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Down there you'll find yourself reading: Simple Gift | Upward Spiral | Pencil sketch | 50 and 10 | Medium | Safe Words: A Zombie Sonnet | Heisenberg's Second Date | Justify | Alone or dark | The gray house | Next steps | Snack |The audience is inside | Ocean floor | Betrayal | Bleaking | Q&A | Husks | If I die | No enemy | Never the last word | Needs salt (this is the poem that writes itself) | Half circles | Rest for the questions | Death warmed over | Lost and found (song lyric)

Simple Gift

Because he loves me,
and because he has a sense of humor,
my God has shared with me the ten ways
I might die. 

There is the misstep on the stairs while carrying
too many things.
The food poisoning from tiramisu. 
Car crash in the rain (not my fault).
Car crash while merging (my fault).
Heart attack when surprised by a young relative
in the act of eating peanut butter
(smooth) straight from the jar.
Hit by falling masonry while a tourist in London.
Stroke on an airplane over Kansas. 
Dying in a dream and not dying in real life,
but then dying when I get up to write that down
as an idea for a poem
and trip on my slipper and crack my head
on the vanity.
Choking on an hors d'oeuvre I didn't want
but ate to be polite
to a person I don't like
at a party I didn't want to go to
but went to be polite.
Quietly, in my sleep, in a hospital bed,
surrounded by people I don't recognize. 

Because I love Him,
and because I have a sense of humor,
I switch to chunky. 

Upward Spiral 

To learn you
I will start below.
My eyes raised up from old, dead stone
tunnel roots and cellar walls
through bricks, blocks, pipes and copper wires.
The moist, dark soil swaddles you
in seasons' leaves, bright pages turned
to mulch and compost where now stretch
peach, almond, pear.
Those, your scent, as I break ground,
swim up through years
to walk your uncut grass
and stare through night-slick glass.

To know you
I will enter in.
A student on a morning tour, and I begin;
stroke banisters, scratch mortar lines,
drop muddy footprints in the hall
and leave behind the litter of a visit.
Nothing but a flirt. A scouting trip.
Come back at night, custodian,
who knows your locks, bookshelves and walls.
The spots where moisture pools,
the warm, soft corners, safe to rest
against a wall for a quick nap or furtive bite.
I wander you at night.

To win you
I will rise above.
A wind exhaled from cracks
of winter's knuckled grip. In spring you sighed
and opened all the windows,
threw them wide, hopeful at the scenes of light
and green and growth outside.
So I fly out and circle upward,
see the hills and roads that sketch
your landscape. Bring them back, stretch tales, paint

bright, new colors that reveal this view:
a world ever, always, only you.

Pencil sketch

straight lines are
boring necessary but
boring efficient but
boring black and white is good for
chess and
moon pies.

fucking moon pies.

summer is black full thick.
winter is white obvious trite.

Spring is silver,
his edges slippery and shy.
Autumn is fallen brown.
She holds the liquid center,
gracious in sleep,
dreams words,
drools a little,
and settles, slowly,
into promise.

~ For my friend, Tam Dalrymple

50 and 10

The gentle bell rings.
She wraps up, he collects his things.
"Next week."
"Same time."
Door opens, closes. She thinks, "I'm a fool."
But still she takes his place,
the couch indented from his form,
not yet cool, faintly aromatic
from his aftershave.
She stretches out. Long, bare legs
on leather that has held
a thousand broken men. A million
babbled dreams. One of them, though...
One is in her head.
Eyes closed, she pictures him
beside her, there. His half smile.
Tapping on the arm of what is always
(always... always...)
hers; the doctor's chair.
Just once, though, she would give it up,
give it over,
give it back
if he would enter in,
would take the place where
she needs fifty minutes
of concentrated, focused


Deep winter made Amelia Jesus.
"Mimi" to her friends, she skates the lake behind the farm
where no cows graze and no corn grows.
Walking on the water where
she'd dived last summer, touched the bottom,
swam to shore, kissed Donnie Blake
while they both dried in sun and breeze.

Sixteen soon, by next December she will drive
to see him weekends, stay the night, and maybe
maybe maybe maybe let him let him let him...

She slides a thin skin of change. A scant few inches
held between the piercing blue of Christmas sky and
a black like swollen pupils, grown to try
and catch the last pale winking light.

It never broke before.

"Wait until Christmas," was the rule. But whether
Mimi was a little heavier with muscle mass
from soccer and a lot of yoga
or the ice was thinner... still remembering a long
long Spring.

It didn't hurt. She wasn't even scared.
Couldn't feel the cold. Body soaked with shock
and chemicals and vertigo and
all she sees is white above. The pale
thin skin of change.

Her mother's shouts of, "Mimi! Mimi! Mimi!"
the last sounds heard as fingers tap
one last time
on something solid
and Amelia remembers,
"Oh, yes... Jesus dies."

Safe Words: A Zombie Sonnet

Deep down inside, we knew we were bad.
All of us. Everywhere. Everyone had
a cellular knowledge of what we had done
to all of our victims. And now we have come

to a drought of fresh blood. To a desert of flesh
where the ground is a stone, where the wind just a breath
of enmity, apathy, memory, dawn.
Alone with our horror. Our hunger now gone

to sleep with its victims, now marrow and hair.
The scent of them absent. No trace of them where
there once was a bike path, a playground, a mall.
We wait for a sign. We'll wait here while all

of the stars flicker out. Until time itself ends.
To reunite, finally, for dinner with friends.

Heisenberg's Second Date

You said, "Yes." I don't know why.
The first went, I thought... bad.
To say the least. Your grace,
my clumsy humor not matched
so much as all opposed and all that
wine spilled on and in your shoe.
Why would you say, "Yes" to more?
I thought I knew before I called.
I thought I knew half way through
the first. All the awkward
silences. The food sent back.
The mention of the film
your ex was in. All that
and still the magic, unhoped... "Yes."

The joy of being wrong
is in me like a flare of burning paper.
And now I do not know
where this will go
but I am glad, so glad,
I so fucked up
the measurements.


reason chases reason
all around the stump of ego
never pauses never hastens
breath of question
tramp of logic
falls the fire
falls the water
falls the sweep of wind
and seasons
rots the branches
crumbles needles
reason circles
still the hole

Alone or dark

Heisenberg is not your friend.
Would you want, in the end, to know


No such luck. Bend
to see the object, hot and bright,
of your desire. Your movement
changes light. Your eye, warm metal,
glides like wind. Unseen but stiff enough
to stretch and send dry leaves against
the wooden fence. A scratch heard faintly
by the one you stalk.

slowly, softly past.
The warmth of want
will alter orbits, warp fine lines
and change the curve and comfort of her path.


There is a moment every morning when
I hover, warm and senseless, palm to palm
with sleep and darkness. For three breaths I can
forget the square of earth I care for. Wrong

and calm in unhinged thought. I rise and dress,
limp down the stairs, go out the back, abide
a moment's sun. The grayhouse lock is flecked
with rust. The knob is cold. I push inside

the freezing box. Dead dirt is still the same.
Nothing grows, as long as I remain.

Next steps

Because its proper use
saddens you,
I will cut out my heart.

A picture of a thing is not
the thing, no; but it is a thing.
The eyes stare, the light surprises
from odd angles, eases into
soft, familiar, friendly lines.
In the evening, after work, almost
a smile. Almost a nod. Almost

ten minutes since the last time
it beat. That's a record. I can wait.
How long will it take? I should wait.

There is no prize for being good.
No prize for the sweet, hard alchemy
that made you laugh... no prize for finding
your smile at the bottom of a box of
"fuck fuck fuck my life"
down down down
way down again again so far, so far, so far

so good. The ribs the toughest part.
That noise, the *creak* before they snapped.
The worst? Over? I hold on for fear
of... of... of...

Healed. Your eyes, your smile, your scent
covered some dry, dead, wrinkled place
where sun and forest, fire and rain had never met.
Come together, magic in the dark corners...
games in the

night. Wired back up. Rags in the washer.
Blood collecting in the cup
you used for sweet, light coffee.

The map is not the territory.
The scars are not the wound.
But they are something.

Eyes open, chest silent. I daydream
of sleep.


You break
beneath me
like a cool, green,
seedless grape.

Taut, at first, and firm. Smooth
curves, small dents, a tiny
tip of hard, rough stem.
Rolled, flicked, fluttered, licked
and swirled under my tongue
until the chill is shed, the blood
warmed skin still slick,
yes, but now with layered spit on sweat.

My teeth on you a tease,
a grin, a dare to let me further into
where you keep you close and closed.
Then harder, rhythmic nibbles growing bolder,
building into full, harsh
I bear down,
delighted as your eyes spread wide,
shocked at what you now allow and
ask and plead for and demand and

there there there the

breaking skin
juice flows
coats my mouth, lips, teeth, tongue, chin
I swallow as you
break apart and

like one cool, green, seedless grape
leave me thirsty.

The audience is inside

When she speaks, her breath is heavy
with the dust and wax of women
who knelt down before an altar
of defensive procreation.

The words are less a message
than a beast of daily burden.
Brimming pails of clotted vowels
sticking to her labored tongue.

The moral and the punchline
are not served for your amusement:
they are pieces on a game board
stretching back before her birth.

Like a flute, she's just a vessel
for a set of measured holes.

Ocean floor

There are rumors of sky.
Last words of swimmers, fallen
from waves. Limbs unkempt,
sleep-sown hair tossed
over wet, windy, winding sheets.

Swollen eyes, pressure kissed,
or eaten by the curious
fish who want to taste last sights.
Synesthesia, second hand.
Pearls of life melted
on tiny tongues.

A child's game, the rumors pass
from lips to ears to lips,
stirred by convection,
confection, consensus.

"Yes, there is sky. It's where
they make the dead."


I dreamed last night that you came back to me.

Drunk, of course.
Though still fine and smooth as ever.
Beautiful. Like dawn and ice-cream all at once.

First you raged.
Spit-soaked curses launched across dream kitchen.
Arms and hands all Pets Gone Wild,
you tried to escape your monologue.

Then sad.
You followed me into dream living room.
Filled with couches.
Low light, dark, dark dreaming carpet.
You sat, your feet curled underneath you,
wrapped your hands around my wrist
explained why things just
So much.
On and on. A rum-fumed litany of suck.

Then playful.
Tease me. Punch my shoulder. Pull my hair a little.
Dark eyes grinning up
from under dark and swaying bangs.
(You know. Even drunk you know.)
Your touch is poison. Feeds hot guilt,
cold heart kept intact just in case

(in case, oh Jesus just in case
you ever really, ever sober, ever thoughtful, ever wanting,
ever ever ever just come back).

Finally, sleepy.
Curled up beneath my arm.
I lift-half-carry you to dream bed.
You purr and slide beneath the sheet.
Beg, in that small (sweet poison) voice,
"Stay with me. Please."

I lay down next to you.
Cheek to shoulder.
Breath to neck.
Arm thrown carelessly
(fuck... of course carelessly)
across my chest.

Knees pressed to my hip.
I remember this.
This skin, these bones.
The summer, dried grass smell of your hair.
The bruised-purple tint
of your eyelids as your breathing
slows. Your long fingers. Your breasts
against my ribs.

You sleep. In my dream.
I'm awake, there.
For hours. Feeling. Waiting. Broken.

I dreamed last night that you came back to me.

Which doubly stabs...
since you were never with me
outside dreams.

And now I know the dream of losing you,
and of your drunk, doesn't-count, fingers-crossed return.
To add to the mix

of how you never, ever, really
loved me
at all
for real.


while you have lungs yet whole
and whistle
through your whistle hole
and tap your fingers
on the back
of something black.

a kiss to those who wait
so burden them
with dread, wet weight
and leave behind
your name in dust
on something bound to rust.

Lay back and nap the white noon sky.
We'll wake you for dusk rise.


What weaves
seeming solid
elbows, bone, long
hair undone
in wind fan
lamp light eye
slippery grin
drippery lips
over and
over and
over and down?

The right


wind dance snow dust
oil orange sky
pink chapped horizon rime
eyes closed
against the cold

pepermint dry hollow mouth
candle waver heart
march used brass hymns
feet stern
on silver cobbles

dream ribbons dream tinsel

husks only choke

If I die

If I die of boredom,
let me lie in plain, brown dirt.
No stone, no box, no flowers.
Just the earth and me
and worms and water,
roots and rocks.
Naked, face down, hands at sides.
Ten feet deep, please.

If I die of thirst,
bury me inside a tree.
Sealed behind the scratchy bark.
Upside down, feet pointed
toward Mosquito Moon.
Eyes sealed with moss.
A willow, maybe. I'm too far
removed from royalty for oak.

If I never die,
plant me in a chair. My old,
soft La-Z-Boy. Or the leather couch
we first made out on. The one
that palms your ass
like a catcher's mitt.
Facing East.
Towards the rising sun

No enemy

Sunrise doesn't fight the night.
No fire-bright spear,
no black dagger,
no mythic, balanced dance.
Just breath.

The jungle gym is air and iron.
Sweet young fear
raised higher.
Toes balanced, seeing far, far.
First frost.

Where the other is, you are.
Your fight is just his pounding heart.

Never the last word

I test the ocean with a naked toe,
then fall, like rags, in folds of purring foam.
Float, eyes wide, the sun obscured by clouds
too dense, too gray, too heavy with their load

of next year's sea. The pregnant future glides
across the sky. I paddle slowly out,
past rocks and turtles, shells and staring gulls,
twisting in the tide. The sun goes down

without a fanfare; no drum roll for night.
Just the billion billionth curtain call.
Still stroking softly, I breathe deep the spray,
the juice of what I've done. It's not at all

a suicide. It's just a quiet song.
With only sea to say, "You got it wrong."

Needs salt (this is the poem that writes itself)

This is the poem that writes itself.
Loose, salivated ink, black flowing loops
of spit verse dripping, dropping out,
pulled down by gravid dirt
pushed out by startled wind
released from mincing lips
to flutter
and finally fall
to misspent page below.

A napkin for the lost verse.
Two rhymes wiped thin and smeared
across a hairy hand.

Words without work,
phrase without weight
like last night's pizza sauce
on paper plates left in the sink.

Roll them down your chin.
Lick them from your cheek.
Dabble fingers in the juice
that oozes
comforting and warm,
nap-wet breath
you do not choose to hold.

This is the poem that writes itself.
Repeated lines, grim soldiers hefting gaudy flags
bang hollow drums,
attention. March to masturbated beat.

The words that fall from trees;
the words that rise from dreams;
the words that lead parades;
fear these. Hate them. They are not yours,
they own your air
and leak you out
a squeaking, tepid tire.

Any line that hasn't bled,
any word that isn't clamped
any poem that doesn't hurt
needs salt
rubbed in its gash.

This is the poem that writes itself.

Half circles

This summer is older than last summer.
This summer has white in its hair
and a beard gone dry and wiry.

Spring was younger than ever.
Falling all over herself to make mistakes.
Barefoot on wet pavement.
Asleep on the front porch.
Inventing drama with her roommates.

We don't know yet about fall.
And we never speak of winter.

Rest for the questions

the path begins to curve when
red sunset swallows day what
dense wet wood mumbles soft why
the sweet-eyed dancer bows

my fingers tense and tighten beg
release from black banked coal test
taut wires tense with current raise
a frost cracked coin of blood

more time than time requires break
more bone within the bowl ache
with me while sunset swallows choke
our clouds
spun gold

Death warmed over

Listening to tragedy
twice removed
is a radio
in the next car
playing songs
I don't like.

Your brother's wife is dying?
Maybe it's thrice removed.
Who talks like that.
Who says, "thrice?"
But "twice" is OK?

I don't know you that well.
You work three cubes down.
We've talked at lunch
less than ten times.
You borrow
my good scissors.
I borrow
your secretary.

I didn't know you had a brother.
Until you said,
"My brother's wife is dying."

I am...

Not sure. Certainly not pleased.
But I don't know him.
Don't know her.
Really... don't know you.

If I died, I expect I'd be
quite upset.

If you died, I might be
somewhat put out. Maybe sad.

If your brother died, I would have
some reasonable empathy.

I guess... I guess...

"That's terrible," I say.

You nod. And swipe one of my fries.

Lost and found

How can a man see so much life
and not see past his pride?
I'd look for answers everywhere,
but when they came, I'd hide.
The darkness that I hated
was only in my mind.
You tried to open up my heart,
but I couldn't find the time.

I didn't pay attention,
couldn't hear the words you'd say.
Didn't see that love and me
were headed different ways.
I lost love and for awhile
I thought I'd lost you, too.
Thank God your eyes were open...
you brought me back to you.

Beyond the path lies heartbreak,
and it's edged with silent tears.
Every time I wandered off,
you'd wait for me, for years.
With quiet words and gentle signs
you'd guide me back again.
You treated me with kindness,
like a long-lost, childhood friend.

I didn't pay attention,
couldn't hear the words you'd say.
Didn't see that love and me
were headed different ways.
I lost love and for awhile
I thought I'd lost you, too.
Thank God your eyes were open...
you brought me back to you.

And now I know where I should be,
I know just where I stand.
I'll never leave the light again,
if you'll just hold my hand.
I don't know where I'm going,
but I know where I belong.
As long as it's beside you, dear,
my journey can't go wrong.

I didn't pay attention,
couldn't hear the words you'd say.
Didn't see that love and me
were headed different ways.
I lost love and for awhile
I thought I'd lost you, too.
Thank God your eyes were open...
you brought me back to you.

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