Saturday, April 30, 2011


Leaving laying

lines like bricks

one beneath the next

and then a song sometimes

creeps in, the mockingbird

shocking the night with his

trills and curlicue notes,

shrill rattlings

appropriated from car alarms

and other birds. I’ll finish this,

take off these heavy lovely

wings and return to baking,

laundry, and normal human things.

Friday, April 29, 2011

The birds won't stop

Cooped up in my chest,
my ribcage their permanent
nest, five families of finches
multiply their song.

The racket rises until
I lose my own mind.

Thursday, April 28, 2011


The quiet hurts, make it softer.

The night is there and always

present, in her ears and a comb

in her hair. His fingers.

The dark is long, The stars forgot

their shine—tarnished gray marks

scattered in the sky, the black

blanket she can’t pull down to warm

her single body, the blanket that won’t

fall away, revealing light.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

My fleet




I'm supposing.
The doctor calls with my
There's something foreign
hovering. The carnival's
in town.
I'm going on the ferris wheel.
And sit.
Let the pigeons, their
many gray wings,
in. And what happens?
They sing.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Praying in the Monster

No one can tell me there aren't beasts

out there waiting to eat me alive.

Monstrous creatures with big claws,

mouths a whole person could easily

live inside. Come to think of it, it might feel safe

there, in that wet dark, a place I've missed

since birth. And maybe, if I'm quiet,

and crouch near a monster molar,

he won't notice, and I can grab

an incisor whenever he swallows.

And three days later, if I stay still,

alive, the beast may stride

to my own Ninevah, spit me out,

and guarantee tomorrow.

Monday, April 25, 2011

In the antique mall or painted on a water tower

This is for finding.

It's for hiding and seeking.

This may show up in the meadow

under a cow, or hanging from fishing

twine dangled down the Merced tower.

If I could reach, I might rest these lines

on one of the soft spring clouds

or hang the words from an almond

tree, bursting with bloom. This

isn't a secret, it's a game--of the fun

variety. I'm putting poems in places

all over town. I write.

The search is on.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Egg hunt

Everywhere, new is hatching.

All over the lawn and in the bushes,

those brightly colored plastic eggs

are filled with chocolate and God,

for the children to find. I break

an egg in a bowl, stir it with a fork,

cook it in a pan. It changes

from wet to firm, and where the liquid

dissolves to, I do not know--perhaps

it's hovering with all the other invisible

things that we regularly discard,

only remembering them

when it rains or we suffer.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

I run

The tulips strive open,
working so hard, they'll turn
petals upside-down, stretch each
until it breaks off, hits the tabletop.

I also work too hard, moving
a zig-zag route, cleaning and carving.
My body insisting on a go-dog-go
existence. If, rather, I sit and sing (or not,

maintaining silence instead),
the hole in my chest
finds its full presence,
and emptied, I finally

let God in.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Making things up

I dreamed of a black dog when I started to pack for the Valley.

I dreamed of a green light and a chain link fence.

I dreamed of a meadow that never ends.

I dreamed of small pools of water.

I dreamed of two trees, full of pomegranates,

starting to intertwine. I dreamed of traps

with glowing light inside. Glorious snails and blossoms

snowing in spring breezes. I dreamed of a heart

big as a ferris wheel, reaching the top with terror,

and thrill. I dreamed of a spider, its massive

web like lace in the light. I dreamed of a wobbly

swing-set, a half-dead strawberry plant.

I dreamed everything all right.

Everything's alright.


I've forgotten the birds again (just like I lose God--
my mind wandering wrong waters until He
lassos me back in again). Six in the morning,
I remember to listen, and the tree's full of finches,
the males chest red, full of spring.

There was a man I loved and we chased
tanagers, orioles, and all birds flying
and blue. We ran across parks, up mountains,
down shores. We wove, more slowly,
around the windy estuarine foot paths.

Avocets and sora rails, wood ducks and kites.
We flew with the birds, fed with the birds,
wading and waiting for fish to surface, then
a fast dunk and a kill. I sometimes press myself
to recall our love for birds, even while the helicopters

hovered searching immigrants who crossed
the close border for a better life, a move
birds could perform freely, without sirens
or fear. No country owns the birds. We were
living local wars, down South and in our house.
Each time I crossed the boundary of my skin

into his, I risked my life and limb.
He was a dangerous thing
I fell into. Of course, I was only looking
for a warmer place than I'd been last season,
a place I wouldn't shiver in my skin.

I lost myself in birds, I nearly lost my life
in him. With hope, I crossed into to hostile country.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Please don't die

My mother gave me, wrapped for my birthday, that short book,
The Awakening. More like The Going to Sleep Forever--it
romanticized drowning. I lived forever by the ocean, never
sufficiently afraid of the the great monster of waves and saltwater.
Oh, what the moon's pull and the weight of water can do to you.

I used to dream that on the other side of the horizon, if I could bounce
across the glinting surface like a skipping stone or a big balloon,
a land of light, a kind of heaven, a new awakening was waiting
on that distant shore. Except it wasn't a shore, but a giant
bowl of shine. And all who traveled there, turned into weightless
forms of joy. This old thought died up in the mountains surrounded

by dirt and rot. Yes, sometimes life is so much pain, one will risk
whatever's after for at least momentary quiet, during that period of in-between.
No longer alive, not quite dead. There was a young man in our town
who needed out, who climbed, and then hung himself like a flag on a metal
tower north of town. But because we cannot know what comes after
her limbs give out and she lets the water heavy her down, one must fight

life's dark, and reach for light--a dance, a slice of peach. Oh,
today I wondered if my quiet phone meant my love left earth,
quite by accident. In my mind, he took his board out on the sea,
and was swallowed away from me. Waves are the largest arms
I've seen. The quiet safety many of us crave and leave this land
for can really be had wrapped in the smaller cylinder of a fellow
human's warm limbs and a blanket of insistent love.

Putting my father to rest

I learned to skip stones at the lagoon.
Who were the older boys who taught me?
My father would know, but he died some
years ago. His girlfriend ordered white doves,
let them loose in her backyard, with everyone
watching. Her son, who makes a living as El Vez,
the Mexican Elvis Presley impersonator, served
the liquor to guests, the liquor that killed my father.
My father tried not to fall down and hit his skull.
He was a smart man, but seemed to selectively
not understand how vodka, over time--and liters--
can poison you. I want to be at that same skipping
stone shore today, I want to grasp the flattest
roundest gray stones, flick my wrist
just so, and send the things flying,
then bouncing, again and again and again,
until they grow tired, lose control,
and sink under the water forever.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Little Feasts

My brother and I would tie
twine across the room--the first
looked like a slanted tightrope
wire. The second, too. We'd pin
one end to the wall and unfurl
the skein, pinning and pinning
haphazardly, working hard to deny
order or reason to our weave.

When we loved the composition,
we crawled through it, giant
spiders in a crazy web, a safety
zone. A place where drunk fathers
and sobbing mothers dare not enter.

We moved through the quadrilaterals
and triangles of twine, catching small
winged things in our net as we might
our missing hearts and lost hope.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

We Wax

It's all the moon, he says,
pointing at hermit crabs &
poking a sea anemone in the rock
bowls of sea water above the shore.

It's just, he loves talking about the moon--
and while, yes, it causes tides, in his imagination,
everything--an early summer,
the bright of yellow, the East wind,
the dance of leaves along the sidewalk--
and even our movements, together,
slightly apart, and even more closely together--

all the world, and every inch of our love
depends upon the moon.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Drawn from the Water

Put the baby on the small boat, put her on the water,
let her float downstream to see where river
sends her. She may leave the country of her birth
or land just the edge of this county, held by reeds,
lullabied by the bu-bu-wah of red-winged blackbirds,
lifting her up, readying her for the flight, the fight,
the famine and fire, and finally--late in life, the light.

--with thanks to Russell Goff for offering the bird call

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Night swim

Late spring, the small gnats are swirling
like fairy dust above the grass, and woven
limbs on a blanket, while faces drink the sky,
each other, in alternating minutes. Darkness
will land too soon, even if the moon's
a reprieve from the relentless night, a pool
the lovers dive into, swimming side by side,
searching for a new shore.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

She said yes

She lived in a box, tied up with string,
holes punched on the sides, so she could breathe.
Inside, was everything she needed--
potatoes and beans, a blanket, and a book of poems
by Robert Frost. She sat in the middle of a meadow,
quiet and always. One morning, a tap, insistent,
but quiet. Whose fingers are that tender?
she thought, remembering her father's coarse
lined skin. Can I come in? a gentle voice said.
She paused a pause the length of Texas, then
heard the string pull against string, loosening
what she used as a lock. He unlocked her.
He came in.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Green Egg

All the Easter eggs I didn't find, the one
I broke open and the green dye had bled
through. And I laughed, "Green Eggs and Ham."
But I wouldn't eat it. Threw it in the juniper
bush and returned to the house
empty-handed. My mother forced my brother to give
me two. He cried. Thirty-six years later,
I write this poem to apologize.
Brother, I hated eggs anyways, though I loved
to peel away the shell, the thin skin within.
Brother, I lied about the hunt and what I found.
If I had to do it all over again, I would've opened
that green egg and handed it to you,
so you could, would, eat it "in a box."
I should simply say: I found an egg
I threw away and took
two of yours anyway.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Pretty Pretty

Do not look at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup and goes down smoothly. At the last it bites like a serpent, and stings like an adder. --Proverbs 23:31-2

Oo, oo, pretty pretty. I liked to watch the blood curve the thin
tubes while the needle sat in the crook of my elbow.
It looked like thicker wine
and I wished I'd find a Crazy straw with all those turns and circles,
a Dr. Seuss roller coaster for our juice,
only my juice was wine. I wanted it in me and on me,
I wanted to feel it in rain, climb in a bath
and smell and feel wet wood, dried roses, and the acidic bite,
the alcohol something I could take between my teeth,
and it rose to my skull, softening everything, the room a-glow.
My hand couldn't pass the bowl of a wine glass
without lifting. I'd pour from the bottle into a large bowl,
wash my hands and face with it, pour it to make
paths to follow on the floor. I don't remember
where it led. That's a lie. Wrong beds, bonkers--
finally stuck inside my head, where I kept a rope
and a tree--and no one had the key.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


And the Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your desire with good things, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. --Isaiah 58:11

I gave it up to God, though I could not
give it up. I mean, I tried to stop,
and I could not. I mean, black flies
roamed my skull, and still,
whatever they'd still, I'd swill.
My heart was a rotting fruit--
and still, I'd--. Pieced together with thin
twine, I walked the desert ranch
road. I could see my wasting bone
blow away as dust through my mouth.
I knew that if I were to fell myself
on a Spanish dagger plant, I'd drain like so
much sand. The gin invisible,
but the sun saw it still, wanted it
for its own. All that was left in me
this morning were fumes. The heavens
beckon; I looked up. The whispered
words to sky: take me please.
And I was lifted, watered,
and home.

Fall Down Watching the Sky

Spring's ridiculous--all that pink,
and lawns thick and green with rain
like money. I want to fall down,
collapse on the grass and wish
you here, your body blooming
with new tides (and am I
a tide for you? Faith: the moon knows
what it's doing). Preposterous--
does anyone really deserve
this much God? He's in the dandelion
and in your hair, and in my fingertips,
weaving new, invisible moons there.

Fall down watching the sky fall down
while the sky watches us fallen on the grass
below, a little sad to lose all those new
moons to you. But that's the sky's
job--What can I do?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Where she lives

The child floating up out of her body,
hardly knew how to use
her limbs. She fed on books
and lay in grass, wondering
into the clouds. My house
not on this ground. She
built a dress of birds,
slept on a net of stars,
every now again catching
the she below—dumb,
mute and hollow.
While here she swam
the early rain,
sang daily
the dawn.

Filled with light

I'm taking out
my crooked heart,
setting it in the yard--
garden art. Next spring
the sweet peas will climb
right up it, attach their tendrils
and hide what used to be with beauty.

In my chest now rests
a new cloud. It may storm
or disappear but it's light
and driven from above,
so we'll be alright.
We'll all be alright.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

What's caged in my brain

There's snakes in my brain. My brain's made
of snakes. Not the nice kinds of snakes, like the one
my aunt had in the big house with the roommates--
it slithered across a rug of the United States
when I called "Here, Rosy!" (Well, I moved to where
she was heading before beckoning. She came every
time.) These are black, with green indentations
randomly scattered across their thin bodies.
And they're hungrier and hungrier, yet I don't
know how to get mice through my skull, so
the snakes whip, hiss, and bite--and I become a deranged
puppet, socking myself in the head, or crying.
As if I could knock a hole through my cranium,
or, literally, cry my eyes out, so the snakes could
escape, make haste for home and supper.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

In the Stem Cell Lab

I want to grow the tiny things in petrie dishes,
wear a white coat with large clear buttons,
spend all day with my eye to the microscope,
watching cells stretch, flatten, connect,
bundle, grow into what I hope, and don't.
When I was a child, I thought culturing
cells was like cooking popcorn and for that matter
popcorn could expand on and on into the sky--
like cells, if fed and watched tell they're plump and beating.
But this little dish, no bigger than a tin of mints,
is making something one might make a new life from.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

If you look at me you will go blind

The light is water floating just above the tall grass
flush green here, yellow beyond. I could take a boat,
row out upon the meadow to the new housing
development there at the North of town. Then,

when I arrive at the yellow swathe of--grass? lake?
I'll dip a silver cup in that bright shine and drink.

Only when I see it do I crave it--yellow.
And I need to take it in by gallons. Once
filled, I glow. If I climbed that tree,
the monstrous one near Avenue Three,

the whole town would forget the sun and worship me.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


I've been folded, section upon section--
made small, a wallet-sized prize.

One might keep me in their pocket,
a used toothpick, cracked and bent,
poking at flesh through fabric.

The person I stab didn't even hear me cry.
Off he went to perform another miraculous
smashing. This is the part of the poem

where I might guess his mean motives.
Instead, I maneuver the tip of my head
into the light, notice almond trees in full leaf--

and they glint--new green everywhere.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Permission Slip

Dear people, I hereby give
you permission. Be joy.
Swing on swings. Dance a tango.
Play your trumpet through the streets,
along the river. Take off your shoes and wade,
feel the mud between your toes. Eat
butter or whipped cream on everything.
I feel I must remind you, life is small, over soon.
Insist on friends.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Swimming the Pacific or Meeting Madame Curie

We're aglow--if you shut off the lights,
our skin twinkles with radioactive dust, or we drank
a cup of the stuff. A flashlight
snaked down our throat would reveal
cavities radiantly purple, our cells thinning,
receiving an unnecessary treatment.

The news reports say we're destroying the planet--
impossible. Earth older and stronger than even our billion
stupid brains, selfish bodies. Earth roars with laughter,
toppling us with out own advances. I want to be taken

by radiation, crumble into a pile of glowing, eventual
stardust. We'll crumble side by side by side, wind
sweeping us together, raising us, a bit of each person
meeting to make new stars.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Under the Microscope

The world I can't see--my body
swimming with trillions of cells, an ocean
packed with fish or fluid
factories. And atoms, then nuclei and electrons,
a world tinier than my dumb eyes can imagine.
Sometimes, I want to be
that small, sometimes I want to be one of the many,
lost in relentless work, efficiency, invisibility.

I'd like to be a cell in my lover's
heart and travel with him behind the East Wall,
the region of his retreat. I'd join
him in those bottles and daydreams,
climb within him in those one-man beds,
nights of despair, stargazing, fear,
crying spells, freedom, and grief.

Within him I'd work, swishing like a fish,
always moving, always refreshing.
Here I am within his heart, working
tirelessly to repair what ails it.