Sunday, June 30, 2013

Civil Space

I feel our borrowed car
contact the car
behind us

the slightest bump
a nearly zero-
impact collision

surprise, yes, shock

Mike believes
the other driver hit us
as Mike was shifting
into reverse

doesn’t believe
he backed into him

we all disembark
look at the cars

no damage
to either car
to any person

I’m sorry, Mike says

the other driver
raises his arms, raises
his voice at Mike

This is not good
We have a problem

the other driver
repeats himself
pushes himself
in Mike’s face

demands that Mike
repeat a string of words
the other invents

I’m sorry, it was
all my fault

Mike says it
the other slaps
Mike’s shoulder

we walk away

Anticipating Fennel

next to a second planting of St. John’s Wort
I sow arrowy chamomile & feathery yarrow,
strew borage to interpolate blue, Greek
oregano so prolific its prunings should crest
my gray plastic wheelbarrow, & sacrifice
bunkered persuasions of underground mint
for sage & thyme the afternoon desert winds
will sandblast springtime thru summer, isolate
prickly pear from artichoke, rhubarb heart
to rosemary's proven veins, lie lavender.

— 30 June 2013

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Mynah

Forty feet in the air,
the stob of a flowering ohiʽa
bows under a mynah.

Mynahs, their wings black-&-white
black-&-white, strobe the soccer fields
scanning for the epileptics’ team bus.

A flock of seven ducks shares one mind. 
Seven mynahs pretend fourteen.

Every region has its rowdy –
mockingbird, magpie, or mynah
playboy, bully, or lout – 
ornamental gardens with broken statuary
may be granted more than one.

Downtown, I watch them rise with alarm
settle with hops & swaggers. At home 
nothing larger than ladybugs fly
aside from cardinals & pigs.

Unseen, the jungle whistles 
with honeycreeper, scrubland 
fosters nene. Then settlers come 
with talking mynahs, chili fed 
to etch their naturally slit tongues 
for finer articulation.

O ill-paid inspector
How does my apple evade you?
Will you be relieving a widow of her potpourri
while mynahs swoop through the air space
to nab the core from my hand?

I’m selling my air gun, bought years ago
but never used, the barrel now rusty.
Rod will pay $40 to shoot the hundreds of 
bandoliered mynahs looting his money crops – 
mangosteen, rambutan, lychee.

When mynahs stand in a downpour
it doesn’t mean they can’t fly or don’t care
it means they don’t feel it.

The gutter along the ocean side of our house
amplifies the morning fusillade
stepped off by mynahs.

She hears outside the window
a sporadic tapping.
Tapping back in Morse code
she begs the mynah’s forgiveness
promises lacquered boxes, nacreous collar studs
yards & yards of gold braid.

Ringed by contenders, one mynah spatchcocks
another, dip & peck, dip & peck. Which
yellow eye blisters red?

Mynahs are not like ocultos
in Argentina. They do not startle up at night
from ground nests or shriek from the branches of trees.
Mynahs dissolve two hours after sunset 
& reassemble eleven minutes before dawn.

— 12 February 2013

Walking Out

Walking down this
steep trail, I drone to myself:
Kent, I need to rest.
Juan, necesito descansar.
Twenty times, one
hundred, breath harsh
against my ears. My trekking
poles swing too far, not far
enough. I stumble
over tumbled rocks
square-cornered boulders
slick & tilted slabs.
A man-made trail
maintained by falling water.
My foot bones ache.

10 January 2013

I ask myself

what items
I want
in my culture


newly and justly
to contain
my needs

the world
isn’t a text
to be deciphered

it's a new creation

a cloud
enters you
to begin in

— 15 January 2013


on the bristlemallow
a splotch of pink
though bristlemallow flowers salmon mellow

petal-scattering rose

for the lake Veronica favors a balanced biome
tadpole hatches
lapwings & kiskadees to eat them

start with iris throws

drum of hammers on the half-tiled roof
whine of electric saw
drone of diesel-powered moto

cadence of castellano

16 January 2013

Speaking of Which

Speaking to an Argentine man
is equivalent to interviewing
the person who invented the box
works only inside the box
cannot hear the words of someone
outside the box no matter how
informedly, how articulately
how insistently she speaks.

— 17 January 2013


hair / feathers
cunt / dick
animal / plant
ears / skin tags
money / stamps
male / mail
power / outage
mountain / plane
bird / brain
head / egg
rebel / yank
mercy / war
shit / pot
fog / lighthouse
box wine / chateaubriand
come alive / cop it
broke / flush
green / polluted
sword / trowel
sudoku / anal sex
socks / mittens
hoof / nail
sink / toilet
shit / chocolate
crab / stroke
galley / head
oar / wand
bean / brawn
sincere / camp
academic / savant
bread / art

— 17 January 2013

As Spring Turns to Summer

out Santa Cruz way, I keep wearing
this itchy black wool sweater
saggy, all over pilled, elbows thinning
crusty with egg at the left wrist
speckled white with feathers
& dust, tiny scraps of paper
cat & human hair.

Northern California seldom warms
to straight-up T-shirt weather.
Some Junes are very cold
like the June I bought this Armani
on a morning that felt like snow
this sweater that zips & cowls
even snaps beneath my neck

& replaces the itchy black wool turtleneck
knitted by some woman
during the war for a soldier
handed somehow down to me
to wear from freshman year
until my fifties — resewn over & over
at armpits, wrist, & neck.

I have nicer zip-ups from Old Navy
a thick white soapy cotton
a soft gray wool
for wearing when I’m out
but the itchy saggy black sweater is only
for home, for a cat to curl up on
preferably with me inside.

29 May 2013

Argentine Road Trips

Driving to Mendoza
we chose the longer road
because Route 40 tended to flood.

Switchbacking down from Colomé
on yellow gravel & dust —
a surface so bad we didn’t
notice the flat tire
until the rim bent.
The rental car company said
fix the tire or buy a new one.
We spent a whole day
learning city streets & the language of tires —
gomería, where a man showed us
the tire shredded inside.
A new one from Goodyear wasn’t cheap
plus I left my diary there —
still, a week later
they were holding it for me.

Cafayate to Asunción
took three days in our new Citroën.
Three hours one evening we waited in
a mile-long line for gas.
30 kilometers we drove
on a freshly paved one-lane highway
where semis coming at us
forced us onto gravel shoulders.
At the Paraguayan border
customs stopped us —
No, you can’t drive across the border
even though you own the car.
For 50 pesos
Carlos in soiled Bermudas
let us park it in his yard —
we never thought to see the car again
but 30 hours later, there it was
dusty & unharmed.

Every drive, however short
involved the police —
Show me your papers
where do you live
where are you going
are you carrying fruit?
Sometimes two or three
uniforms conferred
in this generally idle occupation
part of keeping everyone employed
but never a problem
because we were gringo.

Driving back from hiking in Jujuy
dreaming of showers
after three days of dust & llama spit
we reached the final stretch
of the road home —
washed away.

2 June 2013

I remember

I remember holding Mike’s hand, also his arm before stepping off the curb in Salta because cars came fast & never stopped for pedestrians.

I remember a man flinging his arm out to stop me from walking off the curb into the path of a speeding BMW in Geneva, Switzerland. That would have been in 1971.

I remember being afraid of cars in Salta because the drivers seemed so obsessed with their own intent, so indifferent to, so uncaring of others. I wondered how children survived.

I remember seeing the word quesillo painted on small boards outside houses & wondering what aquesillo might be — little cheese, stretchy band of mild white cheese, eaten as an appetizer or dessert, smeared with jam, sprinkled with walnuts. Once I stepped past a small sign & through a door, into a dim room, on a table a cloth, hard cheese, jam in jars. Quesillo? I said. How many? a slouching teenage boy asked. One. He took the quesillo from a plastic food storage container, slid it into a brown bag. We ate it in the car. It hadn’t much taste. It was like eating an irregularly shaped slice of white American cheese.

I remember seeing a giant South American snail crossing the road. I remember seeing another after a car had run over it. After that I regularly stopped to move snails to the side of the road. I always moved them to the side they were traveling toward. In the woods Beth & Sarah & I found hundreds of empty snail shells. I thought about the snails emerging as butterflies, giant butterflies, drying out slowly, floating upward, tipping stiffly from side to side.

I remember my blue bicycle, one or the other tire flat every time I went to ride until Mike installed Slime-d tubes & Mr. Tuffys.

I remember digging out Tribulus, aka puncture vine, the prostrate, 3-thorn plant that carpeted any empty space, grew a meter or more in all directions.

I remember common purslane, aka Portulaca oleracea — purslane & puncture vine wanted to be our garden, along with Opuntia, common name tuna, aka prickly pear. We welcomed locals who asked to pick the crop, the fruit too dangerous, not sweet enough for our stone-fruit-spoiled taste.

I remember backing into tuna spines, pulling them out of my wide-brimmed hat.

I remember Miss Vee climbing a tuna, peering down at me.

I remember Miss Vee working Tribulus thorns from her paws.

I remember Clematis campestris overgrowing the tuna, that aggressive twining vine, ever-sprouting root web, blossoms of tangled white hair. They called it barba de viejo, old man’s beard.

Though I didn’t know all the names, I remember knowing the weeds better than some of my paid-for plants.

I remember Miss Vee sprinting down the empty acequia while I walked along the sandy path.

I remember her as a kitten, crouching in brush, hoping to catch a bird.

— 21 June 2013

Letters Come Like Small Animals

Come, candle & maroon
cilantro, green, come braid & fist.
I have prepared for you
sequences of a cathedral in blue —
no tornado-heralding downshift
to ivory plum, asparagus cream
when I say your name.
Do I draw water
a portrait, curtain, bridge, or conclusion?

Bosh fling into the spore a grew long: fling
on flew the spore, ol’
green heard. Fling on
as a hand did try to chalk the sun
to races — nurtured in the dark —
if we had put our ears to the ground
we might have heard the horses.

There is no sun in another room
but let it come out
rocking in its chair.
This is your second chance to
build a cool kitchen with free cats circumventing
like a seam on a purple yellow sari you watched spinning
as it stood on a bus.

Some of us have taken off our wigs
the immense colossal weight
of our hope. Sex is part of it
the wound
of anticipation under thin cloths
of appetite
cantankerous mutiny eating through the nipples of our breasts.

Or is this what god thinks?
Or am I what god thinks?
Or am I alone?

Stones rock. Stones, rock, rockstone, stonerock
an escarpment on the wander.
Phantoms spring from your mind
and run you around like a fox or a rat
through back alleys
in the first canto of the final canticle.
Her hand composed him and composed the tree.

I mean this is measuring not
pageantry, dear sweet
silly blind Rooster
the old as simply that — but the struggle in
my flip point
doll or duck whose end ties
to you trickley jams
the bud part erasing.

Now I will rest yes in the arms as it were
of my lover he is great with a pitchfork
he loves all our senators —
grieving eagles.
So softly a lunar beam closes
as she charges his porringer
from a piggin of steamed milk.

The desert moves like a museum made of light
along the boundary of the useful
farm, what a thin light, the road swinging
uphill its two directions, the slushy ruts
this distinguished boat
now for oblivion, at sea, a
sweet and horrid joke in dubious taste —
I stole the leaded smoke-blue windows.

Two figures, unbeknownst to each other
soldered at the head, bodies angling
out like a roof
not even metal smithing nor the even-marking tires
the soles of defunct shoes
a trestle terror on the dark train —
over what? held by what?

Terrible, immense abyss —
if there’s someone falling here, half
dark half sun, like embers, into thoughts
and leaves the shapes of bottles
frostbitten, the boat in his hands
is best and when she talks of tying up her hair
his bones of such is coral
raised up out of his grave.

As a missive I proliferate
your pigeonholes of pleasure
and some geese will say
that maxim scans a lot like S&M
does. Improbable skin.

I think it’s the locked doors that have made me drunk.
I could howl out of every lock and paper-clip.
Letters come like small animals, curled in relative
warmth. Their alphabets shift when I turn.
Fierceness itself was
what made the lily flame.

[original lines taken from poems by Tom Clark, Clark Coolidge, T. Zachary Cotler, Connie Deanovich, Emily Dickinson, Stacy Doris, Robert Duncan, Rachel Blau DuPlessis, Elena Fanailova, Susan Gevirtz, Noah Eli Gordon, Kate Greenstreet, Mộng Lan, Giacomo Leopardi, Osip Mandelstam, Malinda Markham, Bernadette Mayer, Shane McCrae, Sandra Meek, Joseph Millar, Hilda Morley, Paul Muldoon, Lorine Niedecker, Ethan Paquin, Kathleen Peirce, Elizabeth Robinson, Leslie Scalapino, Brenca Shaughnessy, Lauren Shufran, Heidi Lynn Staples, Wallace Stevens, Georg Trakl, Stacey Waite, Rosmarie Waldrop, Margaret Walker, John Wieners

— 25 June 2013