Friday, November 1, 2013

Where the Moose Was

She once took a picture of where the moose was. Not of the moose himself,
he was long gone before the camera was ready. But of that empty space
in the backyard, where he stood and looked at her with big confused eyes.
It was really something to see.

On New Year’s Eve we watch TV. Wait for a ball to drop. She nudges me
and points:  Guy Lombardo wants me. See. He smiles right at me.

She writes messages on the TV screen with black marker. They can’t hear
her words and who would be foolish enough to expect them to read lips?
She knows they see her. They always wave and smile, don’t they? They want her
to visit. She is sure she’d do well on TV.

There are people in the basement, she tells me. They come out at night.
Eat cookies. Leave crumbs on her bed. She puts on several blouses
all at once. The bed is layered with old towels, odd bits of paper, and dresses
too small to wear. Covers, she says. In case of cold or things that crumble.

She knows she has lost something. Keys, maybe money, her good rings,
words. Things disappear.  Her glasses have one cracked lens from the heat
in the oven. The nieces come and she offers them yogurt that she saved
in shot glasses. She hides extra coins in the knife drawer.

I watch her move in circles. Each gesture is still deliberate. She can’t explain it, but
like the moose she has places to be. She smiles and asks me my name again.

She is becoming empty spaces even as I watch. 

This poem was originally published in Rubbertop Review, volume 5, 2013

Sunday, May 1, 2011

How a Woman Can Be Frozen

My shadow has been swallowed cold
down the throat of this dark-winged

Stone silent fucker
unconsciously wrapped his fingers
insistent as any Tuesday
in the saffron ropes of my hair

kissed me like poets do
with kisses  of jasmine
and sorrow

Begin by putting ice in her mouth
the tongue grows still and her
words fall like rain    wash away

Set chill stones under her feet
flagstones of an ancient temple
then pull them away   very fast

Leave her no bath but the remnants
of uncontained green seas

The sticky wrappings of my feet
in their perfume
of aloes and alum and dusty pain 
are crushed
by the weight
of your last whisper:

I’m gone

There is a black swan
in the pond at the park
She refuses to mate

Did you know swans mate for life?

Some think it was the fireworks
that scared her
or scarred her

My eyes bleed ink His
are the still topaz of arctic ice

My voice is a pinprick of bells
easy to ignore at midnight

Once there was a golden ball
in the sky
under that moon
a two-for-one
a smaller moon
or a satellite
coldly revolving

in a neglected orbit

Have you noticed that the moon
is always full here? It never sets

Place one last hard word
in her mouth
to silence her

Wrap her in passionless sheets
until all the fever has left her veins

This poem originally appeared in The Centrifugal Eye April/May 2011 issue.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Heading for the River

On these walls ancestors gather—
wasp-waisted women,
one dark-hatted man—
staring down the years,
suspicious eyes, cat-slitted.
The young girl in white moves
in sepia pantomime—
now with bonnet and beau, next
with babe in arms, on and on
to the final funereal waltz.
A formal dance of daguerreotypes
whose names
even our parents
have forgotten.

      They whisper
in my dreams—
incessant crickets
cracking the quiet:
We wait for you.

You can chase down morning,
wave the thin red light of reason,
secure as anyone can be
in an Einsteinian now
but who do we really fool
with these bits of paper
and the ink poured out as black
as the corruption of oil
on doomed water?

        In the end we
will still be eaten by the dark,
left to sleep with stones and shadows
that lick slender fingers,
pull at the treacle moon high
above that Stygian flow where passage
is only two pennies for the asking.

this poem was originally published in The Coachella Review Fall 2009

The House is Always White

I still think of those houses, with their white
sideboards, thin wooden tables, the glass in the windows
beveled, reflecting clouds. But there was water

in the basement. It came up over wire shelves loaded
with canned goods, bottles of bleach, and discarded
board games of our childhood. We could no longer see

the workbench, only wrenches swaying like silver seaweed
on their pegboards, clinking underwater like the bells
of a drowned city. There were rows and rows

of hooks as well; but no matter where we hung keys,
they turned to rust. Even our carpets were
made of moss. Men came, took apart the stairs

and drained it all. When it was gone—we, too, moved.
The new house was also white: big rooms, more furniture,
quite luxurious, except for plates and cups that had

cracked, not much, a little chippage at the edges. I was
embarrassed and could not offer the salad around.
Never mind, the aunts said, while men carried in new lumber,

several yards of pipe: In case this one floods, too. No one
would stay. Some of the family had reserved hotels, though I
wouldn’t hear it. We have many beds, I told them.

And we did. Nice, if a bit worn. All with coverlets
of watered silk, sea green, storm cloud dark. Still,
even the children left without saying goodbye.

this poem was originally published in The Coachella Review Fall 2009

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Penelope Gives Instructions on Weaving and Men

First you shear the sheep.
You’ll need lots of wool, so that men
can’t follow what you are doing.
Always spin your own thread,
go slow. Even the Fatae,
Night’s own weird daughters,
work for years
to get to the shroud.
Set your dyes to match
the living room, not
the bedroom. Take time off
on Thursdays or Saturdays,
make your suitors move
furniture: shift a sofa,
hang a picture, haul away a bed.
When you warp the loom, be
certain of the tension. Keep them
at each other’s throats
for as long as you can.
In the weaving, strive
for perfection. Unravel and redo
as much as you can.
And when your errant husband returns,
chases the others away, asks you
to come to bed, go ahead and tell him:
Yes, dear, as soon as
I finish this bit of weaving.

This poem originally appeared in Heavy Bear, Issue 3.

When Persephone Ate the Pomegranate

No doubt she washed the dish.
It’s what women do when lost—
find something to clean,
to put in order, something
to hold and rock,
as we were rocked by our mothers
in their own sorrows.
He wouldn’t notice a clean dish,
only that she’d eaten—
a contract signed by ignorance.
It’s a thing men know:
that food, a roof, a bed,
the semblance of love,
is the price of a wife.
Who would have thought
that six ruby seeds could taste
so bitter? Sit so heavy?
The wintery accusation—
the stain of stale lust
on cold sheets—
just cold enough to freeze
an entire world.

This poem originally appeared in Heavy Bear, Issue 3.

Monday, June 1, 2009

The White Horse of Uffington

Forever broken, this curve of turf,
by lines deep carved
in centuries of chalk—
white as if some crazed garden path
circling to nowhere
ran amuck among the eternal sheep. 

Sheep farmers with pick and spade,
from below in the valley, come
as they have always come—
through lavender and mustard seasons,
past the iron hill fort they
come up from their fields.

Fields once oxen plowed, now
stitched together by railways,
pinned in the corners by roundabouts.
Here Roman legions once camped,
gawked at Epona’s steed, at her people
come to clear the chalk.

Chalk horse steady on the hill
as it has always been, seven year
to seven year. Wide now, the body,
then narrow necked—
one tender hoof stretched out—
running full tilt, forever.

Originally published in  Full of Crow, June 2009