When the last riders left, there came a hurricane
of tears or maybe that was only sky’s last howl.
So many important figures dancing their way
through yellow grass, such an explosion
of passports, impressive credentials lined with lead.
Oh, radioactive sun, gas blazing through
the stratosphere and nothing to offer but chewing
gum and tape. You could say we were caught
with our pants down, the unready and the blind.
Humming birds bored us with their incessant chasing
games, invisible walls we never could break down
and poison keeping us away from every other door.
So many nights alone, and really that made us laugh
in a tickle of furnace heat, popcorn sticking
between our teeth and the glowing TV on.
We might have been lying on our sides or studying
lines between all those familiar words, that time
of year and love is not love which alters where it
alteration finds. Speak friend and enter, speak your
mind, toss every filter in the melting ponds.
They tell us spring is coming, that winter’s heart
attack is near. Three girls tiptoe on a tightrope
far above these walls where moths flit, glinting
like teeth, white and empty as frozen mouths of ghosts.
In Tired Streets
Nothing left to seep beneath your clothes,
no substance or bleeding on the ground.
These are the days of open hands
and wounds that bind us to desolate trees,
last days of song. The weddings are empty
now, bereft of wine and mirth, the dancers
all have hobbled home in broken shoes.
The instruments are gone, the floor ripped
out, even painted walls shiver and melt.
Nobody sane is left to gather crumpled paper
or fling the brightly colored rice. Hurry home
and listen to the wind, with netted fingers
gather up the rain. Your face betrays you:
nothing left to play with or defend.
Dogs run in tired streets, dawn busses groan
through blinking lights as if the immigrants
returned and all the planted seeds had drowned.
I’ve been swallowed again by the giant mouth
of a baleen whale, swum a hundred yards
in the company of krill. Oh, I’ve been here before,
clinging to a shattered mast, watching the huge
stomach churn, waiting to be saved by God’s hand
or whatever force ripped my body back into heaving
swells. It’s not that I’ve fallen back into mischief
and lies, but I can’t give up the sea.
Green arms enfold me, pungent salt puckers my skin.
She has been the grave from which I’ve risen
again and again, the womb that has given me birth.
Gulls screech above me, I own nothing
but the sound of surf. My prayers beat against
lighthouse rocks. My ship circles and sinks, leaving
no wound, no bloody sore on water’s calm and healing flesh.
In the Heart of This City
In the heart of this city, a man
gnaws on a piece of lead.
No one lends him ornaments
of brass or shields him
from dust or ash. His teeth
are sharp and he has been here
a long time growing his nails
and beard. He has a tongue made
of ice, eyes vivid as violet flame.
Some call him lover, though his nose
isn’t right, while some have named
him for boulders and scree.
On the narrow streets he scrabbles
for gold. Though he owns nothing,
his feet are nimble and light,
his ladder stretches through clouds.
When you walk through the park
with hands buried in your own silent
fog, be careful to mingle your shadow
with his frozen heart. He swims
in the river, a shark who has lost its way.
Words I Would Like to Call Back
These are the words I
to call back, the ones
spinning around outlines
of your grave
the ones that tasted like salt and oil
your body deep in wounded earth
that fell in a wash
of bloody stars, that left
bite marks on your outstretched palms
words I juggled, blue
and green, that buzzed
in my ears like chainsaws
I tossed and caught and tossed
fingertips turned numb
and wrists ached and the power
went out and all was silent
even the wires, even the little dead birds.