…where you are supposed to be

It was hard to know where to place my feet.
The hillside, all golden dust and steep decline and you,
if it was you, if you existed, springing up like some mountain
goat, while the left behind welled up in my throat until you came
bounding back down. The first night there were street
lights and black water, and it wavered underneath
me as I wavered under your insistence. How are you?
Where are you? (But there is some other factor at work
behind the overall warming)

It was easy to know where to place my hands.
So much. All the time. Even with smog wetting
the rosy dusk, as far out as the cranes- have they
ever truly bent? Unloaded anything?- quivering
in their haze at the horizon of my twenty sixth year.
Their frozen latticed necks stretched away from our
inland sun, pining after billows of fog, nudging
to be pet. We stood in pink light among the Eucalyptus.
I never told you, of all the other words for it, burrow
is my favorite. (The bells of the churches rang
at the time of evening prayers)

And then it was all:
(One of those officers ,______, went on last year to shoot and kill unarmed _______.)
(I went down to the river, I didn’t mean to stay)
(Every city was a collection of chimneys. I don’t know why houses collapsed and chimney did not.)

But then, you. Asking when, and where. And there was barbed
wire fencing round a botanical garden, there were fallen trees
like bridges to balance on, our arms wide and teetering,
I noticed flakes of dead bark grooving themselves into soil
And there was a dry side and a wet side of the hill
But not once did you ever say lower your voice.
You just said am I seeing you? And do you see
that hellish pink light, loving its way through thickets
and twigs, sticking in slivers of fire to your skin, to the earth,
in my eyes. You said it was fire got loose, and I didn’t say
It is the act, not the object, of worship which makes us love
empty sanctuaries, or anything set on fire by the day’s flight
but perhaps you knew this. Yours was a disappearance I noticed.
These nine days I have checked all your cardinal directions
and next to me, I am seeing, still, that space in the air…

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What Happiness Writes

White is never only
That. Say early bright
Through unshaded pane
Call it song of turbulence
Say seven planes. Sand
In the wind

Do not say snow
For it has yet
To fall, & you have not
Walked through hand
In gloved hand

Says: Alaskan sun seeps into eyelids like melting snow through soil, says snow is soil all sun
Says: First pages are such lovely mockery; how wonderful it is, later, when all the human stuff
comes in.

White cuticles, white
Remnants of a finger
Pressed to skin
Hints of whitening
Hair on temple’s
Fringe. Not only
A space to fill in,
But yes. That too.

Speaks nothing but how those eyes ache someone wild from under furrowed brow

Never only
Blinding. Simply
The mind’s striving
To consume every
Wave within one
Color, to feel it
All at once. White
Does not know how
to pace itself. Ease
in just a little at a time
because what (oh god
what) will we worship
if we ever run out
of empty

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The Smell of a Sidewalk After the Rain

I try to remember which fruit
Reeks of soil at the end of tasting
First the sweet, then the sugared soil
When I remember it was the blackberries
I am reluctant to say the word
Blackberry. What good use of words
You made. So much so that I am ashamed
To write blackberry. I am so glad
That we are friends.

It rains all day and I watch
The film of a man who laughs
And is happy with his family but leaves
for America regardless
It rains all day and I write
For you because you said, Send poems.

So many You’s. So many Oh, You’s.
How many names called aloud
Into the night will it take to bring a real storm
To this mild city. And tonight, seeing
The first lightning I’ve seen in two years
Counting the moments between the flash
And the thunder. One thousand, two.
Knowing the storm is directly overhead.
Hello sweet thing. Find your own
America and love the soil in the fruit.

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(yet untitled/finished)

The fog lies down with the valley
Too early in the afternoon. This sun
Will not be shadowed. Do not tell me
What to do; I take no joy in giving
You what you want, and so it burns
Off those sheer wisps of loving shade,
Keeps the day for itself. In the long
Hike through snow (light falling
Below thin tips of pine, needle
Flickering shadows over powder)
The sun learns about under, goes
There. Lives there for good. No.
Never mind if it is something outside you,
What isn’t, that is loved. Your indifference
Is not your own. Must you give it
Away so carelessly

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The Ship

this ship is anchored In the dark
i say this
Who is the “You?”

she is sailing
sailing and at seaside
always there are shells
to be found by empty
hands

are you a woman’s creation? or
are You yourself?
your own Evasions?

Lips, oh Kind, oh Body of this world
that is not mine, stay i beg
You what work have You
to do that could outlive
this? Go to work You say
You move my hips
Go to work. i know You
are not awake
and i know i could not
wake You
if i tried

“she sails, she sails!”
i lied
this ship is anchored.
In the dark I say this.

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Yet There, In The Summer, The Days. They Are So Long.

                             “Standing on the table, trying to bend the river”  (-Idiot Wind)

It would all be different if I could open my throat like that
open the notes like birds in a field or that girl
in the field of wheat. Always the damned gold
sun setting just when things were getting good, or
if my thighs had something to seize that could
take me to a place, hooves would pound and soar over
skies, all of them at once, and some beast underneath
like a god of riding sky just to get to a place.
Voices, two, make me hang my head
with all that hope, with the greatest, saying

Love is there like water
under soil under snow
there like breaking
all that ice to string nets
through and catch
pike in the Taiga, there
always, like finally learning
what a birch tree looks like,
there always.

It would be different if my hands could move
that way if words could move the thing or bend it
to a will. If my will wasn’t in someone else’s pocket.
No, not yours. Some woman’s. Some woman with a hat
that her grandfather gave her who could teach me
to ride who would have placed her hand over mine
to show how to move the brush through the mane
and let me hold out something like sugar.
If I’d been small enough at the time.

But none of that will happen now,
now that they’re saying love
is real after all, saying look!
See it there moving always
Like the current of a frozen river
that races beneath, that sounds,
I know, if you could hear it,
if you could put your ear
to the ice and hear it, just like
fingerpicking with the top
string tuned down to D
and an accordion barely audible
in the background.

It would be different if I could clutch it in a fist. That small. That easy to keep.
If I could string it on a necklace and wear it with the rings I never take off.

And that’s what they’ll give me,
if I meet them, a thin necklace that’s
not at all gold with no diamond
or anything which shines. A chain,
a voice, a catalog of things—
whole bodies of water, a heart,
one particular curling breeze —
which can, after all, be moved.
A chain and then places. Yes, places.
They are saying I should believe
in more than one.

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The Second Day

if there were a ground beneath
oh that it would be a floor
wood polished to a shine or worn
dull, creaking under feet in morning
so that the wind may come
hallelujah, in from the sea
it is most like you to build
only half this house

if it is the sea that marries
earth to sky then it is the sea
I am lacking, nothing to give up to
the lovely black swell
of that old god, no thing
to trade which, lowered
deep into stone, would hold
water from the well
and my body dry and full
of sand and heavy with the sound
of no hammer on not one nail

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The End (Of Some Other Poem)

You are in the tunnel and you hear the train. Then you are the train and you hear yourself. You slow and you brake. Doors open and close. There you are on the train. There you are on the tiled floor of the emptied station. Watching the train you are on, the train you are, speed off into round concrete dark sounding all a vacuum. Loud unforgiving. Sounding all ‘never again,’ the two of you never meeting again.

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Unbearable is your pain so I bear it

Ask your body what to do with blue sky
but your body is not keeper of blues.
Right down to the marrow it’s reds,
yellows with orders to chew, tear through.
Dare not taste. Swallow don’t bask in sweet
or rich for what good could that do. Lose
sugar.  Hate the word, Mountain.  Unseen
or seen aching under sun the massive
rock is stale. Will only Summit fulfill? Climb
thrill you? No return of your own accord.
No belief in a breeze.  I say it.  Water
for thirst is a bore. There are other reasons
to feed. And no matter how I plow myself
under you won’t see the tree for the seeds.

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Valediction

You are in the winter of the Southern states
hands soft from no chore to callous, kissing
those houses you built for the martins
or was it the swallows, one or the other
sounding shrill and unpleasant, each
with its own call like a name known better
than my own

Your one life.  And how many fallen
Tiny broken egg shells beneath branches
and bird homes, the plum tree uprooted
by Isabel.  Your poor sister.

I dig through dirt with my own hands
when your hands are cold.  Plant
my own flowers. Feed my own birds.
Breathe, she said.  Find the death
within your slowing breath.
As if this would help us
to still.  And it did. We are still.

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