Thursday, March 31, 2016

because lemons, war

story is the plane of requirement:

- a woman becomes pregnant out of the body's dissatisfaction
- a man dies because "enough" is an incomplete conception
- a child throws his kite into the air because earth revolts against sky
- even gilbert's single ox refutes the single notion white

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

late evening (the trappings of a life)

evenings like mesh
a fine netting, dinner
a little tv, bickerings 
tidying, a lovely bewilderment

could it even be
when you lay yourself
to your tangled sheets
you'll lie again?

lies like waves
gently, returning
improvements, plans
safety, gaining ground

the net working the waves
stroking pith, pulp
the glinting sea
retaining nothing

Tuesday, March 29, 2016


we are at the lip of the granite shelf
with strings tied fingers to wings,
the buffleheads rising and pulling,
the mallards somewhat slipping in.

spring and they've come back,
orchestrating deftly to their niches,
skipping along, to still on black water
for one beat, two, until they push north again.

the children are twelve and ten,
glamoured yet beside their adults,
about to, beyond this simple delight,
any minute - snap their strings.

Monday, March 28, 2016

the plumbic spring tears a new mouth

spring in the north
has another mind,
or perhaps it is the 
body which is particular,
     the penultimate 
     terra firma 
     sleeping monster
waking imperceptibly.

in other words, March
is ages pre-
possibility of pleasure,
positioned so far 
from the mash and
fermentation of berries
(or if you persevere - the plum)
which will, excruciatingly,
through great pains,
pull through 
the precambrian scar,
into existence.

put differently again,
spring is epochs before 
sugar can shine.

yet inside the northerner's skin
a pale lipped pulsar
opens under pressure
of lead skies and privation
and cries out—
but piqued,
willing to pledge 
allegiance to persistence
to the impossible,

Sunday, March 27, 2016

oxo granite mortar pestle

never having ground a spice in my life
my eyes know to love the mortar pestle

marrow of my vision
the longing to [be] extract[ed]

the bible says
the laying of hands

the spirit moves
from which direction?

taste bursts forward
from me and the seed to meet

taste - how the word finds 
and defines the mouth

the mouth - our eyes
speaking witnesses, halls of mirrors

and so he descends 
from/upon me 

one small place
begging to [be] breach[ed]

Saturday, March 26, 2016

The Rhythm's Want

We had it all, we knew.
How night tore its sleeves to give us stars.
How the wind ravaged to render, later, calm water.
A hungry stomach could unfurl like fields
and await the plantings of roast beef or pancakes, or barley
for a soup that could steep alongside moments plump with reading,
a monotonous swoon of hours baking sure the bell that
your mother would ring to call you, suddenly alert, home.
We knew we had it all, mosquitoes breaking into air like jewels,
berries, babies, orgasms and orchestras,
screen doors banging up the massing of memories,
the dog nosing the muscle for affection, spirit food.
Even the disappointments in yourself, in others,
the buses arriving late, the trains with their lamps, departing.
At the ends of our toes and the tips of our hair shafts
clung an electrified disbelief that stretched toward knowledge -
that one day we would lose it all, the story would shrink away,
the cells themselves wink out.
And yet our blood hammered on, a small dim-witted eager jockey
lit amber, agile, in the waning light.
We had it all, the broken pumps and pipes,
the sufficient dribble of clean water.
We knew it, we felt it, we wore it.
We lay in it, imprints, in grass or snow.
And yet we wanted more.

Friday, March 25, 2016


                         - for james

The lamplight in the evening is soft like a piano can be,
or moth wings, or icing on a cake, desirous like that, sweet.
I go to it, of course, even if I am sitting in a chair
under a blanket by the window, or coming into the room
through the portal by the stairs, the light yellow
like the hope of a flower, warm like a cup of tea,
constant like a mother. It shines confidently in a circle,
reaching through the blankets of the room with alluring fingers, 
its hands without rings, itself a halo, a pledge, a golden promise.
My husband is like this, I think, like the light going out 
from the origin, his mind going out like a mariner to the sea, 
his flesh an earthly penumbra through which to seek. 
My husband is like this, this gentle minaret of seeing, 
this central place from which my dim-sighted being 
can begin, again and again, repeatedly.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

The Distance Between

Does indifference have a temperature?
It is the tail end of the March wind

which blows its long polar thrusts across
the ice which belches and breaks so slowly,

so grudgingly. We're in the car sleeping in the sun
while the seagulls wheel over shore in the sunspots,

our poetry books having slipped from our laps,
all their pretty philosophical bows tied neatly

into kite tails which dip and volley as we please
to our inhale and exhalations passing comfortably

between us. An otter breaks from the bridge of black water,
through ice, into air. I open an eye. Try to see. Glare.

No one understands another's world, the elements of order.
Sky. Car. Infinite knuckle of ice cold water.

The poems are as bereft of heat as March can be
if the books remain closed.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

learning lips

not over it
but more like the hooked foot of the sunflower, the instrument of suck and blight

not inside it
but searching from above the kitchen drawer for the favoured tarnished knife

not the lion tamer
but clutching the fringe as the wind strives to rip the crimson panties from the wash line

not Baruch perfecting the lens of Ethics
but Spinoza sowing splinters of glass to his lungs to magnify his sight

not the window
but the mirror

not the bridge toward
but the bridge both ways

not wood, not fire
but Helen touching water

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

One Shade Away From Never Having Been

Sometimes it seems the world is too damn big,
too many variables, too many two-faced blessings,
too chaotic.
Trying to be calm or at ease in the flux and pulse
of the interminable motion seems impossible.
So, after an hour or two of trying 

to settle into the churning miasma,
slipping in and out (only to slip in and out again) of the turnstile
of what's possible, of what might become possible,
of what's imaginable and what's unimaginable (but imagine),
of what's within one's control, what's uncountably (count) beyond
— you try to think a garden.

A garden, a reasonable plot of land,
a chosen section to churn, turn, mind,
mend, sow and nurture.
This, you think, only this 

you will concern yourself with.

The tilling begins
and quite quickly you discover
a nearby oak root has went its way in your way
and belies an easy sifting.
Work, grinding and assertion.
And then the soil, once turned, reveals it's denuded.
Or is a draw for cutworms, wireworms or root maggots.
Or, the tall tomato plants were planted 

too tightly together with excitation,
wicking blight into your lives. 

A groundhog burrows into the plot
through the depths of your unreasonable mind.

So you make yourself a smaller garden.

And then smaller again.

Until the garden is only a couple shakes of earth,
the size of a picnic basket.
In which you plant a single matronly tomato.
Sow a solitary seed to become a gentleman bean pole.
Blow a breathful of seedlets to make lettuce babies.

But this isn't the truth. 

You know immediately the ruse.
And so you keep downsizing
until your hands are gone.

And there is only a scrim
of soil over rock.
A plant or a tree.

An unnamed weed.
And maybe a bird.
An insect.
Or wind.

Or maybe not.
Only the chance of the soil meeting seed.
Only the arbitrary and unlikely sowing of life.

Only then do you sleep.

Monday, March 21, 2016


Do we love our shin bones, our scapulas, our clavicles?
Yes, we do.
Do we love our ear lobes, our inner thighs, our tender parts?
Why yes, even better.
I know we're supposed to say it's all "the same," or "equal"
but we'd sacrifice an elbow to save an eye.
That's why they make a body, strictly speaking,

A father is made up of 78% bone.
Now that's just a fact.
And men, for better or for worse, 
are encouraged to transmute the soft into
more than just a little gristle.

Now, language is imprecise.
I've been telling you for fourteen years
you used to be inside me.
That for nine blessed uncomfortable months
I carried you. 
But child, my back's near broke 
but I love my load.
You are still inside me.
Everywhere you touch the world
I'm exposed; I tremble.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

our hands folded together made a swan

it was a quiet night
     the moon lay 
on the calm water 
     like pink bronze
or a cymbal struck
     long ago
the boat drifted
     its rope lax (probably tied to the dock)
no one worried about the boat
     or the shore or the moon or beyond ---
the mountains
     the shine on the water Was 
and we slept like that
--- until, much later, the bark of two dogs

Monday, March 14, 2016

i dreamed down

i dreamed down to chickens and dirt floors,
to milk bottles and sunlight through cracks
that split the heart like a rooster's single crow could.

i dreamed ecstasy in popscicles, a quarter each
and unlimited potential once you licked through to unlock
the sticky sticks at core.

i dreamed back too
to their lengthening limbs contracted,
to their walled-off minds melting fast like ice-cream.

i dreamed slow and kind of simple-minded.
i dreamed bravely the uncoiling revolution.
i dreamed progress found her right wheels
and her car discovered herself a cart again

and i dreamed that feet through dust was even faster -
the more kinetic mode to get you to the where of it,
the place in the future where because of how low you were
you could see everywhere, everything.

i dreamed the where was here
and the things of what were immaterial.
i dreamed two eggs crated in the palm - how fine they were.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

love and quantum mechanics

"don't look: waves
                          look: particlesAatish Bhatia

yes, beloved, let's make love

you touch my lips
i'll touch the stem of your desire rising

every touch a quivering idea
each touch an embodied vibration

the flowers once cut are dying
the seeds once formed awaiting life

my skin is a fire of white sails
your look is a wooden boat

the ocean is land and the land sea
we're traveling outward and into one another

where terrain is dangerously invisible
where light manifests as mountainous

where waves pleasurably cut the skin

Saturday, March 12, 2016

we carry the anchor in the left breast pocket of our denim shirts

no one can make you be at home.
home is not real estate;
not a prescription for the future;
not a commodity of the now.

once it was late afternoon -
you grew hazy in the sunlight
which passed over the couch 
you lay on like a sailing page.

there were crumbs on your shirt
which moored you to your body.
your mind drifted not bothering 
to know anything about direction.

you were on a scow in the middle of the ocean,
everything pale whites and soft blue hues,
even the shrieks of the seagulls comforting,
drifting along dumbly, at home in your interminable seascape. 

Friday, March 11, 2016

A body is insufficient

the doctor looked into the throat and said, nope.
i see no words, no healings, no poultices.

the shrink tried to grow the soul upon the couch
so that the patient might see the wounds from up above.

aha, he wrote, i see phantasmal dreams, but no healings;
only strange and grave maladjustments.

despondent the patient loped to the woods, 
opened her empty hands to besiege the silent god (old trope), 

and there the bird lit with no words, only a perfect fit 
and a mutual hunger for the body's absolution.

Thursday, March 10, 2016


          how many houses are there that you might commit your life to?

one, the house erected upon high footings

two, the house of flesh

three, the house which slips its hands down into earth and earth who slips her hands 
           up into house like moisture into wood

four, the house of the mirror

five, the house of what it is that lies beneath wing beats

six, the house of word

seven, the house of silence

eight, the house of the never-proven gods whose threshold you cross by separating 
           jeweled beads of light

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

two poems about violence (the splendiferous varied truth of the spider and in the stairwell)

the splendiferous varied truth of the spider

staring for a good long time

i can not train my eyes to see
what my mind knows -

     the spider dangling from nothing
     is not dangling from nothing.

it is a trick of the eye,

in fact i am hanging over here,
up north, in canada, in my life.

     there's a thread 
     whether you can see it or not.

and those who would deem me
an immoral, a liar,

     i know they're not defying gravity
     all those miles away to the south.

and while we're at this saying, let's admit
one web is that and only that, one web,

a line.

it's the weaving together like dna
where the tensile thread of truth comes into sight.

     we're all dangling
     and whether we like it or not

we're all dangling together. 


in the stairwell

it was fifth grade. there was an assembly.
i remember the stairs. small steps forced,
warm bodies close like cattle. she grabbed me. 
there was steam everywhere. we were hot. 
was it springtime? light through the windows 
amplified. fifth grade. maybe our pubic hair was
about to unravel. she had breasts. i had none.
when she grabbed me in her fists... well, 
first of all, i hadn't seen it coming. i hadn't
added up any events. i was just pleased
with my calculator and my pencil case.
maybe i liked my shoes. maybe i didn't.
and then her nose in front of me like a bull.
what could i do? nancy was bigger than me
in her anger. if i'd have fought she'd have hurt me. 
if i didn't i was going to be pulverized.
but what made her angriest was that
even though she had my shirt in her fists
her fists were aggressively empty.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

survival means a pound of bread and a loaf of meantime

thank you world for failing
thank you city for being dirty
thank you mankind for being cruel
and dreams and plans for falling

i'll turn once more to the treestand
to the windfall, to the woodpecker
succinct sort who needs no accouterments
nobody's fool

Monday, March 7, 2016

Filling Up at the Moonlight

The windows of the Moonlight Chinese Buffet
are shrouded by stained curtains hanging from hooks,
and condensation. The window ledges are deep set 
as the restaurant is housed in an old strip mall - 
housed? more like confined, or assigned to,
the ledges calling for an enticing vignette,
mannequins draped in this year's fashions,
artwork on brass pedestals, or now - neon signs,
but between the sun-faded curtains of the Moonlight
Buffet and the sweaty glass lurks an empty space,
an empty space with weight, an empty space
which calls attention to its presence, an empty
space which assaults everyone who enters.
I hurt so badly for these people who clearly
know no better. Where are they from?
Migrant workers from a village in Guangdong Province
who risked the ocean's wide spaces to find, 
remarkably, a home in small town USA?
I don't know. I'm like all the others.
I've only come to eat. Eat well. Plate after plate.
Spring rolls, lo mein, shrimp, ginger beef.
And what about this red skinned chicken skewered? 
The boy who works the cash is twelve years old.
The cook who refills the trays of food has a bright
sweat covered face. The woman who seats us
and brings our tea says yes a lot and smiles.
I can't help but stare at the tiles of the dropped ceiling 
which feel like they're about to drop further.
They draw my eyes more than the grimy walls,
again with no artwork, just old paint, grease stains,
but my god, for $9.99 the food is great.
Over on the wall near the boy who waits
for customers to pay, maybe while he does
his homework, is scrawled one word, Pray.
Customers have been offered post-it notes 
in varied colours. I see this as we're leaving,
each note curled out from the exit wall like a ragged 
prayer flag, and feel so warm with the modest efforts  
by this family to create a space to draw us all together.  
I want my dad off Oxycontin, reads one. 
I pray Jesus looks like me, another.
Xbox One, iPad Pro, iPad Air
Too few for health, happiness, love.
Some just a name.
A few more than i care to admit,
n—, C—, f and p—,
I palm as I'm leaving. My hand feels dirty. 

Saturday, March 5, 2016


my mother did not bear me to metaphysical platitudes.
she pushed me out like a package through her purple crucifix,
her luxurious black fur a bramble at earth's door.

i spend my years recycling energy through this flesh flap

and yet somewhere in the tops of the branches of the greenish-white sycamore
which grows stubbornly from the crescent of my mind, sings a bird -

sings a bird whose song is not earthly. 

Friday, March 4, 2016

the heart is one wave wide

is blue a reality?
what size is it?
i want to open it and walk into it

consider the horizon
consider the idea
consider the vein

i am walking on a gravel path
between villages
there is no such thing as city

in my pocket my pocket watch
ticks the tide of everyone's ocean
i am moving from Johann's house
to Yolanda's

a glass of water there for me in each
a glass of water which feels blue
but isn't

Thursday, March 3, 2016

the orchid, redux

today is another day
of being confronted
by the orchid in my care

these naive blooms
robust hoods
and flagging white sails

these unsure hands
held only by this 
trembling will

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

sound, silence and a terrible roar, notes

i stopped by the rapids and wrote, "the roar of the rapids is a kind of silence; and the roar of the rapids when one carries the absence of loved ones is yet another kind of silence." then i began to walk again.

still within the engulfment of the roar, i felt, before i heard, the vibrations of a pileated woodpecker. i stopped and watched him.

pitiful rugged winter creature. hungry. left wing damaged. a pluck of feathers threatening to fly off in the wind. either it couldn't hear me or it couldn't care that it heard me. it had invested itself so much in the creation of a hole that it could not afford to leave its work. work and work and work, over and over again. assessing and redetermining its best angle of assault.

i moved on quietly.

and came back quietly some twenty minutes later. to find him still at his work.

sheer perseverance.

would it pay off?

he inserted his head fully into the hole he had created in the tree and looked around. backed out. ratcheted his beak again.

sheer perseverance. desire to live.

pitiful rugged winter creature. hungry. left wing damaged. i saw myself. and quietly moved on.

a different woodpecker, march of last year

Choosing Home

The ten thousand things
rise, float and fall
like the glass globs 
of a Galileo thermometer.
Math is not one plus one
but how the dazzled light from one,
or its morgue shadow,
falls on another.
Where should we live?
What should we do with our lives?
We're adults and so the bulbs
are constantly shifting clutter.
I ask him, a child,
and his answer is instant,
ten thousand percent.
But why, I press him.
He absolutely has no answer to this,
but I can see his soul rise like a ghost
and with relief
sit down in the chair 
at his centre.