Intimacyhere, a quake, so I name your fourth abdominal afterVenezuela - that landof tectonic plates that slide so subtle belowthe ocean floor, and just now,with my fingers featheringyour hip bone and your mouth adjusting the tempo of red rivers under the surface, I feel like a new mountain birthedby the shattering of old growth:bold, eager, desperate to possessthat soft blue sky.
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; howa 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 birdsand whales and rain and the empty elegance in wolf howls)death and life. I found chaosand knew beauty.
Accidentat the corner of boone trails and owenshe learned the brevity of flight:glinting bumper for launch padtrajectory approximately 5 feetacross the median.she pirouettedas proud, as swiftas any prima ballerinabut the landingproved rough.this I keep for her -the listless weight of limbsdefying gravity, the beastly beautyof a body bouyant beforeits death.
Dear Teen MeDear Teen Me,Too often, we lean toward writing to the general audience. I've rewritten this very letter at least three times, and had to scrap it each time because it did not accomplish what it needs to accomplish. It needs to be a letter to you, not to every teenage girl in America. It needs to speak to your heart, your dreams, and your faults. It needs to be about you.Since we were able to comprehend compassion, we've used it as a shield to avoid ourselves. We've sympathized with the plights of the starving in Asia, the trafficked in India, the raped and tortured in Sudan and Burma. We've given to the Red Cross on behalf of hurricane and earthquake victims. We've spent hours coaxing the mentally ill out of suicide, sometimes successfully, sometimes not. We've given everything we have trying to help others. And it is noble and just and right and selfless to the point of being unhealthy.You are a person, too. You need time and attention and care and space just as much as the
The First Time I Cried While Reading PoetryHe asked if a soul can achewhile I wondereddo little girls in Thailandsleeping in servitudeand blameless sinbelieve God loves them?He reached across the sheets, pressedthe pad of his left thumb into my hip,and impaled miracles on dull words:"look at us, all agony and grace."Then rolled away. I kissed his palms,closed my eyes,knew love to be a rabid dog.The first time I cried while reading poetry,he sighed and asked:"does the world make more sensewhen it's blurry?" No. But the bite doesn't hurt as much.
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
Redthis is the way we are set loose:like bulls released from their pens -all anger and bucking fear,unaware that we have thrown awaythe most harmless annoyance& quivering, we awaitthe wrath of realizedmistakes - the endof the fray.
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
ObjectI prod the sticky skinbetween your ribs,find air lacking.there are words for this.I do not wantto know them.ten years ago you said that a humanwas more than an accumulationof bone and liquidbut here, with a cloth squeezedbetween the few fingersnot touching the objectthat you've become,I cannotagree.
LandingWhen a butterflypauses on your freckled noseso does the summer.
PerigeeWhen the mare went blindmy heart clouded like her eyesshe walked calm along her dark pathshe learned step up, step downI led her by the forelockher trust like the moon between my hands
A Long End to a Brief Life I didn't know it was illegal to move a person's ashes from the spot you said they'd be (my garage) to multiple others. I put Mom-in-ashes in the trunk of my car because I thought we'd find a place for her soon, but Mom and I went hither and yon while my sister looked for a real "resting place." I even forgot Mom was there, and we went shopping, to the movies, out to eat. Was it disrespectful? It didn't feel illegal. When I thought about it, it seemed kind of cozy. There came the day though, when my sister Jocelyn found a good mausoleum to put Mom at a full stop, the final resting place. I went with Jo, and that's how I found out it was illegal to move Mom beyond the shelf in the garage to the mausoleum -- it was supposed to be a direct line between the two places. Of course I didn't tell the man Mom had been all over town with me. We had to pick out an urn to put at least part of Mom in (the whole of her was too big,
Metaphorically SpeakingPeople are like books;full of stories and easilybroken at the spine.
He Found Me Before I Knew1suddenly rain -our reflection in the windshieldbecomes a deluge2texting each other a renga -tires hisson rain-soaked streets3home from workhe finds me on the bedin a pile of warm laundry4between desires -the children we werein another life5finishing the fencehe smells of wood chipsfrom my dad's workshop6showering,I connect constellationsof freckles on his shoulders7gray morning -I open a melonits green perfume8at the dining tablewriting this haikuthe fridge faintly hums
you need to have a plan...so here's toconventional wisdom.1. relocateto some forgotten shore.2. fall desperately in love with i. the ocean ii. the sky iii. the honey sunrise and iv. the steelgray winter dawn.3. sinksoul-deep into the water andbreathe.4a. search out the requisite words i. from behind white and blue curtains ii. and underneath clam shells iii. and in the wakes of fishing boats, and4b. pluck them from the ceaselessscrawls of sunlightagainst the slopes of waves.5. make time for i. poetry ii. and other selfish pursuits.
Autumn was my first love.October, I follow you -from the magic lights of New Yorkto moonshines in Georgia,until the colors dissolve.The anxious poetry of autumnmade a memory of me.Here’s to things I take for granted:September blues,chasing airplanes,country road thunderstorms.Unspoken words, unwritten ideas.October, I follow you;I thought I saw you on the shorewhere the river runs through goldon the last boat leaving the city of a hundred spires -or perhaps Pittsburgh(it was the lights I guess).Here’s to the things we leave behind:sunbeams in November,letters addressed to no one,poems, wounds, dead birds.I’ve got that summertime sadness.Maybe you’re gonna come back;we’re changing our ways, taking different roadsand loneliness knows me by namebut October, I follow you;without you I’m a winter heart,a love story you don’t want,a November shade of grey hunting ghostsin cities that sleep inside our heads.You told me you lied the night you kiss
cyclic motioni. every sad story starts with love.ii. there is you sprawled across the bedwith your ankles tangled in cotton coversand the golden waves of sunlightbreaking themselves through fissured glassto drip into your hair like bright honey,your hands reaching upwardas if they were young birds waiting on wings.you wept for those flightless, wet-beaked childrenanchored helplessly to your wristsbut their hearts were not as weakas the foreign fist beating in your chest. they collapsedand only left behindthe impressions of dying constellationsthey had scratched beneath your eyelids.iii. at dusk i watched the night take you in waves, glowing,and said you were the most beautiful thingi had ever known.it was a lie. the want of a thingis always more beautiful than the thing itself.these are the quiet things we do not tell--the secrets touched only in the darkwhen hearts are laid openand everything else forgets to exist.iv. i whispered that to myself when the last shadowslipped
MorphHe pinned the butterflyto the card,the dry rotof blue wingsso profoundand loudin the warm room.Under glassit seemed a stranger,not the imagounfolding in the jarthat dreamedof the wet season,but a legless pupacommonand forgettable.
Ixchelthe new year riots inon its horses,all helmets and gunpowder,reared on its hauncheslike a conquistador army.your invasion brings out theMayan in me,the pre-Columbian refusalto be subdued,the impetus to reclaim my territory,hissing like a serpent,a jaguar.my civilisationis scattered like starsin centres of sacrilege, sacrifice;my heart an ancient ceremonialstone, a step pyramid raised to the heavenslike a rocky intake ofbreath.I, hellcat, spitfire,murderess, bloodspiller,tongue like an obsidian flint:I rage like a goddess.you, soldier to my warrioress,discipline to my fury,hypocritical saintto my unabashed lust for destruction,you glutton of an empire, you—withstand my volcanic wrathand you are welcome to all of the goldburied in the belly of my desert.
ConfluenceAccording to the old religion, a scribemust bathe in natural running waterbefore she draws what is dictated to her,because writing's just like cleaning a mirror,she says, it's like rearranging stainsleft on wholesome rivers. For three nights,I drew geometric shapes in the margins;I had been instructed to take notes onthe underside of snow, and how it colonizedthe lithosphere, musically and without hurt.It felt like a call, but it wasn't a calling.The paper was made in Himalayan foothillsby a woman who had cleansed knots from fibrous barkand dipped her bleached hands into boiling water.I mangled the page into a cottage, then a castle;for I imagine that the grime of Dublincould fold me up into my questions. But to givecreative attention is always an act of love,and the most sincere. You have always known thatonly at the fringes of the intellectcan love become voice. So mayit all be fringes and loveits nonexistence, but not yet, not yet.
SuffocationI found a vintage denim jacketin the bottom of my mother's closet,underneath a black-and-white montageof shoebox photographs with burned edges.Like she had been trying to asphyxiatethe memory of my fatherbut kept coming up for air.
syracuseListen to the audio version for the full effect, pretty please.cloudshot sky like an oil painting and i am watching theseagulls. i--darling, i will swim for youand swallow every whitecap.i will pluck myself a coat of pelican wings,sew them up with salt and spray--become icarus for you.you are calling me across the waves, love--but you pull against the achein my bones, the hollow--the clawing out for unseen sunsets and unturned tides.i hear you, lovegive me time.i will always listen.
glass in the tidegradac, croatia; summer.it is a town climbed up from the sea:a salt hymn, an exhalation, a brightly calcifiedspray. the houses here are overgrownas wildflowers, paths like tiny winding veinssprung alive between them. from my balcony i watchthe sun crest slowly into afternoon,and mothers lead their childrendown stone slopes, arterial pullto the water. by the shore,vendors sell bottles of olive oil, salt,sage, gathering up anything with the tasteof what mystery inhabits the air—brimming overthe glass lips, a curving kind of joy,the whole earth, a bowl of it.at night, my uncle drinks beerand i drink wine. he watchesthe football game and i tryto write this poem; try to bottle with languagesome tipped draught of the night waterbelow me, the children still dancing loudin its repeated unfurling,opal spray.in the morning, we swim, and stretch outour salt-damp bodies at the edgeof the sea. lying there, i rustlethrough the beach's tiny stones, pick out emer
fishermanI am a fisherman-all roaring wavesand rush of sea saltbeating seagull wingsand a tongue carved fromrough driftwoodMy hands break leveesand my breath births damsthe taste of chilly mornsstill melt on the roof of mymouth like I never wishedfor anything besides the smackof sodden rubber boots andthe scars from entangledhunks of ivory netsthe sea has notforgotten my voice-I can hear themwhisperingwhen the wooden floorboardscrackle like hurricane bruisesfrom water laden sauntersthrough land sunk librariesit has been a foreversince I held a dreamcaught between my fingertipsand the gentle rock of aboat and foamy froth onmy lipsbut this new trip I have embarked uponcarries more clanking hooks than screeching sinkersyet- my line has not changed-I am a fisherman and the seadoes notforget who its children are.