Sometimes, theyre mythic
like drops of blood in the snow
like evil or stoplights.
Theyre traitorous, treacherous
the Nile and all its inlets
icons stripped, nipples
flaringvivid in primary colors
connection to the womb.
theyre just costuming,
my heart beating
at cross purposes: always wanting
what I cannot have.
They flicker in their flight
away from you.
Our year, oh Lord, stands naked before you
pierced, nippled, dimpled,
The year: runged and silvered
where sky abjures earth
The year reveals:
so many mouths before you:
filled with ash, circled in fear.
Mouths salty, praying, jammed,
sickened, breaking, twisted
by hate, muffled
by cloth Shut
Head to dust to pavement
pungent as fruit, the year
held its betrayals:
the man who assaults,
the mans secrets and lies
the woman holding each child down
In the alphabet my daughter writes
the year reverses, as she
tries to lie about his hands
on her as we try
to uncover lies
images made in our minds
Lord take us heads from the bodies
far from regret lips frozen: torso
protect & keep us clutching the child
as mouths shape a man & woman drop
beads words make stories together
The year descends
into the underworld where mythos moves
sinuous to Orpheus who seeks
tries to rescue what has died
tries, but our eyes turn
too quickly to her: dark night, open
mouth my daughters lost and angry
cries so we cast
Accretions of Pain and Goodness
for Katy Silliman
Days filled with beauty
Days filled with pain
(put details here: typically three)
Days devoted to the childs mouth:
warm imminence of sleep and dusk
(the little halo between her cries).
Days in foreign airports
body cushioning and pinioning,
across bleak eyes at ticket counters.
Days consumed with laughter
(orange Kharman Ghia westbound)
your friend crouching with a camera at the Mission graveyard
the awareness of bones
(two lovers buried there; a fatal duel)
like salt rising.
Cold days (snap of Dostoyevsky on the tongue)
trudging back to your dorm
Days of subversion, innocence, trust.
Certainly stones popped back from the tires
your car veered closer to the pylons
to the median, to the wall.
Days you fought off illness, humiliation,
Irritant of wrong
your fathers death (put circumstances here)
the godless freight of angels
love that moves across your body
Days when the mind winds its own gear
tuned to the panic station
when (detail detail detail)
you are windowless and imprint
pressed full and hot
across the earths particulars
Bones: minions of sleep
Mirrors: dull clack of self loosening
Dreams: aftertaste of memory
Tragedy: all teeth and eyeless eyes
Mother coiled in your backbone
Father fractal in the mind
The (I) untrammeled
this rent and visible body
Written in the Body
The words: black, incisive, printed
into my skin, on this
my torso, my breaststhe wet
in my arms. Like Nefertiti, my neck
elongated with the complexity
of this: my story.
The story my body tells
is the story she told that now
she cannot tell,
enclosed in the very wound
of her body. Like
these words my mother
dreamedwritten all over me.
Tattoos enmeshed in black, in red,
veined in pink
The daughter in the mother
in the mother in the daughter:
little girls opening
See how the story turns
See it as the truth a mother
knows and dreams and shows
written in the body
See it as what I could read
in the blunt calligraphy of her eyes.
See these strange markings
he leaves? Eviserated by word and deed
by this: the truth, and our story.
Read it, as they say, and weep.
The Dirt of Chimayo
for Valerie Martinez
I am gold these afternoons
with my slick patina of use: lined and unlined.
Drive, heated, into the mystery of usury:
at the cradle of my skull
Prayers sent up
for the dead and forsaken:
the minute and blessed
that try and try
to work their way down into this pit of dirt
Heaven rocks the tongue back
because it is continuous
Heaven heaves the world, leaves and greets, preens
gets itchy on the skinstains
like blackberry juice the flesh
the eyes/ Heaven help me
It is all wattle and mud
like the Pueblo village sentient/ inspired
red like Georgia clay
or bloody like the Valley of Fire
It is coiled intestine, digestion
Heaven is eating and eaten
chewed from within
How my heaven
wakes me with a pain I cant name
gold filling the chest, the lungs
the refined and refiner
Heaven is black, layered
an archeology: earth
in fragments, its bones
a faint and elderly pinprick like stars
a mastery sidelong slipping frantically down
to overlong glide: Heaven
contained/ framed/ immense, eaten
roiling the great gems of the universe
in its mouth
Heaven is a small bucket of earth in the back room
church at Chimayo:
Look out: I'm going in.
Who has time for the sodden agony of angels?
They fall, like dimes, fattened gnats
from the heavens
Notice the architecture of their wings
easy and hinge-less they open,
already plied by too many hands.
Who has time for their keening?
Like dying rabbits, they leave
trails of sound you recognize:
that old aching pressed up against the bedroom wall.
Dont cry, someone might be saying,
Who will catch these tufted, fleshy creatures
their beautiful dark hair floating
Who among you
will help me hold them?
A Forbidden Room
The way white cells grew, thrushed
through my fathers veins
all things: opens the closed
doors opens the closed
valves: the heart
illuminates what it brings
closes what it cannot under
stand cannot stand
so wall to cell to room my father
remained quiet. Shut open shut
where in my father
Where my Father
are you that I call and call through
the hearts chamber to that closed room.
For some, the flesh is weak
for others, the hands mean.
Enclosed in the cells irrevocable motion
Bluebeards wall of secrets: art
initiates and clings. Raises the poems
head: a slick bloody cell,
Having painted them on my daughters bathroom ceiling,
I know that each of Van Goghs stars bears the deep
and penetrating blister of love.
Love stolen, mis-
chokeholdonly that kind of layering
cuts the bountiful sky open.
Here: my Godawful, he must have thought.
Here: my Spiral Damned. Here among the taut
wind in the cypresses, the whole city
spread with toys for my agony.
See how the world keeps me here
among liars? Their persistent torment,
the scalpel of blue, spoked moon,
the way God presses me
under his thumbnail?
The stars, oh Lord, are painful.
Because they tells us we live among evil.
Because they impede on the thick fabric of night.
Because they are magnanimous, haunting.
They are not about safety, but isolation.
They are not about calm, but the factual
arrest night spreads in our minds. My God, the stars:
they eat and eat. Spread-eagled under them,
dont we just know ourselves incomplete?
A coward couldnt paint them.
Simile & Parable
Raiment of pink in the solid mirror; identity flattens the girls to too many leagues deep
in the toddler ballet class. Just past them, we peer in through glass at
these figments: pink and heated the limbs that flash. Like the overlapping windows
where I moved each Saturday through the fated labyrinth of New Orleans: by bus, taxi,
then trolley to the Garden District, to the abrupt barre and Miss Rae-Ann, doused in a
sick violet scenther flesh powdery-thin, her surroundings lilac, deep
purpleeverything bruised-in to
impress on us what is both beautiful and cruel. So I
turned and turned in the mirror with no regard for consciousness, only the beating,
beating of my wings against the glass. Only my body: knotted & neat, small &
contained that wanted out, that wanted in. Girls, dolled in pink, prepped and primped,
primed to reside in the violable bodyto hold
every violence inside.
Little Diary of Cruelty
Poetrys great body hums like bread
through my ears. Of course
you hurt me with your callous
inclusion of the exotic. Meaning
I whet my appetite. Meaning
I consider to consider. Breakneck
through the airport
on tall boots with soundproof
soles, I foment disbelief
given your almosts and
I am foundering. Given 21st century etiquette
has it that though we love
we turn our backs/ that
the cold bones: your meaning
cloaks and hides
what was open