Tuesday, April 30, 2013

7000 Ways to Listen

--for my brother

"If I dare to hear you
I will feel you like the sun
And grow in your direction."
--Mark Nepo

1. We listen with the sound off. It's Saturday morning, Scooby Doo's wiggly eyes are wiggling, Shaggy's scared, his long legs running from ghosts. And aren't we always running from ghosts, our father cracking open the bottle before noon while we bounce on the couch, run our mouths, making up new stories for all the inevitable endings we refuse.

517. I'm pushing my little brother on the swings, though he takes to pumping so quickly he doesn't need me, flying higher than I will ever dare, and then letting go and flying some more, landing far from me on the sand. Years later, I'll take his lead, in the sands of Joshua Tree. He'll be up early, working the campsite stove, boiling water and steeping us coffee before working the ropes, inching me up, with his gentle voice, a rock face.

2893. He was always so Zen to my fits. In high school, I'm running down our long hallway, pounding my door shut, screaming at my father stupid truths, my hormones don't know where else to go, scrawling dumb words in locked diaries that my mom jimmies open with her sewing needles. My brother sits--really disappears--on top of his closet. My parents look for him for hours. He's a master of silence.

6952. Thank God for time. I wind the hills just below Yosemite, up to my brother's house. There's storm clouds gathering over the Park, but still we tie the rubber raft to his van's top and drive to the river. Park Service has closed their boat rental office because of the storm that never comes, so one glorious spring Sunday, my brother and I launch his raft, not another vessel in sight, float through Yosemite Valley.  He points out tiny bodies--small as ants--climbing El Capitan's face, points to the tiny crevices he has made his bed. We talk books and love. It's nearly unbearable. All this light. 

Monday, April 29, 2013

Pillow fight with roses

The roses are blooming at a ridiculous rate,

bridesmaids gone awry.

But I like wedding disasters, those reality

shows where the cake falls through the table,

the skirt rips off the bride.

All that pomp and money

turns funny. I want to watch the roses

bloom in bunches, open as the days grow sunnier,

petals falling at the base of the rosebushes,

swirling in the light breeze of late afternoon.

I'll collect what petals I can catch,

keep them in a wooden box, sew them into sachets--

or better, full-size pillows, and we'll have a rose petal pillow

fight until the pillows break, billowing the memory of this particular

spring. The yellow and magenta flowers falling all over our bed,

my face flush with laughter, you manage to reach me for a kiss,

sealing in a perpetual spring.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

My dad's dreams

My father sat on the backseat in a small cardboard box

while I quarreled with my siblings.

The rain was coming down in buckets,

the Santa Cruz mountain roads winding,

a felled branch and we were stalled.

Nobody taught me what to do with the big empty space

his death made. I hunkered inside it like a boxing ring,

punching at every human who crossed my path.

I hated my father as much as I loved him

and there was no body to hate any more

so I hated all bodies. My father's get rich quick

dreams always ended in the redwoods

so we left him, in the end, there, water

pooling at the base of a trunk. I watched my father's

ashes swirl. A dozen years later I still need something

solid to hit in his absence, my fists hit my mattress,

there's so much of my past I can't remember

even if I sense it in my limbs. Today, I rode the same

winding roads of Santa Cruz--not a cloud in the sky,

the heat of late spring, and I slept and I dreamed my dad's dreams.

Saturday, April 27, 2013


The bean plants are crawling up the trellis,

little curlicues weaving through the twine,

gripping and climbing diligently towards the sky,

making a ladder for a curious young man to ascend--

we'll call him Jack--as good a name

as any. What's a boy to do when he sees a plant

disappear into the clouds? When I was a girl,

I lived in the clouds, floated up out of my body,

mingling with storm-gatherers and angels.

Earth and its inhabitants

troubled me. Most clouds tricked me,

appearing like cotton candy

or billowing pillows,

but it was all an illusion and I came to realize

matter wasn't solid, was full of space,

and I lived and breathed in the space

up there, so that when I was back on the earth,

trapped under somebody's body,

I could find the smallest crawl space

and wiggle through his flesh,

float at the ceiling

until he was gone. I disappeared like Jack,

also discovering treasures stolen from my family

when I was ungrounded. What I found

more valuable than gold. I bring home a melody

that scrambles the dark truths of my youth

into beauty.

Friday, April 26, 2013

A pocketful of stars

Sitting around the firepit, I watch him pour
himself another glass of wine. My dogs play hard
and he talks about his son
and his son's mother,
how things broke, and how the five o'clock
martinis make the shift from writing to not
writing bearable. I watch him fill
his glass; the wine is red. The summer stars
stud the sky--rhinestones I might pluck from a dress
that feels too showy, stow them in a jacket pocket,
fingering them like dice at the party,
while the glasses fill and drain,
and I plaster on a smile because I don't know
what to do with my mouth if it's not full
of something. In the bathroom, I'll pull a few
from my pocket--are they stars now? or cheap gems?
place them on my tongue, close my mouth
and my eyes, before spitting them back
into my hand, the precious pieces I grip for protection.
While he wanders his present,
his history, polishes the bottle, I'm climbing the low lying
stars as a ladder, reaching up toward the Big Dipper's handle.

Thursday, April 25, 2013


Leaning into the dark

just so

she can feel 

the slit in the sky

where light is born. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

What matters

When the body goes the way the body goes

who am I then? Bones and thinning skin.

There used to be matter that was me

that mattered. In the end I float,

some kind of seed pod

lofted by the wind--where I'll end up

no one can guess. In time, I could be

a tree trunk or star stuff.

In these hopes of immortality,

I rest.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


I'm a pile of bones,

clattering, too loud for a jaunt through the desert.

Fold me up, a wooden marionette,

put me in the chest with the other

old toys and scrapbooks.

Or take me, piece by piece,

detaching me by two-foot lengths,

line me up and wonder me

into something new--use these bones

like Lincoln logs, build me into a cabin

where caterpillars crawl to spin themselves

a tight bed, where within,

wings are made.

Monday, April 22, 2013

City backyard

In this city backyard the roses and columbine give and give,
and it's so hot I have to retreat inside, stir a pitcher of honey lemonade,
and lounge in bed, reading Neruda. I'm hugging the coast again, after five
years deep in the Valley wearing two-dollar sundresses from the Goodwill
and buying strawberries from the Hmong-family farm stands.

The dog's snoring, and the shelf of cacti make the quiet afternoon
quieter. And I'm almost back in the small town I recently left.

It seems I've spent my life leaving--or planning to.
As a small child, I stood under three deodar cedars near
dinner time, pretending I was lost in a bramble of roses,
the rose-shaped cedar cones at my feet, a kind of princess,
a kind of beauty, while inside the living room waged
a kind of war I wanted no part of. Most days, I want no part of

the known world. Give me a unicorn to ride away on.
I'll take the bottle of stuff that'll make me smaller, climb
my way up the stalk of the foxglove, hide in that lavender
cup, until the wind whisks me off into the unknown,

unknown being the only true reality. Until then, I drink
glasses full of sweet lemonade, wondering over the shade of those
bulb flowers in the corner of the yard, sprouted but not bloomed.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

What may be

Moths may move mountains

Mad mothers make moratoriums

Miners misstep mercury

Midway, moon

Me: maybe maiden,

maybe mole

Marching missions,

maverick mavens

mumble memories:


Saturday, April 20, 2013

Come summer

Small green plums, now hard and sour,
finally form on the tree in our backyard.

The rose bushes go crazy with spring.
He snaps the thorns off one by one
and cuts me a bouquet. My grandmother
used to lick the back of a thorn,
press it to her nose, sometimes it would stick,
a wart on a witch, for a minute.
She often reminded me that people were sometimes
mean. When I tell you I love you,

I mean it--this is the fiercest part of me
that I hand over to you. I had a dog that attacked
when scared. (And he was scared of everything,
the slickness of the kitchen floor and July
gusts.) You take this heart of mine,
and give it meaning, use, like the fruit in our tree,

it will ripen by summer.

Friday, April 19, 2013


I want to fill the house, like Alice, my arm
squeezed in the children's bedroom,
one leg splayed down the staircase.

I want to be a scare--
or scarce, littler than a flea
so no one (yes, no one) can see me.

I want to dance around
this way, hopping from petal to leaf,
so I can finally be. Be let be.

Or, I want to be paper thin,
so I can fold myself up,
climb inside an envelope,
shimmy into the mailbox,
travel in a truck, a plane, across miles and seas

to India, where I'll unfold,
let my creases relax,
and sit in silence in a temple
or in a crowded marketplace,
where there are so many people

I will be invisible as an individual.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The go-boat

I'm building a boat, a go boat--

where I'm going I do not know.

The main thing is to climb in and row.

There'll be trees along the river banks

and light will seep through their leaves,

washing out parts of my limbs,

so I'll look like a puzzle that isn't

all the way filled in. Noonday,

I'll pull my boat up to dry land,

unwrap one of the sandwiches

I've packed and ponder the life

I just left--the timeclocks and tasks,

the laundry and freeways, the briefcase

and nylon stockings. None of it will make sense.

But neither does this boat, this go-boat,

this boat I nickname, I don't know boat.

Afternoons, my belly full of bread and cheese,

the only voice in my ear is an oar--

as it splashes and digs through the water,

to places unknown.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Small Visitor

I wanted the unicorn for my own pet,

but my mother made the unicorn

her own. My mother was greedy this way. 

Magic often visited me--and my mother readily

swooped it away. The unicorn was tiny, 

I could hold it in my hand. 

Before my mother intercepted this, 

I asked the unicorn why it came to Los Angeles, 

and how far it was from home. 

Never you mind, child, where I reside; for now, 

I'm by your side, to keep you safe at night, 

to ward off intruders, like Charles Manson

or your father. My mother didn't know

she was a thief. I don't blame her for snatching

my unicorn. She might've thought it was one of my stuffed

animals, needing washing. She washed and washed. 

And still, nothing was ever clean. 

Even the unicorn--real as they come--I found

smudged, stuffed in a box with photo albums

last year. I placed the unicorn on my breakfast table; 

next to my bowl of oatmeal and raisins,

and he threw back his head, neighed 

and galloped away, testing his legs,

which had seen better days. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


This is the place where I keep secrets

and it's swelling with them, as if ghost baby's

waiting inside, as if my insides still had the means to feed

smaller bodies. What can you hear, resting

your ear on my belly? I've scrambled the words,

so the pieces of me

I keep to myself

sound only in code, as if I carried

a mockingbird in my womb.

At night, the bird cannot keep from spilling

its insistent song. You just need the key to these trills.

When I'm sleeping is when the song

starts, you can chart my cryptography.

Monday, April 15, 2013


Before I was five, I was a butterfly--

to the best of my recollection. 

When I was twelve, I stood very still by the honeybush, 

waiting for butterflies to land in my hair. 

When they did, luck was with me

and I swam faster than my best friend

who had her own swimming pool. 

She'd capture butterflies and kill them with shellac

spray. Once, a dead fritillary flapped again, 

startling us. At six, I used to wait for caterpillars

(one lived in the dollhouse I kept on the patio)

to shape shift, sleeping and rolling over and over

in its tight bed. The bed I sleep on now is narrow for two

and some nights I remember being a butterfly

while the human beside me wrestles in his sleep--

and I wonder, what is he becoming? And then

I wonder, where did my wings take their leave? 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The river I row

My arms are weary from rowing,

my oars are wooden--carved

and polished by my father's

father, the shellac worn away over years,

my dad's initials, and a heart

followed by B.K. -- whoever might have struck

him the summer he was sixteen

and he took the boat to the river.

She might've been a local, a small waitress

working at the diner, my father sitting at her counter,

eating grilled cheese sandwiches and french fries

smothered with ketchup. I call her 'Brenda King.'

But I know little about my father, even though he talked a lot,

especially when he was drinking.

But there's no truth in bottles.

I've rowed, over the years, across seas of gin,

floated in lagoons of wine,

but this river's clear,

so clear, I can hear

the stones at its bottom

calling their secrets

so I can carry them to the ocean,

where they will be released into something

more vast and powerful than the darkness of the past.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

What the stones sing

There's weight in my limbs,

stones I keep in deep pockets,

keepsakes from places I've wandered.

They sing:

Take me back to the creek

where you ran before dawn, the moon

a slice in the sky. Your soles

making paths that circled from the north

side to the south, connected by foot bridges. 

Some days, after the sunrise, when sleep

kept you late, like a clingy lover, 

you'd run farther east 

alongside the almond orchards. 

Take me back to the ranch road, 

the ocotillo blooming red, 

the small herds of pronghorns 

around the next bend, 

the low white clouds

a pillowy staircase

you could almost reach with a leap. 

Take me back to the City, 

walk the Highline at dusk, 

the full moon rising 

right of the Empire State Building. 

Take me back to your sick bed, 

the place where you rested, 

the year when tiny bodies

took over your body. 

The stones are singing me back

across years, as I row

this new bed, the dogs sleeping,

the man beside me sleeping,

the California poppies still just

seed and feathery leaves,

the plum tree reflecting

moonlight--and I write,

my pencil a small oar I row

as the stones, this weight on my body

sings me back.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Jamboree Sunday

Let's have a jamboree, 

a loud affair, lots of hooting and hollering, 

toy tamborines and cakes with red frosting, 

one on each table. Let's hit piƱatas, 

break them open, letting candy fly through the sky, 

sweet rain. When daylight dims, right at dusk, 

let's light the backyard torches and strings of lights, 

let the flicker and twinkle work magic into our hearts. 

Let the big band play by the pool. 

And let's dance, boogie, take someone 

(anyone) into our arms and twirl to the music. 

Let's do this for no special occasion. 

Let's start this on Sunday afternoon because the long

stupid work week starts too soon--and too often. 

Let's say yes to play and commit to less

work. Let's skip all the way home, 

guffawing so hard, our stomachs hurt. 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Ghost Baby

Ghost baby is talking to me again.

She's insistent.

I don't have time for this--the roses

need pruning and it's time for my afternoon

tea. Want some apricot tea, Ghost Baby?

What food, Ghost Baby? Why's my love

the love you need? I tried to retrieve

you from my belly, but you wouldn't form.

Why do you stay ghost, Ghost Baby?

And now my parts

that would've given you body

are too worn. I'm tired, Ghost Baby.

Stop crying for your mother.

There's not some kind of Biblical

miracle late birth in my future,

Ghost Baby. The tea's warm enough,

if you want to come out of my hips

for a hover in the garden, I'll set you

an extra cup. There's cookies, Ghost Baby.

You can go about your business crying, creaking,

and wailing, or you can do like me--shut up,

watch his shirts dry on the laundry line,

and drink your tea.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

What sings my hips

My hips ache with song. 

I push space into those joints

wanting to ease the pain, but still, they creak--

they mouthe lullabies. Or should I say, she--

the baby I never--is crying: a ghost

lodged in my very center. And my hips, 

made to carry this babe's weight, 

ache from the years of waiting, 

and do what all good cradles

do: rock the child to sleep, 

as she's hushed with this song. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

West Texas Skies

Letting the high desert air (nearly perfect and always
blue) hit my knees, the skirt of my dress a dusty
ripple. Cowboy boots made of lizard skin. City
shoes--shiny heels and sneakers--ruined by dirt.
I'd dream, sometimes, of a house not in need of a constant
sweep. The tumbleweed landscape. The rabbits my truck couldn't
miss, summer nights on the swerves of the highway.  
Scouring the back roads for fireflies each July.  
The week my dear friend in California died, and a young
man drove me around in his Volkswagen Thing, helping me
capture light with my bare hands. Fireflies, as if the pregnan
t stars dropped their babies to the Earth as fleeting gifts. I never
had a baby--my insides broke down while I chased one. I ran
all the way from California to Texas to try to take a smile inside
me and make a new person in my body, but was—thankfully—
in the end—refused. Instead, I took the blue sky as a blanket,
wrapped myself up in it, and rocked myself into the night,
I rocked myself eventually far away from this sky-as-sea,
back to the gray Pacific, where the salt air cracked my boot
soles and I unboxed my patent leather pumps, leaving stars,
warm summer nights, backyard bats and bonfires, and bumpy
back road drives, in the box, in their place, waiting for a certain
night in July, when my body suddenly remembers
the first time I watched lightning rip the Texas night.

Monday, April 8, 2013


"I remembered how, holding
her small shoulders in my hands sometimes,
I felt a violent wonder at her presence
like a thirst for salt, for my childhood river" -- Robert Hass

Almost everything worth its salt

I keep in this box: 

The letter I never sent to my father; 

the first piece of jewelry a boy gave me;

my first view of Orion, when a camp counselor

traced its outline and I knew random 

stars as something, at last;

the top of my grandmother's wedding cake; 

a grocery list from my first apartment; 

days spent twiddling my thumbs

waiting for my heart to open after it climbed

inside a cave, vowing 

never to come out--and the taste of God

I found, finally, through patient sitting; 

a current I caught off the coast of Cancun--

the blue blue ocean meeting blue blue sky; 

a single kiss; an early verse; 

the spoon from which I first

tasted peach ice; and simple

salt; and one last thought--

the one I ought to not

think, I keep at bay, in this box, 

shelved--alongside other thoughts, 

like books--saved for later days

when rain or illness keeps me inside

and there's no one sitting beside me

wondering what's inside me--and the salt

cellar's empty and my heart content. 

Then, I'll open the box, and sift

and savor its contents. 

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Belly Full

The brushed brass hinges on the cabinets;

the wall of copper gelatin molds--a fish and a bow, 

a wreath and a doll. My great-grandmother's hands

guiding my small fingers around the handle of a fork, 

helping me press X's into the peanut butter cookies

before whisking the tray of them into the oven. 

The aluminum bowls and the sound of eggs being beaten. 

My whole body humming with the eggbeater--

its vibration louder than my heartbeat. 

Waiting for the cookies, I sat on a yellow stepstool

topped with a yellow padded seat. 

At the dining room table, I sat on two thick telephone

books as the food was passed around, and milk

poured from a pitcher shaped like a bunch of grapes. 

The rest of the house lacked the warmth I felt

in the places where I filled the hole in my belly, 

though my grandmother kept a bowl of ribbon 

candy on the coffee table

year round. But it was hard and as much as I sucked, 

this candy wouldn't fill my belly quick enough. 

And the hole to fill grew larger as I grew--

soon, it was big as one of the seven seas--

a place so vast, pelicans got lost flying over it. 

I, myself, became smaller than the hole in me, 

and my tiny self sat in a rowboat, having lost an oar, 

rowing in circles, pleading with the gray sky to feed

or release me. I wished the rain into triangles of candy corn

and the sea became pink lemonade

until I woke from the illusion one morning, 

a belly full of saltwater, swelling and starving. 

Saturday, April 6, 2013


why won't the egg open

when I ask it to?


how do seeds know

what they are supposed to



when the sun shines

how does it find



who loves the other

more: the bee or the flower?


what will your heart

tell me

if I ask for its secrets

in whispers?

Friday, April 5, 2013

Places like parlors

Well after midnight, my grandmother takes
my younger brother and me to the local pizza parlor.
We would've gone for ice cream, but this joint's
what's open. I like places with "parlor" in the name.
Ice cream parlor. And, when I'm older, Tattoo parlor.
For this, my twelfth Christmas, my father's
building me a dollhouse, complete with a parlor.
My father spoils me and will spoil me next year
and the next, even as he prepares to spoil
my new sister, the one we are awake to meet.
My mother's in labor. My brother and I are mad
we can't go in the hospital room. There are rules--
no children allowed except babies
in the maternity ward. We are so mad we make protest signs
and march around the waiting room with them,
waiting for someone to hear us. Finally, our grandmother
comes to fetch us, and take us to this parlor.
I start to wonder why the waiting room in the hospital
is not called a parlor, as it is a place for sitting,
a kind of entrance-room. Early on, I start worrying over words.
It's easier than worrying about the ways I've been spoiled--
and by spoil I mean both "made rotten" and being given
so much I start to take candy--and toys--for granted,
thinking places like Candyland really exist, making my eyes
big for glinty things, and distracting me from the truth.
I think stars are diamonds like in the song and keep forgetting
they are big balls of fire, that would burn me right up.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Rain out the Bakery Window

Water rivulets snake down

spring leaves, leaving each leaf as a small globe--

I can see the world in those miniature

crystal balls that witches use to intercept

good. I'm not a witch, but want to make good

mine. There's knives in my belly that need

dulling. Good rounds out everything, even the sharpest

edges. These are not the knives

I need to slice lemons, 

which I do, each morning, at the bakery, to squeeze

and boil with sugar for glazing

more than enough good for a belly. 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013


Creatures in the murky dark inside me,

billowing around--gray jellyfish

swimming my middle. They want edges

more defined than this goo. 

Memories like baby babble--the stories 

don't make sense; they're doused in my father's

drink. One's floating my heart right now--

jamming it up. Another's in my knee-joint, 

keeping me from moving forward. 

I ask the doctor for a monster

extraction, and she puts a mirror to my face; 

that's her way to examine. In my green eyes

two tiny beings whom I remember and with whom

I plead to release me

into me. I pinch myself to find

a way in, to remember my skin is mine--not theirs

and not his. This skin isn't thin

and my bruises are few. The spots that are purple

and blue are beautiful--scatterings of twilight

sky, tiny galaxies. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Fill me

There's a big empty inside of me--a dried up sea

I can't see across

where the pelicans used to live. 

They held secrets, like fish, in their beaks. 

And now, everything about me--scrawled on little 

scraps of paper, blowing about the silt and gravel

where the water once was. 

When the wind blows, even I can't see

the pieces of me, the dark parts

held beyond my memory. 

Somebody, bring the water trucks. 

Somebody, tuck what's written

back inside some creatures' mouths. 

Return me to the world where I hadn't caught

glimpses of me

I never wanted to see. 

Monday, April 1, 2013

To Start

I'm a late beginner. Meaning, the moon's too high in the sky
tonight to even count this as day one. And, as this is a poem, 

I feel obliged to make good use of the moon. 
The moon's been good to me--except that one time when the tide
came up fast and I was just two and the ocean nearly 
swallowed me. Then there would've been a lot of life
missed, a lot of birthday cakes unbaked, crying spells averted, 
that first love never met, three hundred seashells uncollected. 

There's so much I'm just barely starting--needed all these extra years
(the undertow the first of several second chances) to get where
I am today. (I am. Thankfully.) I'm not talking about up top any corporate
ladder--or any mountain of any sort. I'm in the trenches, seeding

a garden; I'm under blankets, holding a lover; I'm on my knees, 
asking for more than I deserve: another day, a bouquet of flowers. 

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Between us

With each secret, I layer another veil

between my heart and God. Of course,

I can't hide anything from God, as hard as I try,

whether it's the meat I'm not meant to eat

these weeks of Lent, or the small hate I hold

tight, unwilling to let loose into love--or at least,

understanding. There's so much I don't understand--

why my father loved so strangely, the storms in my chest,

a President want to war, and the notebooks

I found in family storage. So much history,

so many tangles in my current brain--it hurts and I lash

out, I slam my hand down with a crash.

I do this behind closed doors, but there's no

door wide or thick enough that God can't get in--

and when my rages come to rest, and rest turns to sleep,

against all my efforts, then I'm steeped in His rushes of love.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Cake Work

I tie the strings behind my back
and go to work, measuring sugar, 
letting the butter melt, grating the thin
yellow skin off of lemons, 
mixing it all into small good things. 

Then, the small good things I come home to, 
after a long day at the bakery: 
a pair of Persian buttercups, the hope of new
tomato plants in the ground, 
root vegetables wedged and roasting. 

There's so much I want to give back
having been loved so heartily. 
My palms ache with this want. 
The best I can do is press them together
in thanks. My offering this prayer--

and a stolen piece of cake. 

Friday, March 29, 2013

Where the worry went

The dogs are sleeping

and we are nearly

a quiet interrupted 

only by breathing 

and the hum of wires

through the streets.

A pickup truck bounces

down the block, maybe

its passenger had a bit to drink, 

shouts a "whoop!" into the night. 

This is the place where the poem

might turn--a woman might shift in the bed, 

unable to stop the wrestling

match in her head. But tonight, in every room--

all over the city--the people remain

untroubled for a time, 

a tiny gift, their worries

absorbed, whirled, and burning

with starlight. 

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Harvesting the Plenty

Even this late, he soaks the sweet pea
seeds to plant in hopes of a September
bloom, right near the start of my forty-seventh
year. I've gone too many years without a yard
full of flowers. The fingers of iris leaves
reaching through soil to sun, columbine opening
their shy faces behind the ferns.

In apartments through my younger days,
gazing out windows at cement walkways
or birds landing on power lines, wanting
to turn the earth--in more ways than one.
I planted words in rows instead of seeds,
put these gardens of language in envelopes
and sent them out as entreaties. Each a bloomless
hope. Now this real garden. Before the flowers,

he tilled a bed for greens to eat--and in these short
weeks, we've already harvested the lettuce,
the beets are nearly--and there's larger plans--
he's shopping right now for a plum tree
and in my mind, I can already see the new
green leaves gleam and the small fruit
give like there's always going to be plenty.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Coming to

I walked the high desert ranch roads, dodging

tusked javelina, coming upon families of pronghorn,

watching the seasons let loose greens and yellows--and the cream-colored

blossoms of the Spanish Daggers. And the heavy blue

sky held my body like a limitless lover.

Far West Texas, a kind of heaven, a place

pouring light in through the top of my head,

descending faster than the tequila shaken with sugar that I'd order

at 5, when the bar opened its doors, and soon the doors of my body

busted open at their hinges, and the men knew me

only from the darkest region of their blackouts. I lost out on so many

glorious daybreaks, under sheets and trembling. Then by noon, the ranch

roads calling, and I'd search for God again who persistently pressed.

Finally, I'd fall far enough, wake with a mouthful of light.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


Just put me on a train, a train to anywhere,
anywhere but here, by here I mean the sharp peak inside my brain,
a tower of black onyx, too slick to climb,
too wide to travel around. It's a sticking point, it's a lifetime of them,
built up, jamming things up like a spoon in the garbage disposal,
a shiny thing I keep glancing at, seeing only my reflection.

I want out of this hard landscape, this mountain of me,
and the train goes fast and across, from sea to sea.
Once at the Atlantic, I'll jump into its warm waters and finally
swim. There's an island I'll land on and be--
blissfully--lost at last.

Monday, March 25, 2013

My Fill

The gulf coast, summer of 2004, a year before Katrina would wreck it all--
I was wrecking myself, a hurricane of a houseguest, but calling
my storms a party barge ride. Claiming this even as we stumbled out of the bar into morning's
light, even as I nodded off in my eggs and pancakes at the Waffle House next door,
even as I dove into the streets of New Orleans and swam them on rivers of gin.

And the ache in my chest--the big empty,
the lonely hole where my heart should go--
would never overflow, no matter how much drink
I took. I took it in stride. Don't know, then, why I cried and cried.
And this, I claimed, a glorious ride. I nearly did myself in.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

As dark settles in

Spring dusk comes later and later;

day slowly empties out of me and I wait--for something or someone--

maybe the monsters fumbling under the bed will finally reveal themselves

when dark settles in. I tie my pajama pants tight as if there are secrets

I refuse to loosen. The sky is all grays now--gray clouds dot

the gray sky. And still, I wait.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Globe of My Mind

Late afternoon light--I want to bottle it, like fireflies,
like the white glittery snow in the snowglobe
my grandmother kept on her mantel,
souvenir from Niagra Falls and all the spoons with handles
bearing city names I'd never visit. I went
some places, as a little girl, in my imagination,
no real place so glorious as the landscapes in my mind,
the worlds I created before suppertime, standing alone
under the three deodar cedars in the front yard,
small rose-shaped cones fallen from their branches at my feet.
Always, in the stories I told myself, the princes adorned me with roses,
and the light was just so, just like it is right now, forty years later--
and I still want to keep night from ever coming, to live right in the shine,
the gleam of low sun on spring leaves, and never enter the house for dinner,
where the clatter of dishes and the rising voices and a father forking
his food, his singing voice turning to shouts as the last light left the sky.

Friday, March 22, 2013


He offered, write about dirt so how could I
refuse--that place we grow worms, lifting the bin's
lid and turning the rich stuff, dark and smelling

dank as the monthly blood I used to bleed,
when I was younger, when I thought
I might grow a beautiful thing under my belly skin.

The worms duck for darkness
while the iris bulbs in the garden's
back corner reach their new green fingers

towards the light, and I look at my palms,
their deep lines caked with soil.
I'm planting seeds--flowers and lettuce.

This making of something not a substitute
for the small someone I wanted to--and didn't
carry. I think about her sometimes:

her curly blonde hair messy from rest
as I spoon tiny portions of oatmeal into her
mouth. Instead, I curl the sweet pea tendrils

onto the first rung of their string trellis.