Edge Of House – 1999


A feather, its bird, the color red.
All three, like their silence, belong to this day.
Inside this house, at the sink,
a drop of water
immense as sky, immense as itself.
Long shadows stretch across the back yard,
cut borders into afternoon-long provinces,
meager grasses.
Something passed here long before
I stepped into light.
A single feather, its lost script.
Which world, trembling, did it finally choose?

Eight Glasses of Water a Day

Where do they go
if not out through the body and eventually,
miraculously, back to earth.
Nothing drowns beneath skin,
everything surfaces like snakes
out pores,

the body’s crawl spaces
pungent with fear
and love.

It’s good, they tell me,
this cleansing.
Imagine a hose

always full, left on.
Imagine a rhododendron
in a forest,

explosion of color—
after rain,
after surrender.

A man could still love me,
a face soft as a nun’s,
decades of poison

I want to live longer
so that I can drink

more, excusing myself
quietly from every room.
Let me die

fires extinguished,
a steady rowing backwards.

Giving Head

When Mother gave head, to her it meant
sharing what’s on your mind,
her English so broken,
I could imagine the rubble,
the few sealed marked jars
in her throat’s basement.

She gave head
to the gas station attendant
who drew the dip stick checking its tip,
to the priest who advised her:
“Life is a journey—”
his own worn shoes, a pair of oxen.

She even gave head  to women—
to the cosmetician who listened
rotating her plexi case,
lipsticks displayed in rows like bullets,
who understood loneliness and stray hairs,
each week offering my mother
a new sliver of color to take home,
twisting the tube erect,
dragging it across her wrist.

After a while, to whom or what hardly mattered.
Stones, meadows, stray dogs,
all seemed to know her.
Fog caressed her, the moon emptied
its massive head like a bucket.

Except her daughter:
When she tried to give head to her daughter,
I gave back part of it, the lip—
I was steady as an executioner,
demonstrating my own obscenities.

After that, I don’t know
to what non English-speaking corner
she sentenced herself,
her now barely visible hand waving to me,
not so much a good-bye, as a curse.