The Ending Reconsidered*

The plan was always to be dead
Before I even hit sixty:
If bad luck and illness did not
Put me down, I’d do it myself.
This young heart is already scarred,
Every lover knew that. They knew
Not to believe that forever
Actually meant forever. Then—

You. I cannot say which moment
It was when I realized I could
Be old; one of those days, maybe,
When you spoke of a dark cabin,
Large dogs, used books. In this forest
You have unkilled me. Just know that.

*Some of my more emotionally invested readers (Hi, Mom!) have asked that I specify when what I'm writing is an assignment for my poetry workshop, and what the assignment is, so that you don't actually think I have, I don't know, witnessed a car crash after doing it in the back seat or divorced my husband, who happens to be a Greek god. So: this poem is an assignment. The assignment was to write a sonnet about death. Okay? Everyone? We clear? Good.


Waiting, Grand Central Ceiling

Aries, clamber from the sky.
My cold soil aches to break with
A stamp of your hoof, a toss
Of your horns. Frost is strong; your
Star-fur thicker. Dig until
The hole can hold you, love: rest
In the nest of my body.

photograph by Arvin Rolly Antipolo


Interlude: Other People's Poetry

No one spoke,
The host, the guest,
The white chrysanthemums.

Ryota, translated by Kenneth Rexroth
photograph by flickr user
cas lad.


Amphitrite's Divorce

Off Athens, the men drown horses for you.
The waters churn with fickle devotion
Of dolphin daughters, of sweet seal sons too.

The first night we danced you watched my feet. I knew
My sandy bed would not find me alone.
Off Athens, the men drown horses for you.

And now they fear you, earth shaker, for who
Will discipline the dark, wild ones below
(mad dolphin daughters, wicked seal sons too)?

The wreath of pearls was the first blood you drew;
I shed nets and jewels from each bright wound.
Off Athens, the men drown horses for you.

I am stripped bare, my bones all showing through.
I leave you to look after my womb’s work,
The dolphin daughters, shy seal sons too.

In return I take with me the gold light
From your young eyes, your hands before they cracked.
Off Athens, the men drown horses for you,
Goodbye to my daughters, my sweet sons too.

NOTE: the form is a villanelle, which may just be the worst thing ever concocted by man. It is very difficult to write, so please excuse this bloodbath of a first attempt.

photograph by Alix Malka


The View from the Passenger's Side

Down the long driveway: cotton mist.
Across the leaf-stamped street, a gully,
an avalanche of red and yellow,
a rotted canoe on the damp creek bed.

Traffic in upstate New York. The rain
comes quietly, but for miles before them
cars have stopped, in shock, like chickens.
Every radio station spews static. In the driver's seat
he bites his cracked lips, harder
with every braking moment. She wants him
to stop. Off the side of the highway
a mallard sails through slick weeds. He says
he will not stop. The white pill is stuck
in her throat.
The sandy shoulder of the road has flooded.
They get where they are going.

The drive home is blind, the roads reflective,
the stereo silent. She thinks of the hopeful,
abandoned canoe, that by now
it must be drowned.

photograph by flickr user mysimplesundaymorning


Our Father in Heaven

We told the baby that Queenie was with you.
His head was too large, his knees unsteady,
But you must have seen him curl carefully
In her corner of the yard.

We called him in. He would not budge.
He did not know who you were
Or when you would return, but
Til her black body took his place in the dust
He was going nowhere.

Four years went by. The baby grew
Into his head, gray eyes flashing
With unstoppable laughter. He was so young
When she died he cannot pronounce
Her name. Yours he knows,
But does not mention.


You Can't Be a Ghost, I Never Proved You Were Alive

Jesus, James. Twice in one week, sunset
has found me driving past the bookstore.
It is nowhere near where I live now,
but from time to time I need a smiling face,
a wave from the cash register.

Two times, James, two times. You
do not believe in coincidence and
your paranoia is contagious. Those trees
--manicured saplings in winter coats
of white sparks--

awaken as I watch. The light
is red at the corner of the parking lot.
I have the dreary length of this shuffling traffic
to shake my head and stare, to say,
Jesus, James, why now?


Two Deaths

The dead moth’s eyes see only silver mist.
Her body is a tiny paper heart in my hand,
A valentine in white fur and sickly green silk.
She curls on the dashboard of my Honda,
The one real thing I have touched today.
Motor oil singed one spot.
Her arms bend to grasp but nothing fills
Her stiff embrace. I have no glass casket
Worthy of these cold wings, and she stays
Overnight in the car.

Where the bedroom wall meets the ceiling a fly flails wildly.
Sometimes in silence, more often with the buzz I only hear
When the lights are off.
I do not see the spider who will stun him,
The siren who will suck his black life out into thin air.
I hope she is nearby, that this inelegant,
Crude death is not for a host long-gone,
But the sheer nests near the ceiling have been
Empty for some time, their contents fading
All for nothing.

photograph by flickr user pinkpoppy

A Public Service Announcement, for You Specifically

To the angels of the anonymous confession, to the benefactors
of jagged burdens, to the stars that fade
upon inspection, to you for what you said:

photographs by flickr users jillalyn and glass_doorknob

Got something to get off your chest? Tell me.


Wish You Were Here

'Here' is this overpriced coffee shop,
where the pumpkin-apple soup is better
than expected. Here I look
out the gray window and want to tell you things.
The trio of gruff men exchanging embraces
before climbing into their trucks. The green
fire hydrant in the middle of the sidewalk,
raised rusting letters spelling out AMERICAN DARLING.

The way the steam swirls upward
into my cold nostrils. You would track it there,
and, laughing, poke my cheek.
At the horizon, how bare branches sweep the sky
like wire brushes. The dear little white church
and its disjointed Gothic roof, parapets pointed
like punishments, visible only to God, and us,
if you were here.

 photo copyright.jpg
envye template.