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little women

at Fruitlands they ate just vegetables that grew up,
not down, and no animals, and took only cold baths,
never warm, making a virtue of oddity and penury, 

which they did in Bronson’s daughter’s book
as well, wearing the one good glove and holding
the other spoiled one as a signifier. having never

enough to eat. a pocket of limes the unlikely
best fetish to brandish at the spoiled rich girls.
the best part was the storytelling and the play-

acting and music-making, but it never stops
the precious sister from dying. and thus:
marriage, to save them all, even if it meant

inventing a German professor, also impoverished,
emerging to interrupt Jo’s governessing
with a beautiful lieder. I read this ceaselessly

as a girl, riding my bike to the library
to check it out again, to fall under the moral
and, let it be said, sensual spell of this house

of girls and their life in the attic. I lay
on my side on the bed, the book propped up,
turning the pages with my free hand. the sisters

were lovely, I know they were, and better
than the fate the plot dealt them, despite
that spiffed-up father to revise the difficult 

real one, and their goodness extracted
from their impulses and moods: the pages
and pages of Jo’s writing, twice burned, 

first in a sister’s pique, second in self-reproach:
can love bring back those pages? can goodness?
I only wished to postpone the one marriage, to let 

the story pause before the ashes.

exoskeleton

at the Natural History Museum

the tarantula taps one of its legs,
as if a finger, as if in thought, as if
solving a problem

perhaps the problem of its
plexiglas enclosure, a circular wall
overarched by a dome, salted

with air holes, and furnished with
a piece of wood the shape
of a wave, a kind of shelter

I suppose, and a flat red rock,
porous, on which it sits. A piece
of alabaster carved with a shallow bowl,

and water. all this on a bed of silica,
glittering, with a feathering of
shredded wood. the museum’s

text points helpfully to the exo-
skeleton’s protective qualities
which also prevent the spider

from getting very big. an endo-
skeleton doesn’t do much in
the way of protecting internal

organs, it goes on, but, like
the herbaceous stem of the lupine
compared to the woody stem

of the lodgepole pine, our bones
allow us to grow tall. I think
that’s how the comparison works.

the tarantula is still. I realize
I do not know which end
is the face, I cannot read

its details to understand those two
shortest legs—do they hide the face,
as if in grief or misery? I know

this cannot be right, and yet
its body makes me skittish,
and at human scale, would 

terrify: its skeleton, which I
do not understand, signals
a biological intent. museum light

shines from above and gleams
from the dome’s surface. I have
chosen this tarantula 

to consider. I step close and
step back. will this furred
arthropod find its way under

the shelter of the wood?  the limit
of its structure be cell or rift?
to be a body is to be impossible. 

I finished narrating the pertinent scene
from that movie that my companion had not seen
and even in the dream, I wasn’t one hundred percent
certain that I had seen it either, but, concluding,
snapped the lock on the diary of that doubt, and said
what a great movie, and then I remembered

as I lay in bed, letting the light open my eyes,
the time my therapist told me that every milestone—
a graduation, a wedding—would be, for my children,
a fresh divorce. and that has become one of the areas

of my expertise, the thing, etched in stone, published
in the newspaper, that will memorialize me when I am gone:
she was divorced, and she kept that divorce fresh
and really, that’s okay with me, since the tincture
of melancholy that tints the refreshment the slightest
blue is also a speciality of mine. you’re glad you did it

now, though? a younger woman asked me. in her married
life but no longer of it. her hand at the door. glad? the proto-
indo european root –ghel is to shine, but from the Old Dutch,
slippery–that’s more like it. my children are waking up
in their houses. maybe they’ll make pancakes for their children.

I’m hungry. maybe, like me, they have slept until the light
wakes them up. to the younger woman, I have narrated
the anecdotes, many of them, that constellate the
whole of it, that eternity, the way it never settles
into one glad thing, but moments—yes, there are
moments of gladness. and like that, I’m awake:

I sit up, the day beginning as it will.

The Manhattan

 

                                                                               after Ogden Nash

There’s something about a Manhattan

the bitters, the ice, the vermouth

it’s smooth and it’s sweet and it’s something complete

and it may be a little uncouth

 

There’s something about a Manhattan

a concoction fittingly urban

it might be the clink

or the glance and the wink

but I think that perhaps it’s the bourbon

(written by Jason & Jane & I)

 

I am lazy, it is true, in regard to my yard,
but let us consider both the architecture
and design of this place: the skyscraper roses
that I prune in a ruthless attitude, with my
rose scholarship in hand—cut down to a five leaf
or a leaf bud—and still they rocket up,
their June blooms head and shoulders above 

my head and shoulders, their own atmosphere of scent
and the roses the previous residents planted, over in
the too-much-shade, are leggy and fantastic, let go
their own exhalations: the leaves red and green,
turning hands in the light, the breeze: yes, I am
ecstatic, it’s the home I return to: language tends to it
and I let it take its head: it’s like when the police 

came to our door, polite but firm, to say
someone had complained about the lawn which,
honestly, we also let grow headstrong and wild,
and I said, it’s a project not a failure, and he said,
okay, but with some disbelief, and I said, no,
it’s a meadow, and it took all my bravado to say it
with conviction, and I pointed out to him:

the thyme I had plugged into the lawn and the bees
that thrived there, and the native broadleaf grasses
(read: weeds) we let go, their seedheads trembling,
loose, promiscuous: the flax weaving a blue haze,
the cosmos I was trying to coax into self-sowing,
the lemon balm pressing its case: daylilies, pincushion
flower, the evening primrose, the daisies all

carpeting street level of the roses’ sky busting room
—how could this not be design, I asked him,
patient policeman come to deliver a caution only,
just please talk to your neighbors, he said, and I
begrudgingly granted that this might be, after all,
a good idea, an abundance of caution and, I suppose,
neighborliness, which I resist whilst allowing the yard 

to proceed, powered by its own steam, and I
neglect the most basic tenets of sociality: well,
but the bees! do I get no credit for the bees, threading
their cooperative work among the thyme flower?
I walk lightly, cautiously, and the sharp odor of their
pressed leaf drifts upward, lagging a bit, as I collect
the mail or deadhead some or another thing—and I say

hello—I do—to the woman with all the children
who lives across the street, or my next door person
whose name I have never known as we pull our
respective bills from the box. My bees must move
among their tidier flowers, I would think, and their
lush lawns, made green and weed free through
their industry, their application of chemicals, and (maybe) 

their righteous judgement of me? later, we try to finger
which of them would be incensed enough to make
that call. which would look at our tall grasses and see
a threat to the order of the neighborhood? which cannot see
the bower we have designed for what it is: an eden,
an incantation to the wild, a perpetual glory
that requires the merest touch of human hands.

I hear a nighttime sound within my room

Who’s that, hooting right at noon?

a Great Horned Owl, a Screech, a loon

Whose call disturbs this sun instead of moon?

 

What owl hoots by my window right at noon?

my senses must be dampened by my sleep

Whose call could disturb this sunny room?

a false owl, raven, such a tiny peep

 

Surely my ears deceive me, drunk from sleep

it cannot be an owl, no not at noon

a false owl,  perhaps, a finch’s tiny peep

I’m not awake, I’m weary still from sleep

 

It cannot be an owl, no not at noon

perhaps a Great Horned Owl, a Screech, a loon?

I awaken, weary from my sleep

lulled by a nighttime sound within my room

 

The Ampersand

you join, one to another,

and per se and

a sign, signifying nothing

merely joining, co-joining

conjunction: to join with

the place where two trains meet

two trains carrying tricksters who

once joined, attempt to con you

out of money, time or sense

and per se and

per se being by itself, alone

without an & in sight

I am not alone, per se,

I am merely without

a partner to con, to join to

and

meadow

there, in that hummock, the star-leaves
of the wild geranium begin to constellate
in and through a heap of winter grass,

and what comes to mind are all the years
we planned this meadow, if you can call it
a plan, of sowing and transplanting,

encouraging the lawn to accept
a licentious miscellany of our enthusiasms
—the geraniums but also columbine, 

plugs of thyme and sweet woodruff—
and remember the year we thought
we could make a riot of poppies? well,

those too: so the crocus announce
themselves to the grass, which is less
lawn than cragged hillscape: thicket

more than garden, a thicket I call a home.
remember when we had that plan? don’t forget:
it’s my memory, but now I’m giving it back to you.

First, the alarm, five-thirty, a staticky hum needles

my brain. I’m awake. Then the husband shower-blocks

me, I’m barefoot on the cold tile, you can see how

the feeling begins. The morning is black; I make

coffee. My 7 a.m. students slowly raise their eyes,

drifting into consciousness like clouds, mere dreams

pushing through. Next, not enough coffee. I

cultivate hate: a thorn, buried in my chest, blooms

everywhere, with no origin. No coffee, no wifi, weak

tea. It’s not you, I tell the world, it’s me. My turn

to drift, home this time, where everything I see

blooms blue. On Monday, this is what I’ve earned.

Some days, demands exceed capacity.

Nothing to do then, but consume, and stew, and be.

This is a poem about all the books I bought (Nightingale, After-Normal, Holy Moly) and all the potatoes I ate, also let’s mention the oysters, the white wine and the red, the IPA I drank among other Ducks, also Colson Whitehead and Atlas Pinto. There was some rain, numerous transaction involving credit card and grief, sunshine, and also ice cream made of hazelnuts.

What of the man who said, “We’re not worthy of God’s Love”?

Sir, there are so many things I’m not worthy of, but let’s begin here: shoes that cost $289, but there’s no tax in Oregon, so let’s begin here.