Poetry & Nonfiction Online
"Also Born" (essay) Kenyon Review/KROnline
"Illusion of One" Hunger Mountain
"Marriage" Verse Daily
"Cut in the Back, Full in the Belly" (essay) CURA:
A Journal of Art & Action
"To Know it Again" Referential Magazine
"Cage" The Believer; Best New Poets
"Cotard's Syndrome" The Rumpus
4 poems Word/For Word
"Spoil Song" DIAGRAM
"Ars Poetica" Harp & Alter
I stared at it when I was hungry. I showed it to too many friends. I took it to bed with me and it was there waiting when I woke up. I tugged on its hair. I backed over it by accident with the car. It was stale. It was juicy. It was stale. It was looming. I wore away the corners with my active thumb. I backed over it with the car. And I backed over it again.
Cafe, Person Crying
the shared quality
a need to level
continuously a script
burn spots standing quickly
after not standing
hard to judge
corners on most people
from the margins
born without aid
it’s common in fading to ignore
a sigh let go
a short descent
here in this room together
innumerable the ways
we are not.
Lake Michigan is growing smaller. Each time I go home more of the beach
shows its ratty, pocked face. I dream the Greeks are responsible, I see them—
climbing the old peeling stairs. Each man carries a piece of lake up past
the gold shops, steaming bakeries, rows of fish and unpronounceable cheese.
Back home the neighbors struggle to get their boats in the water. My father
cuts open his toe swimming. When a new sandbar appears, it’s flagged
and named for its uncommon shape. Working faster and all the time now, the men
are moving Lake Michigan. In a room I don’t remember, although
the floor is familiar, I’ve surrendered to infection. Fever spreads
under my skin, concentrates at the tonsils. All the time the men marching—
what looks like thick glass tucked under their arms. The hostel owner
places olives on his tongue one at a time. His wife prays near the cash box.
When the doctor comes he kneels by the mattress I’ve made hot with fear,
a silk curtain floats between his shoulders. He says go home. Your throat is closing.
It’s not the lonely descent over Detroit that’s stale and grim, it’s what happens
to the northern woods. Everyone is sleeping when I get there. The flag waves
on the sandbar and Lake Michigan is gone. There are no sounds
in the canyon. No sounds pass through the fields of bleached elk bones.
The Empty Museum
Plumbed from a cadaver, the brain
inside a jar is a cloud of coils
and magnified, the way a fish
when it swims to the corner of a tank
looks inflated; a government
that’s lost its country, an eyeball loose
trolling the dungeons of the sea.
Some people love the color pink
so much they wear pink sweaters
and purchase pink cars
and juice them up and down
the highway. The brain is the color
of the road, of the Midwest gloom
that hangs in the spindle left of trees
past winter. I carry that hue inside me
like clay-scented air. It’s a twisted tether
and sometimes inside my dream
as the day heats up around me
it’s a rustic sort of place
I can’t back away from. The guide
says the self is elastic, it fogs over, twins.
We engineer a filter and backload a story.
I ask to touch the brain, maybe hold it
and when I do, its weight tests
the give of both hands. I think of bowling
and watermelons floating in a pool, an infant
translating the blast of shadows
that enter a room. I forget
and I remember. I can tap a memory
of a boy in his yard carving a moat
around an underground animal
making noise with its teeth.
I think of summer still
as an entrance to the palace
where the sun actually lives.
I bused north growing up
to a green-blue place
where a herd of us smuggled
an orange life preserver through the woods
without getting tagged. There was a girl
who would die in college. I see her
on the dock in a towel like a cape,
hair dripping with lake water.
When she passed
songs we learned with God in the chorus
stopped living in her brain.
A person travels with a net
collecting for the factory. A person
passes a window and feeds on the view.
Under a large and unfamiliar hat
a person lifts her chin at the mirror
tilts her face to the side, then looks away
and back again, her whole life
the same question: I’m not sure
if this is me. I shake the brain
wanting a file to slip, a him or
a her knitted in tissue, odd muzzle
under fixative. If this pile—
folded, inscrutable—were alive
I picture a table cluttered with jewelry,
the light jumping all over it.
In Sleep the Brain Retrieves a Snake
The mind rallies its fragments:
a Safeway stock boy
my car an empty television box.
the return of the snake
sliding through my house, a lean-to
made of cambio receipts
and not in Arizona but in Maine
on a beach in the off season.
Of course I know
this snake, the scene
from which it was extracted.
The girl from San Francisco
with the bracelets and cigarettes
passes a bag of pineapple
slick and leaking
from her hammock to mine.
She was waiting for the boy in India.
I was waiting
for a balloon version of myself
to part a seam in the sky.
falling through what passed for a roof
was the snake.
It coiled and flapped on the cement slab
its skin synthetic green.
I reached to touch it
so cool so heavy
that slippery stand-in
for some category of dark.