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Full text of "Womb Exile"

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Womb Exile 



s^ poems by Michelle Goldberg 



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Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2010 with funding from 

Lyrasis IVIembers and Sloan Foundation 



http://www.archive.org/details/wombexileOOmich 



Contents 

What Manual to Follow? 2 

Anahata 3 

Korean Lessons 4 

First You Steam the Rice 6 

The Leopard 7 

Quiet! 8 

The Body Alone 1 

My Mother's Journal 1 1 

I Am Still On Earth 13 

The Hidden Door 16 

You Will Not Recognize Me 1 7 

The Lunatic Fears Both Death and Life 1 8 

Afterwards, the Child 19 

The Valise 20 

The Playboy Magazines 2 1 

I Do Not Mourn the Answer To This 23 

Above, Seagulls and Crows Crisscross Like Yang and Yin 24 

To the Stranger 25 

We Converge Along the Ecliptic 26 

Undressing 27 

Rousing the Somnambulist-Heart 28 

The Great Milk-Can Escape 29 

Drop 30 

Jackpots From the Slot Machine 3 1 

Landscapes By Candleliglit 32 

Holy Cross Hospital, New Mexico 34 

The Great Propaganda of Lovelessness 35 

The Two Become One Become Non-Dual 36 

The House of Bliss 38 

Domestic Alchemy 39 

Stepmother 40 

El i sabeth ' s Poem 41 

The Girl in the Opalescent Water 42 

Hello, Goodbye 43 

Pangea 44 

Shadi 45 

Amphibian 47 

Red Spider 48 

The Hawk and Tomorrow 49 

An Axe — Prayer 50 

Badlands 51 



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So You Drive Out of the Canyon Towards Albuquerque 52 

Each Green Exit Leads to Somebody's Sohtary Place in the World 54 

Maple to the West of the House 55 

Green/Songs 56 

Returning From The Salt Bath 57 

So That We Do Not Drown 58 

Am Almost 59 

The Fallen Alder 60 

Crossing Out the Blue 62 

Samuel Rothbort's Paintings 63 

Matinee 64 

The Last Angel 65 

Where Did Your Long Hair Go? 67 

Laird Baird, Play On 68 

Mood Indigo 69 

Cantaloupe Mother 70 



Many thanks to Karen Waldron, Project Advisor 
Nancy Andrews, Advisor 
College of the Atlantic 2008 



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First, when I was apart from you, 
this world did not exist 
nor any other. 

Second, whatever I was looking for 
was always you. 

Third, why did I ever learn to count to three? 

Fourth, my cornfield is burning! 

Fifth, this finger stands for Rabia, 
and this is for someone else. 
Is there a difference? 

Are these words or tears? 
Is weeping speech? 
Wliat shall I do, my love? 

— Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks 



When you take your pill 
it's like a mine disaster. 
I think of all the people 
lost inside you. 



-Richard Brautigan, The Pill Versus the Springhill Mine Disaster 



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What Manual to Follow? 



How to flood and birth from the bleeding smile 

a doubtless element — nomadic oxygen, blissful lead — 

a mentality doubtless as the green blade piercing 

the hardened lobe of stone? How to want to want planetary blue? 

How to see through faceted eye-gems and fly, 
unerringly, into the symmetrical prison of prisms, 
where the Great Spider prayed for my alighting? 

How to ax the sacrifice, chop and split to kindle light? 
How to glow white heat from the ember heart? 

How to branch out of the understory? How to root 

and suck such dark subterranean fertility 

with midwinter, unpainted lips and open throat? 

How to compose from the decomposition, holy 
as a purple worm, holy as the cursed serpent 
unrepentant on a humble belly, and fierce 
with the hissing ache of being? 

How to be baby-dumb and laugh as the sun hide- 
and-seeks behind the backlit dress of clouds? 

How to address my prayer and query to the quarry, 
and in the right hand comer, lick my Mary Magdalene 
stamp, and lick the white triangle without slicing my tongue? 

How to break the hermitage in the countryside of skin, 
the leather canteen souls lug and sip, intravenous 

blood bag and glass flask of fermented disappearance? 

How to pour into the salt sea as salmon 
and return along the opposition of tributaries, 
to the midwife and tombstone of creekside? 

How to muscle underearth and lay out on the watertable 
as the happiest corpse, in the grave that is the wellspring, 
in the grove of deepened silence? 



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Anahata 

the heart chakra, "iinstruck sound" 



Last week I knocked on her door 
and she let me into her. 

I felt her walls as the rim of a singing bowl 
and took my rest inside her, 

awakening among the unborn, 
clothed in their translucent skin — 

a pilgrim with jack-in-the-pulpits, 
shuffling her way to the temple's altar. 

The xmbom lay suspended, listening 
to the mother's heart gallop, 

her ruby necklace pulse. 

They love the orchestra conducted by the wellspring. 

I followed the deep-toned tom-tom throb, 
climbed her spinal ladder rung by rung, 

arrived at the site of the flaming chambers — 
to consummate, to bum, to die 

in the revelry of incendiary heartspace. 
My ashes, confetti for the birthday, 

and after the singing she swept the ashes 
into the um of my new body — 

the child of sound, the child aflame, 
reborn and drawn to the mother's breast. 



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Korean Lessons 



The six women, including 

my mother, had gone 

to school together in Seoul. 

I sit across from one of them, 

waiting for lunch to be ready. 

Her apartment smells of 

steamed rice (pap). 

chili powder {koch u karu), 

spicy pickled cabbage (kimchi). 

Suki says. When I make Traditional 

hot pepper paste (koch'ujang) 

it ferments for three months. 

It smells so strong neighbors think 

there 's dead body in the house! 

She gets up to stir the soup, 

lifts the hd off the electric 

rice cooker, and the kitchen fills 

with steam. You look so much 

like your mommy! 

We sip on the kimchi and fish soup 
(kimchiguk) and scoop rice 
with leaves of romaine lettuce. 
What you need to make Korean 
meal is garlic, pepper, sesame oil, 
green onion, vinegar, salt. 
The windows are open but air 
does not move through them. 
It is July in Minneapolis. 
Nan lived with me for while — 
she also died of cancer. And now 
Sunny, who 's living in Texas, 
has cancer. I've gotten real fat 
but I try to take care of myself. 
You know, we were special women 
because M-e wanted more. 
More, she says, and taps my hand 
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You know other Suki in Brooklyn — 

Yung is in Kansas but I don 't 

speak to her. She never 

pay me back money. I only call 

to tell her Sunny has cancer. 

Suki slices watermelon into half-circles 

then brings them out on a dish. 

We don't speak, 

but take loud wet bites of finit 

down to the white of the rind. 

— What about my mother (oma).^ 
— Oh your mommy was very 
fashionable woman, always 
stylish, neat and clean. 
She was artistic lady. She 
write me long letters. 
— What else? 

— Oh, you know. She was very 
dignified. Very stylish. 
Good Korean M>oman. 
We spit the black seeds 
into a glass bowl. 
What you need to make a Korean 
meal is one — ^two — three- 
four — five — six. 
Korean people are good people. 
And then she gathered the dishes 
to wash them. 



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First You Steam the Rice 



First you steam the rice, 

white petals, one to two 

parts water running from the tap 

in the pot you remember her 

always using. The rice, 

swelling with steam, 

the froth building when she let it go 

too long, too hot, 

but the smell 

is so soft — it is American tradition 

to throw the rice, white petals, 

at weddings, laying down the grain, 

the carnations of coronation. Likewise, 

laying down the mother 

the smell is so soft, 

the rice of remembrance 

clouded in rising steam, the kitchen windows 

wet and heavy 

and in the clearing there is the rice 

and no one else. 



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The Leopard 



It is called that time of the month 
and so she must retreat to her lair 
where the dark earth can absorb 
a spilling moon. That time of month 

when blood pours from the wound 

that is the mouth of the leopard. 

That time of month when she is a monk 

patching rags into a robe of faith 

in the will of the unborn. That time of month 

when she is a leper to be left alone 
with her emotions. In a dream, 
the leopard lay beside me, tame and 
purring, dormant fury. 

This time of month I am as nature 
possesses me, equal parts life and violence. 
This time of month I retreat to the trees 
to honor my mother. 



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Quiet! 



A vase — chrysanthemum, snapdragon, rose. 
A hand — coin, hand, 

rose. A woman — wait 
for her, she does not know 

what is inside. 
Field, wind, seed. 

Hands. 
Milk. 

The beginning. 
Quiet! 

She does not yet know 
she is being exceeded. 

Look how gently she sleeps while dreaming 
of tidal waves. 

An ocean — ^water, dragon, 
salt. 

She performs 

her daily tasks — cleans her hair, 

prepares 

meals, makes love. 

She replies. Fine, 
and you? 

By now 

the child has grown its heart. 

Magnolia womb. 
Equinox. 



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For her sake, let us not 
prolong irony. 

A mother — . 
She is growing 

suspicious of her body, 
the microcosmos. 

Her lover, too, 

wonders at her swollen breasts 

as he delights in them. 
The bud 

unfiirls. 
A mother — 

tidal, child, 
herself. 

Snap! 
Tomorrow 

she will discover the child, 
but until then, 

observe how sincerely 
she thinks only of herself. 



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The Body Alone 



Leaves lean into sunlight, the himgry 

into the redolence of food, the wolf into the wannth of fur, 

and the sperm, too, leans into the egg. 

Leaning is the most basic of motions — ^the body alone is a fragile vial. 

This may be called gravity. 

This may be called instinct. 

There is no word that does not lean into meaning. 

Only the Joshua tree is of desert hermitage. 

I lean into him because love is light. The snake 
bathes on the stone because heat is life. 
The moon leans toward Earth, oceans toward moon, 
he leans into me because love is heat. 

After many days where I do not bleed, I lean over 
the test — a blue cross for yes, a blue line for no one. 
As the cross appears I lean into the lover. 
The cross appears and my fetus leans into my womb. 

In winter, the hemisphere leans away from the sun. 
In drought, water leans away from the suiface soil. 
In war, gods lean away from their creation. 
And the mother, too, leans away. 



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My Mother's Journal 



My mother, who wrote, Since 

she was born my life is like dream world, 

wrote. This is for my daughter Michelle. Every time 
I think about you I want to cry. 

The second half is blank, the future 
left for the living to inscribe and suture. 

The journal opens the passage for tears. 

I open to the passage that reads, Michelle start asking about why. 

Why animals dying and plants, and flowers? 

Lonely, I had asked, "Why are my thoughts in this body?" 

Just think about good time we had together, but 
those thoughts have cleft. 

Little green books, pale leaves, bound in a factory, 
dispensed into so many hands, my mother's, that wrote, 

/ don 't know how long I have time to live. 
Little strange life, bound in the flesh and hands 

and then dispensed with. 

When God want me, do I have no choice? 

Split from the same tree, only I am still burning. Remember, 
you have choice to suffer or enjoy, she wrote in ink, in English. 

And then the journal is filled with foreign words: 

subtotal gastrectomy, possible cholecystectomy and liver biopsy. 

And then the journal is a ledger, listing doctor's names, medicines, 
surgeries, 1 14 lb.. .109 lb.. .103 lb with nightgown.... 

Right now time is 5:00 in morning, I couldn 't sleep. 

I'm living with today, no fixture, only today. 



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/ miss my mother so much, I can 't' share moment 
with her and can 't tell her I love her. 

And then she wrote only in her natural, beautiful Korean glyphs, 
until her last page in the middle of the book. 



12 



I Am Still On Earth 



1. 

On the eve of the equinox 1 am the fool 
and then not the fool. 

On the eve of the equinox magnolia buds are fingers 
pointing to the dragon-cloud. 

My child, are you in the garden picking eggplants? 



2. 

1 would telephone you 

but my last coins are in the pool of the fountain. 

I panhandled. The passersby despised me. 

My womb rang but you did not pick up. 

What is your name child-with-closed-eyes? 



3. 

March 28th — On the new moon night a wave envelops a small girl. 

I seaich for her body in what wants to drown me. 
I carry her onto the shore and she awakens. 
Then I awaken. 

I search my hair for kelp, I search my body 

for your presence, you who are the size of a quarter. 



4. 

Where will you go without your mother? 

What will you do? 

I will search for you in the in the magnolia bud. 
1 will seek you in the dragon-cloud. 



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What will you do without a mother? 
Where will you go? 

I will look for your portrait on the head of coins. 
I will watch for you in hands unclasping. 



5. 

The magnolia is not a finger but a hand unclasping. 

In the hand is the pistil. In the hand is the lion's ear. 

In the hand is my breast 

and his other hand pressed behind my thigh. 

His body is a swell and then the surf crashing — 

we come and the gull cries. 

Beloved and cliild inside me. 



6. 

April 1 1th — The magnolia has nine petals. 

The young women in the clinic's waiting room 

hold their nauseous bellies, 

hold down the balloon before it flies away. 

The television plays as they watch the patterns 
in the carpet of their misery. 

One by one the nurse calls them into the office — 
the balloons lift off and disappear into a cloud. 

My balloon is in the shape of a lion. 

Are you sure you want to see the image? 

Ultrasound lion, I am not afraid to look at you. 
Ultrasound lion, you are, but soon — 
please find another from whom you can be bom, or, 
please return to me when I am not so — 



14 



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I rejoice because death is not death as we know it. 

7. 

The omens are in the eyes 

of the abortionist. He looks at me as the Friend 

looks into the pool of the fountain. 

Dear doctor whomever, 

my collaborator, my open eye omen, 
open my legs and proceed as a gust 
that sweeps the magnolia from the stem. 

Child, we are water falling and a cardinal at the wmdow. 

We are one another's omen for some other future. 

The petals rain from the branch, 

the delicate flesh so easily gained and then lost. 



8. 

Sorrow, I have slept in the cot you keep for me 
in your lupine field. 

Do not be sorry if I weave you and the elegy 
along the trellis of my nightshades. 



Child, we have split. I am still on Earth. 

You have slipped from my possession— out 
of the open hands — and are now everywhere. 



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The Hidden Door 



We must go underground, drink from the tree. Copper, 
why do you chase me, swinging that billy club? 
She welcomes me into paradise. They make love with horses. 
I whisper — red, yellow, white and Dionysus. 

She is swallowed by a wave. Ex-wife, don't look at me 
that way. The streets are vacant. This is the wrong train. 
Tm between her legs with all this gum in my mouth. 
I've saved this hamburger for Martin Luther King. 

Come sit on my lap, little girl who falls off windowsills. 
He had proposed to his wife with a clay Mayan hand. 
You've come back from the dead — now this is my life. 
I didn 't know you were so bad. I am not jealous. I am. 

My wallet is filled with abstract paintings. 
Moonlight shines in the garden of violets. 
What 's a four letter word of Egyptian origin 
that means — to leave the walls of the city? 

I honored his genius with a necklace of grapes. 
Brother, you've broken the sorcerer's cup! 
A poem about a woman whose lover is dying. 
My ear is a telephone I secretly dial. 

He broke off the wedding because of her suitcase. 
The beautiful woman loves to get whipped. 
Peacock. Rattlesnake. No. I mean yes. 
My hands are hydrangeas. "This was a dream." 



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You Will Not Recognize Me 



Voice, you rock me in yom- bassinet. 

We talk for hours tangled in black wicker. You tell me 

she is more beautiful and you tell me they are not pleased. 

You can rock yourself asleep, 

your mouth stuffed with chamomile. 

I am not your baby, do not bring me to your tit. 

Your milk is arsenic, paranoia, obsession, death-bloom. 

Do not call me your shy girl, 

your pussyfoot. 

I am not that way and never will be again! 

I am a wrecking ball razing the walls of our city 

(this ego is so solid, I will be demolishing my entire life). 

Voice, I will foil you with my abandon. 

When you speak, I will dissolve into a tributary, 

an indigo shawl flapping in the eyes of good and evil. 

You will not recognize me out of bondage — 

you will mistake me for clover and the solar eclipse. 



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The Lunatic Fears Both Death and Life 



Warnings of death come from everyone. The moon 

covers the sun hke a hand. 

Fear covers the eyes so death always seems 

to arrive unexpectedly. 

So death runs like a fugitive through life, 
and the I cries. What a shame. 
I do not understand idioms. 

The moon seems far away in the sky, 
regardless of the distant stars. 

Death is not in my future, but in my left hand. 

In my right hand is life. All night 

1 dance, clapping 

and stamping my feet on the revolving Earth. 

So do not tell me death depends on tradition. 
The Earth casts its shadow over the moon. 
Go in search of the heavenly planets 
but do not bring me back your souvenirs. 

Keep your warnings — my moon is poised above me, 
even as it is new. All night I dance 
in its darkness, on the revolvuig Earth. 



18 



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Afterwards, the Child 



Will unbraid the triad, 

sit shiva, 
remain. 

Will read the address book, 

the Korean-English dictionary, 
the akashic record. 

Will forage, 
dream of, 
forge. 

Will resemble, 
be centaur, 
taper. 

WUl feign lineage, 
inherit, 
be taught their marriage. 

Will learn — many Korean women 
return to Korean men — 

shield the father, 
allow them. 

Will sleep inside. 

go ninety-days, 
wake in wilderness. 

Will design, 
assemble, 
never know them. 



19 



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The Valise 



Together, my hands are a crater. 

In the crater an estuary, in the estuary a proverb, 

in the proverb a valise, it is mine. 

I approach the valise and a bomb explodes. 

I approach the explosion and time ends. 

Time ends and I am an Olmec head in the halls of a museum. 

Time lends you a handkerchief. 

Time lends you a hieroglyph. 

Time bends you over her knee and spanks you in public. 

Together, my hands are an orphan. 

In the orphan a keyhole, in the keyhole a fisherman, 

in his net, a valise of prayers. 

I approach my fate and a bomb explodes. 

I approach his body on the bathroom floor. 

Time ends where the tide swallows the mouth of the river. 

My hands mute the scream from the mouth of the river. 

The orphan lent me a lantern so I could see time. 
Time hid in a hieroglyph I could not read. 
I approached the keyhole and saw his body. 
I approached my father as though he were aUve. 

Time explodes and leaves a crater. 

Time lays a handkerchief over fate. 

Time becomes caught in our nets and canned into proverbs. 

Together, my hands are a valise. 

In the valise is time, in time an orphan, 

in the orphan a father, he is mine. 



20 



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The Playboy Magazines 



Aside from the mother. Playboy 

is the introduction to tlie woman's house — 

the stunning domed temple of the body. 

She is not just a page, but a friend 

baring everything 

for your eyes alone. 

When I was a child, left alone 

to play, I found that stack of Playboys. 

I studied each bush, each nipple, everything 

before my father returned to the house, 

and I was again friendless 

and returned to my flat-chested body. 

At school I told everybody. 

The next time I was left home alone, 

I gathered my two friends 

and we stole the Playboys — 

erotic thieves in the trusted house. 

Their silken spread lips were everything 

we were never taught in school, everything 
we never knew about our own bodies. 
They were as an undomesticated house, 
in which they were never alone, 
not with all those women m the magazines 
for their friends. 

Foui" years later my father and I were friends 

and I had forgotten everything — 

the closet, the towels hiding the Playboys, 

the initiation secrets of the body — 

until I was left suddenly alone 

and orphaned in the daughter's house. 

When I was made to give over the house, 

the final relative and friend, 

I had to clean and clear it out alone. 

The handwriting. The clothes. The watch. Everything. 

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The closet and what was within. The naked bodies 
in those same Playboy magazines. 

And I leafed through every page until I was no longer alone, 

but befriended by the women, their inviting eyes, their bodies- 
together in the house with the Playmates of the year. 



22 



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I Do Not Mourn the Answer To This 

What is mine? The open hands, a cUff face 

where water cascades. 

I am not the one thrown over in a barrel. 

Devotion — ^the handing over of my Hly and whale, 

my proudest hour and humiliation — chanting. 

Who possesses a heart, ajar, through which a crow 
flies — caw cowl 

Come to my house for supper. 

I know that nothing can be taken into deatli, because 
I would have been taken. Somehow, 

the meal is more flavorful as an offering. 

The face in the hand mirror? 
Even this is Yours, adorned. 



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Above, Seagulls and Crows Crisscross Like Yang and Yin 



Walking and arriving in a lovemaking 
which is all climax, wave after wave 
upon the granite shore that, 
because it receives, must change— 
with open gait I receive it. 

Even the slowest pace passes alcoves 
where something sighs, exhaling 
fragrant time, vagrant time, 
leaving a trail of breath 
in the mind's cold air. 

Gestured by a glint of light 

to the cedar bush, its garnet spider 

set in a ring of web — after 

several still minutes I realize 

a hundred embers holding on in the wind. 

In the stream mouth's cold colloquy 
with the bay, six ducks buoy, 
necks and wings furled to the hull, 
huddled and harbored 
with the yellow fleet of leaves. 

Walking a pace, soul slow, 
foot by foot along concrete, tapping one beat, 
the heart, a polyrhythm, and the ocean 
with its eyes shut, and its wliistle 
orgasming in the knotty trees. 

I rush under their falling hands 
as 1 am touched by that height, 
in the moment after the stems 
were licked off the branch 
and cradled by gravity. 

Why are leaves not considered little trees? 



24 



-0/jfli 









:';■■- c ;'.''. 



G 



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/f ^'; jiio iaDi:;. 






•;'•' !"'!.'■!; ^'■'■fi' 



1 -. Ji ' '■■! 

.'■'■I'UI'J >''■ 



To the Stranger 



Stranger, it is night. Shall we walk together in the violet snow? 

There is lamplight in your bedroom window, 
do not tell me you are not home. 

Stranger, the nude elm embraces me on Earth, 

the spruce and fir are beanstalks to heaven. 

The boughs and I are weighted with snow. Won't you be wind 

and allay our heaviness? 

Stranger, the music of night tlireatens my sanity — 
I can hear the free fall of snow and the heartbeat of doves 
where they roost. Together we can learn the labor of listening 
and erase loss from the tongue of the soul. 

Stranger, you will recognize me by my lapis lazuli earrings. 

Stranger, you wdll recognize me by my eyes laced to your eyes. 

Sfranger, you will recognize me by my tongue in your mouth 
and the aurora borealis that unlaces your thoughts. 

Sfranger, half of me needs you tonight, the other half 
has become arboreal. I do not have a cellular phone to call you on, 
only a mouthful of gemstones to spit at your window. Moon- 
stone, opal, amethyst — the lace agate snow falls past 
the light of the sfreetlamp. Branches frame triangles of clouded sky. 

My friend, half of me needs you now, tonight, the other 
half has perched beside the dove. 



25 



'.■ 'I<)i'^ i' 






.y^^^■■)■]Miy,■(r•; b:;-"i\ 



n "^I'Q'yyyi i^-'-^ iio-/ ns^ 



n vn 3>^- •-< 



;i^;:!Oftiv 



'^'3* - 



■■rsu: ^.ouuo-y -y-i 



We Converge Along the Ecliptic 



My moon, day is spent without you. By night 
I disrobe my illusion. 

It has been long since I've been seen, and looked at 
like this. You pull me towards you like a sea 

and I sing the ballads of constant dying. 

Ears fly off with sparrows. Moon, there are times 

when I am not human. I wonder what you think of this. 
When I wear this thick coat, I am the player piano. 

Is it soon coming, when I will be nude and my closets 
filled with union? Moon, 

I am your devoted wife. Morning comes. 
I will tuck you under the horizon to rest. 



26 



?!^aof'; '"ti" hfi•,,■'j'.Ai>^ ^d iiiv; 



Undressing 



Closer, my Friend. Come closer, still, 

until my breath is wet against your ear's spiral shell, 

and uncomfortableness falls like clothes to the floor. 

Ah, the intimacy between piano keys, a girl and a tiger, 
a candle and a dark wall, is necessary and everything. 
Listen, listen, to the echoes from the cave mouth 
breaking against the walls of intuition. 

A woman whispers from the top of the trees. 
The prince of wilderness chants in our dreams. 
Closer, my Friend. Come closer, still, 
until my breath is seawater soaking your clothing. 

Ah, how intimacy strips illusions like panties off the beloved. 
Come closer and listen to what the thunderhead says, 
and the lightning that strikes and enlightens. 



27 



,^«rjl:|;>iO-JU. 



■;n& 



nj^ ■-' ^iU''- 



Rousing the Somnambulist-Heart 



We glean each other's traces, 
awkwardly jostle the doorknobs of saints, 

of what is clandestine, break glass — 
holy, villainous, Chaplinesque — 

trade clothing for hours until the body 
is useless, 

sweating, weeping. Take our clothing 

because the body is shelter enough. 

This is our processional down to the scene, 
down to the toes of the lunatic in union. 

Anonymous mystics! The body sweats and weeps, 
learns how to feed and wash — 

holy, villainous — ^unwillingly, we are, 
we taper, our fmgers, lit candles. 

We decorate our traces in words and wax, 
knots, stars, psalms. 

We pronounce infinitude with fragmented syllables, 
hunger moans. 



28 



The Great Milk-Can Escape 



And then he Uberated himself from eight 
padlocked chains and two steel rimmed automobile 
wheels, a pair of handcuffs. 
Breathing comes easily out of water, 
there are new difficulties to invent. 

He pulls the boundaries to him 

like a wristwatch to his line of sight. 

What color are his eyes? 

What time do you thmk it is God with no hands? 

Without the first and last yards of film, we are left 

solving Sunday's crossword puzzle: 

locks, dissonance, injury. 

The co-creation is imperfect, and 

lacks resolution. Will you not answer me at all? 

Harry Houdini in a straight] acket 

jumps off Harvard Bridge and into the Charles River. 

Somewhere, it is given up 

because meaning is ambiguous. 

Others stack mystery 

as nesting dolls fit inside one another— painted 

with the same face but m varying degrees of detail. 

And what of these inventions, trickster? 

Before each phenomenon, 

Houdini had the key passed in a kiss 

from his wife Beatrice — 

the key, the tongue, the lock, the escape. 



29 



OiiC '.■ 



■At)' 



xs-ri>i ■y'.Miv.]- 



.a;;'.:.;i:.r^i;:.5HVi:,HTl. 



■'rji?; 'Tn ,i: 



^;iii■ -'i? .-:i/v!.^-.' 



'( i ,■ : .ri' -.ipcr- ,: ,r|-' 



Drop 



Only the initiate knows the stomach knot 

before the pill is dropped — chemical wafer 
for the dark night, rapture of the body — 

the wait for a medicine to dissolve the world, 

the warfare. Impatient hands of a spider, ready to solve 

Earth's mystery with new symmetry. 

The river dam is wet, needs to be doused, 

alight with fire to let more water through. 
Light, damnit. Was the dose too small? 

But then the pleasure call is answered 

and the ocean's high tide courses back through 

the body's shallow bed, overwhelmed 

and down from the helm. Wavering as a flame 
on the wick of the spine, sacrum, heart of palm, 
rush of revelation through the headwaters. 

Arachnid anarchy woven with the spinneret, 

orgasmic haul expanding the flesh. 

With eight legs it is a quick chmb up the minaret. 

The sight from up top is beatific, 
although the details below are obscured 
by the vision conjured. 

Not caught as a fly, but bound to the web. 

Night is union with space, gravity released, 

a dark grace. The fne that illumines is the fu-e that bums, 

and as the sun-star returns, you know what happens 
to the spell — ^the quick rise makes for a long drop, 
on a thread, morning's descent. 



30 



4 .•',; .- ;i''r'''A ■?!.:u:-u :.■:•. 'jf 






.i'.^t 



Jackpots From the Slot Machine 



The womb toUbooths collect dollar bills from the to-be-bom. 
The collector says. One dollar, to-be-born, or go back home. 
On the other side, the mother requires a permy per suck. 
There are many things to buy when you are alive — 
life, breath, the perfume of you-know-what-$. 

Tomorrow I will barter my eternal devotion 
for a grilled cheese sandwich, 

tip my waitress with necklaces I've found in my dreams. 
The forgotten necklaces are worth their weight in water- 
melon sugar. My life is worthless but please don't take it from my hands. 

Diabolical tollbooth collector of dreams, I am suddenly 

rich! My passion has been recast into a dance hall 

of Venus de Milos — without hands, without wanting hands. 

These dreams are the last underworld cashless dance hall. 

My ethereal wallet is stuffed with hallucinations, 

but still a fee must be paid when traveling between realms. 

Oh, the high priced luxury vacations to death 

tax the souls of my progeny. They will pay for my sins of obedience. 

They will pay big dollars for my casket or scatter 

my ashes over a bed of lovers sleeping. Hello Satan 

who stands waiting at the crossroads, and God who hovers 

over the collection box of my unconscious. 

It is Saturday. The streets are paved in America. 
Trains run on time and time runs on a heavy gold watch 
with no alarm to sound — Awaken my love! Awaken! 
It is Saturday and there is nothing to be done 
without money. Without money I own zero language. 
Tliey listen but cannot understand what I am saying. 



31 



■&-Ay 



'DllS:i^ -i; 



■ i-Xh, 



IU\ :jT£ c!3e?i-!«i:n" 



Landscapes By Candlelight 



I. 

We wait for wind to change patterns 

of sky, white on blue, white as the watchful 

moon, Billie Holiday's gardenia. We choose blues. 

We wait for trains to take us away, 

and watch from the window the colors and Imes. 



II. 

Her black pupils and his blue irises, the dark 

stretches of body where hair grows, the back 

of closets, the shadow between his neck 

and hair when he wears it down, night lightning 

and the robes of Muhammad AH. 

When the electricity goes out the lovers eat, read, sing 

by candlelight and cigarettes. 

His blue eyes look gray and the warm 

shadows dance and they dance 

alone the faces in the walls. 



*& 



The lovers sleep. 

The lovers begin v«th coffee, 

sheets stolen and garments scattered 

among the empty glasses and feasts 

on and of 

rattlesnake necklines and embraces. 



III. 

Words pulled from the line are draped over mistakes, 

so the language evolves to be explanatory yes sir no sir 

and secretive. News about the news. 

News about the retraction of the news and suicide. 

(I dare not collaborate in the imprinting 

of America's catchword-craze. 



Do not train me to fear myself and the gazelle! 

Where is the other that is spoken of with hatred? 

Outside my den are only trees, inside the trees the akashic record. 

32 



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!;.;,.!7 .:-'.: ■ 



',>>i--Hj iji 






.r':';-/;;V;'n''' -!/'J ^ii^riiJ.-iJvti ':■ 



':;i.'n-i-i.: ■r'"i!i'';;'i ;:' f;j:;''r; 



j"^.,: : ■■!•'■ y':y, .,•; :';,y':.i j':; '^1,.- •'; .^'^Oil ,'!•'•; Vi Jffw; -f 



I will dream under each tree to know the story denied me. 
I will dream under each tree to know the other 
that is myself.) 

Meanwhile, the doctor of the plague masquerades 

with his black robes and white bird death mask, 

his white bird nose filled with herbs and other perfumes 

to veil the scent of decay. Plague blues. 

Go and do likcMise. 

Refiising to touch the sick with his hands, 

the doctor prods them with the end of this cane. 

(It's not your fault. 
It's not your fault.) 



IV. 

When the poem fights the headlines 

it is not just the poem, but the poem's god 

and the poem's people versus the headlines 

(angering the editor with a right hand lead 

and knocking him out in the eighth round.) 

Words will have their significance restored- 
security: the presence of love — ^the sky 
a sky, the train our train 
that we ride into the heart's terminal. 



V. 

The whistle blows. An arm 

leads a girl through the door. 

A cat walks through the parking lot. 

The baby sleeps. The phone 

is for you. 



33 



-•.tj J.-j'.J 



:fM,H'i-;' ';;i''? a!'i^'',' i 



,);*-(' i-.t:i-i--. 






.tOi ;:;■';/' 'E'"^ '.'''i :' 



Holy Cross Hospital, New Mexico 



The helicopter lifts off and we know where it is going. 

It is death's player piano, its propellor a scythe 

and dust storm a cloak — play that old time music, man. 

And here I am, serving coffee in a cafe across the road 

from the hospital, feeling like a tally keeper 

as I wait for the helicopter to bring home its collection. 

I'll see them in the obituaries, or, I'll see them 

on their first hour out, crossing the street 

to come eat lunch, their patient bracelets still on, and I 

will be there as though this were any of my business. 

On my drive home I will turn on the radio 

and there it will be again: death's awkward epilepsy. 

I don't want to look at their bandages either, 

but don't you tliink I don't know the difference between 

wounds. I know how the body works, mvoluntarily 

breathing, coming, sleeping, sobbing, our hearts 

beat by no command, but more stop 

at your command everyday, you, 

who've made this land 

into an infirmary 

and a necropolis. 



34 



The Great Propaganda of Lovelessness 



In the hours when everyone seems the white-bird- 
death-masque, blank and liidden, grotesquely sleeping, 

and no stranger wishes to disrobe their glances, 

I think of our two o'clock hand and body wandering — 

no separation between one and other. None! 

I am finished with the lie — ^the great propaganda of lovelessness. 

I have no emptiness for our politicians to masturbate into, 
they who want me suspicious and fearful of the stranger. 

They want to board up the entryways of my compassion 

so I can be a dark house, and they can pillage me as they like. 

But I will rejoice when the corrupted die alone, 

as I will die alone. I will rejoice when they are reborn 

into love, as I will be reborn into love. 

Will we all meet then and receive one anotlier? 

My dear one, all my lessons come from your body, 

written by your long mane, written along your asshole, 
written in come along the walls of my womb. 

I am a monk transcribing love over and over. 



35 



]vz<><^' . ■.:'■■ 



i,> J i', .L'c ■•'■ :' n- 



irKX^V; •.-); 



. , v..ia. ,i 



!■'! ;•,, -Til \- '.'yi -i^'- 



,i ;vo &(;j> ■;■■.■' f; v^ :v '.,. ;;.?■•'■;.■! :.; ■'" 



The Two Become One Become Non-Dual 



Love made me spiritual. I lost myself 

and had to find myself again, had to find out what I was here for. I am 
different in the eyes, different in the hunger, different to the touch, 
generous as water when flowing, but still and guarded when held in glass. 

Love lobotomy. Love quadruple bypass. Love greenhouse defying the seasons. 

Love humihated me, trained the lioness, broke me in 

as a horse and rode me, rode me, to come to the commons. Broke me down 

weeping suicidally Ixom the sudden withdrawal of love's syringe. 

Hidden vein. Hero and heroine, master and mistress, 

child and mother, father and child, brother and sister erotica. 

But still, my darling. And so, my love. Ummm...Om. 

When I find him absorbed in liis own being — a hawk perched in its hours — 
and receptive to the wind of his own nature— not my gale, not my 
insistence and solar leaning — he is like a stranger, unusually beautiflil, 
and I know not his thoughts. Was this how he felt, 
spying on me through the lit window as I cooked night's bacon and eggs, 
dancing and tending the stovetop of no-thought? We have our ovm names. 
With a fork we break the double yolk. 

We want constant nakedness, no shirt, no bra, sometimes, 
no face, no fingers, translucent as fish, no skin, no zodiac, 
no clock, and in semi-disappearance hold and suck 
what remains. With rhythmic friction we hght the fraction 
of ourselves, passion exponential with a forest to bum, 
cord after cord to feed the heat in the core, to appease the need 
with long staring ui the eyes — blue with three brown specks 
in the left — and a deeper push inside the other. 

Love lobos. Love quadruped on hands and knees. Love defying its housebreaking. 

It is a dark magick, a dangerous alchemy hungry 

for goldrush. for untarnished metal, for reified substrata 

in the quarry of aorta. Love sacrificed me, scarified, and I know not, 

will never know, the subtle justice at work in the crossing of stars, 

the coupling of stars into a mythology: Sagittarius and Capricorn. 

36 






■y.JijVJ i'J.y.::- 'Ji:.. ^''.^,Oa\ •.;!.,; ^ l;f^;; i^ ;j. ,.:.. j' m' -.A) - 



...t .,;, ..^ '>.,/ • .,fir-?; ■-■•■- .M 



nil .!';"'^ .v;!;:.:i •'■:■,. 

iis'i ,i; h;- t' ^/f ..^U'^fji ■; ' 



■.■;i!'/ "^n' ■■■( ■;; • 



,,.;i5ii T.'vo 'lijv •;.' , 






cr . ■ .1;: ^;-5 ■;^;i 






v'lJ v?w' I', 



/'.;;'; ;;i / ' .'UJvj '':'/■> ■; ■ 



/. . it :/... 



iv/:.: -'jWa' ri.jb-';':!v;'-;ij 









Our houses neighbor in heaven, but sometimes, 

sitting down for a meal, our appetites spoil in long silence. 

We try and become poisoned by the trying. 

But still, my darling. And so, my love. Unimm...Om. 

The doves who mate for life are said to be mourning. 

How they call to one another! The bliss in the morning 

when I roll over to his sleeping self and press my breasts 

against the warm backside of his heart, lay my face 

in his tangle of hair — it is not a sviffocation. There is a satisfaction. 

Exiting one dream and waking in a wholly other dream 
with awkward logic and bright light, we do our best 
to live, really hve. The bliss of laying my head on liis knees 
as he fingers the guitar and begins to sweat, and the bliss 
in his following of my forest trail and tasting the sweat 
of my words — it is love. It has made us spiritual. 



37 



_.;-vii)&i;-!H>^ ^; 



The House of Bliss 



And then I entered a radical bliss that left scars 

along my body, not in the shape of wounds 

but in the shape of the great mandalic sky. 

You could have seen in my hands visions of monsoon clouds, 

you could have put on my skin and danced with my beloved, 

you could have pressed your lips to my belly 

to kiss the gibbous moon. 

I would drive into town to stock up on meat and water 

so I would not have to leave the house of bliss. 

There was no clock other than the change in light 

and the animals sounding off as hourly bells — 

crows in the morning, jays by noon, night hawk 

and mourning dove evening, coyotes howling night. 

There was no paved road to the house of bliss. 

There were no electrical lines shocking the house of bliss. 

There was no phone, no television, 

no government legislating the house of bliss. 

I was alive. I loved you reader, lit sage and sang for you. 

I was as the first woman — beautiful, uncivilized, 

unashamed. I would hike down in the canyon 

with my beloved and our dogs, would rest my nude back 

on the warm sweet bark of the ponderosa pine, 

would make love on boulders, collect arrowheads, 

animal skulls, and only return home 

when the skin on our shoulders was red and cooked. 

We would then lay in the bathtub reciting Rumi, 

and that summer I began to understand Rumi and the Friend. 

That summer I grew green beans, cilantro, morning 
glories, smoked cigarettes as soon as 1 awoke, read The Sea Wolf, 
slept on the flat roof under stars, had abundant love — I grew 
squash blossom eyelashes, juniper nipples, ponderosa skin, 
rabbit feet and a monsoon soul, slept on the floor among the wind 
scorpion, cricket, pill bug, and had abundant love, abundant love. 



■ I:..-: ji >i jr.ii ^'-- a j;; \;:ri>k\ir ' f'^jri'? bnA 









,?:i'in'!o /t'jK'r. v'ij ..i:. 



it>i'!;ri:> ■-.•;: 






■■ i>:'U' ^.1' 






.;.ili yi.:,-Jri l,'/,.'..l-_ 



■fli,-;'!' 






Domestic Alchemy 



Like a stew, lovers simmer in their silver pot, 
dissolving skins, becoming one taste. Greens, 

grains, roots used to darkness, ground spices 
from around the globe, tender flesh exposed, 

stirred, merged — but do not taste them yet 
or you' 11 bum your tongue. ^ 

This is a recipe that cooks for years under pressure 
as they release their secret ingredients. 

Inextricable flavors. This is their fever and delirium 
sealed in a sweat lodge, purge and rage 

of pettiness, steam metamorphosis. 

They gaze at each other's hands, genitals, eyes, 

waiting for the body to drop away from the soul, 
meat from the bone, to know the beloved 

as light on Earth, as truth. 

Carnivorous lovers, they gaze at each other 

like cannibals, famished for any cut of flesh — 
earlobe, shoulder, tongue, nipple, tooth. 

They peruse their separate fates 

and add them to the pot, this feast, but 

what they ate that fu-st night, ofl"the same plate, 
became them — ^blood, shit, thoughts — 

began their mutation, communion. 

They nourish themselves and offer up the rest. 



39 



'Jiu^^'yK\ 'fiii.i\i; ^i\iyr 'k.-: 



•>;■;!; ;-•:.' ■:>.!<■■ 



IK: :,-■; -ji.]', :;'f; 



» 'ji ^.r^i :,i:!j -iO' 



"(7-^' V'i' 



r!'^: ;:rij Jul?. Mo'ihS — ni- 



Stepmother 



When the dream child stirs, I am the rope and knot 
she uses to edge back into sleep, the long braided 
lady, the ladder down the black pupil pool. REM baby, 
I will guarantee the waking ledge. 

We bury under blankets, layer in the lair, 
nesting dolls in the firelight and shadow of the house 
restless on the walls, while cold stars sift through the trees. 
She leans into me, warm woman, curls up on my hillside breast — 
teat summit in drought, valley heart pulsing a lucid lullaby — 
and I rub her back and trace her skeletal stairway 
taut with silent skin, watch her eyelids 
descend with the heavy moon behind the hill, wait for her 
night-bird rib cage to gently heave, breathe a warm wind carrying clouds. 

And when she is returned to the perfect dark, black cusp, 
unborn realm, I slide my arm out of the careful cradle 
and step away from the borrowed child. 



40 






:..i j' ■,'A/s:s i'fii Jc's ;: j;:. 









iC- " ■. j';"::r! /i;!,! 






Elisabeth's Poem 



She cries to see the horses and then cries to stay with the horses. 

She wants to be fed cake Hke a baby coyote, then, 

a baby rattlesnake. 

Yoxir child is the chime of running waters 

meeting other waters. 

I cannot keep her quality from my mind. 

Rain pours in a corridor between rooms. 

Some of the rooms are bone, others silk, 

still others clay and gold — 

I cannot choose between the many womannesses. 

The water pools about my ankles 

and I stand with blindfolds as a strange wading bird. 

She sifts through the grass and dirt for worms 
and other attempts at tenderness. 
I hate you, she says. I love you so much, she says, 
and then falls asleep. 

There is little to be done for your child 

except to step back into the mezzanine. 

But I wish to keep one of those vanishmg sounds, 

the echo between rooms, 

the ricochet of water on water before 

entering the larger body. 



41 



.c':-^.v-i(i ''■''1 ■'u\' 



r^'.rifr !<■■■ 



.AU'':-: 



,b.i'i iltubS)''/ SJJiiii'. 



•vv-K, -i-jur 



i^i-' y-'i. 7':i;i-';>:C'.' i^;\- ,r>; iw ':".'• 'i'X/:; i;-; 



The Girl in the Opalescent Water 



The girl in the opalescent water asks. Why can't I see my eyes on my face"? 

She listens to the softened world, submerged, 

as an octopus with three hearts. Her skin, so new and pale, 

I watch the blood course beneath. This is a real story, she says, 

his cup filled with fire and then he cried fijr his mother. 

I casually worship the underwater cliild, fresh from Gala's lips. 

I casually ignore the bathing child, who knows little of the world. 

Even as a woman I've assumed this pure nature, 

a soft soul washed in opalescent water, fitted in the oval bath. 

A soft soul in a body unasked for, caught trembling in the trajectory of stars. 

Innocence is inconsolable and plays the tragedienne, 

and the mind would gladly raise a makeshift shelter from the Fates, 

an interior the eyes can look to, rolled away from the face, 

to images like miniatures posed in a dollhouse. Meanwhile, 

experience threatens with her eight arms and black cloud. 

Each life span is a thread spun, measured, cut, and the soul, contoured 
by its momentum through space, celestial body. 
Because hfe is a spendthrift, desperate for redemption. 
Because baptism of fire is the only rite of passage. 
Because a nimbus is not white, but opalescent and blinding. 

My precious girl in the bath cannot be kept 

from initiation. Jung wrote. Whoever looks into the mirror of the water 

will see first of all his own face. To see one's own eyes is perilous. 

Because the water is opalescent until it is wine dark, 
and then one must drink it and fill the cup again with fire. 
And then one must drain it and step out into the cold. 



42 






■-'-'(• 



■ it> 1 'I'i » r' 



Ln/; '/'•■•-o.!'-i^M';o;i! ^' :iu(:, 



:?ji .V ■■:^r'>tJ;^i7lij 









•^•:ii;i';! ■.'.'\ \w ••VV\-!.iV':^ '.il'j ^)U^" V/.0O\ •iji-jMlV'i^ 



;;; w .1 ' v**-;,-, ■;.. ! ^'-''^'7 ff V : .' ' 5''^' . ' • 



rrr 






.O'n i 



"■' vj '-it ^ijn; ii;-. fV'-)fi; }.;><■ •! ri'>:-:h 



Hello, Goodbye 



And so I allowed myself pity and a bird, 

bread and water. And so I mourned over and over. 

I kept being my center of the Mystery. 

The bird kept trying to fly away. And so 
routine. And so many desires. And art. 

I loved the world conditionally and so 
nothing was done for the world's sorrow. 

And so I comforted myself in my small cage. 

And so I was safe. And so I was stoned. 
My body kept aging. Pity and a bird. 

And still, still I was petty. 
And what of the unkept world? 



43 



,c biji: 



..^ii>i^ i\HVi''. 'i 



li rU'T^ 



!-• r-. 









Pangea 



My sister of Arabia, brother of Muhammad, 
the cold ocean separates us but my soul is bent 
over your feet, kissing, kissing, and as a kinswoman 
I will wash them of the sorrow that separates us. 

I do not know what else can be done. 

My sister, my brother, I was bom in America-Of-Thieves, you 
were bom between rivers, and my loyalty is still to Pangea, 
the ancient connected continent. Before the body and before the Earth 
we were Divine, and we will meet again, I know, 

but I do not know what other hope there is for us. 

My family, my family, whom I seek in dreams, 
for love and for hands to which I can show affection. 
My family, I am losmg you, again, to guns, torture, 
depleted uranium, suicide bombers, and diabolical politicians. 

I do not know of a safe home in all the world. 

My love, my love, what is to be done but suffer 

by your bedside, walk into the crossfire of capitalism, 

power, desire, with a heart ablaze, blinding. 

I am weak and afraid and do not deserve consolation. 

My love, my love, my love, my love! 

The cold ocean separates us but my soul is bent 
over your feet, kissing, kissing, a kinswoman 
awash in the sorrow that reconnects our continents. 



44 



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Shadi 



When we first met she was boiling frozen peas. 

She was a geneticist, an Iranian, a dark woman, like me, 

and it seemed like whenever we met in the kitchen, 

she was boiling peas, green genes shucked from their helix pods. 

A transcontinental experiment in origins. She asked me why 
the butter was wrapped in paper, cheese in wax, and although 

she had no baby, where she could buy baby formula. 
And then she consoled my suckling conscience — 

My leader is evil just like yours. As for Iraq, it is destroyed. 
My president — ^my mheritance — declared her country Evil, 

and I am still unclear as to whether he meant all sixty -nine-million 
of its people, its rock, water and green, its mind and grain, 

its animal wombs, its Persian genes, all, as though damned and bound 

to purgatory on Earth: the Middle East. 

The press may circulate their apocalyptic information, 

but Shadi observed the infinitesimal: headlines and sequences 

written on the coil of coupled chromosomes, the information 
kept in the mandala's hub, Allah's lab — propagation, not 

propaganda — ^but I am unclear as to whether her science 
magnified the similarities or differences between the races. 

We are dark women — shadow hair, eyes — and 1 enjoy 

that separation in appearance fi:om the Caucasian in blue jeans, 

as though my slanted shallow roots are not responsible 

for the deep sucking of bedrock and the dark petroleum within. 

We are heir to our countries' misfortunes. On our last day together 
I helped her buy a curling iron for her hair. 



45 



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She gave me three kisses on both sides of my face. 
She left my cheeks wet with her Iranian DNA. 



46 



Amphibian 



Would I relinquish my human skin and become animal, 

seagull, seal or loon riding the swells, a whale? Yes, 
or, who can escape the human momentum, a riptide 
flowmg cityward from the sea? This is not a dirge. 

With my beloved and the single gull, 

barnacles, mussels, cratered moons, midnight, I cling 

to the last rock of the jetty, the edge of sea, 

the brim of the wet blue world, on the ebb. 

When the waves speed toward us, break and rain 
white suspended spray, the gull levitates with black wings, 
and we depart, balancing rock to rock, through the spread legs 
of beached skeletal trees, eroded and bleached. 

Night urges us humans home, moonward, transformed, 
leaving the shore for the ocean to tend. In darkness, 
the engme and tires drone. A slow ballad transmits 
from the tower of song, then gives way to a commercial. 

Returned to our walls, I plug in the spinal cord and switch 
the cold house ON. With twenty-first century magick 
daylight instantly resumes, solacing visions with electric light. 
The first animals who crawled out of the sea could not hear 

through the subtle air, so what awareness is lost, 
what augur, through radio and wire? The technological god 
ascends through the holy ether — master of the wave 
and particle, omniscient sovereign of the silicon chip, 

omnipotent lord of Atom — a sun star rising, consuming its core, 
a beacon, red giant. Venerated symbols are replaced by new logos, 
and the currency I've heard a medicine man call 'green frog skins'. 
But this is not a dirge from the future's amphibious bard. 

I cannot always rage at who I am and my race. The fixture, 

like the moon, hauls a current that cannot be jettisoned. 

so I must balance on the brim of sea with my beloved and the gull, 

barnacles, mussels, in my midnight, clmgmg to rock. 

47 



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Red Spider 



The red spider rests on the table as a stone made smooth 

by water, then moves as water, in octaves, without doubt, 
its imperceptible song in full volume across the mesa, 
scaling the fretboard, frontier of furniture, 
vertically over "my possessions", over the barcode 
on a box of tarot cards as though to divine price, 
spin destiny's web. 

The spider pauses at the deck's ledge, feels for its contour 

five times with the hook of its right front leg, 

rounds the yellow edge into the ink printed scene 

of the magician m red robes, among trailing roses, lilies, 

pointmg above and below. Spider, what is your dream? 

Stone abdomen veined as a desert from aerial view, 
with eight red rivulets on which the stone is carried, 
with eight needles tracing the vinyl arachnid groove, 
record sped by the dwarf life and heard on this night 

of snow. 



48 



stJ.i.U'sUO K.U ''/:'l 



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tpy^^^i t'ji^ : aj i^'ilj ^ \ .>--ij:: .'^h .■..v''.y •.. \' 



The Hawk and Tomorrow 



The hawk cries my name over and over, 
then steals my heart, a mouse in its talons. 
When I arrive home, how am I to love? 

I say my name but it is disappeared. 

I cannot remember and no mirror and no lover can unearth it, 

and no savior. 

When I arrive home I will sleep and dream 

the dreams I am not in. When I awake I will try again. 

Demons, get off my chest and name that are not your carrion. 

The hawk wears my amulet around its neck 

but cannot fly with prey so heavy. Tomorrow 

I will awaken as a child who has only just arrived on Earth, 

I say, but cannot promise vdth a body so light. 
Hawk, am I? A mouse 
only. Faitliless in the mirror. 

I chase my name that echoes in the valley, 
the hawk's voice that says. Tomorrow. 
My heart that thumps in the highest branch 

looks like an ornament in the Douglas fir, 
and the hawk, an angel perched on the treetop 
in a nimbus cloud. I need to climb that tree. 



49 



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An Axe — Prayer 



An axe — ^prayer takes its curious swing at the forest. 

One branch falls! For my sake the angels force me home, 

face like a woodpecker crown, flushed, hands empty and panicked. 

I wait for a flicker to nest in my solace, or, 

wait to be chopped into quarters and kindling for fuel. 

And for the enmity between my selves to settle. 

If the prayer returned, it was a meteor, flying light. 

If my head turned skyward, might I see past the canopy 

from the understory? 

The axe blade catches the sun as it descends, halves wood, 
and my prayers are split among the succession of stars, 
to which I swing my axe blindly. 



50 



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Badlands 



Because the parched prairie lays out like a blank scroll, 
lines become written there in the elemental voice. 
From leathering skin 1 sow loneliness, 
ghost seeds in the cracks of earth, to be eroded. 

West north east south from my one hub of self. 
Pinnacles point to the sky, buttes are open pakns, 
and a buffalo arose like a mound of earth, 
a dark mountain grazing in the afternoon. 

At camp, a family sung hymns around their fire. 

In the night, the moon washed the prairie in its purple bowl, 

lightning touched earth, rain laughed, and the ground was turned to clay 

for me to build a vessel and breathe in the life. 



51 



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So You Drive Out of the Canyon Towards Albuquerque 



There are places that refuse you. You stay awhile. 

There are moments when the land pities you, 
drops her currency into your cupped palms. 

There are instances of metamorphosis, 

not of the prayer turning into the prayed for, but the prayer 

turning into a bush of plums outside the museum. 

There are occasions of opaque apparitions, 

as when eastern light is white freshwater pouring 

over the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, 

that first beam that winds all the clocks again, 

as when an afternoon storm coming from the south 

shoots a lightning bolt into a double rainbow, 

the pink sky is a whirlpool to the zodiac, 

and you are exchanging glances with marine mammal clouds, 

as when the coyotes roaming the west end of the canyon 
howl as many nocturnal children laughing into midnight, 
making the dogs go mad 
and you and the beloved wild, again, 

as when a redheaded vulture follows you north 

like you were carrion to be taken. No. You are on the path 

to the steep ledge of the river gorge 

to listen to the Rio Grande's rush. 

A thin vein of water in the land' s wrist. 

There are places that stand in the open window 

like beautiful women as they change their clothing — 

arousing the outsider but never inviting her in. 

There is only the fat orange moon, the dusk shriek of nighthawks, 

the nude stocking pulled over the pointed foot 

by which to know the mystery. 

There are places that defeat you. 

52 



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You must go back someplace, you don't know where. 

In your hair is the mesa's dust, 

on your skin, the sun as it descends. 



53 



Each Green Exit Leads to Somebody's Solitary Place in the World 



Car windows frame road landscapes with a shifting sun — 

white sheep, black cows, yellow lines dividing north from southbound 

between two soft shoulders, and each of us in our colored box 

with a radio station, and still, as though only the world around us were in motion. 



54 



t'"'!;.>fn Ml -y.j?! li: biii.rV'B oiT/Vf 'Av! i\\'-'- 



Maple to the West of the House 



The earth is covered in trees. They are good 
at staying in one place, holding sky and ground 
as the most valuable things. 

Body to body, I beat my heart against this tree, 

sleeve myself like moss around its maze of limbs, 

laugh at the wind that catches in the branches of my friend. 

Weep and water the tree, slow time with the green pulse 
and breathing of the tree, plant routine, deciduous scale, 
holding sky and ground. Traveling together around the sun. 



55 



■, > ' . ■ . : J i •■ 



Green/Songs 



Green — textile of grass and weeds, weft and warp, glistening obelisks, 

veiny wings of maple seeds fallen with messages, electric moss crawling 

up the thighs of the trees, mounds of underearth. sweet decomposition 

receptive to the green, reflections on water beads balanced on the blades, 

dandelions. Songs — oscillating push-roar of freshwater over discs 

of riverstone and sand, through the arms of roots elbowing out of dirt banks. 

the pileated woodpecker's \ibrato of bird air then drum slap of beak against bark, 

vertically through space, its high pitch peaking as it jets above, 

the saxophone soprano riff of the chickadees, improvising melodies, 

sounding the first notes of the measure, adding a fast trill to the close, 

the Stellar' s Jay sharp blue-black screech, tree to tree, its deep hawk mimicry, 

the lung of wind through branches, the buoy of fir and cedar boughs, 

time's signature, notes and rests on the verdant stave. 



56 



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Returning From The Salt Bath 



Light spirals on the upstream ripple of fin, 

coho slithering over riverstone in the shallow valley vein. 

Were you the one to swim between my toes 
last July? 

Creature of the aqueous realm, I breathe sky. 
Let me watch over your dying. 



57 



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So That We Do Not Drown 



The animals like to hve unseen, stalking 
through the fern, denned in the crater of a root ball, 
flown to the cedar crown. The forest would feel empty 
if not for the awareness of the animals, aimed at me 
through the thick air, as I walk among the green pillars 
that support our sky and earth. 

Scat with crushed bones, 
berries, locks of hair, tracks in mud and sand disappearing into water, 
claw lines across trees, trails weaving deeper into the wild, 
smooth alder spears piled along the banks — my light hovers 
over our evidence. 

Last night's flood erased all of our traces, 
its urgent milky weight flushing the waterway to sea, 
downing trees, rushing against the bridge. And although the animals 
went unseen, 1 sensed our common response to the greater fluid force- 
a migration to higher ground, listening to water in darkness. 



58 



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Am Almost 



Elements, wear me smooth to my element, 

so like a stone I can skip across. I am a thing — 

with the headlines rewriting on the hour. 

In the bath I swell as moss after rain, my seaweed 

mane sways on the wave, and my knees and breasts are islands 

where lost ships are saved. Murky is the water that has cleansed me 

of myself. When — ^if — I emerge, I won't need maps to make sense of the land. 

On the crescent shore, I am sure I will drovm 

my maybe in a bassinet of reed, and my if will be sonared and swallowed 

by the predator nocturnal. My doubt is tliat mouse parting through grass. 

I pray to be pierced by that beak, and that my prayer 

be devoured with the writhing tail. 

The erosion and feasting on me is not a wail for the real 

or underlying within as a whale concealed in ocean, but the burning 

of the weight of waiting for something — ^I am a thing, I say, 

to my reflection in water on its way out to sea. On a pining raft, 

take my heavy I, leave my am, then flip my riff off if. Am almost worn whole. 



59 



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The Fallen Alder 



The fallen alder, once hawk perch and pillar, 
once sky spear and aerial crown, 

is a forked bridge above the pilgrimage 

of water to water, to be taken with salt into the mouth 

as fresh meal for the tide — bark, roots, reeds, 

all the debris of a bank's carved curves, sediment and mud 

mixed into creek milk, rocks and seeds, 
inland eucharist. The fallen alder, forest elder, 

was once a wooden ladder leading to sky line, 

into the freedom of wind, the impermanence of cloud, 

the mystery inside the salt mist that unfrirls from the sea, 
following the creeks east, back to their springs. 

A vertical century circulating water, 

minerals and sun along the spine of xylem and phloem 

makes a backbone ache, crack at its base 
when in wind or laden with wet snow, 

exploding as gunfire and crashing down as a giant 
persona of history, finally lain. Along gray 

goose pimpled peeling bark are scars and knots, 
patched poultices of electric green and purple moss, 

sage beards and rashes of pale and rusty lichen, 
fringe of lady fern with ochre polka dot spores, 

plastered brown leaves, pine needles, sprouting seeds, 
meandering beetles, winged translucent pinpoints, 

webs strung with dew orbs and spiraling 
blackberry vines with their three leaves and thorns. 



60 



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all adorning this branched body, stubborn 

bridge above the constant of water's pulse and arrow, 

its surface quiver and eddy braided by velocity, 
gallonage, stones and snags strewn on the bed, 

and sand bars Avith their wash and memory 
of tracks, pads and claws of landing beaver, 

cougar, bobcat, heron. And a human, 
balanced lotus-legged above the rush, 

recording the green redemption. 



61 



.1.. 



Crossing Out the Blue 



In the void of morning cerulean depth, 

in the clear lightbird and cloud canvas, 

jets paint their white stripes, lattice fumes 

that do not vaporize and pass as mist, but linger, 

crossing out the blue with asthmatic wisps. 

The fine lines breathe and descend, 

spread cancer-like into an abstract brush stroke haze, 

an opaque apparition opening its gauzy cloak 
over the dull wattage penny of sun, 
diffuse orb trying to cast crisp shadows 
through a smokescreen. 

No, these are not clouds. Clouds mimic ghost ships, 
profiles, horses, and the chemical trails 
can only mimic clouds as they seize sky, 
ploughing air's frontier, blurred furrows to seed sky. 

(A translucent fihn on the unwinding reel of earth. 
The whirl of particles in the light's projection.) 

I've seen many days fogged and cooled by cumulous graffiti, 
white and brown patched and pinstriped horizons 
made carnival electric in the evening sky. 
I've seen the moon erased as an unreality. 

Rain follows the summoning dance, 

engine drum and drone, the drawing of weather, 

watercolors on the papery atmosphere 

they say is warming. They issue warning, 

but why are the headlines silent on the daily sky lines 

rewriting whether, or not, the earth will hold? 



62 



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Samuel Rothbort's Paintings 



The landscape shatters as the blue goblet drops. 

A portrait of my father ignites 

and the seagulls lift off. 

I eat a painting of Brooklyn, then fall down the staks. 

Even you, Mt. Everest, are an object of light, 

and you, great-grandfather, have left 

for the heavenly planets. I carry your paintings 

from state to state along with my hairbrush and comb. 

Could you not have brought your canvases along 

to meet Krishna in the coral reef? 

Great-grandfather, great-grandfather of Avenue S, 

great-grandfather of White Russia, 

of the body and of Jehovah, 

you have left me these objects covered in paint 

so that I am a Sherpa hauling your soul to the summit. 

Your paintings sprouted from the earth, 
so it is natural they return to the funerary field 
of lions and dahlias. Allow them return! 
Return! Were you not perfect in your own time? 

The blue goblet drops over Long Island, 1 944. 

Embers fly and my father stands posed m the doorway. 

I eat a paintmg of Brooklyn, then a still life of cosmos, 
which came from your garden, great-grandfather. 



63 



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Matinee 



Francois Truffaut said he preferred the reflection of life 
to life itself, and so said movie lovers are sick people 
like he, leaving life at seven for the cinema. 

Day For Night: night's melancholic walking and doorway coupling 
shot in the daytime through a filter. Sunglasses. The gleanmg of poems. 
The stratagem emotes the dark recklessness. The wet streets glow 
without the fat moon lighting them, and other planets. 
Can they be exchanged without notice? Yes, but 
there is only fiction. And he said. 

The (film) lover 's generosity, so arrogant and overwhelming 
that at times it can fill one with embarrassment and confusion. 

I go to the three o'clock shows 
especially on clear afternoons. 
I love those movies where in the end 
the hero wakes from a dream, 
which was more interesting than... 

When I leave tlie theater it is dusk. 
King Claudius! 

The necklace unclasps while tossing in sleep. I dream 
and the credits roll. In the morning I will take off my eyes, 
my nose, my ears, my tongue. I'll shake the details from them, 
hold the pieces to the mirror. 



64 






iprii 



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The Last Angel 

after a photograph by Josef Koudelka 



I have seen him in your photograph, the sullen boy 

with bed sheet wings of Gabriel blooming from his spine. 

He rides a bicycle past you. You take your photograph. 

Where did the last angel go 

when he turned the comer and left us alone? 

We arrange time into words and light, slipping out 

as if from a dress. I have stopped under ehns, 

in cafes, during sex, and departed through metaphor. 

I have thought the blood orange a heliosphere, 

spent nights writing, ignorant of the moon's phase. 

The pea plant vined, the hawk dived, the omen arrived and departed. 

I have left the body for sheets of paper. 

You have left your own for the camera's viewfinder. 

The last angel rides past two draft horses pulling a cart — 

hay, pears, furniture — do you know? They walk on the stone street 

with their fat hooves. A woman looks into that street. One hand rests 

on the shelf of her hip. Her breasts 

stretch the fabric of her dress. She stands, waits. 

I have spent nights wandering your photograph, bereaved, 

holding the image up to the faces of strangers. 

Have you seen the last angel? 

I have put on the yoke, paced up and down the steep sidewalk, 

questioned the tobacconist, the barber, the cop. 

No one. No one knows. 

I do not blame you for letting the last angel 

pedal out of our lives. There were others on the street that day 

who did nothing, who returned home and felt ashamed. 

Celestial remnants pass through our hands. We stay busy and sane 

capturing the faint light of the last angel. 

But if the last angel were to ride past me on the street, 
I would drop my purse and all of my words, the vase 
wdth birds-of-paradise, the paper bag of apples, 
and chase the last angel calling No! Come back! 

65 



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Do not leave the race of violence alone and graceless! 
And the last angel would abide with us, turn the horses 
back to colts, stone to mountain, crone to virgin, 
the street of the city into heaven. 



66 



Where Did Your Long Hair Go? 

Maybeliene. Barbara Ann, Pegg>' Sue, 

you are the beginning and end of all wars, 

a congress and chorus to laws in defense of love. 

Carol, Angle, Alison, Cecilia, Carrie Anne, 

Little Susie, Long Tall Sally, 
Lola, Layla, Lucille, Miss Molly, 

you bring even Nietzsche to your heels 
when he says, 

Without music life would be a mistake. 

Michelle, Lucy, Mia. 

Johanna, Ramona, Sweet Marie. 

Wendy, Rhonda, Caroline. 



You make even Roosevelt spin 
in that jukebox of mine. 



67 



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h^r^m 






Laird Baird, Play On 

after the song by Charlie Parker 



You are off someplace, I do not know where — ^the note trills 

and is then left ringing. That hot alto sax wanders further and further 

then gives way to the piano. 

The blues are ecstasy, ^standing outside oneself, ' 
but baby you've got to return home. 

(Yardbird, bring him back to me. Yardbird, bring him back 
on the wind of Laird Baird. Along that sad commotion. 
On the beat of the bass and drum.) 

Your father is gone, that mariner and recluse you suspected dead 
many times before. No matter. Absence is an abyss to lower into. 
Call for me and I'll let down my hair. 

(Play on, Laird Baird, play on.) 

Bebop is ecstasy, ^standing outside oneself, ' 

but baby you're no apparition. Come back to the body 

as that alto sax comes home on the melody line. 

Yardbird dedicated this tune to his son. This is for you, lone son 
of the world. Lay your head in my lap, and listen 
to Laird Baird play on, play on. 



68 






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Mood Indigo 

for Frank Morgan 



When we first met you called me New York. 

You feared that city all your life 

because destiny haunts people with genius to waste, 

and that city kills with hard drugs in little rooms. 

I would have married you even though 

you were fifty years older than I, 

because artists are immortal, 

and I liked the way you played that golden sax 

like winter plays the snow, 

conjuring that kind of silence. 

You are gone, the radio says. 

I passed out onto the floor listening to you 

in 1987 play Love Story, 

like I were being taken away by you 

to bebop Hades, on that sentimental song. 

The next day I was sure I was pregnant, 

because death feeds back into life 

along the mysterious channels you're traveling. 

And your death was my birthday present. 

I may never again get one so good, 

to know someone survived this world 

long enough to end on a grace note. 

Thinking of you hard up, fiending 

m San Quentin, with no end in sight, 

you've gotta laugh at how 

we must ride this thing out. 

Every morning you'd say. It 's great to be alive, 

and we would begin our morning ritual 

that sanctified us waitresses, the cooks and dishwasher, 

and so you were never charged for food 

out of a kind of justice I wish upon everyone, 

with the Sangre de Cristo Mountains behind them. 

I liked the way you played that golden sax 

like lovemaking itself, holding it between your legs 

and breathing deep, you Afiican-Ojibwa jazz angel 

now onto the B side. 

69 



Zftg -"jf^iDy injh ;:'. 






Cantaloupe Mother 



Not ripened 

but split open anyway 

by summer's hunger- 



still, her hard orange fruit bore seed, 
and my rind bears reminder of the vine. 



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