Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2012 v11n1
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At this moment,

a yellow sky to the west, dark eaves of roofs, splashes of pink.


A pebble to mark your joy, a clump of wet earth to stay your pain.

Bound stories, the kind that keep many parts within

And then there are those that burst any tendency toward being bound.

Bad horse!

(I’ve whipped my heart wild with caffeine.)

The news from Bahrain:

tear gas makes the cake spicy.


A mud-walled shop doing a brisk business in candy and gum.
Care for a chiclet?

Are the words chasing her around?

(It wants to be said. It wants her to say it.)

Be a river: slosh sea

Because of their cult status,

the Murakamis are kept behind the register. When they’re shelved in alphabetical order, with the other books, they’re stolen. Together with the Beats, Philip K Dick, and Neruda.

I could have guessed.
(But I wouldn’t steal a book.)

I can’t say that I had no idea, but I’m startled just the same:

Beethoven, too, is a mother.
I yearn for him at the nexus of his weavings: a blanket like no other.

Because our bodies have met in the middle,

quietly overcome and adamant,
my own hands touching, like old soft sheets, are touched.

Caitlin said she likes my use of the exclamation point.

I think she could say a little more than that.


Exchanges “good” and “well”—but knows the difference.
Fluent in two dialects, proper and street.


If I could bring you some, I would.
They come from bulbs, you know.

Dig them up wild and domesticate them on your porch.

Dancing may fix what might have been nixed.

Delighted to be a cog
(in certain circumstances?)

Think of the cathedrals.
Who were you in the enormity of their construction?

Big fish?

Do sisters have sex by laughing?

Is a comedian a sex therapist?
(Is that comedian your sister?)

Do you only pretend to understand

or are we under the very same illusion?

This encounter is human.
(It could be no other.)

Drinking crap coffee. Is all coffee crap?

Sometimes, you want to taste it burnt.

Sometimes (only truth in fragments),
the sun falls right.
Standing opposite, each of us on a high cliff.


One more sip?

Even small waves are still waves

You wait for them to peak, you watch them crash.

Frederick Douglass: “it is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”

The man

Most mornings, our paths cross on the incline: he pulls a suitcase.
At the top of the hill, I turn and watch him descend, quite certain he spends his nights under tall trees.

(I sleep in a house but sometimes wake up feeling lost in the woods.)

I can’t unzip or shed you

I cry for being left out,
I cry harder when let in.

But most of all: I love to give things away.

You’re a presence woven of air

Do you sing songs as you plant your rice paddies?


Do I know some of these women or is it just that they wear the same outfit and hand me styrofoam cups of tepid coffee flying east to west?

(aiming to round the world’s edges)

Almost December

While she positions and presses my breasts, readjusting, she gives me her recipe for the stuffing that, she says, was gone by Friday.

Breathe in, breathe out, breathe in again. Now hold it.

I’m free and saved.

What kind of freedom is that?

To be saved is to be held.
To be free is to fly.

How can you fly, hoof held in a hand?

Generally succeed in convincing the other part of yourself of something you know is not true?

You held the hill
Shouldn’t that be enough?

Ever tie yourself in wire to prevent bleeding?

Gravitate east and west to the rivers when looking for fresh air?

The sameness of grid accentuates small differences.
Be the grid upon which change registers!

Do I give birth prematurely?

(Are all my babies underweight?)

If you were a pawnbroker, would you accept gold teeth?


Take leave of yourself every time the barber snips?
Say goodbye to what’s left to be swept?

Have you ever disobeyed orders?

(erased a map’s lines?)

He came as a bright idea:

What to do with a life?
Make another!

Even the word numinous is beautiful.
Like luminous, slightly altered.

How I feel?

In the whirlpool, head above water.
Still breathing.

Sometimes her eyes look watery.
Is that a function of blue?

Something someone said or didn’t say?

Always upstream from you

—it’s the nature of this game: I muddy your water.
But then, again, you run the stream backwards, muddying mine.

Pleasant, hardly a pastime for peasants.

How to touch someone else’s pain?

(only by dipping your toes in your own)

Sometimes use lumps of sugar to close a dead man’s eyes.

We once had real enemies

Where have all the mastodons gone?

I can sit with these sadnesses

earthing me.

I don’t want your private life, I just want the savor of your intimacy.

We dip our hands in together

(The light in our eyes illuminates the drops.)

Seen against the backs of your eyeballs, everything becomes your own.

(I love my sister in emeralds!)

If you were going to use manure to fertilize,

would you use that of an herbivore?
A zebra? Maybe an elephant?

Is it normal to be sad when the movement ends?

I guess it throws us back to a discussion of normal.
(Better just to skip to the adagios.)

It hasn’t begun to rain yet, but it will.

My friend fears a life without hands.
Hopes she’ll have the mind (and grip) to twist off the top and spill the pills.

Kandinsky wows me.
Woos me, too.

But mostly right now, I’m just waiting to stand under the mistletoe.

Looking for rituals (not sea passages)

I didn’t know that boas are impervious to body wounds, but that makes sense.

(Just a native, scrounging trinkets.)

Mastery and closure undermine invention.

Keep it open! Keep it raw!

Animals grieve, I guess.
But they don’t pray.


the underside of every thought and the underside’s many undersides

Begin with a discrete entity, double it, and so on.

Asses are not made for chairs.

There’s very little not touched by a version of the domino effect.
(not speaking of communism)


What about the women who already eat chocolate every day?

My friend tells me:

her heart beats too slowly. Its slow beat wakes her up in the night.
She waits for it, counting, not breathing.

My legs are odd.

Trying to keep them in mind.

My intruders

arrived in the middle of the night, toward morning, with bags of leaves and things the people in the houses wanted to give away.

I offered  them sleep on my sunporch. 

My memory: not the kind that would help a cop.

My sister, likely preverbal
when my father hoisted her onto Laughing Sal’s back and made her live with the mechanical shudder.

And, get this:

I know someone who had distemper—she caught it from her dog.
Thing was: No one believed her but a single (Vietnam) vet.

Once so hungry, I ate a leaf.

Remember when you carried a brown bag, top folded over, with your name penned in your mother’s hand?

Sometimes have a hard time catching up with your shadow.

Interview with Joan Didion

You can taste her humility not just between the words, but between the syllables.
As she wets her lips, trying for accuracy, you taste her saliva.


His shoes, her dresses.

What would you not be able to give away?


Joan Didion laughed—hurray!


You think that unable to buy bread, you’re poor.
But there are those who can’t afford to smell it.

Practice not being yourself
(from time to time)

A knee is a hinge, it allows you to move.

Without your hinges, how will you get from here to there?

Sometimes, even in battle, cows are given a reprieve.
One more night of sleep, one more dawn before slaughter.

She let me become mute,

(torrents of words piled at her feet)


All those feet and hands, hair flying!
Every one possessed of an open mouth.

Sheep turns to crow:

Whadd’ya thinkin’?

It was a complicated moment.
The destruction of the temple, the scent of burning wood.
No lambs or goats to speak of.

This conversation, my turkey and cranberry. My pumpkin pie, too!

The confessional mode puts a damper on gossip.

Do you feel the spot of entrance?
One year finds its way into another.

There’s a faster way to clean chestnuts

I knew there had to be.

Cutting closer to time, closer to the bone

I’ve changed butchers.

Would you step on lit coals?
(would it depend on your frame of mind?)

When I went to fill a glass with water,

I noticed that a priest was painting my house.
Working around the window, his eyes were looking up.

When the chef stopped dealing with carcasses on a daily basis,

his temper improved.

Think of a chef, cooking meat.
Think of the vegetable’s color, the fruit’s skin.

Kill to eat?

When the intruder intruded,

I was meditating.
I thought I was making it up.

Yesterday, I was bathed in dust

I dumped my father’s prayer book in the blue recycle.
Prayer books should be buried, or is it pots that need kashering?


You may not be the right person to ask, but what muscles should I be engaging as I sit on a chair?

I swam through a sea of jellyfish.

On every stroke, I felt a body. (Not every one of them stung.)

I gaze at them, grazing.

They stop grazing, and gaze.  

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