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the details

a visit to the V.A.

first, the visitor’s name tag,
then cold water in a paper cup
out front, the unpruned canes of roses, leafing
and the unvoiced aria of my complaints

on Pandora, a song from a band
I had formerly disavowed, nonetheless
seeding me with its melancholy

the new therapist, who is, being new,
trying very hard,
and the old therapist’s blue absence

the long drive there and the long drive back

and the guy, who usually shows up
in a spit shined uniform to run the place,
today in his civvies, with a rake
to show the poppy bed what spring looks like

who reaches into the winter habitat
of the desert tortoise, and takes him
out to the garden, first to the concrete
and then to the grass, to give him
a hit of equinoctial sun

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Judy Lane


When I see the same split-level ranch,

when I perceive the grass, flat as a week of rain,

when I see the street, laid out plainly as the next

that runs parallel and the ones perpendicular

all the same, all named for sons and daughters

now gone, I see this street in suburbs far

from home and the hills that rise up near

my home and when I see the house, beige

and white as it always was, I feel the same sad

emptiness the house feels now that we have fled

and we carry on as if the textured white walls

meant nothing. The cement heart of the basement,

nothing. The carpet and walls, interchangeable,

the closet doors, rickety and expendable. We

see now that all the doors conceal nothing, our

secrets out in the front yard for everyone to see

like a mattress I lay upon, naked.

Look at me, my body proclaims,

I am just like everybody else.

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The blood red palms of

the Japanese Maple shriek

in the morning breeze

I gape, transfixed by this

visual symbol of our siege

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One More Thing

I sort of loved these kids in the way

they were my son and also some other people

who were not, in fact, my flesh and blood

but don’t get distracted by facts

did you in fact know we were living in a post-

factual word? he asked, slamming the door


I was trying to say something

I was trying to say that you

meaning me

can love someone in a glancing off the cuff


kind of way that involves nothing physical

but a kind of emotional proximity

that means for a moment we were in the same

approximate approximation

for example one kid was telling us about a man

who started fire with his hands


I’m skeptical


but I believe  a person addicted to opiods

can be cured with marijuana


who’s to say what is true


on the other hand, I walk about the world

in just my skin, as if anything can protect me


from feeling this joy




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The History of Cumin


I’m seductive, sublime, redolent of pepper and hot desert wind, but common, like salt. I fill the room, a hot, dense fog. No one ignores me. Not everyone loves me, I get that, I’m an acquired taste, like dry wine that tastes of berries and loam. I’m a smokier sort, the kind of woman who enters a room dangling a cigarette from her fingers, eyes blackened with kohl, her voice a thick Turkish coffee. You imagine the Silk Road, dusty paths with caravans of camels. Actually, I traveled with the Spanish, fertile and amorous, spreading my love to all, taking root in rocks and soot. I’m polymorphous; I’ve gone as far as China. But you’ll find me, in the mole, masala, mutaki. I sneak up on you. I’m sly and overpowering. I’m the overtones of the marketplace, the residue of the hearth, the charred remains of game .

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‘as if they [the old songs] were spirits’

we lived in the desert then—it seems
relevant to say so—and my brother and I
spun worlds from dirt and pampas grass,
an improbable stand of bamboo,

the wooden box the piano was shipped in
and the cinder block wall: we were lords,
and yes, there were also friends, but mainly
there were our stories, the ones we told

as we climbed up and stood high
before a jump to the ground: and on
Saturday mornings, our dad woke us
—when we hadn’t woken ourselves

with cartoons while we waited for
the others to pour our cereal and milk—
with tunes he spun on the turntable
fly me to the moon I remember opening

my eyes to that, the voice belonging
to Frank, I think, although we also listened
to the minor crooners, Perry and Andy,
so it might have been one of them: 

and one morning, the sun parting
the venetian blinds with its bright
impatient fingers, a voice from another
room     I left my heart      in San Francisco

a place I’d not yet been and still,
I understood, at eight, that a place
could have your heart, that your love
could be elsewhere, and as light

patterned my bedding and I listened,
the voice telling its unhurried story,
a sound winding through the rooms,
before I dressed, before we took 

the day into our own small hands.

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On (almost) Drowning

Some things, when we try to grasp them, slip past us,

even as we try to hold them more firmly. I fell

through a hole into a blurry daze.

Do not make too much of it.

I am describing my memories of almost

drowning. I was 3. Or 4. I found out later–

much later– that my uncle, my father’s brother,

rescued me from the pool and gave me CPR.

Then the hospital and the doll houses.

So much of life is near misses–

brought back through breath and

a human inclination for genetic survival.

So much is what if or it could have been me.

Do not make too much of it.

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orders of magic

orders of magic

The night we opened a shoebox, one of an infinite
assemblage of coffers and receptacles, their hollow
mass looming in lamplight like buildings on a dark
city street, and out flew a moth the size, it must
have been, of a small bird, and I shrieked like
a vocalise, testing my upper range without even
knowing I was singing: and you came in—it had
landed on the lampshade, its wings settled, mottled,
as large as my hand, I thought it must have been,
and you took it gently, you held it, moth whisperer,
and said, it’s beautiful, opened the door and released it,

its powers of specter and thrill gone, to whatever
next candle—the porch light, street lamp, the moon.

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Then, prayer needed to be close to bones
to have force. Close to the grave or to relics.
Now, if I am to walk the causeway, tracking
the shoreline but light and mist obscuring it
as well, what will be my markers? The tide
capricious. I will be a stranger, as I have been
always to myself. I will have no guide, having
arrived late. Once I reach the island, I’ll hope
to find the marsh helleborine, and further,
the churchyard. The book, I know,
removed to the libraries in the south.
The great saint’s shrine at a cathedral
inland. I seek what has long disappeared,
its breath stilled but for wind and its
little flurry over the water in retreat.

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Reuters interview pantoum

When will it happen? Very soon.
I’m announcing it now. I have to say
there is an end. I’ve been very
consistent. It has to be humiliation.

I’m announcing my dissatisfaction now:
I like to drive, but I can’t drive anymore,
not consistently. It’s a humiliation,
to be driven by limousine or SUV,

when I’d prefer to drive myself. By the way,
just so you know, Xi is a very good man
who, I’d guess, also travels by limo or SUV,
because he’s important. I know the best people,

and, just so you know, they know I’m a good man—
the best man. I don’t really want turmoil—
then my people can’t do their important work.
But you know, I loved my previous life.

I think I was a good man, my work wasn’t turmoil:
I had a lot of things going. This is more work.
My previous life was good. I loved it.
I thought this would be easier.

I was busy then. I did a lot of work.
and now, there’s no end to it.
I thought it would be easier, but
the end of it will happen, I hope, very soon.

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