By a valley going south on 83,
I and everyone else tumbled down the cliffside, our
semis, vans, and all grinding on the remnants of
the railing and highway, flaring and sparking like shards of the sun,
the sun that
too—unhinged and unbound—put on its high heels and
hightailed itself from the face of this Earth,
no gods or gravitational bonds
to keep it and its hot secrets from other worlds.
And so, in those brief moments,
and in my final thoughts, I knew—somehow—that somewhere,
a squirrel was surprised to be
Caught in the beak of a squid--a squid
whose every organ had failed, whose
every other muscle was functionless, who had never
seen a squirrel. . . or air. . . or land,
yet felt the urge to eat the furry bastard:
to suction-cup the uncanny in its maw.
And as a fragment of glass reflected my mangled body,
I looked at myself and wondered: where was my squid?
You should have known, she said.
When you told me you didn’t not want me,
I should have known about the inevitable driftlessness,
the heat elsewhere, the weight lost—that when I came on
you, the Earth never shifted for a moment.
But where are you now? I swear, nothing could
raise the fur on my back, make my eyes
widen at the sight—I couldn’t not know your
lips now, couldn’t mistake your alien gaze
For haphazard hunger.
For sure, life lost would have been
better beside you
or between your lips and inside.
I have always walked away:
from the centre,
from the edge;
from vengeance, hatred, love;
“any club that would have me as a member.”
I’m limping now
my shoes have holes
my faithful dogs long gone.
Recently I thought I heard footsteps,
lighter than mine, close by.
Last night I dreamt of a wider path
and the hint of a goal that isn’t at my back.
I’m always missing the bus, the driver speeds up
when she sees me approach,
and why shouldn’t she?
my timetable isn’t hers.
The beautiful man I loved, who opened me like a map
hides from me now,
still I go on talking to him,
saying, there’s a project I didn’t finish,
a job I didn't show up for.
If this rain would stop.
if I could catch up with my bills.
if my sink would empty itself of dishes.
if I could stop trying to find my red sandals.
if I could rearrange cloud furniture I see lying on my back.
if I could have my appaloosa mare again and feed her hay cake.
Birds fell from a clear sky
today in Cleveland. One moment
they listed into windward wash,
the next moment squashed
on sunlit payment.
like a switch was thrown.
For no damn reason.
You called to tell me.
We are awkward with each other again.
I asked if they ruled out black helicopters.
You described the cautions given about dogs
eating the dead.
We won’t enter that house again.
You won’t walk the sidewalk like a prisoner
going to his execution
When you lift the bird-shaped knocker,
it won’t be me who greets you
My arms won’t open as if to say,
shed your coat, it’s warm in here
It won’t be our shadows turning their
heads to hear bells pealing
in the inner rooms
One bell pull for each disappointment,
each careful hurt
We’ll forget if we got lost
coming here the first time, if we had to consult maps
or ask if anyone had lived here before.
I'm speaking to that hollow core in you—
the empty shirt box
from the dry cleaners, &
I know these words
have no effect on you,
no more than a vacant bus stop cares
about cars whizzing past it,
but if my plea is a series of empty phrases, so is yours—
torn bits of paper are meant to blow across streets,
unnoticed, aren’t they?
knowing this, I’m still trying.
how could I not throw a cold, unreturnable kiss?
Like the smiling boy in a Caravaggio,
his outstretched arms offering apples and pears,
he steps into our living room.
You know what happens next: overturned
tables. Flames shimmy up a tall mast;
Theseus abandons ship just in time. Amazon
women with impossibly thick muscles wrestle
cowboys to the ground. Fists meet chins.
Ruthless executions follow: by firing squad,
sword thrust, a shove overboard.
At six o'clock, dust motes settle,
we sink into our brocade chairs--cracked china figures
in green and gold. I’ve lost you, little brother, tough older sister.
Our knees ache.
Story hour's over.