The Watchful

Days rusted the decoration
as mountains and churches
pale into emptiness
like the vessels they travel.
I walked between my hands
tilted in imbalance
like a certain world
ordered by the lustful scourge
always at our backs.
Death traces every gesture,
my only faith
accounts for these changes
committed like a testament
to your heart’s showing.
I would embrace that pain
and release its anger
as if I was truly born
learning from the watchful.

The Glass Table

 
 
Bent in tension,
I called the hawk
above my shoulder
a shadow double,
then you stared
at the worst face
we grew to recognize
from the young.
I left the feathers
in the candle
on the glass table
like a burst sky
clear as the mind
and as sorrowful,
the end of my sleeve
blackened in ash. 

Canebrake

 
 
The canebrake bronze
trembling with bittern
in the sun 
until horizon of winds
brought a thundering.
I touched my cut arms
to the river I followed
without a holding
on miles of levee 
between floods of oak. 
I stood in column air 
created by two eagles.
I prayed to nothing 
for nothing with a voice
of scream and cypress.
I claimed the mistake
that carried me
to this place of waste
which filled my mind
with devouring idols 
like approaching rain
upon the sulphur clay
carved another mask
I will try to abandon.
 

The perfect season for words

 

Blank is the map of my brain secreting

pearls of commas and semi colons

but not any periods of value in the winter.

Dead is the ink in my pen,

a skunk discharging odor of garlic wrapped

in rotten rhythms, in the middle of spring.

White is the shadow of the blue bedspread

drowning the bones of sentences

with tears on a hot summer day.

Barren is the womb

of words hanging at the cemetery,

as maple reaches the well of autumn.

I decry the moment of write right

with seasons escaping tunnels of distraction,

becoming a noose around the fingertip.

AIB, 13

I was prepared for the Awkward Age
the physical changes, personality,
frustration, exasperation, even rage—
but not for this.

I was prepared to smile knowingly, thinking
This too shall pass.
And we will always love each other, I tell myself
as much as it is possible to love anyone
right?

You are in your room, alone, with a book.
Who taught you how to read?
Seemed like a good idea at the time.
My questions are greeted with
monosyllabic replies, grunts really,
and eye rolls, withering looks, sarcasm—
the lowest form of human discourse—
and finally the screaming:
Why can’t you just leave me alone?

Here’s why:
I still remember reading you Charlotte’s Web
taking you for long walks in the rain
through the San Juan Mountains
hand-in-hand
watching you sneak downstairs after bedtime
so we could watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer
together
coming to the choir loft
midway through the service
so you could sit on my lap.

The Awkward Age is supposed to be
awkward for you, not me.  I should
be the parent
but instead I’m a marionette
with tangled strings, a poor sap trapped
in Shelob’s web
a capeless hero, destroyed
by a new color of kryptonite
and you are the elusive hummingbird
who hovers in midair for a short time
and then skitters away
faster than my eye can follow.

After Meeting J.M. Coetzee

In my dream
I am the Nobel Prize winner
and he is the quiet admirer at the foot of the stairs.
He is decidedly modest about the popularity of his work
just as I say nothing about my recent raves in the Utne Reader
and Granta.
I am with a woman named Genevieve
(pronounced the French way).
She is tall and slender and wears a black dress
slit between the legs
pearls and a diamond pendant
and her eyes tell everyone in the room that she adores me
while he is with a chick from the hood named Darla
who is wearing open-toed sandals and capris.
My books are displayed in hermetically sealed library cases
along with literary memorabilia
and a few choice photographs from my distinguished past.
Some of the guests attending the reception
tell him that they bought his latest book
for a hospitalized aunt
or a black sheep brother who didn’t go to college.
I am generous when I meet him
and say how much I admire his work
even though I don’t.
Our lady friends size each other up
and he and I exchange a long, transporting gaze.
He realizes that I am envious of his popularity with readers
just as he resents my astounding success
in the faculty lounge.