From  The Vow/Music of the Big Top

I’m dust.  Pick me up.

Go ahead:

I’m not poison

nor truffle,

just pricked to good use.

If you open I’ll flop

to the right place:

grape to your mouth, there,

it’s placed, guest

under your tongue, I’ve

said it, you’re said:  Pneuma.


lift me up.  I’m a child set down here,

lost and hankering.  I’m a lion equally lost.

My roar is radar.  You bounce it back.


where are you?  You’re cotton

to my fields, bones

in the bag; the ghost

absorbing hymns and curses alike,

flown into your pores

and sounded back as silence.

So why write this?

Real people are burning,

there’s hands over mouths,

smothered cries, then smothering

of the answering cry, severing

of the witnessing ear:

an endless reverberation

of the never-heard.

I’m silence inside it,

there’s a noise rising up

as dust from the circus, where

elephants tramp the ground

not from love but bald duty; bright mirrors

have fallen, they’re twinkling down here,

reverse stars, tumbled graces:  resolving itself

into you, bright fog, muffled

bell:  you’re my furry cloak,

all my lost

animals returned, swirling at my feet

and resolving

into form beyond form:  transparent

one, I see now what lights you from behind,

you never meant to cover it

only to walk the hills with me

and plead for a bit of pity

before the heat pulled us

in separate ways:  Go now,

I understand you

better, am sorry

I pulled the forgetting cloak

so tightly

I could only enjoy

the feathers drifting around my legs:

Go, the damage done,

the plumed thing shot from the sky,

go soothe the wound the sun makes

and I’ll equally

move, an arrow of opposition,

hot where it’s cool,

soothing where it burns:

an everlasting seeking-out-the-hurt-place



No Boat

I am

left, bereft, without a boat;

no line will reach me. What then

does space push forward for?

Where are my hands? What yields?

Whose girl am I?

What doll will you toss in the bushes? Whose

ashes reign?

Is there a furrow

where we can lay the grief down?

And it will rise up:

Coiled, it will gain strength.

Then the grammar will tie in, join with the shining.

It is a knowing, a storied container

where our knowledge lies safe.

As culture unwinds, so does its grammar.

Now let us not speak of such, for our task

is to sing the new rising.

Sing of sheets of pain lifting off and dissolving.

Sing of the sun’s nearness and the pupil’s willingness

to bend to its task. Sing

how the garden vibrates in surprise as new green stalks the light.

Sing the quiver of dirt, overturned gladly in this moment.

Let the cat’s cold  nose

nudge the small flowers open.

Let all now find its quiescence. Let every edge

be marbled with delight.

A Wasteland

A twang of orange

a deep well of coffee, tuning the brain,

making possible all texts.

I stroll

the deck, alert to the sounds

grass makes as it snaps

from the tread of  eagles’ feet.

I can now

seek out the space

right after the afternoon air has been combed,

plaits spread out by the proud mother we are.

Look, we say, time, time, and

time, tufted, colored of hay,

lifted and fallen back

down the back of a girl

who will carry it with her as she

walks into a field.

Braids bouncing not heavy and not light

with her tread, which is that of

a no-longer-young girl bearing our moment

forward into time. If we don’t know

how she will survive it, it is because

we don’t know our own hands.

There is no shape for what we have done,

how, together, we have molded

the firm air into a wasteland.


She Speaks

So. You’re arguing with me about time. I had to turn the volume down just to hear your honking. Which seems to prove your point. Just in the microsecond where the silver dial twirled, you were triumphant. As if talking about time made it real. I say, take your talk and your time, and roll it all down a big hill.

Meanwhile, I’ll retire. Yes, it’s me again, so bring out the brocade pillows and the green silk gown. Wine at midnight; jewels from admirers, so way back they’ve blended into one pair of brimming eyes. Very well. You can have your myth. I’m grown beyond it, but parade the good things once in a while to make peace with appearances. Not to keep them up; they will rise and glitter on their own. No: because I dropped this ball in this alley, and dogs will run free. If there is no ball and no bait, they would have to find one. I have been hired to do something, and I intend to give the sweet heaving world its money’s worth.

There is no more dew on the branches outside. I have rinsed my mouth.

You thought I was gone? Tossed aside? Ha! I take industrial waste daily, flush out my system with oil slicks, wear the lights from the derricks as my jewels, line my eyes with strip-mined coal—I’m not fussy. If this frightens you, well, go sit in some lavender and sip some decaffeinated tea. I’m busy, and intoxicated with all you thought was lost. I’m no snob. Shopping at Target will do.

And the music? Seeping out of the black earth, conjured out of the  gutter of every reeking city. When it’s truly heard, you’re free of the highstrung sky, free of the blackened toe. I’m soaring in between: surfeited.


The Beehives of the North Sky

What would you do inside of me?

There is an empty place that fills with liquid.

There is a room that turns its head

when you walk in. I want to sing to you

in a voice made from that room.

I want to enter you like entering sleep.

The water closes over our heads

and the windows are graceful

with our everyday imprecations.

A feathered rain, a crooked elbow,

an aching branch, a jar of water

and a swarm of roses:

I don’t know who we are,

but we’re blooming