Friday, September 30, 2011

Power needs our concessions

“Power concedes nothing...“

a nothing we’ve taken when we give
it the power to demand
more from us. But what if
we refused it? What if

not a few of us, but all of us,
refused its demands, unmoved
by its roar,
or its thunder, not afraid

of its ocean or its rain?

No water, no matter
how violent,
can command the sand. It can
only displace a tiny fraction.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

If you want new, stop talking old

Let’s pretend...

Was gets fuzzy until its bleached
bounty doesn’t give much
that matters;

Must can’t make a fuss about it,
its bluster’s dwindling
to short breaths;

Had has fled the trap: colorless
maps wrapping its bad

We shakes its slate, lines erase, but
the dots await clean

The end.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Unrest for the wearied, take two

A body at rest, remains
at rest. Don’t come here to rest,
but come. Come though they’ll tell you,
You can’t stay here. They’ll tell you,
Public walks are only public when
you're walking past them
. Don’t come
here just to walk, or rest, though you’ll want to
walk and rest. You’ll want to lay your head
to rest on the hard concrete, and look up
at the cold gray sky, the sky getting
this concrete wet. And you’ll wonder
how soon before they’ll tell you,
The air’s not yours. The water that falls from it
isn’t yours either. The oak trees and prairie grass,
we took for these towers, were long ago bought
and paid for.
They won’t like you to think
such thoughts, and they’ll ask you to go
home without them, if you have a home.
Why would you want to be
so uncomfortable? We can’t protect you here.

Comfort is all they can offer. Comfort
and security, at least for a little while longer,
as long as you don’t get restless.
When the rest goes, a body will move,
not on, but in unexpected directions.
This body might even ask herself
more unsettling questions.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Are there words? (Trying to get my attention)

They’re not sending me messages, are they?

By they, I mean these words.

I’ve told myself,
told myself more than once, in fact,
It’s just coincidence.

But the whole time, I’m thinking to myself,
If I’m telling myself this,
more than once,
once not being enough to convince,
I must not be convinced.

What should I call it,
the chance meetings I have with words?

They’re not everyday words.

They’re not even rainy day words
I’d save and savor to use later,
when the right occasion drops round and wet,
but words I never use,
not once,
and surely not twice in such a short time.

Take simony.

I couldn’t define simony,
but there it was,
and there again for me to find.

What is it?

I looked it up,
it’s, An act of buying and selling
ecclesiastical offices and pardons

Don’t bother using it in a sentence,
no one today could make sense of you or it.

Yet there it was, on the bulletin board
outside a cutout church, inside Canto XIX
and a puppet’s Inferno.

My mind’s tongue rolled it around, si-mon-y,
and it sounded as antique and mysterious
as the original poet’s Italian.

O Simon mago, o miseri sequaci
che le cose di Dio, che di bontate
deon essere spose, e voi rapace
per oro e per argento avolterate
or convien che per voi suoni la tromba,
pero’ che ne la terza bogia state.

It was too ancient to hold onto,
and I let it go wherever the words go
when we don’t want to keep them.

Yet there it was again, the morning after Dante
had wandered off into his deeper circles.

I don’t play eeny-meeny-miny-moe,
not one-potato or two, but I will let my finger roam
across the spines of my three shelves of paperbacks,
and like a divining rod, it picks what it’s drawn to.

It stopped on Dubliners,
and when I opened it, I saw
simony there again on the first page of The Sisters:

Every night as I gazed up at the window I said softly to myself the word paralysis. It had always sounded strangely in my ears, like the word gnomon in Euclid and the word simony in the Catechism. But now it sounded to me like the name of some maleficent and sinful being.

Seeing simony again, I didn’t feel the same,
but the feeling wasn’t dissimilar
to seeing the name of the one you love,
the way that name seems to show up everywhere
you look, though it’s not seeing so much as noticing,
at a time when the one you love’s name
is the only word worth noticing.

And no matter how commonly the name is found,
bound up with her or him, it sounds like
the name of some magnificent and sinless being,
a lot like Dante’s Beatrice,
come to think of it.

A few letters can also take dominion over a page,
when the word or name has a newness,
lacking the history and the intimacy of the familiar,
or the loved.

The first time Joyce’s narrator speaks,
I don’t know,
whether the child is a boy or a girl,
what particular age this child is,
how tall or short,
thin or fat, so the voice floats there
a blank to be filled in as I get more words.

The meaning of my meeting
floats with it,
but more words may not come,
and the old words are all I have to explain it,
so I tell myself again,
It must be coincidence.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Friday, September 23, 2011

An urban autumn's song

There are no harvests
here. There are no boundless fields.
There are lonely plots
cornered by sidewalk and street,
fanned by the limbs and leaves, green
and not yet feeling
the fall. When they drop, they’ll drift
and pile, and mark the passers
by, too hurried to notice
a fall came without yielding.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Lessons from foreign gods: Melia

Melia sits, sister
priestess in her
wooden box.

her branches rasp,
and with a scratch
she bleeds me ashen,
taking my sins.

comes as the honey
she drips back to me.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The wastes of green

I'd like to tell you its name, the name of the sickly green that glowed through its windows, but I can't.

I was in the back of the house, a house I'd known since childhood. The house looked over a a ravine that would run with fresh rainfall, when there was rain, when I was a child who ran through it.

Now it was dry, and the sloping ground above it was covered with a waste of wood. It was this waste of wood that gave off the sickly green light I saw. It wasn't the green of living things. There were no leaves. There weren't even trunks to hold the branches that would have held such leaves. There were only piles of broken grey wood.

It might have been driftwood, these piles of cracked and stunted branches, had there been any water to drift them. There wasn't any water. They were covered with a green slime, a slime that spoke of the absence of life, or a life most alien to the one that had grown up around me.

No smell should have reached me through the glass of doors and windows pulled tight, but I could sense its smell. The green slime covering the piles of wood smelled of a special kind of wasting, a wasting with a name I didn't have, and I still can’t give to you.

The ravens came to give it to me, that name. They swarmed to the waste, swooping down from a pewter sky. They hopped up the hill through the piles of sickly grey wood covered with green slime, until they reached the sliding glass door where I looked out.

The glass was pulled shut, as was the curtain, but the curtain was made of a see-through, plastic fiber, and I could see their ghostly shapes through it as they came slowly up the hill.

Suddenly they took to the air again, and one raven, the largest, twice as big as I what I thought a raven could be, hovered just outside the pane of glass. I could see its shadowy form there, and when it turned its head I could see the outline of its parted beak. Its great parted beak floated there like another pair of wings, and its tongue vibrated within as it sounded the name it came to tell me.

I couldn’t hear the name through the glass. I couldn’t hear any sound through that thick, shut glass door. I could only see the shadowy form of its enormous beak parted to give me a name I might not even know how to pronounce.

I put my hands against the curtain to try to sense the shape of the name's sounding from its vibrations. The raven humored me and hovered there a little longer. It hovered and loudly hummed this name while I tried with both hands to touch it through the pane of glass. The name was too big for my two hands that tried in vain to grasp it.

All I could feel was the curtain and its plastic covered in web, the silky, sticky cobwebs of too many years gone by, the weightless grabbing of our neglect. Then I heard my grandmother’s voice, the voice of my grandmother Rose, dead now for twenty years. It came from behind me, not angry so much as annoyed, in that nasal way she had of nagging.

My dead grandmother’s voice came annoyed, not angry, and it told me to get away from the glass. I had to obey her, it was her house. As I stepped back, the raven lifted away from me and away from the sickly green light, and it took the name with it.

That’s why I can't tell you the name of the wasting green covering the wood behind my dead grandmother's house.

I for you

How long can you pay for one
mistake, and by you, I mean
“I and you”
or “You and I.”

The uninterested books I read
looked at me and said for you
to compound it out
over a lifetime,
if I had the will
and capital.

I long mistook that one
you for an I.

I, for you, paid,
to cap it all.

It must have been my turn
to mistake it,
so I left you
to the others.

Other chances,
other places,
other times, too,
I left to you.

You’re not infinite, I know,
I’m just infinitely inclined
for another go
at you and I,
our blanks checked,
our books balanced,
and our accounts divested from false
superpositions of I and you.

Monday, September 19, 2011

I'll move with you

A leaf trembles, not
for fright or cold, but because
its light can’t stay still

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Lessons from foreign gods: Pooka

What took us –
a black horse,
overgrown rabbit,
goat or dog –
is a part of its hocus.

The pooka’s
all of these.

He’ll lead us
astray and afield,
back home and alone
to our own
many selves,
given we give him
his, our harvest’s share.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

When the Kimchi rings false

“Him!” she cried, her
Kimchi finished, and her
sour finger pointed at the dead and
dour ringer ringing a false
memory of a past between
them, for he was just the cook.

Writing our way home

The Writing Our Way Home blog, which interviews creative types, did me and nooshin azadi the honor of posting our answers to their questions. You can check it out here. Thank you, Fiona.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Bushes bow

When I walk so small
on this city’s whitened walks,
down among its tall
gray-black caverns, all
around me, many colored
people, people of many
moods and many tongues,
the people with their buzzing
and singing voices,
yes this beautiful
wide tide of people
who push me forward,
as beautiful as they are,
tend to blend in until lost
to me. They get pushed
head first to concrete, the way
thirsty bushes bow
to splendors of a greater
wood, or the pebbles
lower their gobbled faces
before a reigning cliff, or
the way one marbled pigeon
trembles off coo-less
to a dot against a thunderhead’s
tumbling vastness. And I don’t
mean to belittle
the people, not one of those
beautiful people I walk
among, but my god,
can’t you see how this thirsty
bush looks up in awe
at those magnificent trees.

Thursday, September 15, 2011


I was once
(and this once wouldn’t
be twice, at least
not in the nice repast
where once resides)
notionally devoted.

I was inclined
to get inside the not
sideways but some-side
seeking (which side
it was, wasn’t
apparent from the outside)
prayers sighed out by
robed supplicants
going through
the notions
proscribed to them by
their owning scribe.

They also recited
(in the time between
those sighs, and the once-
a-day tithes-
paying their souls
owed) their devotionals
to a once-
great power
inflamed by its votive’s
waxy decline.

And I didn’t die
(not notionally,
not yet) in that devotion’s
snuffing, but I was
reborn when I didn’t
stay there to try, to make
sense of the heat
or where it goes
when it lifts
away from white wool
dyed black by
an intimacy with gray
curls borne off at
a wick’s dying.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


To weather
such weather
is to untether
the whether
we’re there. They're.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A Raven’s love; the Crow's likes

Many people use
'Love' and 'Like' interchangeably.
Loves belong to Like.
They can be called Likes -
but not all Likes are Loves.

most noticeably,
Loves are larger than Likes.

If you're familiar with Likes,
you'd probably recognize
Love's call as being different.
Love's call is lower,
People ask, "Was it a really big Like?"
The answer
invariably chances
that it wasn't a Like at all.
You want to hear the difference
for yourself.

isn't very easy to tell if
you often look at Like.

tend to be more rounded.
Loves are
pointed. This is most noticeable
when Likes lie nice.
Loves lie a little more jaggedly, and
look ragged.

Love and Like can often be
found living side by side,
but Loves prefer wilder
Likes. The bigger Loves
will tend to live more
and will venture farther.

There are more differences
but these should help you
whether you're looking at Love
or a very large Like.

This poem is an erasure with a twist, taken from this text.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

My daily planner

Sandy, my day goes by

Moonlit buildings can fly
like white space ships

Today, my countdown starts
at nine

When eleven and ten went,
they went
hand in hand back to when

There's how
and how
I hate the way they ran

From a child's play I came

my child’s kingdom
doesn't come

Friday, September 09, 2011

Sartre never swatted at flies

fruit fly.
Fly, the fruit’s
gone. The fruit’s done,
and your life’s begun
to be done too soon
too, but not too soon
not to enjoy
without or
with fruit,

Dedicated to all the fruit flies who've come and gone, and one poor squished frog who can now chase them in the hereafter.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Hand it to me

You’ll have to hand it
to me, “it” being
your hand, both
firm and willing,
creased but not yet
spotted, given not for me
or you wanting
a wanting hand up,
and given not too willfully
to hand me or you down,
but as well-wishers
well-met put hands across,
if there are such hands
still well for the meeting,
because both of us,
well, all of us,
and I mean an us
shaking hands with an all
in the broadest of broadest
senses, will have cause
for such sensitive hands,
such hands being
most sensitively our hands
handed together,
banded to span
the comings and goings,
all those senseless gaps,
those gaps not yet yawning,
but they’re growing
entirely too big,
shaking us, our being,
with an entirety
entirely in our own hands
both firm and willing.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Lessons from foreign gods: Atë

Atë ate
eight lives
lives she hated
and living
hateful lives
ate at her
until her
lithe feet
lithely footed
eight fated heads
heads having at it
with each other
and with
a havoc
the Litae
not so lithe
couldn’t stop
nor Atë and her
appetite for
bloodletting them
their lives.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Fall's falling

Fall’s falling. Falls fallen.
Fall there.
Beat the beetle
down, scurrying in damp
leaf-litter. Scurry there.
Spared, out dive the sparrow,
biting crisp air.
Dive there.
Worry not worms
wiggling through worn
earth’s cool.
Step there, lightly.
For fall’s falling,
fall’s fallen, here.

Saturday, September 03, 2011


It’s ten thousand
feet. I can see
the cling of her
breath on her skin.
And through her breath,
her skin, covered
with blemishes,
blotches. Its raised
scars, its scabs, and
open gashes. They
don’t bleed. They weep
most perfect blues.
And all of it
is imperfect.
And all of her
is perfect too.

Thursday, September 01, 2011


Now that seven is nine
mine is to remember
September and the heat’s
fleeting grasp relaxing