Up North, the water was so cruel,
it drenched me with an endless sadness
a bay there, so cold and gray beyond the breakers
that I never got over it and have carried its silver foam
in my throat all these years. It formed dreams
at night that wounded and defaced my pillow
and put an end to rest. Still, year after year,
I searched this place for a sign that God lives
even as I live. I consulted alchemist and abolitionists,
wondered if they believed in each other.
It seems wrong to have to search for the blue
in water…easy to find in the veins, in bruises,
in the architect’s print. Van Gogh’s rain-soaked
landscape is only in dreams and visions.
Caillebotte’s oysters are alive, though still.*
*See Gustave Caillebott’s Nature Morete Aux Hitres Oystersand Vincent Van Gogh’s Landscape in the Rain.PAST WORK HAS BEEN FEATURED IN THESE LITERARY MAGAZINES:Adelaide Magazine 9/2017,Anti-Heroin Chic 6/11/2017,Blue Nib Literary Magazine 10/2017
It’s like seeing the video of
someone else’s vacation. It’s so
commonplace, still, you can’t look away.
The familiar images grip your
attention. This is not your vacation,
of course it isn’t, but you’ve been there—
that spot the camera sees: wet stone steps,
lush ivy on old walls, then a face,
half covered by shadow, lips forming
“I love you. Come find me.” You’ve been there
and that almost recognizable
face is one that lives on the soles of
your feet until it is dream time when
it rises to remind you that,
nearly always, when you awaken,
you are left with love’s entrails—steaming,
My keyboard faces a window;
everywhere I can see is sky.
Sky, make me believe in beauty.
Sky, make me believe I am writing
poems rather than beating the shit
out of words that may have had just
an atom of meaning before
I began hacking away at them.
The man next door practices
his guitar—hot, electric, loud.
Here’s a thought: If either of us
got pushed over our balconies,
we might be saved by hanging on
to the sky. I love this building;
no one complains about anyone
else. In the next building, a man
creates a symphony of cans
and bottles emptying into
a recycle bin, a sound which
lets me believe that a little
heavenly guidance and a drink
with each other just might save us
in a way that politics and
diplomacy have not. Maybe,
if we all grew geraniums
near our African Woodbine,
or conquered pain by going rump
to belly with friends, known and un
known…maybe if we named our babies
*Melantha, Yonina, or Almasi,
then we could manage our worlds
without armor or fear. The sky
flows over my keyboard. It speaks
of chimera, of costs, of prayer.
The great nations will remain unmoved
by these words. Oh, I can write them:
but I can only imagine
that such words might arm us, stain us
with a sense of our own audacity.
Deliverance floods Hollywood
Boulevard, I hear it rush by.
Shroud me, Sky! I’m sitting here
In my earrings and my sweet scent
Waiting for peace and perfection.
*Melantha means “Little Dove”, Yonina means “Dark Flower, Almasi means “Brilliant Diamond.”
FEBRUARY 20, 2006
My birthday today—I am 62 years old and have swallowed
whole the words of my sisters’ lives. I have seen them
make their way toward unthinkable horizons, to their beginnings.
Today I am thinking over all my own humbug and my magic tricks,
none of which have tidied up the rubble in my life. How can
a heart remain whole when it remembers everything?
How long did it take for me to learn that love could draw
a knife across my throat as easily as hatred or fear could do it?
I don’t remember. It took a long time.
When did I finally know that not listening was a kind of death
or what it meant to be lied to? An acquaintance asked me,
What does it feel like to be in your sixties? What a question!
For a moment, my whole dumb life stuck in my throat like
an unchewed piece of red meat. I was overcome with a
clouded passion for all I don’t know—don’t care to know.
(Whisper to self: So, what does it feel like?
Like I am a veteran of the local color here.
Like I am looking for a freeway to take me around the side roads.
Like I have been ravaged by what might happen.
Like I am lewd, screwed, and tattooed.
Like I can’t figure out how to live outside the betrayal of my body.
Like I have learned to arrive on schedule like the trains in Italy finally did.
Like I no longer have to stomach the foul atmosphere of rage.
Like I no longer have to practice a look of scorn, confidence or cool
in the mirror to get it just right.
Like it will all turn out fine, with everyone learning something
from this experience; with the music rising up in the background
and each of us looking meaningfully into the camera.)
Today an apostolic rendering is all I will own up to. I might own up to
a five-year longing I once had for a dark-haired rock and roller with a head for
computers and hands for me. But, you don’t need to know all of that.
Your interest lies in the demise of those things, not their ability to
skirt the limits of the living. You want to know if I’ve pulled away
from being perfect, if there is any hope for you to do the same.
Ah, my finders, keepers, dreamers, weepers! The reflections of
our mothers stand behind all of us. They reneged on their promises
and will unstitch us on our way to heaven—birthday by birthday.
SADIE TELLS THE STORY OF HER LOST LOVE
TO HER LOST LOVE
In the morning after the storm, I walked
to the place where the swans stoically
protected the lake’s dark water.
The masks they wore hid their
true selves. I could not see their
wickedness but I knew it was there.
Royal White Mutes, Coscorabas,
Trumpeters and Bewicks—each of these
inclined to bite, to bloody an arm or ankle
with a hurtful kiss. I sat on a bench,
facing them and remembering…
trying to remember what beauty felt like,
what it was to be so lovely that
the eye’s sclera was graced with its intensity—
an almost violence, that sort of beauty;
a beauty that can be forgiven nearly
anything. Oh, I could not make
that memory fit myself though I tried.
Our maculate love was long past as was
the bud and blossom of my attraction.
We floated, dipped, flew only a little.
When we left the water, I saw you
working the grass, mouth slightly open
and ready to snap, body readying…
A shakedown, a preening, a low sound
as you intertwined your fingers with mine.
TWO POEMS FROM “WHERE IT GOES”
CIUDAD de LOS ANGELES CAIDOS
Abandoned spirits crowd these streets.
They wander off to the destinations
they missed while alive. They cross lawns
and parking lots like stray thoughts.
They’ll not help you pick the winning numbers,
nor guide you to your life’s work.
They wander off to the destinations
they missed while alive. Their tears are
traces of obsidian, nearly invisible at night
except for the glints they gather
from the stars.They emerge from the
trickle of water in the Los Angeles river,
whisper among themselves
in all the city’s languages. They are shadows
and eyes, blown hair, mindless hands.
See how they hunger for human attention, touch?
You can’t call them back. They were never
here. They cross the plaza near Union Station.
The broken tiles, bits of grass and old wood
speak of friends lost, years lost.
They smell the trains and buses.
The nighttime, says, “Go back,”
and they do They wander back,
turn away from the destinations
they missed while alive. The sun comes
up and their silhouettes are brushed,
lambent with time’s pearl grain.
She tried to sleep. Loneliness
covered her and,
when she closed her eyes,
all she could see was his mouth
coming toward her mouth,
then stopping just short
of the kiss she craved.
Through the curtain
of silence that was night,
there was a sound
like the knocking stick
of some monk outside
on the sidewalk.
So, she got up.
Out on the patio,
she weighed the night sky,
the clouded wink and flash
of smog-sticky stars
as if studying a soul
or the Talmud
or Sumerian tablets.
She was learning nothing,
she told herself,
I’ve been thrown out
of The Garden;
the best gig in town.
Back in bed,
she curled into sleep
and dreamed of red lipstick
she saw on a poster
in the subway,
and of age
slouching toward her
across a field somewhere.
Standing at a stoplight
I watch the old woman
piss in a doorway.
Her hair is dirty.
Her clothes are dirty.
Her feet are cracked.
drops a dollar bill
at the hem of her skirt
and moves on, whistling,
headphones firmly anchored
on his ears.
A block away,
the banner on the front
of the Methodist Church
ALL ARE WELCOME HERE.
It sports the rainbow symbol.
The air is heavy and
smells of gasoline.
I am standing at a stoplight
On Hollywood Boulevard.
I’ve ever known such happiness.
See your life as allegory, as discourse.
Though you are not right in your mind,
the innocence of your childhood is evident.
The rosy redness of the atom bomb was
not your fault. Pull your coat close
around you to keep out the chill of reason.
Keep gloves on at all times to resist
sanity’s frostbite. There is no earthly place
to receive you now. All that you fear
will come true. Marie LaVeau predicted it.
She stood at the edge of Bayou St. John,
sang, “As the nails of the dead
continue to grow, so will whatever love
you leave behind you.” Keep yourself clear
of sophistication. Keep clear of cool.
That shit will envelope your life—
your life as allegory, as discourse.
Do you know that anything easily discerned
can be easily destroyed? It’s true.
Walk your milk-white body
down to the end of the driveway.
Stare into the cloudless sunset
and you’ll soon greet the Four Horsemen,
come for the Rapture:
Fast Food (dark bay),
Global Warming (chestnut),
And Cacophony (pinto).
There will be revelations. There will be
distortions of revelations. But you—
you must continue to gather
the splinters of yourself and see
the end product: a life, your life,
as allegory, as discourse.
MID-FEBRUARY LATE AT NIGHT
Intimidated by the glass,
I reach to touch a near-full moon
suspended on a near-black string.
It strays across tonight as I
have wandered across blank paper,
decorum over and done with.
The strange bones of my hands find their
own way (hasn’t always been so).
Outdoors, the moon lights up the dirt,
hides behind clouds that start to spill
rain. The environment reeks of
failure and I, unmoved by its
intent, start to despise the rain.
I have stood in this place a long
time waiting for shame to produce
the wild, tender thoughts I’ve called up
in the past. Where is the book I’ve
not written? Where is the house and
the barn I saw when I slept then
wrote about when I woke? Where are
the lumbering animals that
will find their way back home and the
farm wife in her wrinkled jeans and
patterned apron? Maybe they’ve been
cast upward into God’s shadows.
I reach to touch a sky that has
filled my life with false promises.
The old olive tree looks so cold.
Soon it will be Spring: warm, blameless.
I’ve buried my dead and, still, they come back to me, breathing
their names in the dark. I try to hold on to them, hugging
their ghostly bodies to mine as I hold yours to mine. I beg
my sad ghosts, stay stay to give me time for amends. It is
their revenge to drift off before enough “I’m sorrys” can
leave my mouth. True, before forgiveness, there must be regret.
Kneel for one, stand for the other. If the sprits refuse,
I ask Our Lady of Sorrows. I reach far back behind
myself to the old ways. The Precious Blood and Mother winks
in gold from the cover of an old prayer book. I open
its pages, thin as moth wings, and sink into the comfort-
able aged words. There are many more contemporary
books of prayer, but they don’t list the stupendous grand prizes
won from praying as this one does.
Recitation of the Seven Offerings
300 days indulgence. Plenary indulgence once
a month under the usual conditions, if recited
daily—granted by Pope Leo XII, September 1827.
Say the prayers, close the book. Souls and dreams are the same things.
If I sleep finally, will I wake up as a different being,
pure of spirit, forgiven? I don’t think so. I think I’ll
awaken with my brain steeped in mystery (a weak tea),
and Fear, that ancient prime suspect, making a clearing through
the tall, dusty ragweed of my burned-out memory.
My father used to say: Not everyone casts a shadow.
I believed it was one of those things adults say; one of
those things only deciphered after you reach thirty and
are allowed to understand everything. You’ve heard
At 56, I’m still not sure what that means.
But shadows…shadows are different. Nobody talks about them.
Though they are faithful, staying with the guy that brought them,
shadows get little attention. This is also true of God.
God is different than he used to be. He notices less now.
Once, it was up to God whether or not you got a shadow,
or kept it once you had it. Now, it’s haphazard.
My father had one, so did my favorite uncle. My mother
and her sister each had one. Mother’s was long and thin
and preceded her down the hall at bedtime. Aunt Ersta’s
was round and mean. You never saw it coming. I am certain
I started out with one, then lost it somewhere and it has
remained lost, unless, of course, it was found by God and
reassigned—the way they reassigned James Dean’s shadow
after his horrible car accident. You remember…
The new Jazz Age
reeks of dissatisfaction,
gathers useless tools and useful friends,
invests on the margin,
contributes to the Red Cross,
drinks raspberry vodka,
toasts the Cossacks and the Beatles,
spills expensive perfume on the neighbor’s duvet,
swirls Cabernet in a stemmed glass,
separates conjoined twins,
and too full to notice.
I’ve heard this time of day called “the gloaming.”
It nearly rhymes with “moaning.” The sky looks
like feta, smells like it. It is a time
of too many TV commercials and
too little spirit and painful, grumbling hunger.
In the window across the alley, I see my mother.
She stares back across the alley at me.
Incurable aloneness trembles at the corners of
her mouth. Her arms are wrapped around herself,
fingers touching her own shoulders.
“That,” I say out loud, “is what loneliness looks like.”
All my life, I have hated her for showing it to me.
Mother has taught me how the dead rise:
her own soul, soapy steam fogging
the window until I can no longer see her.
I go into a dream:
a room so dark, I can barely make my way
around it. In the blackness, I find a full-length
mirror and stand in front of it.
In that compacted darkness, I can see
myself, hands—like the ocean—glistening.
Much later, I look at the window across the alley.
A young Asian girl stands there eating ice cream
from a green bowl. Her hair,
dense and unbearably beautiful, does
not lift in any breeze. Her tongue
is a diamond in the obscurity of her mouth.
available at the Bookstore on this webpage,
This is a photograph of the man next door
weeding his lawn. You see how he smiles and
waves a gloved hand? We exchange waves and that’s all.
There is a box cutter stuck in his heart but
you won’t see it in this picture. There is no blood,
only sweat on his shirt.
This is a picture of my friend, R,
reading a Stephen King novel while lying
on the sofa at her mother’s house. You
can’t see the gag on her mouth—how it keeps her
from saying what should be said. The gag is red.
It looks like lipstick.
This is a photo of the painters who are
livening up the face of our building with
mud-colored paint. Our windows are covered in
paper. You can’t, I’m afraid, see the guns in
their hands; they look like paint sprayers.
This last one is a photograph of a field:
wild lavender and ragweed, wasted grasses
that are so dry and feathery, they have nearly
turned to dust. In the corner you can see a
bit of Silverleaf Nightshade. What you can’t see
are the two children. Their mouths are closed,
and their stomachs growl; their black eyes stare at
the sky. You can’t hear them asking where is God.
They look like small piles of clothing.
But that is why I am here with the pictures:
to point these things out to you.
NOT TO FEAR THE DARK
I’ve learned that night sounds are the ones that
carry the signs and portents.
The voices of the future come dancing out of the dark
like bits of ice from the sky.
The voices speak softly, remind us of our regrets,
hold out our wishes the way Eve did the apple,
pleading “Be brave with me, taste.” Night opens the ears, sings songs of our fathers and mothers walking behind us,
steering us to the confusion and risks and pleasures of this life. This is why we mustn’t fear the dark—
not as children, not at the last moment of our lives.
It is in the night that our indecencies fall away
and our prayers come up out of us without tangle
or torment. I write this to you now so you’ll know
not to fear—not ever to fear—the rippling cloth of night.
It belongs to you. It always has.
이카루스의 가을 (THE FALL OF ICARUS)
New York, 2011—Hana Lin, 26, fell from the balcony of apartment 2640 at 101 Warren St. and landed on an elevated, park-like common area on the fifth-floor roof of a Barnes & Noble, police said. No foul play is suspected. Investigators haven’t ruled out suicide
I gained weight on the way down,
maybe a thousand pounds.
They say you gain weight when you
fall from a high place.
I, who was careful about my figure
most of the time
cartwheeled past the 15th floor,
mourning my days
without chocolates or ice cream.
Oh, I made toasts with the best of them,
but it was with Lite Beer.
A slim figure
counts for something,
don’t you think?
The air was cool from the
open window, the view spectacular—
TriBeCa stretching out and around,
lit only for me.
Why should I not want to own those lights
and reach out to stuff them into my eyes
and mouth (as if they were
as I tipped over and over in the dark?
Like a one-ton piece of chalk,
I tumbled, watched as windows passed,
and wondered if I was in a dream,
would wake on the couch
when I came to the bottom.
But it was a bookstore roof
that stopped me,
not a couch or a friend shaking
my shoulder, laughing at my
I heard the rustling of pages
as my smudged mascara
and Exces de Rouge lipstick
found the 5th floor,
is writing about this.
The sliver of glass,
the sun so white, it thinks
itself a moon, this haze
that smells of a desert wind:
all these tell that
Fall is here.
“Are you ready for death?”
My mother said no,
said neither would I be.
I smiled at her. “O,” I said
“but you have not seen me
silent as stone, poised,
a tongue of fire over my head—
waiting for the Pentecost.”
After I had not seen you in a long time,
We met at that coffee place near the bait shop.
You said, “O you look so …I like your…”
I said, “I got them…you know that shoe store…”
You said, “My mom and dad sold their…”
The waitress said, “Who wants more coffee?”
In the glistening daytime, our hands fluttered,
we recalled that stretch of road in Fremont
where a big-bellied sheriff almost
gave you a ticket. You were respectful,
said “Yessir” to him, and, when we got away,
without trouble, told me you were scared of him.
I didn’t believe it at the time, don’t now.
I said, “I’m so glad you came.” A pause,
then you upended the day—paralyzed it:
“M”, you said, “what if all the bridges in
all the world suddenly fell into the water
below them on top of boats and ferries?
What if they all fell at the same time. What
would matter then? Would anything matter?”
I thought of my glued-together life:
the contracts I made, the slitted eyes
of the office, my long skirts shuffling through
the halls and studios, my manicured
nails clicking on keys. What were all these
if not bridges? “So what if they did?” I said.
“There would be weeping and wailing and gnashing
of teeth and then, so what?” You nodded.
Silent, we relived the day’s meeting.
“This weather is getting old,” I said.
“I like you in blue,” you said. We looked over
at a young black man just coming in,
his hair in yard-long extensions, rings
on all fingers. And then it was time to go
and we were anxious to return to
what usually kept us from each other.
I drove away, seeing you in the mirror,
As you bent down to look at something
in the gravel of the parking lot.
The sun looked odd, like it was shining through
cheesecloth, and there was a bad taste in my mouth.
Nearly there, I stopped at the side of the road
and threw up. I wiped my lips with tissue,
then drove on over the bridge to home.
Adam’s torso, it is said, was made from earth
taken from Babylonia. That may be,
but it’s all-fall-down time there now; it’s watch-out-
the-sky’s-on-fire time. The burquas are burning,
ogals and gutrahs are birds escaping flames,
escaping smoke and gunfire. Kaffiyeh fly
as well, but not far. Ezekiel’s fire would
be a tender release compared to this
vestibule of pain. I watch humankind’s coil
unravel. War turns us to confetti,
rain on a dismal parade. The proud Duranni Empire is ash
and shadow. Our restoration promises
reek of braised flesh and singed hair.
The Quran spells out equality. I think it means that all
sweet souls, gender aside, may die the same deaths.
Where were you when you heard the news?
I was at the grocery store buying tomatoes and wheat macaroni and reduced-fat shredded cheese. You see the implications here…
I was near the pool, drinking a gin and tonic, waiting for the moon
to rise. When it didn’t, I went inside.
I was practicing with the Irrelevant Playhouse players. We’re doing “Our Town.”
I was in bed with my husband’s mistress. She smells like cherry cough syrup. I love that smell.
I was walking the dog. I pissed all over myself when I heard the news. So did the dog.
I was doing the Elephant Mudra with my teacher, Yogi Brahma- Covered-With-Thistles. He’s very wise and the water is very salty.
I was fornicating with my soul’s darkest moments.
Where were you?
Where were you?
You see the implications…
First, there was a thousand years of famine,
then a moment of surplus. Death’s flawless
dreams waited for our silent coming. We
bloomed—black Narcissus on a bruised and
desecrated desert. We set the clocks
for the earth to explode under us.
We ignored the signs, transfused the wounded
with tainted blood and gave medicines that
dissolved the bones of our brothers. We cut
open our sisters’ bodies and placed bitter
leaves in their wombs. We polished our own hearts
with aluminum salts borrowed from the
cellars of devils. We delivered fears
and fevers and the certainty of God’s
malicious ending. Where death lay sleeping,
we woke death up to sort our morals from
our memories. We, the conquerors of
cracked earth and merciless yellow sky, moved
on without apology and death stayed
behind, where we left it. All this, all this,
we cried, we did for Peace.
I say the first story was yours, told as you stood in
the doorway; eyes sparking like a loose live wire.
The first story, an introduction, clapped its hands
and said “Pay attention!” Someone else was there,
I can’t recall who. We spoke of liquor and animals
you’d found at the shelter and ways of making food.
A story: some spirit, a ghost, drawing water
for a bath, where we read letters — pages and pages —
until the paper was heavy and the ink
dripping off onto our wet laps. You read at
your table, I at my desk. “Come here,” you said,
“come to visit me.” So, of course, I came to visit.
My story about Moose-Turd Pie and yours about
Paris and mine about a girl dying, told
on the way to somewhere where we had Irish Coffee
and saw what I thought might be blood-campion
on the side of the road ( but, no one knew flowers
and couldn’t tell us for certain what they were).
A story: there was a stream under a bridge
with a million tiny fish. We stood and watched
them before buying a paper and reading the
news about the prettiest ladies in the world,
all the Misses Universe, in their bathing suits,
all the prettiest ladies, waiting for the prize.
A story: how a man with flowers sat on your
front stoop, waiting for you to come home; how he
cried when you told him he had to go away.
“Lucky you,” I said. “No,” you said, “you’ll only know
when it happens to you.” I laughed because I thought
it never would. It did though. Lucky me.
This story: about a woman we knew who was
so crazy she told us radio dramas
on the telephone and rang off screaming
“Someone’s at the door! He’s got a gun! I’ll call you later!”
Then she wouldn’t — maybe never again.
We blamed our own memories for her madness.
A story: Maynard Dixon’s painting of 7 men
in a line. The Wise Men. I have told you how I
follow them down to their river or their sand pit.
I follow close behind them, pointing out the scenery,
asking questions until finally I stop,
abandoned in place and squinting into the sun.
Maybe I will spend the rest of this time in the kitchen,
baking and cooking and soiling pot after pot
with what there is in the refrigerator.
Who knows? After the wind grows and dies and everything
else does a vanishing act, we sit where we sit
and caress what we are with careful hands.
She cooked for them in the evening: green peas
and squash, some kind of meat and hard rolls.
A ritual of hands and eyes and
movements. Outside, the dark held up
the leaves of the camphor tree
like a silhouette artist about to begin cutting.
She thought of how much she wanted rain
and how much sweeter things would be if only
she could hear water dripping from the eaves.
In the kitchen, no one crowded around her.
The wine was the color of a river bed;
she thought of trout, of pebbles, everything
shining, everything wet. She watched her hands
setting the table. Something whispered,
“This is real. Quickly, save yourself!”
I am not doing good work.
Each day, I recede a little further.
I see who I was—standing
on an ice floe (which used to be
the Island of Blue Flowers)—
I wave as I sail away.
“Goodbye!” I shout to myself.
“Bear witness,” I call out.
“Tell all who will listen
about the way it used to be.
Tell how the price becomes
dearer and dearer and how
all must run for high ground
because the waters rise
before you know it.”
Back on the ice floe,
the woman who was me, nods
and smiles. “I will,” she calls back.
“You can count on me.”
I do not wish to be whole alone
knowing who I am but all by myself;
to say, “Is anyone here?” when I
come home and know
that no one is. I can’t revise myself.
I mean, it is a fine t hing to know
my own broken branches.
A fine thing. But not alone,
no please, not that. Current thinking
declares my passions null.
All vows are off it says.
You may be cold and cowardly,
but you, by God, know yourself.
Go grab the patent on that one.
Minds break almost
in the same way a heart does.
It just takes longer.
Even when a heart stops
expecting, stops waiting,
for sleep or peace or the
contrite word, the mind
does not. It stays alert,
on the job. It takes
the photographs, puts forth
the reasonable explanation:
Soon, the mind says, when
he has rested, when it is
cooler, when it is morning…
The heart has given up
by this time, has broken,
is shattered. But the mind turns
away from its own distraction.
It refuses to notice
the danger: the exposed root,
the shards of glass, the blown fuse.
when, at last, these things are irrefutable,
it breaks. Just like a heart—
almost exactly like a heart.