Accidentat the corner of boone trails and owen
she learned the brevity of flight:
glinting bumper for launch pad
trajectory approximately 5 feet
across the median.
as proud, as swift
as any prima ballerina
but the landing
this I keep for her -
the listless weight of limbs
defying gravity, the beastly beauty
of a body bouyant before
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.
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
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.
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.
LeviosaThere once was a witch named Kat
who wished for the pointiest hat
that any witch had ever worn
as straight and sharp as a thorn
so she could place it where the teacher sat.
Then our Kat would giggle with glee
as into the air like a rocket shot he!
Ah, the irony his criticisms would carry
as the class watched him flutter like a fairy.
Maybe it'd be enough to set Kat free
from the levitation lessons
that felt like torture sessions.
If only Kat could make the wand work
so that droopy tip would perk
upward, like a prayer to the heavens.
ObjectI prod the sticky skin
between your ribs,
find air lacking.
there are words for this.
I do not want
to know them.
ten years ago
you said that a human
was more than an accumulation
of bone and liquid
but here, with a cloth squeezed
between the few fingers
not touching the object
that you've become,
b. 1954He was born to Elvis' first dreamy hit
& a mother who preferred it to the soft
thumpthump heartbeat of her infant.
He was born to a world suffering
the high-pitched paranoia of racism,
the tight lows of war ad nauseam,
the slow slaps of McCarthyism.
He was born to a family familiar
with the thrilling thwack of ringed
fingers on flesh, to a father
who fled the frenzy in favor
of that mellow bass at death.
He was born the first son
and assumed the lead, progressed
from child to man at percussive speed;
Papa was a father long before me.
But seventeen brought new birth:
old guitar instilled young hands with worth.
Those first strings were steel teachers;
they taught him that blood forces to life
Born to the timbre of darkness meeting light,
to the cadence of right versus might --
my father survived jittery discord,
and unwound the melodies only a heart
like his could have found.
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.
CopenhagenLet’s meet again in an alternate universe
where your eyes are brown and I dyed my hair black
because I hated being a natural blue.
I’ll teach you to play guitar
and you’ll show me how to fly,
scholars caught in an intellectual love affair,
a tandem bike going nowhere.
I’ll know you by the gentleness
of your fingertips and you’ll need
no identifier but the slant of my handwriting,
because, world to world, some things don’t change.
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
You can't have it allbut you can have the glazed heat bursting from the blacktop like a broken
fire hydrant. You can have the jangle of keys
swinging from your hip with each stride.
You can have the tactility of leather and the graze of
bathroom mosaic tiles under a cold shower pelting
bullets and when the water cuts off
you can have dry book pages. You can have happiness,
though it will often be bitter, like finding a stranger’s
wallet full of pictures of smiling children until you
return it to find that the couple is barren.
You can have the scratches on the back of his knuckles,
faded, yet raw. You can have the translucency of sheets
in the sun, silhouettes but no details,
never revealing anything more than a fringe of hair
and frayed laces tripping over themselves.
You can drop obscenities like bombs until
they don’t mean anything anymore. You can pull out the Monopoly board
that broke your family. You can’t put it back together,
but you can pretend the thimble is your mother and the
fidelic whore-- this is appropriation
my sweet synchronicity ,
i have downed your appetite
in a bed of front teeth
(it is morning in perth
midnight in dublin, and the noon
sun has been lost behind
a dress of mothy curtains)
do i taste of
of love making;
do i reek of
the weeds that
the posture of your spine?
you bend over
my lap a curve of guilt
and weep all night.
i collect each knob of your body
like a gift. press it to my mouth.
we watch too much internet pornblank, online eyes
staring through each others
that mean everything
and say everything
at near imperceptible
he's a claustrophobic,
who whispers with rustled
to restful bradycardia
on secret wishes like
all i want
is for the land
to stretch like the
sands of time
under my feet
but most days
she is too busy listening
for the train rattling the tracks
where his mind races
the only train she's heard
was faint steel static
on a youtube video)
and her eyes are looking for
his eyes full of all kinds
of natural, youthful stars
she ain't seen before
(with strong, bright names like Orion--
not paparazzi-burned Angelina)
but it's all in their head
the walls they need to climb
to live and love and be
that power outages
are not quite the end
of the world
I think I used to be an architect,
in a past life or a
I know it
the way you know things in dreams.
I have this urge
to make things exactly perfect,
straight and angled and curved,
every line clean and direct
as a functionalist fantasy.
but my armature's tired of
holding the weight
of the world on its
my cast-iron limbs
no structure can perfectly embody
form does not always
all the concrete in the world
wouldn't match up
to the pillars
I've placed myself on.
fathomand since you asked,
yes, this is how
I always see you:
bright toxic viridian,
like a bowlful of
like an ocean
sliced open at the
baring its frigid depths,
each tentacled squid,
each sucker and fin and
parted for me
as if I were Moses,
as if you were the Red Sea,
as if I could see
every wild thing
that teems within you
the invisible wounds of warhome is so different when you're
standing behind the wall;
i wonder of the people who
live/will live in that house now as i
stand yonder on the neighbor's
my face illuminated in a yellow
i wonder if they'd listen to my winding
stories; the nights i'd scream
back at my parents as they screamed
at each other -
the tornadoes and storms that ripped
through the back yard, leaving us untouched
but devastating others -
the christmas and easter mornings, good
times and bad, dreams and heartbreak
and so much cigarette smoke staining
the walls and my lungs.
(we were a good american family with
good american values and traditions,
i wonder if they'd listen to my twisting
roots, sitting calmly as i'd tell them
of the horrors of standing naked
in front of my mother to have her tell
me my body was wrong.
i've always been told that people
abuse in myriads of ways, but never
that the walls of my old home
would abuse along.
k.n., ii7 9 13 he took a bow overlooking interstate 680:
car-comets in full spin,
his dreams planetary, saturnian -
he almost sprouted wings that night and
i cannot say it would not be beautiful;
the palpations of downtown pumping
luminous cells, coursing
through highway veins
and he, standing in the heart of his world
mind ecstatic -
his feet began
to lift just a little.
9 20 13
a few phone calls
and a pair of
on self-assessmentThis is a poem for all the people who still
have something to see in me. I could
cut myself on the sharp edge of my thoughts,
bleed out a saturated river of
something sweet; I could be like a million
other gifts from mother nature to preserve
in glass cases and scientific journals and
buzz words, to picket and fight over and
eventually forget. I could
write a million stories about the universe
in my stomach, and my lack of
a gag reflex and the irony in that.
I could write about the blooming storms
in my head and about how I’m addicted
to bad weather, and how I can’t hear myself
over the static waves rocking me to sleep.
My best friend is the most beautiful hurricane
I’ve ever seen, slow motion wreckage who says things like
what does it even mean, where are
we going, maddie, what am I even here for;
My first love wasn’t special. It was
ignorant and narcissistic and orbited around me
like some neglected planet, like I
was finally the center of a universe
Going NativeGoing Native
In your absence, the poems have gone into hiding,
tucking themselves into indiscernible corners
and folding themselves into your spare socks.
Monday, before dinner, I opened the oven
to see a few verses slipping against the back metal,
rolling over old stains and exiting quickly
out the front like steam. In a flash, they scampered
across the floor and under the refrigerator.
I haven't seen them since, but I know they're
back there rolling around, having a merry time.
I heard them last night, scurrying and scraping
their hanging dashes and musky punctuation
across the floor, leaving sticky couplets clinging
to the corner baseboards. Just my luck –
no poems and extra cleaning.
Changer de camp
En votre absence, les poèmes sont allés se cacher,
et, se repliant dans d'indiscernables recoins,
se sont nichés dans vos chaussettes de rechange.
Lundi, juste avant le dîner, j’ai ouvert le four
After a Blue Sundayi.
The week slips hard
rolling in upon itself
to pull me under;
hardly a victim, more so:
a participant lacking
I clutch at taupe walls,
boring walls that do much more
a hangover than breaking
The after-break, break:
realizing my solitude
undoes me quicker
than your infidelity;
than her scent on your body
I'm glad you are aliveI’m learning how to die
in every way;
on my skull,
cradling my stomach,
touching for the space
between the motion
and the skin,
for a shadow
on the wall,
unbuttoning the vials
that elbow out like
stubble on the world,
arising from an ancient sleep
in my little corner street,
all to ache again
her ministries of moments,
with heat beneath my toes
pushing down upon the planet,
expanding like a cloud
And after all,
it is fine
that I have known you.
the arrangement of astral cordsThis is how I'm built up, you see;
stars trapped in the linings of my
the regurgitation of meteors
the chambers of a heart--
deconstructs of kaleidoscope-stained
This is the reason why my throat
bubbles like witch's brew--
the insides of my body form monsoons that
scratch my lungs and
disintegrate my windpipe,
an off-pitched dissonance
like wind chimes
whenever I try to shout or speak or
(and they tell me that you could sing
the moon to sleep when you cast
your faithful nothings on a star)
[and, no, I'm not some kind of genie
trapped in an expanse of dust
rather than a lamp]
Darling, I was never caught between
a collision of star-crossed galaxies,
nor an accident between the big bang
and a black hole.
I was born a star-child.
and, no, they could never be beautiful.
Yet, I could never be as graceful.
I could never carve my face the way
gods do, and
dragonfly wingsi. There is an entire generation of humans who grew up learning how to be murderers,
learning how to wound creatures for an audience and a laugh, and oh
how they love to laugh, pigtailed executioners
and torturers of all that frail life
that could be contained in a quiet garden.
ii. They take spiders by their bellies and put them one each on two ends of a stick,
and they poke and prod and push until one decides to eat the other,
for there must be a duel, there must be a death, or there is no fun,
and the children will race off to find new things to hurt.
They take dragonflies by the wings and stick their jewel tails into electric sockets,
playing god in their pajamas, leaving peanut butter fingerprints
on the little pockets of heaven they find and fight over,
keeping the pretty pieces for their scrapbooks, like you could trap life
beneath scotch tape and label it between lines red-blue-red.
iii. Well maybe they know better, if you want to believe there's a muted brilliance
denial and uglier aftermathi drink to you, raising my glass and
choking down the things you left,
ignoring my gag reflex and waiting
on the buzzing in my head, white cotton
lullabies for the weak of heart.
it kills me that we are just a
collection of vignettes, that soon
i might see your blossom fingers
and bleeding sunset smile but
only as a memory gone static with neglect;
this summer, i became a rebel. a
martyr in a child’s game, a vagrant
with boxes of dead poetry to call
a home, and when i asked you to want me,
it’s only so you’d take the sanity and consciousness
with you when you left. i miss
the days when personality disorders
were not graceful.
do you even remember taking me to the moon?
you were so fucking tripped out on acid
and weed and love and other drugs
that you thought we were a portrait.
midnight blues and sober grays
breaking even for a story,
but every planet we landed on
was already dead.
and trust me, i know you wish life was
a one night stand, because you
Lately, the waitHighway traffic, seamless like the skies
of October; distant lights foretell
A gush of wind, a magnolia laden threshold.
much sought after
cyclic motioni. every sad story starts with love.
ii. there is you sprawled across the bed
with your ankles tangled in cotton covers
and the golden waves of sunlight
breaking themselves through fissured glass
to drip into your hair like bright honey,
your hands reaching upward
as if they were young birds waiting on wings.
you wept for those flightless, wet-beaked children
anchored helplessly to your wrists
but their hearts were not as weak
as the foreign fist beating in your chest. they collapsed
and only left behind
the impressions of dying constellations
they had scratched beneath your eyelids.
iii. at dusk i watched the night take you in waves, glowing,
and said you were the most beautiful thing
i had ever known.
it was a lie. the want of a thing
is always more beautiful than the thing itself.
these are the quiet things we do not tell--
the secrets touched only in the dark
when hearts are laid open
and everything else forgets to exist.
iv. i whispered that to myself when the last shadow