get pointed out by others around me 
And then I keep on spiraling 
Saying aloud in my hoarse voice 
“I can’t be an adult!”
In an ode to my sense of weakness 
It’s three days into the new year 
I shouldn’t be beating myself up over this
For circumstances beyond my control 
But old habits still remain 
The question rings around again 
What was I made for?

Day 3 / Poem 3

On the snowy Tuesday before Thanksgiving in ‘76
each classroom a nervous diorama and particular slice of American pie

our parent(s) strolled through 200 diluted years in under 10 minutes;
the perfect skim ratio to smooth the dirty details.

In Sr. Agnes’ 2nd grade we toiled for weeks
rushing like Pilgrims to stand a settlement of log cabins

before winter descended and the whole 
settling the “new world” seemed like a dumb idea.

We mortared logs of paper to empty cheese boxes
growing nose blind to the incense of acrylic paint and white glue

and puffed with pride at learning the bravery of our forefathers
(only the fathers; even the absent ones).

Doublets and breeches, coifs and aprons, the majority whites
dressed as John Bradfords and their unnamed wives 

while the few kids of color donned the heavy
mantles of Tisquantum, maintaining textbook accuracy.

Adding to the historical record, careful photos were taken
commemorating our industrial strength soak in the cycle of whitewashing.

Honoring and then becoming savior,
the grown-ups winked and nudged, omitting everything that came in between.

Could I be the clear faceted garland hung in the dying tree
waiting for lights to switch on? Or gold paint pooling
in the middle of the painting suspended on the office wall,
perpendicular to windows, starved for sideways glints of light
on only the brightest days?
Instead, maybe I’ll be a miniature painting of sunflowers,
calling for scraps of attention between galleries of electronic faces,
chat notifications, pinging alerts from emails. Better yet,
a full spectrum sun lamp restoring brain waves to their
solstice functions–making you whole, reminding you
of warm blackberries on your tongue as you absorb
August sun through the top of your head, through
the shoulders of your shirt, through the glow
in your upturned face as you extend your arms
around my waist, your hands caked with black dirt,
your breath on my glimmering neck.

I watched as you cowered, the crook of your back, 
your hands covering your head. 
I saw the crowd clutching stones, 
coming for your heart and skull,
ready to empty your eyes from their sockets, 
your nose to hollowness. 
I was late for supper and the day’s miracles 
dripped from my fingers.

Your hair halted me. Wet from washing, 
shining, down to your waist. 
I foresaw the knots, the dirt, 
the fresh blood which would in minutes 
ruin it and forgive me – I wanted to hold it.
I wanted no other man to sully it.  

It’s brought me here, to this white hot place. 
Why did I save you – (do I desire?), 
or was it only me looking out – 
what any decent person would have done? 
I think about this often, when the crowds have gone.
I hold my left hand in my right: still nothing. 

For whom did I save you? 
I won’t be here to stop the hands 
of men who will continue to take
and grab from you in the night, 
then come by day with hands 
of stone, heaving heavy weights. 

You carry the burden alone:
as woman is, alone. 
My father created Eve. 
He could have done it 
without the boy rib. 
He could have given womankind wings, 
slight wings, to flutter above 
sticks and rocks and things that hurt.

How many times this last week have you been but a raft in this ocean of? Bone-sequence. Then, prying sequence from memory.

How often do you unfold? Though I never forget about water. Blue-green sea in the photograph hanging in the middle of my vast cream living room wall in the wide blank space above the flat-screen TV.

Please select the best kenning for motion from the choices below. I would, but I came back here straight into this new edge from across water—one large body—and several decades away.

In that case, where are you from? How are you like a root? Where do you keep salt? Well, sometimes I scribble notes in my journal to prepare for the upcoming session. I won’t be fouled by time running out before I’ve expressed what I need to say the way kelp fouled the prop of the boat that one time.

But where are you safe? Not on the boat. That’s one reason he sent me away.

Then where are you safe? [Please click the button to tabulate your score, then upload your completed assessment to the patient portal 24 hours before your appointment.] Here, in my bones. Tall white clouds, rising anvil thunder. Later, I text the person I decide I want you to be: This summer, let’s go somewhere with water. Wild water only, urban won’t do. I wait for your reply, tasting the salt in memory.

Spiky black caterpillars wander
across the road in droves.
Teens bisect them with bicycle tires.

The search and rescue team has given up,
settled in a ring around the moraine lake.
What were the plumes of black carbon
against that hue of turquoise, of dissolved bone?
(Anyone who vanishes out here
wants to. To dig all ten fingers
into soft sequoia bark.)

Is it true that my fellow man is an engine
built only to echo its own ozone of desire?

A wisp of black butterfly carefully alights
on a coil of dung. As if to say the powers that love you
are not, were never, the powers that be.

  ~ for Jen Schomburg Kanke

My murders were private,
one after the other.
Each pressed a hard, black seed
deep in my darkness.
Roots needled through
vein and muscle to rich organs.
I am all root. It has been painful
bursting into blossoms,
lost to color and scent,
a silent vanishing.

As I open my eyes
The reality begins to dawn on me, with a hoarse sigh
It’s the second day of January
Neither the euphoria of New Year’s Eve nor the optimism of New Year’s Day 
Even though Christmas officially runs through the sixth day
Hallmarks of normal days have returned
From kids being back on the buses with adults 
To jostling for a seat on the crowded downtown 4 train 
At least the sun has returned after so many days of cloudy and gray 
And the holiday decorations are still in place 
With greetings of “Happy New Year!” all around 
The post-holiday letdown hasn’t fully sunk in yet 

Day 2 / Poem 2

(after Ryokan)

it is earth; both hard and soft
as we are bone and flesh

holds only enough tea
to flush out a poem

only enough rice to carry
dirtied sandaled feet  to the next town

head always bowed

indented clay fitted to my fingers
when eating or drinking others’ kindness

pierced with an oak branch to
extend toward benefactors

head always bowed

cherished as chalice 
of the mendicant poets

ensuring sustenance while
we create sustenance

holding it 
I am full of declarations 

Write down the plan.
Break it into steps.
Plan each step against
available minutes.

What use will you make of this body,
holding you tethered to the planet
that gives you the red-headed woodpecker
waking you, the slick chocolate ground from
impossible cocoa cocoons, the blades of grass
encased in ice, shimmering?

Lash yourself to the mountain dog,
feel her soft fur between your fingers.
Cover your aching feet with salve,
cotton, shoes. Place one foot
in front of the other.

How long will you be able
to keep it up? Set an alarm.
It doesn’t matter. You will walk
as long as you’re able and after that,
something will walk by your side.
Something will sprint ahead,
continue past your usable time,
as your soles wear thin, as your
plantar fasciitis halts you, as your mind
flutters to the crown of the tallest pine
and wakes someone sleeping
a generation away.

an object that one need not, cannot, or does not wish 
to give a specific name to.

At the beach I rode 
on imaginary waves,
much like her mouth against mine,
never a thing, at all,
even in the moments 
when it might have been a thing.
Doesn’t everything change
as quickly as the turning 
of the tides whose currents,
when I waded out,
pulled me half a mile
from where I began,
when all I was doing –
⁃ all I thought I was doing –
was holding a straight line,
romping in beat with the ocean?
A here, and a here, and a, oh,
she touched my back, 
made me laugh – do it again? 
(Will) she do it again?
A question I crash against every day
no matter if I awaken early 
or if I sleep all day, 
if I rock myself
so hard against the things I love
that they crumble
and break, disfigured
by the wave of me.
It’s like this that I stay
out from love.
I bang into the thing
until it’s nothing but sand,
baby, nothing but the granular
remnants of shells 
that once housed things
that were living.

Meanwhile, we bloom.
Private closets of coursing blood.
How I make you up as I go along.
In my autofictional universe—
Bone-cast. Muscle-hewn. This story, one of
discreet anatomy. In the kitchen, you tell me
you care for me. I pour the good
bourbon into two heavy glasses over two
thick spheres of ice—twin mirrors
sticky and cloudy with cold. Care—a good enough
trellis for right now.
I vine to meet you. We all hurt
unless we matter, our human Achilles’ heel.
Story, crunching under our own weight.
Later on the steel-blue sofa—fluffy white
throw pillows in our laps—clutching
our small pain in the face of
colossal pain. Questions need not be new to consume!
Let our common tongue ward off dead language.
How this bourbon peppers both our lips.

(for C.J.H., without whom this could not be)


They catch him well outside the pale with the snouts of their telephoto lenses flashing fire. Me, I’m less the adventurer. Fire tongs and mulled sack more my speed. The corral of iambs. Heroic couplets, daisy-chained, might build a swaying bridge across the gulf of hope. For the people. But no. That wild Merovingian wants to push the envelope. Holy kaiser in the streambed, kneeling, tie loose around his neck. A hollyhock dangles from his mouth. The chain-mail tastes of coin; fleurs-des-lis frank the lids of each municipal manhole.


Just a bit further and you reach a mossy grove, shaded from the plain, and see wrapped in chitons the tragic poets Plato frogmarched out of town. Some squat by slabs of burning guano. Another works the green pump, squeaking up and down. The taxman sails by in his silent black Benz. Perhaps it is better out here. It is good to remain here, &c.


Old task to measure the world. Eratosthenes astonished us all. The king assents straightaway, little sycophant. The springwater drips in hexameters. Knee-deep in the Loire, suit bunched around his shoulders, having left behind the state’s sewer-gurgle and the substation’s smoke, he marks his points of contact with the earth. Prone on the limestone, he embraces it. And squints at the inchworm. The inchworm’s belly touches the muck at the base of the world, then arches clear of it. Touches, and so on. Clovis, holy Roman, holy fool, puts his ear to the ground and listens. The inchworm’s foresection rises as if to speak.

Mine—was an Acorn’s Breast—
    ~Emily Dickinson

Mine was the husband’s fist.
Mine was the swollen lip.

Mine was the flutter and ache.
Mine was the love to take.

Mine was the overdose, failed.
Mine was the red cheek paled.

Mine was the mad girl’s ward.
Mine was the window barred.

Mine was the world stopped still.
Mine the relentless will.

The cacophony of fireworks on either side of home/”Auld Lang Syne” on the tv screen/Twisting open a bottle of champagne/A darkened house/The lack of sleep/Waking up in time for the first daylight/Wishing everyone, “A Happy New Year”/Hearing the sounds of “The Beautiful Blue Danube” and clapping along to the “Radetzky March”/Marveling at the creativity of the Rose Parade floats/Cranking U2’s “New Year’s Day at maximum volume at midnight/Feeling all the previous year’s difficulty fall off my shoulders/A renewed sense of hope 

Day 1 / Poem 1

A pause at the solstice 
then no stopping
the careen into another new orbit

convinced despite the seductive arc of our parents
that we are 
more pushed than pulled into our accruing middle years. 

We bought that Life’s challenges would 
gently ebb at this dusk while
her opportunities would erupt like a dawn chorus.

But the sun and moon are frozen 
in a half dark sky –
an unfinished eclipse

As we age into an envy that settles 
on us like dust
chasing youth and facing obsolescence.

Surviving the wreckage of our twenties 
a generation-and-a half ago yet
we cannot recall a thing we learned except this:

there’s no distinct benefit to a moderate pace.


The red fox blazes through high grass,
bushy telltale betraying her, rippling
like a wake of stars, like the Mediterranean sun
shimmering on skin-warm sea and I am waist-deep
in summer meadow, waist deep in that ocean,
my hand aloft, a glass of cold Prosecco,
in my other hand, an earthen mug of tea.
I am Justice, weighing multiverses,
leaning toward Amalfi, toward sunflowers
in infinite fields, on the kitchen counter.
I am shoulders sunburned and peeling.
i am hands raw from weeding the garden.
I am legs around which the patient Lab swirls.
I am a speck in the meadow under arrows
of geese, under pine trees outlasting
subdivisions. I am hammered silver
reflecting whatever light can enter.
My children, bring me what haunts you.
Place your burdens on my scales.
I will take their electric gravity
into my body. Watch me.
I tuck one leg under my body,
close my eyes and hold my arms
aloft, bending, not breaking
in hurricane winds.

Knotting rock to rope,
rope to rock
to remember.
You find what you can,
you are weaving it,
walking under a yellow sky
grounding deeper and deeper.
You know you are walking on bones.
You are speaking the words
while picking up stones,
repeating over and over so as not to forget,
clutching the rope, knotting it
weaving it, watching the birds
flitting up to the sky,
chattering and calling.
Do they know their season is short?

Decision: no more jumping 
out of moving cars.
I will wait for the gloaming,
hundreds of colors pulsing in a firefly’s dance:
mockingbird yellow, 
the bluesy aria of a baby’s cry, 
an eye’s green crystal lake.

How geese take turns being the tip of the V;
how wolves howl in a different key 
after a pack member drops.

To be alive 
is to wail & scream 
& gather dishes & fill them
full of steaming, salted fish.
To share it on the ground:
rip the meat from the
needle bones:
a bloody communion.

How God put his mouth to Adam’s 
to blow in that first breath, 
the world’s first kiss, 
a tribe of two. 
Do it again, surely Adam whispered, 
because isn’t it the heat 
we all seek, a body connected to ours, 
a shared wanting? 
Later a stone boat in the ground, ashes to ashes, 
but now, now, now, lullabies & spoons
& garden hoses & whales, 
the rhythm of waves and earthquakes.

The world is ending.
Is ending but I have these stories to tell.
Fused to spines, to the whole scaffold, really.
The way you nodded when I said:
You know I love you, right? How some
words almost don’t need to be spoken. Like the silence
between this beat and that, heart-thrum.
Now my lungs flutter up from a spreading array of open tabs.
The tabs possess seven mouths and one billion
gazillion teeth. Which isn’t me
trying to be funny, more like.
Crooning at horror.
I won’t have enough money this month.
How long till the war out there comes here.

they bring up the dead with block and tackle.
every race is over at the starting blocks;
the rest a waste of spirit. a bet to hedge.
why not verweile doch, du bist so schön?
mehercule! by Janus! a quiet so loud
mutes rescuers’ echoing rubble-cry
and screaming brakes to slow the calendar—

—we’re looking both ways now, near and far.
can the tyrants slow time if they try?
seems bombs could winch back into cloud
if we could just sit quite still and learn.
go down no road, just pause at the edge.
no missile screams if we stop the clocks.
it’s good to stay here. let us build three tabernacles.

Barren, abandon desire.
Walk through a field stiff with snow.
Tend to the ash in your fire.

Cadences carry desire.
Sound is lost in the snow.
Barren, abandon desire.

Wind is a fiend, is a fire.
It hardens the top of the snow.
Tend to the ash in your fire.

Finger soot clings like desire.
Wash yourself clean in the snow.
Barren, abandon desire.

Remember your body on fire.
Heat rising from blood in the snow.
Tend to the ash in your fire.

Animals run to desire.
You have no names for the snow.
Barren, abandon desire.
Tend to the ash in your fire.

As the words from Dinner For One ring out
They describe New Years Eve, in a nutshell

Watching the world ring in 2024
From Australia to Asia
With Europe, the Americas and the Pacific following suit

As the day goes by, the hours tick down
To midnight Eastern time
As the calendar and the year change hands

There’s a mini bottle of Nicholas Feuilatte champagne in the fridge
Chilling with its larger brethren to be opened at dinner

The same procedure as every year?
A dark room when everyone else sleeps
And the parties just start to begin
A silent toast to a new year
The same procedure as every year