How I Became Hettie Jones (excerpt)

Sisters, right? (fiction)






Hard Drive

Saturday the stuffed bears were up again

over the Major Deegan

dancing in plastic along the bridge rail

under a sky half misty, half blue

and there were white clouds

blowing in from the west


which would have been enough

for one used to pleasure

in small doses


but then later, at sunset,

driving north along the Saw Mill

in a high wind, with clouds big and drifting

above the road like animals

proud of their pink underbellies,

in a moment of intense light

I saw an Edward Hopper House,

at once so exquisitely light and dark

that I cried, all the way up Route 22

those uncontrollable tears

“as though the body were crying”


and so young women

here’s the dilemma


itself the solution


I have always been at the same time

woman enough to be moved to tears

and man enough

to drive my car in any direction


(from Drive, 1998)


Lament for a Turkish Suicide Age 22

What she wanted was more

    school or a job, anyway

    she got herself a tight skirt


She didn’t want to live hiding herself


But her father burned her skirt

    and then three people beat her bloody


She lived just long enough to write

    that she wanted to die


and then she climbed some stairs

    and stepped into the air

    and left the fabric

    of her brief life

(from All Told, 2003)



My folder of poems

labeled “weather” holds

no clues as to whether

or not there’ll be any


weather to count on, say,

a hard rain like “little nails,” or

that deluge “plunging radiant”


now that we’ve plunged into war

and wars don’t stop like rain stops


like that last slow drizzle

onto the old tin bathroom vent


sweet hint of growth

in the soft wet drift north


fire or ice, fire or ice


are you breathing, are you lucky enough

to be breathing


(from Doing 70, 2007)