Poem 12: Buddha

Gollum had it right.
“My precious,” he trilled,
eyes grown overlarge,
grasping hands stretched
thin and knobby —
the better to reach you with,
my dear.

If I could hold you tightly enough,
so tight seconds failed to tick
and light forgot to pulse,
we could claim forever.
The planets could circle the sun,
the sun the Milky Way,
the universe could expand
into a chilly and
breathless existence,
and still we would cling,

You are a better Buddhist than I.
You live with no expectations,
give freely,
understand the balance of love and pain.
You own nothing,
even though I would give you
the gold from my teeth,
the water from my cells,
the breath from my lungs.

If I could wrap my fingers around you
just tightly enough,
you could never squirt away
and swim toward
the whirlpool’s center.

Like Gollum,
I do not know how to love
without claiming,
can never know loss
without anguish.


Poem 11: Irish Jig

I am swept away.
Toes pointed, scuffling
unable to walk
but dancing
with a lightness that
like happy motes
in sunlight.

Where have I been?
Where did I go?
Where am I now?
I haven’t the wits to guess,
the breath to answer.

My feet prance on.

My mouth could never hope to lay shape
to these melodies,
speak this wordless language:
its vowels too delicate,
its rhythms too complicated
for my heavy American tongue.

If I close my eyes,
my body will dance on
and on,
twisting and gyrating
and meeting people whose names
I don’t understand.
When I open my eyes,
and who
will I have become?


In response to Katy Adelson’s “Swallowtail Jig

Poem 10: Black Animals

My favorite animals are the black ones:
Light gleams off muscles and rolls
like someone smeared their
precious hides with Vaseline.
Fur so shiny we can see into the
smarmy depths of our own prejudices.
An honest, onyx mirror,
curving like the darkest sky
from which the moon bites
crescent chunks.

The black ones know us,
see our rejection of our own
dark spots.
Still, they rub against us,
leaving tinsel-dark threads
that stitch together our
philosophical treastises and

When the sooty skies singe the heavens
and the stars have closed their winking eyes,
they watch us,
our shadows on lightless nights.
They see what we do,
smell what we know.
And when the sun finally rises,
they remain there, at our feet,
black pupils promising

Poem 9: Arachnophobia

the scratch of thin,
across porous drywall.

coating my tongue
in whisper-light webs.

skittering and skating
through my belly
and across my chest,
strumming taut muscles and
gnawing the back of my eyes.
My teeth rattle
in counterpoint.

some hyperbolic,
others too cutesy to cause any harm.
Anything but The Word,
with its six letters and
two syllables,
because six plus two
equals eight.

I am alone, envenomed,
cocooned in a shuddering,
slab of quivering flesh.

Poem 8: Dandelions: A Golden Shovel

“The other, wry virgin to the last.”
From Sylvia Plath’s “Epitaph for Fire and Flower”


Dandelions spark, languid and bright as the
Bumble bee sun. And the other
flowers nod wise heads, wry
in their delicate floral knowledge, virgin
to the touch of rough hands, to
the smell of rotting garbage and the
smoke of intentional fires. They slumber at last.

Poem 7: Inside Out

What would I look like if
you turned me inside out,
wrapped sharp fingers around my intestines,
drank the salty-sweet cocktail
of blood and bile,
chewed my wagging tongue,
poked and picked at
the gristle of my heart?

Would you write
shiny, red stanzas
with each pump of my heart
while sipping the unspoken words
clogging my throat?
Boil my bones in crockpots
with parsley and onion?

Would you crack brittle ribs
and gnaw through cartilage,
only to find my name
etched across my breastbone?
And would you say it,
or pretend you forgot
how to read?

Would your face grow greasy,
your knuckles red,
your knees bruised,
your tongue sated?
Would you use my finger bones
to pick your teeth?

Am I a feast before you?
A salty afternoon snack?
A sticky, steaming bath?
A bouquet of tangy odors?
A rainbow of fleshy indulgence?

And would the squish of my innards
finally silence the glittering
judgment that
shines and slices from scissored lips,
a scalpel against buttery skin?

Poem 6: Ode to Black

If I were to write an ode to black,
My words would flash and crackle
like the carapace
of an ancient beetle.
My fingers would tangle and weave
in black cotton clouds.

Patent leather cat,
jaws cracking open
on adoring air.
The room stirs the
jet stream of her black fur.

If space is not a vacuum,
why is it so cold?
And why do its dark pulses
tickle airlessness
and teach us to build
nothing out of something?
Blackness has a name,
flashing between bright stars,
and a purpose,
but I do not know
what that is.

Poem 5: 718 3rd St. North

Shame lived there.
Uneven, crumbly walls painted industrial white,
rusted metal shrieking when we flushed.
I used to glide on second-hand roller skates
down uncarpeted floor
that dipped and rolled
through dingy rooms.

And the cardboard refrigerator box
I called my castle.
I propped it up against cold walls, cut out a door,
and took countless meals and naps,
a short-haired Rapunzel
languishing in the dark.

Wrong side of town,
wrong side of the tracks,
wrong side of the
socioeconomic hierarchy.
I never invited anyone home.

I walked two miles to school every morning
and into the warmth of proud teacherly smiles.
My bright purple, fake fur coat
lay in mattes against my too-short polyester pants.
At recess, children trilled and grinned
through metal teeth.
I stayed inside as often as teachers let me.

Home, where the absence of my sisters rang,
where hostile faces leered through dirty windows,
where meals came in boxes from the church,
where the occasional gift from Grandma
turned us into tragic princesses.

My sisters came back.
My toenail fell off.
I bounced like a monkey
on the pogo stick my cousin lent me
and ate the Generic Sugar Snaps
that loomed in echoing cupboards.

Shame lived there,
and for two long years,
so did I.

Poem 4: Oscar

Eight pounds of ferocious,
ears perked into fleecy triangles,
tail wound into a clenched fist,
he howls at the monsters outside.

He howls at the monsters outside
as they creak and stomp through the world.
only the shrillness of his war charge
keeps his charges safe inside.

His charges safe inside,
voices low and growly,
unaware, unappreciative,
their fingers not yet crooked into combs.

Not yet crooked into combs,
but soon. Soon, they will rub soft ears,
scratch happy belly, safe, content,
and tell him what a good, good boy he is.


Poem 3: Eternity

Some people wonder what eternity
looks like.
I have seen it:
A squat, Mission style building,
adobe red and boxy,
huddling beneath
black, fleecy Florida clouds.
Into paneless windows
and across silent halls,
palm trees sigh breaths
no lungs will ever know.

Torches seethe outside,
less tiki and more gaslight,
hissing at wandering spirits
that flicker in and out
of oily shadows.

Fat and yellow,
the moon rages,
too bright for its size,
too small for its significance,
too important for its function.
It does not know it merely reflects,
an echo of what was,
passive and impotent
like the spirits
lurching through eternity.


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