Enemy Infant

The red coals pouring into the infant’s mouth
The infant’s mouth in the raider who pours

Nothe mother gagged and forced to witness it
Then raped and shot the milk of her murder

The coals of revenge and the clans of clarity
The separatists the occupiers the old seeking wise silence

The infant’s father staring out from whetted blades
The widower waiting tables for the nation of his exile

The infant grown up see how tall the night marching
See the gangs ground into rebels to season distant headlines
Azaleas bursting from palace barricadesNo

Noonly the infant
The infant and its wail was there ever such a peace

Published online in The Poetry Center at Smith College.


To L

”This morning will take some song.”

Long ago, life wrecked the dark’s perfection. Yet that perfection can return,
though words pass through us now like light through a leaf,

and one has to imagine each thing

like a kissed face. Butterfly wings: eyelids of the dead
that flutter open

in a daydream—

a flight that makes one wince . . . .Vanishing doesn’t tell the truth longer. Nor

the next day with its wobbly table at the filling station where self-servers
pump their own. The lover’s sorrow hovers

like a glass globe above a spike, treasuring within it a fragrance. Does
anybody really think their touch will send it plummeting,

shattering a prison? On the other side of an opened window, night is smaller
than the fear of those who veer among its corners. Time rains on each place

and the moments run off and pool where? If we could understand the
existence, say,

of just nine frogs staring from a rose . . . we who ruin the body’s limits (so
lamented and inspiring) . . .

The waters rise through waters, sink through waters . . .

It’s not accurate to say we take the fury that diminishes us, or that it’s mixed
with the daily dirt caking the fingers stuck in childhood’s mouth. The
meanings of human life are never disappearing,

only disappearing for us who can’t change with them.

We’ve studied, but who can prepare for the cores turned inside out, for our
own shadows

plunged into rapids yet remaining?

Published online in Ascent.



A blossom spirals outward over the meditating eye. Dog licks himself. Forgive. Dog sneaks onto his master’s chair.

Purple rabbit’s foot, why is there thought? Wind leans back in a rocker. No symbol fits a life.

The futility of houses simply passing for houses . . .

The clock speaks to the horizon, the pigment to the keening, the ocean to the footprint, the reckless window to the stone—

of the wilderness in law, of the casting off of futures, of the flowing in the granite, of the virgin deck of cards.

Now ten thousand time capsules lie buried worldwide. We walk between ourselves, with our bitter teachers and their wisdom. Love,

your letters never finish me. That’s our correspondence. Anything is possible but not everything.

Beneath the tripped-over, dislodged stone: a socket of black earth. A man repeats himself in different ways. Hear? On the other side of the wall, the rake-rake of a skater working up the hill toward Big View.

Is there a thinner, emptier thing than I

when I crave to be the brightness defining my shadow?

Pebble and moss on a bed of blued deadwood: each thing intricate, unique and general, combined admiringly—

yet a graceless wish,
missing sun and cloud, the god arrangement (mountainside).

Beauty comes to ash, morning light to ferns. Night teems with “What if?” Are you, too, stuck awake?

I split a green walnut: clear juice and milky meat, the odor of citrus. My love rolls on her back, her soles to the sky, black with earth.

Her talk draws talk from me I can’t draw from myself: When such wings are torn off, friend, wings are granted.

Falling asleep, I startle awake—to stop my fall from the first tree. A million years pass in my opening eyes, though I see now my dead father’s face.

Days without my lips touching hers, though we talk, we tease and argue. Loveseats in the park speckled with bird droppings. A girl kneeling on a skateboard in the street.

Where are you now, who lay across my shoulders like a plush fallen arras? You,

catastrophe. The elm doesn’t mourn the grove that once surrounded it. In the channel, anchored ships are still leaves in the current.

We must treat each other lightly, lightly,one thinks, alone, under island pines, We must, we are such weight.

Now the candle flames all lean one way.

That hat. That lamp. That hidden ticket. Each object has its moment to cry out: You’ve aged while I’ve aged, you’ve forgotten while I’ve remained, you don’t know about knowing. Come back, dust, to me, the one thing!

The tombs in the ground where archeologists sought gold . . . now refilled, brimming with gravel . . . And I have all these fine emotions!

So puzzling and remote, the beauty of wisdom—the offered kiss ignored on the landing . . . and at the Truth Commission hearing: laughter in the spokesman’s gravity. See the bottomless record, the plummet of our funding . . .

Climb higher, says the moment. Descend, replies the watch, and pack your things to leave.

A speedboat in the pasture. Birds mating in freefall. Every god weaves.

Pity the poet whose poems have been loyal.

It’s not your death I carry, love, but my idea of your death—which your death will strip from me should I live to meet it.

Twins greet a man between planes. One gets a kiss. The river, gray with filings, glitters in the clear morning. How can we not trust appearances?

Most of us is here in memory: the hurricane in a forest leveled, sawed for logs, cured or burned green.

Satisfaction? The tender hand loyal to here and here, the third superfluous coin, three peers and one superior acknowledging . . . Then comes sweet renunciation . . . and the hearts that could be ours: black, unquarried granite; an opened safety pin sewn into a jacket lining . . .

Says the roar in the cells, the baton in the mountain, the gold dust in the rampart, the hammock laced by vines:

Dignity should possess you like the wind, its cherry blossoms falling into litter, lifting.

They throw their mattress into the pool. Out with old sex! They watch it undulate seductively, sinking, sinking . . . too still on the bottom.

I write a reasonable verse to acknowledge the unreasonable—the evil that flatters me in this ambition, the truths I miss to make my point.

Hear the voice from under the rubble? May it interrupt the muse.

The alchemists believed metal came from a seed, the desire for one thing to come from another.

A bare branch blocks no view with character. Four crows then perch suddenly upon it.

Slow-flying moth, so small, insistent—my fierce clap blows you free of harm.

Someone’s talk and someone’s silence: the shadow where the campfire stopped
crawling along a twig.

Of the graft of me to you, of now to there, we believe you know all and try to tell. Thus
your light, moon, and these balconies.

Published online in Blackbird.


You Get to Hold

You get to hold Lisa twitching through dream, you
Get to hold what she can’t remember—no matter
How many fly-bitten acolytes, borne
To ancient teachings sequestered in sorrow,
Try to cure disillusionment with greater
Disillusionment. The courageous murderer
May burn his way into the future
Nightmares of survivors, but you’re allowed to leave
The gifts given in rage, the yellowed pities,
Beside the charred walls of just causes;
You’re allowed to forget true and false still exist
And that life isn’t simpler then but labors differently.
Fear may be the oldest part of us, lonely
With the dogma claiming now is Monday, 3:14 a.m.,
But you—you’re also possessed of as much peace
As the generations in an inch of limestone,
And might be a little thankful not to see
A pieta in each kindness, and to think no question
Beauty stays though every beauty fades. Stay awake
A while longer, then, to her hip against your hand;
Hear the obscure summary in her next breath—
Only a god suffers with understanding,
And you’re spared that trouble now. Be still.


Love Might Utter the Only Verse That Wouldn’t Insult the Dying

With each other, let’s be simple.
Place a blossom on the tongue.

With each other, let’s be ample.
Shut that history without a mark.

Let’s be humbled like all temples.
Fire tugs the air around us.

With each other, let’s not gamble.
Let’s hold back, this time, from Fairness.

A tangled string of keys. And their locks? The ants ignore the stale trap, streaming toward some cryptic sweet.

Don’t sit with me. Don’t let me argue further. Leave me to the ink bottle and the morning mowing men, their necks studded with sweat-fed pimples, barking instructions over full-throttled motors.

Leave me to the stratagems of sinister confessors—self-improvement!

Get on through your best work and forget us until nightfall.

The gladioli droop.
Out they go!
And their murky, malodorous water!

No mourning our transience in theirs
(Sorrow would be inescapable)
Though they nonplussed us,
Blazing in the farmers’ market bin.

Remember when doubting my love for you,
For anything, proved to you
Our passion was intelligent?

Your face withdrew into unbroachable darkness—
As though down a well, or mythic cave—
Yet remained
Untroubled as we spoke.

We must take our nerve elsewhere.

That man on the beach flying the two-inch kite
Pulled from a cigar tube:
He’s our muse.

And that tire tread along the sand
Like the spine of an ancient fish:
A fossil
Until the next wave.

The hour can’t say how it becomes a day, a day a life, those gestures that are ours, not ours to observe only.

Love might countenance our gift, if we have one. We might hold its body in the night and thus the darkness. We might turn around at last and see that this is what the forgotten looks like, though we are not yet forgotten—ever taught, ever groping, crowd of ourselves in the gold wind.

The rose opens to our room tossed by loving.
It forgives us jobs we’ve had to part for.
What does it know about care before clippings?
Beneath the slot, mail sprawls—silence without us.
We’ve caressed the python at the children’s zoo.
We’ve swum in rain, the old us.
We keep our dalliance with perfect solutions.
The rose craves tact, its radical priest
Executed by partisans and resurrected by rhetoric.
We overthrow its piety, overthrowing ourselves.
Who can tell it? We dressed like mortals and drove away.


You, There, Listening

You, there, listening
For the poem to speak a truth
Useful for the nights when one, surprised by a diagnosis,
Lies planning his funeral through vengeful tears—
Forgive it if it speaks of the gold dust of spring
Seeding the laces of boots.
Poems are as impolite
As they are perceptive, as beside the point
As the actual. Their gold sticks to unsuspecting hands
Tying and untying two ordinary knots
Then grasping other hands and objects.
What else can we offer
But our secrets and their failed understanding?
The surprised one lies alone with his vision—forever.
He craves comfort, while the poem strives to imagine him
Laboring to realize those knots will outlast him.
A poem’s wilderness can make you mad that way.
So that, stuck with it,
You go to him, maybe,
And try to give what no poem can.

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