[to be read very quickly, as if almost out of breath]
Panic blossom speaks passwords into the edge of the voice at the edge of the speech that listens.
The password for membrane is not squirrels. It is also not squirrels of intestinal magic. It is not
squirrels that ride the antlers of your skin.
Every sink will be shallow and the deer with eight legs will run faster but on a treadmill of paper.
There is a password for the membrane. To get out is different from to get in.
The password is glass
The password is glass in a volcano
The password is clear glass
The glass is cloth
The glass is a cloth of waterfalls
The waterfalls are not the password
The password is not glass
Squirrels are not the password but they carry the keys. They carry the keys that wilt in the locks. They are leaf keys and they are not passwords.
A squirrel in our story has fallen into a pond.
The water and the squirrel fight their failing.
The water taps the lungs. The ghost leaves a lotus.
I didn’t know the password. The password was not squirrels.
There was a key but it was waterfalls.
Let’s talk about something else.
I barely knew them, but they kissed me everywhere, the squirrels.
It wracked my nerves but gave me purchase
for the password. Here and there a leaf fell down my shirt.
The leaves that cannot open things panic in the lock.
The hinge hears the blossom panic in the door.
That is the key.
The sinks are shallow so no one will drown.
The deer is catching up.
Its eight legs in the corner are listening to the edge. At the edge is a boy under glass
who looks through sheets of water.
Eve of the new year. Bitter cold city. I sit by the café window, bring the soup bowl to my lips. Someone in the park across the street is swinging high on a swing-set in the dark.
At least one keyhole has been stuffed with tissue by a previous tenant. So there is no seeing through.
A very partial morning. The things I am trying constantly to re-make, alter, edit, adjust. Bring myself always back to the path, and the path is hard to find. I do not always want it.
The early morning young mothers’ parade. A child I cannot see, screaming, “I need it! Give me!” Complete anguish of wanting.
A soft rain is falling, so fine it looks like dust in the air all around us, and everyone holds their umbrellas like a gift.
The knives come back sharper than they had ever been—sharper than new. We arranged them in the kitchen like an arsenal. We were afraid to put them away.
“What is your favorite place?” I asked the tree.
The place where I am.
Suppose it is February and there are writers writing at picnic tables in the park. Suppose writing leads us to this park.
Suppose the rhythm of the afternoon sky courses through you, igniting relief and terror. Suppose you are hungry and light-headed while hoping to retrieve the faintest mark.
Suppose a writer has planted a score inside her mouth. Suppose the wind morphs that score into something fizzy and warm. Suppose everyone puts pens down at the same time. Suppose each utterance is fatal.
Suppose the wind upends food in boxes sitting on tables. Suppose the grooves inside picnic tables become embedded with crumbs. Suppose you study everyone’s furrowed brow.
Suppose the writers are all writing about descent. Perhaps to bring Rene Char’s “ship closer to its longing,” you pin your sunken hearts to the ship’s mast in unison. Suppose the collective ache is relieving.
Suppose everyone lifted their palms from the page and pages inside their notebooks shuddered. Perhaps the times you’ve shuddered before, you felt an ancestor push through violently. Perhaps you tried to smooth it out and became very tired.
Suppose you can’t fix anything at all.
Suppose a bedazzled ax appears. Suppose the ax is offered to you first, since you’ve become impatient and you’ve been given permission to get to the light any way you can.
Suppose you strike down as if you have really strong arms.
Suppose you deliciously strike a piñata, block of ice or vial of liquid. Suppose diffuse light. Suppose you stopped going over your old movies. Suppose everyone leaves their spot and takes turns with the ax.
Suppose too much strength is not a good thing.
Suppose that even when autumn is long gone glamorous winds appear like time-release golden capsules. Suppose the barren trees have long oozed your secrets. Suppose your favorite body of water is a shade of bruisy blue.
Suppose all poems are evacuation routes. Suppose the most jubilant landings are the most dangerous ones. Suppose the park has become littered with foreign liquids, depleted wind-up toys and ticket stubs. Suppose the poem has an obligation to graph each scent wafting through.
Suppose teenagers strut through park in the dark. And that dancer you remember who wore a dress made of milk jugs. Suppose your phrases get caught in the jugs.
Suppose the park’s activation points are invisible and you’ve limited yourself by staying in one place. Suppose you give up and become giddy from reciting infinitives. Suppose you look up to find everyone’s eyes glowing in the dark.
Suppose brief-lived fevers are tossed back and forth. Suppose heads bow down and collapse into the spines of notebooks. Perhaps deceit is cooled inside this heat. Suppose your fever writes you back.
Suppose someone held your head, and their hand became a rhapsody. Suppose the dark is now the color of eggplant. Suppose eyes inside eggplant. Suppose the day’s pages shuffle before you like a child’s flipbook.
From the first day, the teacher wrote as she spoke. An inkwell was a hole
without words, on the desk, which was like a pasture, leaving me free to think.
I could not repair my cursive with my pen or with my breath on the window pane.
The inkwells were filled from a large bottle of ink kept in the teacher’s closet.
My mother was disgusted by the inkwells, and by how I was forbidden to write
a letter to a friend. Was I the only one who found inkwells in the picture book?
The older boys sanded wood into serpents with claws, and filled the inkwells.
To my surprise, the words were more brown than black in my notebook.
Birds are called quills, when used. I could see the globe and the squares of Palmer
Method, encircling the room like wallpaper. The rustlings under my pen traveled far,
the faintest murmur. The word “recess” was next. In his lunch pail, the boy beside me
discovered a meal of cold potatoes. I felt the embarrassment of hooking the lunch pail
through my fingers. Weird tether. To make a ball, each of us brought some string
from home. We tried to dip the string into our inkwells. The teacher called out
positions to get into, such as a hawk. I saw my score. Woebegone, so much to do.
I positioned myself like a startled hare. Our desks sloped, and there was a groove
for our pencils and pens. The serpent of our script crawled off the page.
and on the other side
switching pens there
& your tired body
My minor violence
Toward the gazelle
Now making lists
Of the longing that will stay…
And the longing that
Will be fixed in images
Hatred splits us
But its necessity
Is like water
You are not a machine, but a mechanic
tooling out from under skin. And in
my head, you might take flight, alight
with chandeliers of sand. A man said
one is the loneliest number, but this
doesn’t square. I swore I’d shaken
you out, but my hair parted, and there
you were. Part of me, do you smart
with the sting of the repressed? I’m blessed,
but some day you’ll depart, a fingerwave
to your avuncular host. Then I’ll be lost.
Long shot prairie
Long shot wolf
Long shot girl
Long shot deer
Long shot dog
Close-up shot little monkey
My dear sweetheart,
Where does the North begin?
Wolfang, Fang, Flash and Flame
My darling cotton wooly hotel
A tiny house is expensive
At the edge of the sea
What is happiness, Love?
My dear sweetheart—
HUNGRY WOLVES SURROUND THE CAMP
This time it is no dream. After twenty-three years away
I wake in a Spokane convent in my Black Watch
plaid pajamas — daybreak, the last
day of September 1996. I used to spring from bed
at the bell's first clang. Now there's
something wrong with the bedsprings
I cannot fix.
Shyly, light enters, spills over
the floor of the room. Holy or not, I
feel more at home than in thirty-eight
years I lived here. Then let me admit the light,
endorse the mirror over my private
sink. Time to reopen the old account
stored in the memory bank.
What was I running from
or into? The uneasy light of the senior
prom? Mother's dream of a child bride, supported by
pennies from heaven? Or was it the writing
life laid as a sacrifice to a jealous god
on the tomb of the woman
I'd hoped to become?
Whatever it was, it will soon
be over. I write this now to reclaim it.
I surprise the women
dressed in their bodies: in breasts,
knees, eyebrows, pubic
hair. Excitable children appear
to accept them. Pitted and fat, dazzling
and golden, the women
drowse under the shower, a preview of
bodies the children try on
with their eyes.
At sixty-five, I am less than
a child, whose mother walked
fearfully clothed, afraid of the water.
My grip on the towel gives me away. I move
into the pool suitably over my head
past my mother's responsible
daughter. Later, wild to learn, I practice
standing alone — only my underpants on —
under the gun
of the hair dryer.
A queen-size woman
sweetly accosts me, recommends
more clothes. Someone has pointed out
a peekaboo crack in the men's
locker room. "What a shame," she intones,
"such a nice clean
club." I loiter in my underwear
worn out with surveillance.
What we don't know
won't hurt us.
Oh, but it does deprive us!
These ravenous mermaids
stripped to their scales, swim from
the framed reproductions, pale and diaphanous
planes engineered for unmistakable
languor. Something has changed
in the changing room where we step out of
lingerie meant for the fainting couch
and bring on the body in person.
Not the rejected lies of the New York Foundling
home, not the adoptive widow of two names,
one of devious spelling,
not the dog tag pinned to the plaid dress
for the train ride to Missouri, but the surname
work like a shoulder brand
on the skin of the natural mother,
When I went in my black robes through the hot
streets of the city, a young nun
pale as the star I followed
led to the desk of a three-faced guardian. One
face called me Sister to my face. One was
motherly, "Oh my dear, I can't risk the wrong
information." One, older than the order, nervous,
bit the sentence off
on a fragment of Irish history.
I couldn't get past the gate. I recognized
the road I was on
led to heaven or hell. Either was barred,
date too early for the name,
a Closed File. I should tell my mother to come.
Back home in Oregon, sixty-nine, wanting to know,
not wanting to know, she waited.
I crossed the continent angry, three thousand
miles of featureless plain.
Mother, now that you're gone, I'm the same,
swaddled no more in the habit.
Whatever it is that drives us — bad blood,
the face in the unlighted window,
I'm bound to get it straight. If he knocked her down
in the stinking hold of a ship and raped her,
if she followed him out of the church
into the oldest garden under moonstone limbs
of the sycamore, it's too late
to cover her tracks.
Whoever she was, whatever ties,
here is my claim. I need to come into my own.
Father Giuliano, the drama instructor, fainted
every time he saw blood.
When a nun in the class, newly acquainted
fed a hand to the band saw, Giuliano was the one
who had to be treated. My mother
applauded the hero.
At the first clap of thunder,
she ran to the bureau for the rosary.
All through a stormy upbringing
under the kitchen sink after dark,
I repeated my lines. No wonder I link priest and parent,
twins in a Siamese startlement: Blood and Thunder,
Thunder and Blood. Pray for us…
at the hour of death.
The real drama begins with
a thud — my sister — not claustrophobic, not
acrophobic, plunging from bed,
riding the nightmare bedrails. Her elevator shaft
endangered us all, marked women,
dumb waiters adrift on a sunken Titanic. Days
I rode up and down, wherever the tenants were going
for fun, not pushing the panic button.
I was afraid of cats.
It's a circular story
and that's where I leave it: the Siamese leap
sucking breath, old wives'
tales, the alley cats my sister brought home
sheltered from storm,
early death of a hero and always
the drawn blood informing
our several lives.
Four-thirty, morning. Unearthly time
by nuns' or any standard;
almost, this soggy May, monastic.
I close my door on sleep
for other sanctuary,
preceded by the birds
who long ago devised
their daylight saving.
Now, saving the daylight,
no other shape abroad
but the swinging step of rain
on rain-soaked turf.
Unbreakable as doom
five streetlamps watch me come
to keep my tryst.
Nailed each to a man-made cross,
usual as air,
we watch, mechanical,
dawn light dispelling glare;
hooding our early brightness in a cloud
tempers the shock
and orders lonely emanations
by a clock.
A bee flew about the living room, then another, and more. They began to lodge in the African masks that hung on the walls. They clung to my lip. My house is infested, I thought, and opened the door to the outside. Bees covered the door’s lower half. I fled through it in fear, and in hope of finding help. In the living room, my father moved about with the bees, untroubled, unwilling to leave.
They felt the wind on the down of their necks.
After the murders, children
in the town dreamed of houses
melting into the sky.
Fear built its hive inside them.
But as they grew
their memories dwindled
like their bicycles that became too small to ride.
lay buried beneath the trees’
shadows. Parents split
and moved away. One sister
survived. One witnessed the dark ceiling
of every midnight
fall into her thoughts.
Reminders kept surfacing: a red bike
hooked to a chain link fence,
a note folded in a pocket
and put through the wash
until she couldn’t read it, until
it was grit between her fingers. But
she knew — You will only be a ghost
sliding through the trees.
This crumbling. Once upon a time
she sank her foot into the shoulder
of a shovel.
Remember the time you watched your uncle
prepare to enter the woods to hunt? The uncle
hunted with a bow and arrow, he greased
his boots for waterproofing, he wore
a brilliant poppy for a hat. You did not go
to see the breath billow from the mouth
of the uncle past the brush of the brown moustache,
or pause when he paused, knee raised, knuckles
loose, ears prickling. You stayed at home
and hoped for the deer and the uncle to miss
each other, to dance in different parts of the woods,
you didn't know how hunting worked. You imagined
saltlicks and deerblinds and crooks of trees
and cracks of branches. It was all out of books.
The books fell down around them, man and animal,
a flush of russet leaves, and landed without sound.
You went on turning pages, and they went on
stepping silently, and the arrow waited, eager
for the string to touch its lip, for the air to dare
to bite. In you and in the deer and in the uncle
the hot blood ran after its own scents, trailed
by its own pursuers, the hearts made their fists
and opened their mouths over and over.
In the uncle's hand, the arrow felt
indifference, as the knives and bullets
and needles and steering columns all feel
indifference. We are dry, now we are wet.
It is warm, but it will soon be cold, the body,
the blood, the idea of you hovering there
as the last of the life leaks away. Where
does the warmth go? We try to track it down,
to find it lurking in the dark trees, coax it
into sunpools, hope it stares at us
with enormous eyes. We want to touch
its little feet, to turn the soft tongue from side
to side. We move through snow and bear up
under wind. We blink the frost from the lashes,
we flex the thumb going numb in the chill. We want
the beating thing that lies beyond the reach
of our barbed touch. We want chance to spin
the dial, we want the arrow to thread
the gnarled trunks and hit the heat in the heart —
We run to it, bracken snapping, shouts
of wonder in the ringing air. We hold the heat
a moment, its muzzle wet, and then we feel it
moving off, a shuffling shadow with no edges
cast by a cloud that is not there. And you look up
and the uncle looks up too and the deer
with its amber iris stares along with you
and everyone sees sky and endless space
and the unstoppable cold comes dropping.
right off — there’s already enough rain
I’m not inviting it into my poetry
salmon—this fish whose body
torques up ladders —
has enough problems
if you’re Cuban
and wind up in the Pacific Northwest —
the ecstasy of your dreams is pocketed until August —
the only month of certain heat
you troll the Asian produce stands
for malanga, scotch bonnet peppers,
and the elusive green plantain
you wait months for the only Desi Arnaz CD in the Seattle Public Library’s holdings —
even though there aren’t any other holds
Rushing toward the ocean tongue
Along the lip of land
I am what my friends feared
Grit traded in for grains of sand
My city soil scattered in Northwest winds
Twice despised for behavior unbecoming—
Unable to leave the cascade light
Unwilling to claim the shadowed coo of pigeon’s songs as my only note.
I’ve worn them once
my wedding shoes
dyed red, more and yes red
the way a strike against
the tip of a match ignites
and pomegranate rubies
stain a thousand secrets worth
Adam did not fall for jewels
but for the juice of a fruit
like the crimson Fujis I harvest
each fall from my backyard tree
when rusty leaves layer the ground
You are the North and I am the South.
My tanks aim for you. I shoot you a thousand times.
Your missiles launch into my oceans. You raise monuments to scorn me.
You eat clams cooked in gasoline.
I drink milk and cider. I raise skyscrapers of businessmen.
You build towers of empty rooms. You refuse me from where I am most loved.
I clean a wintermelon of its guts and seeds cling to my wet fingers.
Aren’t you the North, and I the South?
Phantom, disease, you’re trembling. There is no patience in my country.
There is no safest place in yours.
The heart stiffens at the sound of church bells. I wonder where you sleep now.
You are the North and I am the South.
I cannot see the sky beyond the ceiling.
I cannot forgive you for cutting me out.
I see all my ground, and you, walking over me—before you were
the North and I was the South.
A photographer captures a mass execution on film.
Men and women tied to posts, blindfolded—Korean spies.
The man nearest to the camera fiddles with his blindfold
until it rests comfortably over his eyes.
1. Say No Lame!
Say no lame! Say we care. Terror can’t tell
and bears a crown in the kitchen, may we?
Who cares: cunt can’t battle, key won’t tear.
Ugly decay, care for Pa and tell, we lonely.
So jail men care, met a lavish man, met a landlord.
(Eggpisode loiter ha! Advance don’t at all, assuming mellow)
Me, countless, out to tear. Sane no, lend me.
Say I can’t rain, end me.
At least sit well, we command:
Men say he but tally saying no, lame!
Who can respond. None say none! My wind, way low.
Lie, Egg, more lonely and bare, a callous lock.
Truly true Lass pause and care.
Allow oat to chant:
Let me say align, align,
Titan of Adam, you seem dense.
Let me say in-law, in-law
I won’t lay an eggy egg.
2. Say You Less
Say you less, lay.
Let’s say we yoke you.
You wrote: lard land more, you’re ever less, weep for you.
Epi-sale and jot well, lame.
Leave! Let’s land, she’s none, a lone planet.
Come, have a long life and then glow-glow.
Delete you last.
Kick her trimming.
Kick her trimming.
Some land more. None land far.
Pa, you kill none, paw-paw.
Tad late, sit and read.
Tad late, doubt what you’ve read and ban joints of cliché .
Robin’s yokelet glossary aka cover Ma’s envy.
Epi and phony, view well, limber.
Solely in case, mate more so.
And then hatch later, event very parent.
Come and lay me low.
See your coop jingle and then accept sherry.
Leave! Who cares: bake her.
Who cares: natal and body, discipline is an art of rank.
Who cares: care free epi-power, it is a type of power.
Who cares: a blasé son brags, a technique.
3. None Say None
None say dumb, none say none.
Yoke behind and be fair, only to piss on.
Call Ma, arrive as we care to come and watch you comb.
Save and grin, wee and we, Hen revolts and bets on awe.
Ravine lone mankind, ravine luscious sex.
Duet in-law chills and then blames flan.
He’s dirty, lays share and then cares drawl surface.
Beware-beware girl, might and navel can fray.
Mate and then sing, fate and then fake.
Read louder, only the gruel lacks and swells.
Let me think, say grinning could only cap our way.
Pie pie rye beyond your sale: what do man and planet doubt about?
Fly beyond and land more: domain plan is forgot about.
Fuckingness and then sexy do agree.
Met a jerk and then laid a proper yoke.
Call Ma, discipline organizes an analytical space.
Say we, find an epi-norm, land more, tally more?
4. I said to Me
Me, me, river.
Then Egg, I taught: the key to baggage is tot and tot
and the disciplinary space is always, basically, cellular.
Send mass, send lard, send game, end, let go.
Same, lay me there, I said to me.
Revel in bland night and permit joy, boy.
How can I say for we?
Sac à la King, really, add pinch of salt.
Carry your noun pre-dead!
5. Sac à la, Really
Sac à la, Really, none say none.
Egg-nagged Pa repented: Say very, none say dumb!
Ailing Pa cannot pee, pie pass for all, care for cheese?
Really! Really! land more!
Sac à la King feigning contract, rat trap!
Really! Really! land more!
Beyond day, not yet. Say more aka partly combed Lad
Yes, Pa. Retake mothball. Really. Day more, die more.
Really! Really! land more!
Sac à la King feigning contract, rat trap!
Really! Really! land more!
6. Ah! Pie
Ah! Pie tall and wit-late. Epi-pep, sit well
like Pie, taste and count languid-land.
Lay, care, locate, possess and then
care about land-me, why?
Midday! I solely laid beyond nit for jerk!
Midday! I then read to achieve wifely.
I name lame, kind and lame, recite to fetal bland Man.
Boy. I grin and care, clean later,
recite size to him: The Lonely and the Restless.
(I lament solely coyly to universe and you.)
Say now, say this is a noun for Pa, none Man?
7. Oh Tizzy
Oh tizzy of tame-boy, do vent joy,
oh tizzy come and land more, oh tizzy convey
none on land…?
Oh tizzy rain more, oh tizzy make man thought,
oh tizzy same thought,
oh tizzy lay off thought, oh tizzy layaway thought…?
— I say sac, I mourn, taught by govern and lay.
I say layout the treatise! —
Kind of lone-man? Kind of late sing-along?
Chuck baggage merrily
Chuck baggage and then miss you
I solely lay beyond nit for jerk.