- Self, Distance
- Woman, Death Mask
- Beneath Moonlight
- My Dress Hangs There, 2010
- According to Beauty
- Sula / Be Soft Under Rock
(after Lars von Trier)
There’s a bride on the lawn of never-again.
The universe swivels like a woman burning
on a vine of moonlight.
A black horse kneels under stars:
:a swarm of hawks fall from light –
Don’t let them know,
slower. Slowly, says the Earth.
I’m dying in the memory
of what I was.
Next to the throne where we are waiting
for you to judge I sit you in a hardback chair.
I don’t tie you to its broken arms.
I don’t offer you torture, confession. Freedom.
You could only give me what you gave the scholars.
A chamber of vapors you named history.
I give you water. You do not see my blood in it.
I give you bread the rest of us cannot eat
because we gave our bellies to red crows.
I swivel a tambourine like a knife through air.
We nod in time to airless music, I wish it was blue.
I watch the scale of love tilt. I touch your hips
and you like that. You like my bones to want you.
In a solo you know the hymn and sing it
with your lips cold. Those are your lips?
Below we watch cities unfurl their flags
and you don’t blink when the children
fall out like mice, smothered thin.
I polish you with tar. I shine you.
I give you fruit after checking each seed
for poison. Here is a book about war I say
and you smile, taking it from my bloody hands.
In the government of dreams you are behind
on your paperwork. So you are like democracy.
You offer me the throne. We are waiting for
the servants to rinse the place where you
soiled it from your last visit. I have been standing
here for two hundred years by your side.
Even when you left me for another woman.
The smell of my singed skin is in the sky
and the rows of the harvest. I wait for your orders.
Mushroom, nimbus, tornado. Fire.
I hold a sterling tray of faces
waiting for you to make up your mind.
In my mind I’ll go five miles with you. No more.
Headlight from a woman’s limbs.
Really, it is brief illumination. A sort of bird
song & bird shadow. The root
of a cage becoming a cage.
A jolt & blot of stained steel
& running boards.
What meter could dissolve
the glare of impossible love?
The past was not a mirror on either door.
I could reflect the mountains
shrinking to hills, then youth.
Pain is a quill tipped with speaking.
Inside of the car a radio plays
& something nearly musical
runs ahead of the body
like a train against the lid
What is that heap on the shoulder of the road?
The finger & lip look rather homeless.
A nomad’s sign swings its population
of dust between broken lines. The crows of
wire scallop a white sky.
Memory is a burnt child
I carry on my back.
Woman, Death Mask
The face spreads beneath pressure of the dark. A house sits upright in a field of wild. Silence climbs the cheek & jaw, the thought curling on its side on the cold dirt. A voice locks itself in the oak tree. The eyelids pull back with no courtesy. Against cold dirt a word gets up a little and then falls forward, pierced by the pressure of the throat giving up.
For years I watched
a swell of nightmares galloping
along the garden wall.
My father would come home, untying
a weary bouquet, the smell of
God working his breath.
Hinged moths paused
upon beveled glass, solitude
a hundred waiting matchboxes.
Things have injured me.
All day & now the low night,
the night says it will always be
this way: the violence of nature
enchants its laws.
I’d hold a lamp near the window,
a child who polished saddles & bridles,
wiping blood & froth away
from the work of memory.
My Dress Hangs There, 2010
A woman puts on memory, pulls it over her hips, makes the bleak seam match the steeples of her legs. I hang mine up on the French door, watching the light shake me into flares. History walks around my body. Its knobby sweet hips twist in time with a score I bear. In the middle of this city I am between ruin and love. The space is a thin breath. I watch the street and dangle my shadow between two hotels. The woman called memory will never have enough blood to wear. But there is my tongue near the curb. There are the scrolls of my hair. The feathers I wore at my ears. A cat walks off holding a piece of my cheek in its mouth. In the street I listen to workmen whistle, looking up at the blue that is struggling to jump. Light through white silk on my pulse. The woman called history will never kneel at night. She will never pay twice for laughter, eat bribes or hearts. The woman named history can have any woman she wants. The loves of men are spared from silk. Any life. Any defeat. Across the way I watch her unloose moonlight. The height of skin for a while. And then.
According to Beauty
Beauty is the beginning of a terror
that we are barely able to endure. – Rilke
Under midnights you came, a hunter through memory.
It was memory that could please and betray. It was memory
that crawled and staggered, staging the deaths of beautiful words.
It was memory, distressed as a mirror, which shattered smoke. Face.
It was memory that bewildered the alchemy of the real.
I could never escape midnights or the remembering.
It was memory, a voice said. The voice belonged to everyone,
which made it into thunder. It was memory waiting in a corner
like a riff of selves in the dark. I am an outlaw woman
shadow boxing. My life too fast to bruise. It was memory
that killed my loves, burned my children, shamed the old country.
The moon was involved wherever wolves hunted.
Stars were gathered. Arrows piercing my shoulder. Luck fell silently
through the earth. Luck crawled wherever beautiful things lived.
Through fields of water I wandered. Ishmael,
as I fled the whale-skull. What salt gave me at dawn.
There were colors, textures. Under the hood of irreparable delight,
adorned in moths, I arrived. What is the name
for those who collect the beautiful?
A word for the gesture of seeing
but not possessing eyes? Sight ghosted or exorcised. An eye
that blurs as the selves, the burden of the I within
a flawless landscape.
Sorrow, from a dark cluster.
I stare at the way bars lengthen in moonlight
upon my bedroom floor where I once danced in a wind
for your lungs. You held solace, a small yellow bird,
to my cheek until it stopped breathing.
Whispers uttered between memorize and believe.
It was memory that gave me faith then unleashed termites
in my house, my body. It was memory that held
the faces quiet. It was memory that marched and saluted
my useless authority, mocking my splattered skin.
It was memory that cried for blood
and vengeance. Against the midnights
where the shutters of the law remained latched.
And it was impossible to know whether God was
I told you once about the woman
I met, huddled by a river. Stained yet polished
by rain and music. I always wondered why
she waited for the moonlight to disappear
before she revealed her face,
pronouncing our name.
Sula / Be Soft Under Rock
Robins fell along rutted roads. Breasts
shuddering like pummeled fruits
from the plague of a woman’s mouth.
All over the Bottoms language
bonded against its bondage.
When Sula returned, marked
with a hungry rose and red feathers
drifting from clotted clouds, a wild man
danced toward a collapsed mine of souls
where songs echoed like bats.
Shadrack won’t you sing your Always.
When Sula pulled Ajax back from his skin,
the surprise itself killed her. Loam
gushed on the sheets where they writhed
in their own glares. His sugar funk
salted newer wounds. Old things,
without flames, burst into smoke.
She surrendered to a man
who never meant more than a taste
of soil. Poison this thing inside you
that dreams venom. Tomorrow
would cling to a boy she swung
beneath the river in a dream.
Splay the valves of this heart, Sula.
Soft as a mollusk. Cling, like emerald moss,
to the underbelly of stones
way beneath black rivers.
Stiff robins beyond
that boarded window
in the bedroom. Twilight singed
a bowl of oranges
in her grandmother’s mind.
Softer tongues of
acid licking her. Love can kill
the flesh it craves.