if the body is just a parable
about the body if breath
is a leash to hold the mind
then staying alive should be
easier than it is most sick
things become dead things
at twenty-four my liver was
already covered in fatty
rot my mother filled a tiny
coffin with picture frames
I spent the year drinking
from test tubes weeping
wherever I went somehow
it happened wellness crept
into me like a roach nibbling
through an eardrum for
a time the half minutes
of fire in my brainstem
made me want to pull out
my spine but even those
have become bearable so
how shall I live now
in the unexpected present
I spent so long in a lover’s
quarrel with my flesh
the peace seems over-
cautious too-polite I say
stop being cold or make
that blue bluer and it does
we speak to each other
in this code where every word
means obey I sit under
a poplar tree with a thermos
of chamomile feeling
useless as an oath against
dying I put a sugar cube
on my tongue and
swallow it like a pill
In the Tongues of Bells
I decant a blossom. It goes before you.
You’re filled with Uriah. Green, tiny and pressed.
Blueness is a furious cake, a round
cake where yearning sleeps. Are the balls
the balls of the earth? At wells
and fountains? At Atlas’ pillar?
You say that you’d be my property.
You’d lose everything instantly.
I still wouldn’t notice you anymore, injured.
I choose from the thickness. Honey collects
cries. And when the body thickens and you get up
because I dress you, because I congeal you.
I erase you back in the past. I draw
a white flap, shine a white flap.
Forms of Love
I love you but I’m married.
I love you but I wish you had more hair.
I love you more.
I love you more like a friend.
I love your friends more than you.
I love how when we go into a mall and classical muzak is playing,
you can always name the composer.
I love you, but one or both of us is/are fictional.
I love you but “I” am an unstable signifier.
I love you saying, “I understand the semiotics of that” when I said, “I
had a little personal business to take care of.”
I love you as long as you love me back.
I love you in spite of the restraining order.
I love you from the coma you put me in.
I love you more than I’ve ever loved anyone, except for this one
I love you when you’re not getting drunk and stupid.
I love how you get me.
I love your pain, it’s so competitive.
I love how emotionally unavailable you are.
I love you like I’m a strange backyard and you’re running from the
cops, looking for a place to stash your gun.
I love your hair.
I love you but I’m just not that into you.
I love you secretly.
I love how you make me feel like I’m a monastery in the desert.
I love how you defined grace as the little turn the blood in the
syringe takes when you’re shooting heroin, after you pull back
the plunger slightly to make sure you hit the vein.
I love your mother, she’s the opposite of mine.
I love you and feel a powerful spiritual connection to you, even
though we’ve never met.
I love your tacos! I love your stick deodorant!
I love it when you tie me up with ropes using the knots you
learned in Boy Scouts, and when you do the stoned Dennis
Hopper rap from Apocalypse Now!
I love your extravagant double takes!
I love your mother, even though I’m nearly her age!
I love everything about you except your hair.
If it weren’t for that I know I could really, really love you.
A man tips back his chair, all evening.
Years later, the ladder of small indentations
still marks the floor. Walking across it, then stopping.
Rarely are what is spoken and what is meant the same.
Mostly the mouth says one thing, the thighs and knees
say another, the floor hears a third.
Yet within us,
objects and longings are not different.
They twist on the stem of the heart, like ripening grapes.
The Oxford Unabridged
was how I learned the word fellatio,
though I paused to look up orgasm
and my understanding of male genitals was abstract
at best. I had read the word fellatio in the newspaper,
Local section, in a story
about three runaways, two boys and a girl.
A man held them in a cabin
for two weeks. He raped the girl
and forced the boys to perform fellatio on him
repeatedly. I didn’t have to look up rape—
I’d known that word since fourth grade
when Takeisha told me
that her uncle took off his pants
when he babysat and we told
our teacher. But I read
the definition of fellatio
and I considered what I knew
The man picked up the kids
hitching on the freeway
and said he’d take them as far
as Enumclaw. The girl
gave her testimony yesterday,
which sounded strange when I read it
because in our church,
testimony was when we all stood up
to bear witness of Christ
on the first Sunday, in lieu of a sermon.
The article said the girl had a glass eye.
The man stabbed out her real one
when she tried to escape. The man
told her: I will not kill you. I will
take some things away.
Epitaph for a Pair of Old Shoes
Humble, born to the earth,
They knew where they stood.
When they moved,
It was because they must.
Anger moved them,
And the desire to be elsewhere,
Or something in them
Responding to music.
They knew also
What waiting can be.
Side by side, they mastered it,
Like an old married couple.