Nude Sketch: Tupac

Nose ring rusted Red Wings jersey faded to a sun-wrecked pink bandana, once head-tied (to keep one’s brain from exploding, Foster Wallace said) now unknotted, hangs limp around your neck lacking even the noose’s grim dignity. Twenty years on and the runoff still spills— all those ripoffs and posthumous comps, a desert hologram, a Broadway …

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Protest Singer

You could reach into my voicebox and pull out a fistful of ammunition.   You could reach into my larynx and pull out a dead canary, X’s for eyes.   Come see me spitting spent shells like sunflower seeds at the monument’s feet   scrap metal castanets on asphalt clattering broken sambas.   You could …

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When Mothers Would Bathe You

A careless girl is warm and cool like cornflower blue filling the tub with a sweat-heavy heart Where home sweet home is sweet and sour as a purse full of stolen sauce packets And you’re a tidy list of pleasant tasks, assembled with the discreet love of a wet finger taming a curl.   (Count …

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Discarded Headstones

Here where broken pile on broken where marble stones and limestone crisscross together in a final, final resting place— a place for remembrance, for collecting together the discarded, As though death were not enough the threat of time further advanced a more fatal blow. Forgotten. Surely loved ones carefully selected the stone, the words, the …

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The Slope of Seasons

Taking a draught of Autumn draft I stopping sought on the air the old subtle sting, butcher’s shop smell Or the aura of blackening coffee beans smoky incense, thick through and hanging around A hundred of those old suburban towns Each of one street Each with a thousand tree-closed tunnels and Luminous dead-orange Maroon soaked …

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Elegy with Underlying Tones

Imitation of Kelli Russell Agodon   I hide from emotions at a funeral by saying a joke: A lonely man went to a burlesque show—His pride was stripped. The only time I cry is from laughter. I skipped a rock across Roubaix Lake. When we sprinkled the ashes, the fire in my eyes was doused. …

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Gifted

The morning the angel fell in love with her, he attached his blazing invisible wings to her shoulder blades with transparent duct tape.   Her first child would often reach behind her ears and stroke the shivering feathers in the air or he would tilt back his head to see the cirrus canvases tacked above …

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We Children Had No Choice But to Give Up the Roses

and the stone lions guarding the front door under the magnolia trees, the curved bronze figures resting and dancing in the den, the matted-down olive carpet running up the stairs, the towering grandfather clock standing watch in the foyer, swinging its golden scepter stiffly, ticking loudly, precisely, right, left, and on and on, every second …

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What Da Vinci Saw in Her

You said you would only know for sure once you saw her in person, so you flew to the Louvre and you saw her as he once did, sitting upright all day against the wall, smiling so softly at the crowd, not smiling to you, and you thought: she’s smaller than I expected but not …

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Artemesia Gentileschi, Self Portrait as the Allegory of Painting (1639)

Dress in green, hair half done A painter’s allegory should always include some color Remember me? I was immortal once In 1610, it’s said foreshadowing A year later, truth from true pain I heard there ought to be some blood on the history otherwise it’s not really history Remember me? I am immortal once more …

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scene: filmmaker seeks poet’s advice on composition of sext to future wife

A friend brought her fried clams and Mexican Cola, said this was a metaphor for sex Now help me write this text, faggot, I am trying to seduce the girl who sits by the door in Global Studies and aren’t you good with words? She drank the coke with its cane sugar base imported special …

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Georgia O’Keeffe

Black hat style, all western and a black dress in the sun, for the bones She made flowers strange, made skulls pastel Did you dream of ghosts, my dear? In high school some girls dropped a book in a barrel of ink stained the flowers black got detention also: a legacy Who else dreams of …

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Morning Meds

Tossing the various pills on black marble counter, throwing bones like a sangoma or inyanga Western medical treating symptoms, Eastern divinity, there are no cures Heart condition at age thirty living with it, this cardiac cocktail every morning   Blood pressure, rhythm, deteriorating arterial linings—fighting back black buzzard hearse Thoughts—debris that can clog dam blood …

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Passage

Hot petite, not even a hundred-pound blonde—lost my virginity with in high school Clear starry darkness on a West Virginia hill My bottle green 1970 Pontiac Le Mans Sport 350, black leather bucket seats up front   Four on the floor—she fell & bumped her head years later in a parking garage At our ten-year …

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The Geese

Ducks zoom in jet fast, then glide quite slow, wings cool Geese gawk honk hiss—this pond is home—belongs to future big potato eggs Ducks, heron, hawks shooed away with flapping wings, ritual daily blares Pond impounds two geese each year—nesting here like clocks, bring spring Honks of hope their love lasts, guarding against fox, raccoons, coyotes, hands …

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Would You Rather

Claudeen and Will don’t know each other very well, but when they got together they got to talking like freshmen philosophers, like if you were immortal but doomed to drift forever, would you pick outer space or the sea? Will said the sea ’cause then he could just kick it with the sea creatures. Claudeen …

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The Politics of Eating a Peach

Whether its skin is peeled, or teeth are plunged into its ripe visage without any such preparation, the decision will be hated by someone. Cutting into the peach would be a mistake: the public would think it a violent act; they’d scream monikers like monster. To grind one into jelly for a sandwich is out …

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The Future, An Ocean

It is unquestionable as to what attracted you to this shore, the light-beige   color of crushed bone, where the motions of spume push clumped seaweed   and husks of dead fish in and out with the raging tide. Now you face the sea,   positioned on the threshold dividing the future, set shrewdly before …

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Hurricane Ivan

In the eye, children run outside to study the fallen branches like old seers gasping over their prophetic throw of bones. Parents squint at their roofs – scowl over missing shingles – while the cul-de-sac’s oldest boy shouts I found a bird’s nest! Every other child rushes the nest, and all go silent when the …

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Ruth said…

parting the orange-sherbet hair from the paste of make-up and sweat that lined her face, smiling with the apple red lips that cocooned her Snow White teeth, picking at the retro jumpsuit whose buttons had slipped undone during the evening, with words promising to tickle your tongue with her broad southern Irish accent, “Your blonde …

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Rabbit Summer

Sun licked dew from five acres of waist-high grass—illegal height in Tennessee. Matthew drove the lawn-mower down the ramp backward. Half & half. That’s what we decided when he hopped off. I went first, gear locked on three and steady—machine and myself at a good hum. I didn’t feel the bump, only saw grass quiver. …

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Flesh Borders

That night we all had our dreams. Border of weeds Border of two-bit rocks and thistle Border of pigeons with their thick necks bobbing                  as if they could point out where our feet                  should stumble next Border of concrete wall, angled high under the overpass Border of tangy smog, a musty shirt                  pressed against my …

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Critters and Mamma

The barn mamma built on the hill above the pasture years ago brought to life the big, stubborn, black-maned mare, who trotted the haul up the hillside pasture when mamma came home each night, to the little house below, by the little garden grove. The big black barn that was crammed with hay, brought play …

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We Need a Verb

What if there were no birds on earth, no waterbirds or cranes, no cardinals nor the robins flighty in the trees and no creamy seagulls or pelicans squawking at the beach, no eagles screaming, no fish hawks diving, no fowls or owls hooting and looting mice in the woods, and no mosquitoes or butterflies to …

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Forsythia

I’m old enough, now, to sit in the front seat. It makes rolling down the window and the spring wind whipping through my hair an unfamiliar thrill. Dad’s in the driver’s seat. It’s unusual running errands with him but I want to prove to him that I’m a good companion—I’ll be helpful and I’ll learn. …

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Silence

I auditioned for the play. The cast list was posted: I didn’t get the part. I had to get out of the lobby. I slipped down the dark hallway out the door glowing red under the “EXIT” sign. What now? I had to get out of the lobby. I slipped down the dark hallway— someone …

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The Persistence of Memory

It comes knocking. And when you don’t answer, it throws pebbles at the window. And when you don’t slide open the screen to let in last summer, it rams in the back door of your mind, splintering wood and equations from eighth grade geometry class. You’d let that go, except it’s headed upstairs towards the …

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Barbed Wire

Eight years old, and I always knew when to duck, bend my knees just enough to slip under that invisible line of barbed wire. But I forgot, I forgot one day what I was looking for and that twisted wire, that one thorn tore up my cheek, over my nose, and my head whipped backwards. …

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Trifolium repens

Japan. Countryside. May 2009. Shigeo Obara finds the secret. They occur in large clusters, which is 40.6 degrees from the terminal leaves of any deciduous tree. Scent is somewhere between onion and spice, dog-breath and brown sugar. I smell it in my clothes after running my fingers along the ground. Obara holds the world record …

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Destinations

Musts composes this poetry in his native Latvian, then translates into English. His poem, “Destination,” appears here in both languages. A līdz B No punkta A līdz punktam B, Esmu atkal mājās, Vidzemē! Kur gaisa vētras putni kliedz Un pagastu pagalmos bērni zviedz. Kur vīri dāmām ar acīm miedz un pēcāk sārtu rozi sniedz. Silts …

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Harbor

You were sixteen when you put that needle in your arm. You walked out the door and you gave up. On us. On everything. It hurt. Digging your fingers into your skin, pulling out each individual vein. You unraveled, like a stuffed bear, Your textile torn, your dangling ears, Your eyes hanging from a thread. …

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doubting Gödel’s incompleteness theorems

in order to understand you must first have the sense of what systems are they whole or complete do they exist in your mind or outside do they invoke in your imagination in your mind’s eye four walls eight windows or the opposite it is a question of projection not of the numbers but of …

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Artmaking, Unconditional

Perhaps she tumbled from doorframe to ground, fabric and limbs crumpled on hexagonal tiles – perhaps landed leaf-like – the crunch of a moment snatched in spite of time enough to loosen fingers from wood, dust and cobweb, crucifix figure of the gone-moment sealed in gelatin silver. A good photograph in monochrome can make one …

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Who Will Perform the Rites

It has only been three nights since I decided that you didn’t love me                                               enough. Tonight, trenched in silent anger we feign sleep in some alternate universe, some parallel hell where we stare dead-eyed at the same ceiling, the same eggshell white. Laid to rest in separate rooms, I swelter under winter blankets left on …

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How to Keep

“You can’t touch them,” my babysitter warned about the bunnies burrowed in a hole at the corner of our front lawn. I’d see puffs of fuzz float from their home and land soft in the grass as I drew with chalk on the driveway. I’d peer in at the tight-eyed lumps, barely furry hides heaped …

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Karyn with a Y

Oh my God, remember that roll of nothing but the crew pretending to be more buzzed than we were from jello shots? No one ever saw those. It was before Facebook. Aw. I miss that. And then the next year we were seniors, and we all had MySpace, and the morning after prom there were, …

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There’s No Place Like

I’ve seen a hermit crab make a can of Sprite home, and she seemed happy.  

A Late Night Thought

What a dangerous thing a late night thought can be. A late night thought can torment like a leaky faucet, dripping endlessly. Our eyes widen to reality as it slips slowly away from us—our dreams slowly become the newer, richer world. It is stripped and stretched and mangled, the once calm thought. Thinking of an …

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Become a Color

            in the golden light of dawn rising  walk the woods and become a color strip the sinews off your body   breathe each molecule bare as the violet breath in your lungs blooms purple algae robin-egg haze grazes the tips of grass a blue sun rises in pulses of …

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The Simple Life

Paris & Nicole have perfect manicures and they are milking cows. They look so good. Nails hard as a spell of hail. Doctors recommend daily usage of SPF 40, at least, 60 for extra protection—if things get too bright. Like contemplating a rhinestone. Nicole’s all like oh my god, it’s too hot outside. Palm tree …

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Daily Routine

Walking awhile at night Each house got personal. -Jon Anderson Then impersonal again, in the old style of repetition. All the houses with their minor domestic differences. It seemed dishonest somehow to find comfort in them,                                                                                                                                            those gestures: the manicured lawns                                                                                                                                                           with expensive sprinkler systems, the …

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Incantation

I dreamed my father cracked a wishbone over my head and blessed me. The sound like lit match. Anointed with the heart of the carcass. I wondered why he was being so good. Of course in dreams bones shatter like teeth: the two prongs unsinewed, gnostic, meaning it could happen, it can’t not happen. So …

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