my mind is a denizen of the sky–
when i try to inhabit my body i am
disgusted. my head is a reference
for my mind. when i inhabit my head
it splits open with thought, not being.
i am ungrounded yet still tethered,
my heart beats but does not make
a sound. i bury it in salt each night
to keep it intact. when the light comes,
i am under the sheets and shivering
a dead butterfly caught in my throat.
a spider tries to follow, and i swallow.
i would say to the stars, give me wisdom
or give me death, but they are already
dead, and their ghosts laugh as they
shine down on my emptiness.
some days i can’t keep my head atop
my shoulders, and let it roll off, into
the weed-choked ditch. it simmers
beneath the summer sun, and my
mouth is full of mud from which no
lotus will grow. i want the world to
take me from myself, and i want
my self to be taken back to the sky.
the clouded landscape will take my
pain, and i will be released as vapor,
to rain down on the earth again.
i go wandering into that wet dusk gathering air
like a stamen gathers pollen, high with the fever
of being alive, stringing the stars that make
themselves apparent around my neck, a string
of colored beads. the moon wanes but my love
never does, and everything is a circle to me in
front of my eyes and inside me, my molten heart
is beating fierce, you can see the pulsing beneath
my skin. the trees that have gone to sleep as
shadows are draping their limbs over my head
and i let myself go into the undertow of night,
pulling my yolk around me so that i might be
birthed again in the morning, fresh as grace.
pluck ingots of tears from my eyes
and polish them in the lake until they shine
in this green land i am shorn of my grief
and my heart is a moon-blooming flower.
here the notes of song from voice and chord
echo beyond the line of sea and sky
here they listen not only with their ears,
here the curve of a shoulder is grace.
inside a ring of trees i am held until my pulse
steadies and the moss grows over my feet.
atop a mountain of creased limestone,
i swear the horizon is closer than ever before.
i swim deeply immersed in an ancient tone
and you are with me and i am never alone.
if this is where i must find you
a ruined footpath in the woods
the edge of a shadow against a
wall of water, a salt-stained shaft
of driftwood, endlessly drifting,
then this is where i will find you,
aggressive as a bird even in dreams.
there was one piper, a clutch of
ducklings that spun apart like a
clove of garlic beneath the thwack
of the blunt edge of the knife, in
a kitchen where the roots were
baking and i did not know how,
i could not tell you why, i never
gave you a copy of that poem.
if this is where i must find you,
then let me find you dead and cold,
with only the feather of the piper
between your palms, on a shore
where i lay scattered as broken
shells, denuded and ever-quenched
in your memory.
returning is not an option. the tide has gone out
and taken all the sea glass that i might draw across
my wrists again and again, singing the song of
not-knowing, the worst of all fears.
the dye runs off my tongue and stains your skin
you look towards the rain-washed window
and i instinctively turn my head,
gazing back at myself, naked as a fresh page
that which will survive, only time can see
that seer indifferent to all the little catastrophes
that make up my heartbeats, my breath–
even the trees will eventually shake me loose.
i have come to this place because i am
no longer the one i once was,
because it is only in dream-space that we
might reveal ourselves and the stars
would not rage in jealousy.
this is where i tell the truth
for the first time in my life.
i was raised by the earth
cast out by the earth
and now am dead
wandering the earth
gathering silt and loam
the crushed abalone
and the green stems
that grow in the furrows
that run along the highway
all thumbs point north–
no, all thumbs point to the sky
and i am sun-blind and weary
with a dessicated dream under my arm.
we were all asymmetrical desire
the earth remembers me not
and i have come to the city
to revoke the rights of those
who haunt me
to return again to the tide
of human flesh
to bring you my brackish words,
so that you, too, might remember
who you tried so hard to be.
unearth the sky
rounded cataclysm of sound
volcanoes of cloud
buried in the virgin’s veil
pricked by starlight
slow migrations of rain
if it were not for the dew
or the contiguous sea and air
a birth of a horizon
a sundering of recollection
i do not remember before you,
only that the dew gathers at your earlobe
and the hummingbirds unfurl their tongues
for a taste
and i fold into the dusk
awake beside you
making and remaking whole worlds
silent as all of them.
the inquiries into the physics of your body
softer than collision, softer than impact,
softer than all things i had grown to know
as being a part of myself, like this living
of everydayness in split light, one brighter
than the other, but i couldn’t quite say
which one was which. you picked through me,
didn’t rummage, and i loved you for that.
carefully you laid out my origins
a barren petri-dish, film cut into squares
a block of nostalgia from which i was formed
so that i missed what i didn’t even know i
was missing. and then it was too late.
as a sapling i dreamed in black and white
and maybe even sometimes an emerald green
so vivid it almost hurt to look at it.
my hands, as it would be, weathered first,
and then my face, which you found lying
on the ground among the oak leaves
and picked up and kissed. we would count
stars in the viridian sky and the light
and darkness soothed my eyes like poultices,
like the bunch of rag and lavender you held
to my gaping heart. you never rummaged,
only held me in your hands with love so
bright beneath the dark that could not,
would not, take me from you.
in the wet light it is hard to distinguish between the aspen and the sycamore
my skin becomes mottled like the tree bark, hot to the touch as if summer sun
shone upon it–i remember afternoons in the chess garden, where someone had written
on the black and white tile, the incense stick lodged between the paving stones–
all becomes light and air when i think of the trees reaching, bare-branching, into
the sky, and how we mimicked them with our bodies, stretch-stretching to the side,
first to the right, then to the left. we made our own language, made our own world,
laureled our own deities that had the faces of tree knots and a bunch of three
hibiscus flowers that you so lovingly tended. i sat in the passenger seat of your
car lulled to sleepiness by the movement of the car, the way my mother used to
drive me around the block when i was a child until i finally fell asleep, finally
slipping off the precipice of consciousness to land pillow-soft among the birch
branches. now i stand beneath a circle of sky and feel you in the migrations of
birds, the falling of leaves, the snow edging the evergreens, the knowledge that
even the trees do not live life passively. and the pinpricks of light in the canvas
of night shine for us as we rise to meet them.
and some days we would just sit in the parking lot
drinking 99 cent iced tea from tall aluminum cans
thinking about how old the tree by the dumpster was
250 years, you swore. i thought about some girl
sitting beneath the tree when it was a sapling,
if she thought about how she might grow up and not
do the things she was supposed to do–get married,
have children, live in a big house with no furniture–
we finished our drinks, tossed them in the dumpster
we knew the feeling of the concrete parking blocks
so well through the fabric of our shorts,
and i kissed you, so familiar with the feeling
of your mouth on mine, so bored
as one must get after 250 years.
i have wanted to write a poem about music for months now
but all i have inside is a vague whispering of a bow being pulled
across a cello, maybe a violin. i could once discern between scales
as i drummed mallets across a marimba that was wider than i was tall,
but such things have been forgotten. in a massage parlor in a mall,
the man who speaks silence kneads my back and shoulders but nothing
ever makes me relax. i wake in the mornings with my jaw strung taut
as a stringed instrument, and i know it is not a guitar because my
hands do not like the feeling of wire pressed against the soft pads
of my fingers, of these hands that are so cautious in reaching out
to touch your shoulder like two still images, over and over again,
two photographs in place of words, in place of sound that cannot
be gathered from where it sits at the bottom of my throat.
the first picture, my hand is a small bird made of tin. the second,
rusted wire and a bow i pull across my heart again and again.