What you weren’t,
someone was. I guarantee
this. What you could not,
did not do, someone did.
What you never heard
was heard. What you
never tasted lasted long
on another tongue; that is
my nature, the nature of Gaia:
all is embedded somewhere in me.
Even the worst of occurrences
had its place, no matter how pained
or indifferent you were to learn
of them and what they did to me.
You were a piece of both the bad
and the good and until I go,
long from now, I will hold
a place for you in my soil,
my water, my skin, and my breath.
Monthly Archives: January 2021
What you weren’t,
True story: we have always hated others
as if it were possible to fix fractures
by denying existence to those
on the other side, as if what is left
on our side could be whole enough
to sustain us.
Now we claim to have turned the page
and are better than that, pointing with pride
at our story of our sound and strong nation
that is in fact teetering on a scaffold
thrown together on barely knitted bones;
it is insulting that we dare to say
we are bewildered at the agony radiating
from every aging, failing seam,
as if the moment we are in is merely a footnote
in a book about our truth,
as if any of the chapters is complete
with no mention of pain.
Tired and yet all the faces all around
say I should pep up and dance or work
to the maximum available effort but I’m
unimportant to them personally and no one
trusts that what I can do is not what needs doing.
Tired and no sense of security in place
because I am not seen as valuable and the time
I can give them is not time they care to take
so I am shunted to the side of the arena as
no one wants me in their squad or on the team.
Tired of my own self pity for certain and yet
none of the furniture offers rest and those who could
put a hand upon me and give love are present
for me as they instead prefer to tell me over and over
it is nothing personal and just survival of the liveliest.
Are you as tired of yourself as I am? Let us lean together
as the years lengthen and we droop more and more
toward the floor. Let us fling our bedding at their feet
and let them hector us until we fall asleep in their paths
hoping they’ll let us get back to our feet only when we are ready.
revised. originally posted 11/19/2020.
Last night you lay awake terrified
by the sound of this country honking
its changes, ripping the night.
So harsh, that sound of your illusions
soaring, diminishing, flying away.
You stayed up polishing weapons. At dawn
when you raised the living room blinds, what was
on the ground below the window? One cardinal,
three chickadees, two mourning doves;
all pecking, scratching, cooing. Far less noise
than the night before. This is your country
in daylight. You live here;
you are expected
to put up your sword
and feed those birds.
I didn’t forget enough
of your words or blows
to be healed — how
could I? My arms
and chest have thick, inflexible
scars. My ears are bent
to take in some but not all
of what there is to hear. If
you can see that this body
has been changed
by past abuse
so much that certain
functions are inalterably
compromised, why did you expect
you could waltz in, hat in hand,
and ask me to your dance
without my turning
my wounded back
upon you? It’s not like
I can dance to what is being
played in the room — I recognize
that it used to be mine, I see
it now and then can make
my clubbed toes hop,
but you’ve done something
to it. You’ve made it as forgettable
as you and what you’ve done
revised, original post 2016.
If a window opens in a wall
where there has never been a window, and
you are standing there at that moment
and watch it open.
If a second or so before that
you fuzz out and cannot afterward describe how it happened,
since no bricks appear to have been displaced
by the appearance of the window.
If no sound accompanied
the appearance of the window, yet
you do not show amazement
or fear upon the opening of the new window.
If the opening of the new window
seems as normal to you as the breathing of your newborn;
you hold your newborn up to the window
to let them see the moon.
If you hold the moon up to the newborn window
and let it shine, shine, shine;
if you look out the window
and observe a maze of walls, windows, light from other moons.
If you recognize that none of the walls and windows
look anything like your own and
the light from the other moons
If you then begin to call yourself
Mother of Moons, though
you have always been this
yet are naming this for the first time.
If you go out
to seek other windowless walls and
you stand in front of them
until they change —
then every examined wall
shall become a window
and all the windows
shall spring open at once.
— an inaugural poem
Healing can certainly knit
an odd bend into a bone
but even so you will have to
lay your hand on a book
and swear to go forward
although you may not be able
to reach as far as you
once did and even if you can
it will feel different
for a long time
There will be pain
That it heals stronger
might turn out to be untrue
You won’t know right away
You may think it’s fine and then
suddenly one day something
will remind you it’s not
Maybe you’ll learn
Maybe you’ll shatter again
in the same spot
The break is there
You can’t forget it
and now you will find out
what it will mean
to the rest of your life
It hit us all in the middle
of the second week
of an undistinguished month —
it was spring, mud season,
not yet dry enough
to make us feel comfortable
that winter was over;
everything was average,
and that was odd enough.
We had thought
it would be a mad season
and that there would be chimeras
alighting on all our roofs
after the insane weather
and raging plagues
we’d been through.
It was nearly unbelievable
that we could trust reality
to do what it always did:
keep boringly on track with
equinox and seasonality.
We kept waiting for
golems to come knocking
and when they didn’t
we started daring to hope mythology
would stay put in our memories.
Even though we saw people
still dying, even though
there were still insurgents
surging and guns were everywhere,
somehow the fact that we’d seen
mud before just like this —
thick and laced with ice,
concealing old snow under a jacket
of filth — somehow the fact
that it was mud season and it looked
the same as always made us feel
plagues and idiots were finite
and would pass as surely as
this muck would likely dry out
and go green.
An idea needs a noun and an adjective
to cling to as it grows. So we say, “red rose.”
Or, “stiff drink.” Or “fascist state.”
We push it with a verb and name an actor
to do the pushing, as in, “He plucked a red rose
and, after a stiff drink, raised his eyes and put his hope
into the fascist state.” Or, “With his placement of a red rose
on the coffin, he closed his eyes and pledged
to never give up fighting the fascist state
and swore off stiff drink until
the fight was won.” An idea longs for
its noun and adjective in order to be born.
Verbs move willy-nilly, dragging
their adverbs with them, mighty prepositions clinging
to all the words, drawing things together
in spite of their tiny stature. People think
they make words do their bidding.
Ideas? Ideas run the people. Ideas make it all happen:
red rose on a white flag;
white rose lying muddy in red street;
near-fascist state casting about for a leader;
big gun full of leaden ideas;
steel jackets on wanton mannequins;
skinjob soldiers eating honey from open corpses.
You need to understand
that I was what they wanted all along:
the Mistake beyond any blood quantum,
denatured Native boy turned White man
but not quite, somehow Nothing At All
because to admit my own split
is all in my head is to admit
my inherent lack of substance.
I detest myself as the proof
of their success — more than all
the forced sterilizations, more than
all the direct massacres and stolen bones,
more than even the mascots
and the plastic feathers on the sports fans —
I am what they wanted
all along: something less than real
and more than myth. It’s a Friday night
and I’m a touch more than fucked up about it —
a weekend ahead of being
a ghost of my expected iteration —
and then the week, and then another weekend,
and somewhere in that sequence I will eventually pass,
and the Nation is smoldering as it would
with or without me although some would say
it’s because of me and how I was made
that’s part of the reason the country ended up here.
I’m the token slipped into the Great Genocide Game
to get the balls rolling.
God, if you exist, this isn’t your whole fault.
It’s also mine. I failed to die soon enough
to make them regret me. They call me a dirty word
that isn’t even obscene enough to mask my own name,
which is beyond dirty,
a blasphemy of how
I was supposed to be
When a question of love
is spoken out loud
a country may turn on a dime
swift as tornado, sink into itself
claiming a pain in its footing
makes it weak, or raise an alarm
of daisies as fragrant with blood
as with its own home soil; see
in this moment filled with
a question of love, of what and who
and how will it manifest itself, a country
refusing its own affections, some beyond
its acknowledgement, some more than it
can bear — how far it spins itself
away from embrace as it twists back upon
its old haunts and legacies;
a country slipping as it spins
avoiding a question of love, falls
upon that sword it has held to be
its best lover, turning bloody scars
back upon itself in a storm of petals
and fiery odor, how it imagines
high winds at its back instead of
blowing out from its core.
A single quarter
falls out of my jeans
as I pull them off —
the usual Washington
on one side,
John Brown’s Harper’s Ferry fort
on the other. Once I’m settled
I put it in a safe place
as a token of
what was once possible
and now is just
Chad proudly notes
that he dates women
of other races
but secretly admits
to himself that it’s
Can you see how
anonymous the streets are
now that they’re covered
When the counting is done — counting
of cases, masks, and votes —
the dead shall surely come back
and shake us by the lapels saying
pay attention, pay us mind.
It didn’t feel like anything,
really, after a while, and that’s
hard to understand. Some
seem more upset than others,
certainly, but in the last analysis
all clear emotion
is the privilege
of the involved
and I somehow
am no longer that.
With dagger or dirk.
Parang or machete.
Left behind bayonet
or stake fashioned from
old bloody wood.
In their night rises
our broad, bright day.
walking among us.
Debate’s of no use.
Once you smell blood
in your neighborhood
you cannot lose the scent.
In their night rises
our broad, bright day.
No, not with guns;
if we are to remain able
to be human again
we cannot allow ourselves
to do what’s needed
from a distance. We’ll need
to feel the shock of blade on bone
in order to remember
how much better it was to be
who we were before.
The odor strangles sometimes,
merely distracts at others, always sets
my teeth to grinding.
I walk into a discussion where it flavors the air,
try to join in and I’m soon choking so much
the others can’t understand me.
I turn to art for solace and it rises from between
pages, stings my eyes till paintings blur;
even music reeks. That job interview
stank with it; this online forum — how is this
even possible — I cannot see its words
through the miasma.
The halls of Congress,
the trading floor of Wall Street, every tower
where a titan of industry schemes: all
are thick with it; they might be tombs —
one whiff of the air in there recalls
dead generations piled upon dead generations.
Now and then I even pick it up on
a breeze through a forest, a breeze
that must have passed over a pipeline.
Sometimes I can tell it is coming
directly from me — mouth,
clothes, being. Half of me wants
to flee myself; the other half
holds my breath,
pinches off my nose,
makes me duck,
get close to the ground,
look into myself for better air.
An old friend, an unhealed wound,
rose from the road in my headlights.
I cried out and leaned on the horn,
stopped in time, got out and rushed to see
if they were in truth my companion
and I had hurt them more this time
than I had before our parting.
They were not there.
It was just some trick
of light in fog, but it seemed real enough
that I shook all the rest of the way home
and sat in the driveway a long time
before going in. Once inside I went
from room to room looking for others
but the house was, as it always is, empty.
Lying in bed, nerves smoldering, not dreaming:
longing for the road again, hoping a host
would be waiting for me in the mist,
hovering just above my road, just barely ahead;
the threat of possible collisions
just within the threshold of what I could bear
if I could just stop in time
before plowing through them again in spirit
as I had when they were still in flesh.