Sound and Light

The pianist's fingers touch. The keys
respond with terrible resonance.

What we think we understand
is capable of killing us.

Ivory has its own story. The quiet
deep density of teeth, of tusk.

The way it captures and releases
sound, its secrets.

O! let light and love, how it seduces
us tremble so exquisitely.


What was God thinking
giving this man a tongue,
a word, a weapon? A game

of chess, perhaps

a crafty succession
of lessons.

The Butcher's Wife

You made me watch
in the room that was made
for gutting chickens and goats.
You made me watch

cutting their throats, your hands
the color of strawberries. Your face
hard as bullet-proof glass, thick, opaque
and soundproof. Eyes like gravel. And how

through my nausea, I thought of sex,
how similiar the feelings: fear, then horror,
the downward, slick, graceful then upstroke
of the knife tearing through skin, muscles

and tendons, splitting the explosive artery.
How the body falls from the hands, quickly
as if filled with stones. Its head twisted back,
its mouth filled with blood. The way that you skinned it

pulling the feathers and fur, angled your blade
and expertly cut away.

The Trauma of Ignorance

When you reach the edge,
the history professor said...

his students squirming
in wooden chairs, tapping
their feet, watching the hands
of the big industrial clock.

When you reach the edge
be sure to bring a parachute

No one was listening.

Now I knew that most of us
would die from falling-

an unplanned, careless
violent ending.

All Brides are Like Paper

White, like paper. Frail
like paper. Blank

like paper before
the pen takes

its innocence;

like trusting brides
who have no idea

how the ink
of men-


across their faces,
their bared, opened chests,

their beautiful, pristine
untouched wilderness-

will change them.


Tongue like fire, throat lined
with kindling to drive the flame
down to the furnace. Ash-winged
the soul flies up and out
remembering nothing.

Is this what you wanted-
to forget the trauma
of leaving?

Still warm in its vein, blood
struggles to remember, to move,
to resist the coolness which spreads
so quickly from the smoldering bricks

like steam of everything life
breathed in, burnt up

and exhaled.



Each night,
the brown owl calls

into the hollow
darkness, risking



Forces of Nature

Down by the train-tracks, I found
an arrowhead. Triangular shaped, its body
speckled like a sparrow egg. And small
in the palm of my hand as my fist
folded over completely.

My father worked for the railroad. Rock Island
before it became the Southern Pacific.
He brought us flattened quarters he set on the tracks
to show us how heavy a train could be, what weight
could do if you harnessed it.

In the dark, trainwhistles called
like coyotes, one steel animal to another.
What they were saying: this is the sound
of weight, of damage.

When I showed my father the arrowhead,
he rubbed the sharp edges between his fingers,
pointed out the irregular chips on its surface.
Imagine, he said, stone against stone,
the force of a man against nature.


What mouth cries to feed upon
what muffles it? Please,
don't let this happen to me-

to be overcome by becoming,
to be persuaded by learned fears.
Don't let this happen to me.

First, the bird sings.
Satisfies the tree. The winds.

Or did the dream of singing
break and wounded, choke upon
its own sad beauty? Secondly, we live

and so we live gorgeously. The merits
of our stories, the strings that shake
and quiver beneath our calloused fingers

shape our destiny. Every chord
be true, be humble, be music.



All gods have a history. How
they were born from the womb of stars.
How they were chained to mountains
with eagles plucking at their hearts.

Where they froze enchanted by the vision
of their own startling beauty in the reflection
of a quiet river.

And then, there are men whose
history was made by stars,
by mountains, by the beauty
of their hearts.

What eagle's fury
picks at their bones?

Where are the rivers
that cast their spells

to capture them?

The garden they began in, their dream
of home, of country, of kingdoms

ancient as mystery.

How to Disappear

The red chair remains there,
in the porch room. My blood still
on it. Two cushioned wings

that you could disappear in
if you pretended to be air.

What hiding place now
can equal its value?

The mind has forgotten how
to be quiet and vanish. It has
deserted its magic.

I should have disappeared
in that chair when my talents

were useful.

The Numbing Gray

This infernal buzzing, the clamour
of excited gatherers of sweet, frenzied
by the petaled honey.

You are not a bee.

Further down, in the tight-bladed
grasses, the cool, silence of soil,
steadily labors

the numb, gray earthworm.

Only the River

The final stab of light passes through
its victims: the poplar trees, the corner
of a wooden shed, the window facing west.

Some dark, sleeping eye opens, then
flutters out with flaming wings.

The hills are listening. The woods
are listening. The skies large ear
pressed to ground, listening. Only

the river has heard and
understanding, slowly continues

its shivering journey.


Snow's Blood

The remainder of life, no!
proof of life, steaming red

spilled on cold, white.

A fairy tale of life
as it suddenly seemed


The Underworld

She left her wet prints on the road
that speak her secrets

without permission
or persuasion;

darker, heavier air
inters their language-

an enviable ending.

Not two but three wolves
on her trail named: Love,

Vitality and Permanence
followed by a crow-

the black-winged
shaman's journey

over and above
the underworld.


It's Original Purpose

Engage one, or both. What have
you seen- immaculate circle

of silver, heaven, the incised body
of angel, unadulterated awe?

We read tragedy, the fall of light,
the loss of movement as sacrifice;

how naive this is...

but the effort is more
than worthwhile.

Such Shine

What you'd hoped would dig you
up from that lasting place
of darkness, has let you lay.

You spoke to many men of science
about evacuation. No one came
to free you.

What course, what strategy,
what artifice of habit stirs

you're faith?

Such shine, the sun,
such love.



I can name names. A few more than
disciples but all were more like Judas.
The first one was John. At twelve,

I thought: I could be a nun. All my dreams
of men were faceless, blonde but faithless;
then I married him. Knitting is not my skill;

the intricate twirling of needle against needle,
the clash of steel pulling wool around wool.
And what have you made in the end?

A ridiculous sweater or a scarf
with holes that won't keep out

the cold.

The Movement of Thread

You sleep. I watch you sleep.
The spider waits in web watching
the thin, silver thread (the strength
of what she's weaved) anticipates movement
before there is death.

Love lights down like the shadow
of body and does not stir the air.

There are memories of movement;
the heart's eye focused in, tensed,
its shoulder muscles flexed. The bird

spotted the spider, dove in quickly

and missed.

The Vacuum of Eternity

Not nine lives, but one.
Do you ever wonder how a single
person can generate so much garbage

and where

does all this garbage come from?

Mountains crumble into thousands
of pieces by the end of their lifetime.

And think of the massive bone collection
of animals, people, lizards and trees, fishes

and flowers piled up

over a century.

My God- eternity
needs a Dyson!

Thinking About So-Many Souls at the Beginning of a Rainstorm

They're out there: little packages
of soul wrapped tightly in their skins. Some buried

deep in the stack while others are visible
at the rim. Now, as I look across sky

gray-dark clouds hanging low
pregnant with wind and rain, I think:

they must be seeing this too

from some other direction or just below
the stormline. A few early raindrops

collide against glass and I know
there are millions more to come.


O Holy Night

Wood paneling. A photograph
of Jesus at the foot of the bed.

Two windows juxtapositioned
so I can see the woods and star-stained

sky without straining my neck.

Do you think God listens to our prayers
if we pray them backwards?

O Holy Night! This is my childhood.
My black-hooded coat. My blood-nostriled horse.
My dark, winged bird. Which window

shall we fly through-

into the woods or the star-filled skies?

Waxing the Heart

"Are you cleaning?" he asks.

No, I am writing again; no time
for cleaning.

The pots and pans do not mind,
the small collected balls of dust
do not mind, the mud-pawed dog
does not mind that I am busy


Uncollected Fruits

For now, the peach in my hand
will have to do. Do what?

Help me remember my home.

But this peach is round, perfect,
smooth and reminds me of nothing
I can claim as my own. Here,

on the ground by my feet
are the fruits of my memory-

cracked open, sweetly
perfumed, overly


Someone Else's Life

You must have been six years old. Seems now,
someone else's life or a made-up one like
the foreign film with the little girl who pretended
her dead mother alive. And no one believed her

until she woke up on a cold winter morning
wearing the sweater her mother was buried in.

They say: "stars have died by the time you see them."

You must have been six years old when recurrent dreams
of lions and horses, fences and fire meant nothing
and stars were alive


their shine moved through the windowpane.


Jane H. and Mary O.

One is quiet, dark like corner
where heart sits thinking, the other
examining a small pink shell
flooded with morning's light...

beetle black as schist, sweet
swan bathed in silver, milky-soft.

Inside, purpose sharpens like
a sword, outside every bird rejects
ambition to lean towards warmth.
As such, the rose holds little meaning

without its well-placed thorn.


The Changling

If I would be poet, wife,
lover, daughter, sister,
she-who-could-be-me might

not be faithful.

A hundred memorized desires
char to flame, stripped winter
branches on whose sleeves

wild fruit once clung

then dropped, obedient
to forces not unlike
the servile shadow

apprenticed to
its jealous mason.

The way things move:
dark honey falling from
the spoon or quickbirds

flattening the wing;

in such a manner,
we become
the changling...

bound and released,
certain then doubtful,
gathered green, sewn in


and constantly


Like Love

The heart of a bird
is fragile. It feels
too quickly, too strongly
and dies of fear.

House on the Bluff

This is my castle: black night
raising its head, fur shining purple;

one glowing eye, saffron and orange.

Hear the sea, primitive drums,
its tambourine of rock and corral,

matted hairs of seaweed swept
across the platinum sands.

These ocean shelves, jagged stairs
the color of fire and blood climb up

to ceiling, that is not a ceiling
but open like a glass-paned door

where gray-winged gulls, voices sharp
as trumpets whorl, then dive down.



Lost again.
In a drawer.
On the bathroom shelf.

Beneath bedcovers.
Perhaps, between pages
of an interesting book

or resting, an impertinent
smile, on the crown
of an insensible head.

What is the rule
for those who misplace
the instrument


for finding?

Every Wound is Caused by Beauty

When I tell you:
do not bring me
fresh-cut flowers,

(they wilt
in several days)
I mean to say-

to be blessed
is to anticipate

a sorrow.

A Shadow Crossed the Field

If we created God, do you
think He understood

that we are fools?

A shadow crossed the field
and crows exclaimed:

"Look what we have made!"

The wolf may dream a moon
and not be sure who hung it

tightly in the skies;

a star will throw its light
to earth never reaching

a grateful heart.

If man created God
then who

created life?

The Plague

I know that you've held the long,
sweet rose. I know

that you may be forgiven
for excesses; change your name

and still I know

will find you.

Each summer, nervous-bodied
flies lay eggs

on everything spoiled.


All Things Invisible

In wide open spaces
I confess my love
for all things missing.

I have no secrets,
no wounds, no burning
destiny, no sacred tablets
to deliver me

from invisible.

There is a story
about a boy
who swallowed light

and it ate him
from the inside

until he became


On the subway,
a woman cried out


and burst
into flames.

No one noticed
the fire
of her skin.

Without a Glimpse

What I have given you
I have entrusted to
the winds, the seas,
the unaffected hills;
being grateful for love
I have given love. I have
set you free.

In times of need,
a needle and thread
will mend the separated
seams; a gentle word,
and poetry, may lift
the lowered head. Yet,

a million eyes without
a glimpse of beauty;
how are we to live?


Inside the Small

An original event: a star
blazed up inside

the quiet, nerve-less
dark; the strange instance

"touch" amazed the skin.

The startled, pleasured
bird: air's blood

in its nostril; a sapling
shivering slightly in freezing

winter winds.

I am here, lifting "heart"
from its body's dust;

a light blazed up
inside the small, dark


Praying for Alex

You could hear grief
in her voice as if sorrows
were the gritty stones
that collect in the tiny
sacs of lung.


Of Joy

We cannot know of
the importance
of joy


shadow"s clever tricks
bring forward visions

of the past.

The unthinkable difference
of an immortal heart
from a dying one:

it's refusal to be
filled completely

with sorrow.


The Cookbook

Life: garlic, baby basil leaves,
finely grated pecorino cheese,
1/2 cup of heavy cream, flour
for dusting. Boil the salt water
for about 3 minutes: if necessary
add a few spoonfuls of virgin oil.
If you're using flavorings,get them
made and ready. Continue cooking
until the sauce is smooth and creamy.

Death: First of all, make sure
your barbecue is clean. Add a
few small pieces of charcoal.
4 slices of thickly cut pancetta.
Wild mushrooms. Coarsely ground black pepper.
Use a piece of sturdy cardboard to fan
the fire. Then let the fire simmer down
till it's white hot and the flames
have gone.

The Un-Matched

The dog lies down by the fireplace. I am
sorting socks from the day's laundry;
few of them have a partner. The dog sleeps
soundly, mate-less beside the fire I built
with my identical hands, her jaw

resting against her leftover bone
as if being un-matched
is simply not a problem.

Finger-Painting Angels

The radio said: Three days of unexpected rain.
The work of gravity and water; water that has
set in earth enriched with particles of dust,
flower's blood, wood and salt. Opening

its rust-stained mouth, sky expels its liquid life
like wolves regurgitate to feed their pups-
rabbit, fur, splintered bone. Though I am old
and cold tonight, the milky mist that rises thick

as curtains on the panes, has not lessened
my delight for finger-painting angels, horses,
child-like birds with human, smiling faces
on my kitchen window.



What can they tell me? What
will they reveal- voices of
the poets dead and dying?

So I spin, a brake-less wheel
to catch the fallen phrases
each a testament to living

when living could be praised.

If I could publish dead men's rhymes,
translate dreams of all whose dreams
have gone, would life be beautiful

or ghastly details of their crimes?

This one writes of worms and dirt,
another of the cold, dark night; see
how different light becomes when

stolen from the writer's eye?

Deep into the ground the hearts
and prayers of poets grow, yet
what they left behind while living

glows and glows.


Just Words

Words. Just words.
They cannot fly or pull
a splinter from the nail,
change oil in the car

or wash dishes.

But how they sit,
ridiculous or wise
like angels on their white,

white page.

Tonight, I write
"O beautiful words,
silly, playful, bleeding,
meaningful words-

why can't you
pay my mortgage?"

Of Wolves and Men: Love and Mercy (a medieval draft)

The sad, dark song of wolves and men
traveling oe'r cold and sleepless fields
hath thrust a dagger in hearts of them
who could not weep or sorrow hold.

The night hath wrought its justice so
to spare the weak and tender souls
no sound nor fear to wreck them woe
hath reached their blessed ear.

O! silence of the rising light! the tears
of dew that bead and shine so brightly
glisten in the eyes of those who fight
for love and mercy.