There Are Always AlternativesI looked up the synonyms -
pang, throb, anguish, misery
none quite adequate
affliction is closer, better defined
providing shape to the problem
psychologists don't want to solve
because, as popular opinion holds,
grief is precious, makes us human
and we can't dull it away
can't forget to mark the movement of planets
in a universe lacking pertinence,
can't smash all the clocks to avoid
that truculent ticking
no, the psychologists say,
we must suffer through it
must bear the herculean weight
with neither pills nor promise of relief
so we seek comfort in Johnny
or Jack or José, sometimes
a Captain named Morgan
we substitute addiction for attachment
and defy any to rectify the error
and when it comes again
there's the thesaurus to offer
alternative avenues of address
for the deep and abiding ache.
Intimacyhere, a quake, so I name
your fourth abdominal after
Venezuela - that land
of tectonic plates
that slide so subtle below
the ocean floor, and just now,
with my fingers feathering
your hip bone and your mouth
adjusting the tempo of red rivers
under the surface, I feel
like a new mountain birthed
by the shattering of old growth:
bold, eager, desperate to possess
that soft blue sky.
Love Is Not A MetaphorBirds do not care if you are broken.
They are just birds, occupied with the business
of survival. The wind that carries them
does not care if you wish to be weightless,
cradled in arms it does not possess.
The ocean it greets does not care if your tears
would push its boundaries up continents
to meet mountain tops that would no more
fashion themselves into soft beds
for your beaten spirit than learn Latin
to remind you that love is no metaphor
& you will lose it by thinking thus.
Death to the ConspiratorI harbor a foolish hope that sensation might flee my body.
The soldiers ordered to escort us make an awful commotion. Their boots click sharply against cobblestone floors while their guns and belts rattle with each stride. I feel the vibrations in my teeth. Father Jacob walks just ahead of us and snorts loudly every third or fourth step, as though trying to clear his nostrils of the prison's stench.
I have forgotten the scent of a warm summer day. We leave the gates and stone walls behind and step into the sun. It washes my vision in creamy white. My eyes adjust quickly. There is grass - rich, moist, and springy under my step. A pale haze rises above the city in the distance, and the white dome of the Capitol building reflects the sun brilliantly.
Briefly, I wonder if Jackson's hand hesitated before it signed my fate.
I cannot avoid it now, rising above the heads of the parade in front of me: the gallows, constructed not an entire day before. Fresh planks still reek of pine and cedar s
Why Spirit Day Is Not EnoughPreface
This essay was written in October of 2010 after DeviantART released this article supporting the Spirit Day movement to bring awareness to LGBT bullying.
I wrote it because there were so many comments on the official article that were defaming to one group or another that I felt the true issue had been lost in the rhetoric. The point of Spirit Day is to show solidarity and compassion for your fellow human beings. Not gay or straight or ill or handicapped - those categories don't matter. We're just humans, each flawed and each perfect. Spirit Day was an attempt to remind us of that.
I was confronted with two major arguments to this editorial in the original posting. One was that singling out LGBT suicides meant that I was putting more importance on that group than any other. For the purpose of the article, I suppose that's true. Spirit Day focused on LGBT issues, so the article (
luhv --verbAs a small child, love was not a word bound by definition. Love was not a word at all. It was my father sitting beside my bed, and our nightly exchange:
"Papa, read me a bedtime story."
"Alright," he replied, opening his hands like a book. He pretended to scan the contents of his palm. My face split into a grin, knowing the next words before they came. "Once upon a time," he began, his tenor voice filled with drama. Already I was giggling. Then he closed his hands with a soft clap. "The end!"
"No!" I squealed. "A real story, Papa!"
Afterward, Papa pressed his whiskery face to my forehead, whispered the same prayer he whispered over all his children; he continues to whisper it to himself, though his children are far too old for whiskery kisses or pretend bedtime stories.
As I grew older, love changed. It grew into screaming matches with my sisters: words flung at each other with enough precision to maim, but not kill. Each of us struggled with the need to be close and still occupy a spa
To My Younger SelfDear Little Lili,
Never try to cut your own hair. God or genetics or the fates (whatever we'll eventually prefer) blessed us with many skills, but coordination is not one of them. For this reason avoid any sport that requires contact with others. You'll save a few broken bones.
Read everything. Books will be better friends to you than most people, but that is because they are humanity distilled - all of the beauty and none of the beast. Love them accordingly.
Touch the barbs of velvet-petal roses before you inhale their perfume. Get used to the way blood wells, then rolls across the ridges in your skin. Emotions are not so different. You cannot cross through this life without a few scars, but you can prepare yourself for the pain.
Love the people you meet. This will be so easy for you now, while you are young and see the world so clearly. With time, grime will slowly creep into your vision - a cancer of the heart and soul that medicine has yet to diagnose.
Hold on to the words from the
Birth of PoetryI tangled my fingers in the curls of the universe,
pulled. The earth fell out: round, warm, spinning.
Awkward and shy, she wondered how she got here; how
a rock that got wet and grew moss could be significant.
So I scooped her up in my fingers, breathed her scent:
(lilies and oceans and ozone and forests and fish and birds
and whales and rain and the empty elegance in wolf howls)
death and life. I found chaos
and knew beauty.
Desolateif you are parched tonight,
the pale of your lips cracked
with thirst for that which
will not claim you;
if you hunger -
the deep and shallow collapsing
into slivered vibrations;
if blindness rejects you, says
no, watch now.
this is the way of it;
if you are breathing the world
into cinders, inhaling each poison
on purpose, striving
toward an apocalypse
because that is chaos
we can categorize,
then you may understand.
Your Daughter has Sold Hundreds of Local PapersBut listen to me: I will tell you
how to love a bedspread;
a car seat; a sun dress
that you cleaned two months ago.
and should they find her
in the breast of a riverbank
or a cabinet,
I will tell you
facts about scavenger birds;
kettles, wakes and how to chair a committee
with a body on your desk,
as scavenger birds do.
Whale Songs of the PacificListen, the girls swallowed by whales are the ones that grow up lucky.
Listen, no one will warn you about the little boys with the magpie eyes and the fists swinging splinters of glass. No one will warn you that their smiles are sweeter than their words are sweeter than their souls are sweeter than their intentions. No one will warn you of the sheer weight of the world.
Listen, sometimes girls are fragile. Sometimes girls are frothy. Sometimes girls let boys nuzzle "I love you"s into their necks and sometimes girls drink the wine of believing them.
Listen, sometimes the boys really are sweet, and little girls' tart puckered mouths can't taste the difference.
Listen, writers are the ones that drip fishhooks down their throats to coax out their hearts. Writers are the ones who fling those heart-hooks into the sea even if they have a message but not a bottle. Listen, sometimes fish swallow them. Some of those fish sink to the bottom of the ocean with the weight of the world in those heart
You don't seem to notice (my scars)-i-
He and I were eleven when we met, the first day of the sixth grade. No particular moment served as the spark to ignite our friendship. As children do, we started talking as if we were already good friends, and were inseparable from the start.
There were rumours, but we didn't understand half of the words the other kids had picked up from R-rated movies, and neither did they. We were called King and Queen by a crowd of boisterous first-graders who followed us around at recess. He joined the choir and the school play just because I did. It didn't take long before we weren't allowed to sit near each other on the school bus because we caused too much trouble, and eventually we weren't allowed to sit near each other in class either. One day, more quietly than I had ever heard him, he asked me to be his girlfriend; I blushed and said yes.
We never once invited each other to our houses. We each had our reasons, but never knew the other's: a silent agreement to n
on commuting with no hurrythere you go
lighting matches in the rain,
walking with two feet
that the gods gave you
because they cannot walk,
heading home as if with news
of some miraculous disaster,
counting the steps between yourself
and the clouds that disappeared
behind the grey veil of October.
thunder and lightning unfold
so close above
and you dream of a destination
somewhere in the south
where birds and stormy weather coexist.
behind you there is nothing,
running water will erase
every footprint you have left
on the dark sand of this metropolis.
before you there is distance,
enough to live your life
in a constant state of travel,
but not nearly enough signs
for you to know
where you are heading.
close your eyes
as not to be blinded
by the red lights and the yellow warnings,
those ever changing speed limits,
and open your arms
as to be looked at by the sun
that will soon peek out behind the nothingness,
ripping the veil
of the vast, unending
no wonder it took him 1455 pageswhen i was seven years old, a group of kids in my grade threw rocks at me for liking neopets more than webkinz. from then on, i was convinced i knew what hatred meant. but i don’t know how to describe it to the little girl who sits in the corner of my womb and in ten years might call me mommy and ask for help on dividing the world into black and white.
would i point to the churches with their bigotry? to the cotton fields of the south in the 1800s? to the classrooms of modern day america? would i tell her about how the jews stood in straight lines, waiting to die, with fear in their eyes and faith in their hearts? or would i try and describe the sound tyler clementi’s body made when it hit the water of the hudson river after he jumped from the george washington bridge?
would i point to myself and say, “i am hatred, i am hatred to others. i am lying and cheating and stealing and coveting and jealousy and hubris. i am the idea of every time someone wants to kill someone
A Note on DrowningI am writing this letter for myself. If you have found this letter, please give it to me. If you find that I lack the will to read, if my mind is gone, if my hands are bloodied, tell me at least, that the song is near its end. If I am dead [indistinguishable]
[Written in the margin: IF I AM DEAD THROW ME TO THE SEA]
In laying out the bones of my terrors, a solution may be found.
I’ll start before the beginning, when Mother took me for walks on the beach and told stories. Together we missed my father, who sailed the sea. These are my earliest memories, but I remember things had always been this way. We walked together, and I counted my many steps and Mother’s few. When I stretched my legs, I could make it so my path went over only her footprints.
The sand was soft where she had stepped. Elsewhere was gritty, and unclean.
I was young for all of Mother’s stories. Here I will write the relevant one as best I remember.
“A sailor was on a ship. This ship was far of
Twenty: I'm afraid I'm growing oldi.
Coupons and sales magazines
have become more than just junk mail
and the holes in my pants
seem more patchable
and I wonder just how much
my sparse jewelry would fetch
if I said I saw the face of Jesus
in the glimmer of my pearls.
I am beginning to miss the sea I grew up on
so much that I will read bad poetry
just for the mention of a salty ocean breeze.
I feel landlocked and sometimes I'm afraid
that I will never see the world
until I have retired from it.
Faith says her life is full of asking.
I wish mine were full of answers,
but I too have many questions
and only Time will answer them for me.
My mother just turned sixty
and her eyes when she looks at herself
in pictures from the '70s
makes me realize
that my time, however long,
Complex 57The slick of black, heady oil rolled across the floor, staining the raw surface of the clinic, and the young boy collapsed back into the examination table. He was pale, even for someone who had never seen sunlight, with milky eyes and black spittle hanging from cracked lips.
"Of those we've seen, the virus has spread most quickly in this patient." Doctor Ripnar was a tall man who tended to sway when he walked, but had hands as deft and precise as any surgeon and he used them now to steady and restrain the boy. "His blood is turning into the same substance you see at your feet." he continued, "We might have been able to keep him alive long enough to find a cure, but we don't have the resources for everyone."
Adjudicator Lawrence nervously straightened his tie; his pink and sweaty face bulbous with stress. "Everyone?" he asked, "How many have been infected?"
"It's in the air supply, Adjudicator. We're all infected."
The Adjudicator lurched, virulent juices churning in his stomach. He hat
for all intensive purposesi am accused of being
a category five--
but i will not excuse the way my skin aches.
i want storms.
i remember the way Katrina screamed &
if you press your ear to my chest you will hear the same.
the moan turning into a pitch, the pitch
screaming until the throat is too raw to be
more than a whimper.
the way it stops
silently racked until it bursts forth once more.
i will not apologize for being demolition.
scars exist on every woman
too powerful to contain herself.
glass in the tidegradac, croatia; summer.
it is a town climbed up from the sea:
a salt hymn, an exhalation, a brightly calcified
spray. the houses here are overgrown
as wildflowers, paths like tiny winding veins
sprung alive between them. from my balcony i watch
the sun crest slowly into afternoon,
and mothers lead their children
down stone slopes, arterial pull
to the water. by the shore,
vendors sell bottles of olive oil, salt,
sage, gathering up anything with the taste
of what mystery inhabits the air—brimming over
the glass lips, a curving kind of joy,
the whole earth, a bowl of it.
at night, my uncle drinks beer
and i drink wine. he watches
the football game and i try
to write this poem; try to bottle with language
some tipped draught of the night water
below me, the children still dancing loud
in its repeated unfurling,
in the morning, we swim, and stretch out
our salt-damp bodies at the edge
of the sea. lying there, i rustle
through the beach's tiny stones, pick out emer
Escape VelocityF = G(m1m2)/r2
Black – true black – is the absence of light. Darkness is defined by what it is not, by the lack of something else. When we say a black hole, we truly mean that; black. Blacker than black. An absence of not only light, but of time, distance, anything.
The night was scary when I was little. I hated the dark, but couldn’t bear to sleep so long as the light was on, any light, burning on the other side of my eyelids. I used to have nightmares about dark things in dark corners, shadowy figures with shadowy fingers trailing along my spine. I always woke up cold and fumbling frantically for the lamp, but the aura of light just made the shadows deeper and I turned it off quickly.
Black holes are dead stars. Graves. Tombs that bury light, bury it so deep, swallow entire suns, planets, galaxies. Dead stars take all the light with them like rich men spending fortunes on alabaster monuments and marble headstones.
There are four unmarked graves
Five Seasons (Alternate) There was this moment, early last May, when I could have glanced up from the book I was reading at the breakfast table.
I could look out my window and see you standing on my lawn, this waif in a windbreaker grinning at a daydream you're probably too old for. I could bring you an umbrella. I could invite you in for coffee, and we could lose the whole day debating questionable Scrabble plays. We could take to the streets after dark and try to find an all-night diner that will feed us both for less than fifteen dollars. I could fall in love with you.
But I don't.
You go home with nothing but a story about how springtime leaves you feeling lonely. Your roommate blows off a dinner date to take you out for drinks. You send a Chardonnay up to the stage between sets and the singer takes you home.
The new girl at work works up the nerve to ask me out.
I don't have a reason to say no.
The Solipsist's LotThere's something about yourself that you don't know. You probably don't remember the circumstances very well, but I do. If you enjoy things the way they are, if you revel in even the smallest speck of ignorance, you need not read ahead. I won't force you. But from what I know of you, you don't like secrets. Especially not when they are about you.
You see, when you were born, so at once was everyone else. Your mother, she sprang into existence, just like that, the instant your tiny infant brain achieved the smallest semblance of self-awareness. Woven out of the ether, she remembered everything that never happened, and she looked down at you, cradled and squirming in her loving arms.
"Oh," she said. "So here is life."
The doctor was there too, although a moment before if there ever was a moment before he was not. He just nodded, smiling assuredly, and said, "Here is the beginning."
July 3rd, 1978.
Eighty-two degrees outside.
Driving sixty eight mph down Millersville road
past miles of cornfields
And everything is silent.
Except the faint scream of wind escaping through the cracked driver side window
and the dull thud of tire treading on the newly paved road.
trying to understand,
while trying not to think,
while thinking too much,
while being silent.
And suddenly its
March of 1968
And Calley is calling
“kill them all dead”.
And he sees his daughter,
her Agent Orange colored curls
clinging to her face like napalm sticks to melting bodies;
her eyes burning brighter than Hanoi and Haiphong on December 18th, 1972.
He begins to cry
because its still
July 3rd, 1978,
Five pm, and
eighty-two degrees outside.
But in his mind it will always be March of 1968
or December of 1972,
because for him the war is still being fought;
monks and Morrison still burning;
Saigon is still screaming
like it was on April 30, 1975,
There Stands the GrassDuring my youth, I frequently traveled the world, sightseeing in the most exotic places. Few people can boast about having visited far-off and unheard of lands such as Oman, Kosovo and Swaziland. Traveling and exploring different countries became a passion, one that I enjoyed doing to no end. My reasons for getting such unprecedented joy from seeing the deepest parts of the world are my own, but I can only imagine being anywhere aside from home would give me pleasure. I have visited countries that some men have never even heard of, not even in their wildest dreams, but of all the experiences I’ve had and of all the people I’ve met, there is one event that I will never forget.
I was on a guided safari tour in Kenya, in the Hell’s Gate National Park, which received its name from the steep cliffs that opened up like a demon’s jaws. Was I wrong for going there in the first place? Well, no sane person should ever venture to a place called Hell’s Gate. I was wit
a ribcage drenched in dusti have your ribcage, you said.
what should i put in it?
i told you i'd always wanted a fire,
the kind that would fill my eyes with starlight
and pump my blood full of passion, but
you're made of wildflowers, you said.
a fire would burn you to ash.
you wanted to fill my chest with
the sound of a train, whistling
far away in the night;
with the sound of rain smacking leaves;
with the sound the wind makes
when it seems like it's trying to speak
and you wanted to throw in the
smell of midnight in august
and the feeling of sand being
sucked out from under your feet
when the ocean inhales,
and the strange little moment of
bittersweet joy you get when
someone else puts your soul into words
and you realize you're not as alone as you thought.
i told you that if i had all that inside me,
i'd ache all the time
and you smiled a sad little smile,
because you already knew that ache.
because you were a writer, and you ached all the time.
i've got it, i said.
Divination as a Means of Finding a Way Back 1. I say nothing I am thinking.
For twelve years I have wanted
to do exactly this, but suddenly
pronouncing my own name calls up
the question of who it belongs to
in the same breath Like
Solomon I was born a singer
but in the wrong key and my
chords will not carry me, will not
summon the wolves to me only
packs of hungry dogs
stupid with domestication
but nearly feral And like
a hungry ghost I have learned
not to speak against those
who will give me food
2. A sketch of myself.
He says I must have been born
in the wrong culture, he says. I got a taste of
the crackling heat here, heat to drive you crazy,
and suddenly I open my wide arms for
New Orleans, find myself needing the wind from
the Great Plains. Like a buffalo I have the spirit
of the Sun and I carry it with me. I am a plant
of burnt umber,
brown, ready and waiting like
sage bushes, like the hill you go to that is best
for collecting jun
Counting the Ringsi
near my sick bed
he murmurs of how he's crumbling
but I'm still here
I've fought so long, I'm here
for a while I trust
I believe this, I must
even when it's bad, because
his faith alone is not enough
my random thoughts of how long
I have, and his thoughts of
"will she be able to outlive me" -
even at moments like this
it happens that
we hold on and speak of a future
rolling restless this early morn'
you exhausted and I
drying up from a virus
spying through the shredding
of 250-thread count bedding,
between the hillocks of your shoulders
we never can sleep
in anticipation for what's to come
to plant the seed and watch it grow
though we will never see it bloom
for all the other things we know
and live beyond that fertile past
of what we did and what we'll do
as sleep will still not come to us
close apart, we dare not fall
from the tree that burns in season
counting the rings of our poetry
the moon has set,
I wake in the dark
to the rush of wind
I hear him rinsing off
in the basi