Fish mistake raindrops,
ripples a bait pole memory,
bob and sink of fat orange cork.
My child hands knew no thrill
like a crappie hole and a father
willing to rip gill, kill a day
cleaning just-legal string lines,
gut bucket at his feet, Jimmy Webb
tune between his teeth.
if you see me gettin’ smaller
I’d leave him to it, play
Time Machine or Olden Days,
games contrived to take me
anywhere but Oklahoma.
When sun dipped, I’d return,
kick and crunch scale piles
till skin glittered and Mom
dammed me from the house.
He pressed his thumb
to garden hose stream
helped me come home.
I’m leavin’, don’t be grievin’
I’ve got a right to disappear
When his heart snagged
I stayed gone, wrong decision
in a string my arms quiver to lift
as I wait for his sun-spotted hands
to make me clean again.
Blanket of Blue
I stepped in when they were getting older, dreaming of sturgeon and the way certain bones can be assembled on a string and worn like a rock with a passage beating one inch above each other’s heart. They had sent for ivory. They had sent for a little memory of flight, a buoy to save themselves and so I located the one for the other. I drove them to a riverbank in the north, put them on a little patch of grass and gave them a view of the city. Of course it was cold, but I couldn’t let them know how it was going to end. I gave her a slim volume of words. I gave him a coat and the ability to name the park that lay just out of view. I put three questions on her lips, told her to ask one in the direction of a fishing boat, one to a signpost, and one of him. Someone said a tear here would be especially nice and so I let a little knot come and go, chilled them with wind. I gave them shelter, and they watched a hard rain fall around them. Minutes later he ran straight into the rain, returning with a blanket, and they sat cradled like that for hours. I watched each thought edge closer to the conclusion as this silent voice breathed stanzas into them, showing them how to save themselves from the flood if only they would listen.
My lover, when I eat tomatoes
I think of you. Did you know
tomatoes belong to the night-
shade family? Their rumored poison
and bloody interiors were feared.
Cousin of the mandrake,
thought to riot lust, their musk
once called to the wolves
who nipped and gnawed
with dripping cuspids,
who stalked the fruit, hungry
for juice. Love apples, whore apples--
I like plucking them off
the vine. I hold globes in my hand
and eat them whole. Uncivilized.
(What pleasure is ever tidy?)
Entire civilizations dribble down
my chin: tomatl, pomodoro, badura.
The scent of sun-tippled anise
spreads my nostrils and clings
to my lips. With a whetted blade
I carve seedboats from their swell
and slurp summer’s tangy splurge.
Their pubescent vines are furred
and downed like your forearms,
your heavy calves.
I plunge my tongue in red clabber
the way my face burrows
for darkness in your neck and taint.
Your lumber, your thunder,
your walk is my tremor.
You’re my Popocatepetl,
my periphery, my large.
I want your quiet
shoulders to drape me.
I want the avalanche of your body.
My mountain, I want to know when
our eyes will meet; tumble and seethe
in iris fields. Let me tell you:
our skins will touch slowly,
will singe from the beginning
with the grief of completion.
Let me tell you: you will cinder
and blister me, fissure me.
You, my beautiful
ruin. You, my falling falling ash.
in wet bowls
in dish soap
elevated and sub-
In city streets
citrus fruits rise
The Third Day of Winter
Snow blows across the alfalfa bales,
across the hood of the forgotten Nova.
It spirals through her broken windows.
It piles over her pedals, and it spreads
across her split, foam-showing seats.
Ditch, fencepost, scattering
of idiot beef cows, loitering, chewing—
black holes die-cut into fabric of field.
Here and there a few inky treeshapes
rising up like dark tentacles, clawing
for a hold on the same scrolling sky.
And snow again,
in slanting drifts against the barndoor,
tall to the tires of the rust-eaten tractor.
On the other side of this country lane
the cemetery sprawls like a mute city.
From this walking dream it seems I’ve
arrived above the half-buried headstones.
Here I stop to rest, hand held to my heart.
Soon enough, I’ll need to
find some way to descend the steep hill
down to where my closest kin are kept.
I have these words of reconciliation,
and I’d like to speak them to my mother.
I’ve been carrying them a long time now,
and this time I mean to do it.
Nevermind the great white moat between us;
nevermind that the grave is so far down.
Lake with Mountains
Light strikes against silence
and the hour rings out its whole note.
Stillness ripples to the edges.
The world is on the other side of escape.
Our canoe makes a path
like breath on a window pane.
We can see straight down.
The rocks are composed in glacial time.
At night, they make a counterpoint with the stars
but it's impossible to catch the tune.
Each measure a century long.
A refrain only the dead know.
Instructions Pertaining to Intermediate Acts of Self Denial
First you must, when compelled to speak, divorce your voice
from the throat. Nestle it in a jar
like an embryonic barn owl
suspended with it’s bone-wing scraping the glass.
Tell yourself the familiar songs have all been sung anyway.
Pay no mind to the creature which forms
in the jar. Its small button-mushroom heart
may or may not grow faint with time.
It will stay useless enough, though when you turn
to run through the brambled, wet woods, away from this,
it may sprout teeth and try to chew its way out.
Keep running. There are bees in the meadow;
hum until you cannot hear them.
When they come after you, tear the locket
from your neck and cast it at the swarm. The locket, yes—
it is too heavy. Inside it, even the dead go on with their lives.
When the clasp is shut, behind the soft metal
they are playing the violin and feasting
on candied petals and roasted meats.
That which we cannot see, keeps singing.
For instance, have you read the stories of ancient Inuit babies
whose mothers died giving birth?
Their fathers buried them alive so they could travel
to the land of the dead, sated at their mothers’ breasts.
Hum loudly enough, you will hear their lullabies--
those nebulous tunes of murder and love.
All day, birds crowd the suet,
mock-chirp lesser birds who flee
to return in spring with feathers
rosy from holiday
diets of shrimp or hibiscus.
A bleak industry
plucking seed from the fat.
Seeds take a cellular root
all the same,
become seedlings, forming
clandestine and verdant
prayer in the gullet.
Hope song, hope song.
I have been awake for years.
Each dawn lighting the next
like candles at a vigil.
I don’t even remember
what was lost.
To begin slender
in a slow river wading
To curtain the place
where water finds land
come loose from your roots
To be gathered carried
you know not where
your long greening
To go hollow fade be born
again in water To soften
in someone’s hands
their kitchen To be woven
To be half-done
To be half-done
for months and seasons
To pick up again
To meet yourself
coming round be circle
empty then full
To bear that weight
To be bridged
with a place for holding
To begin as sand
To crush mix
melt in fire
To go suddenly sheer
spill out over molten
metal cool slowly
To be cut to size To hang
in someone’s house
To flare at sunset spill
lamplight into darkness
against storm wind
To wear a veil of frost
in winter feel
warm breath on your back
To hold in place
one piece of the world
moon in the oak’s arms
shadow of road unraveling
in the night silhouette
of the one
who stands waiting
Karen J. Weyant
I dig through the forest floor, scoop
them up, sift through pine needles
and dry leaves of crumbling ferns.
I pluck them from tire swings and garden sheds,
from banisters and birdfeeders.
I only want husks that are unbroken:
Wings settle in place, eyes sockets hollow
Into translucent bubbles, legs still grasping branches.
At dusk, I listen to their pulsating trill,
their low thrum. Static crumples air
like the radio that crinkles while my sister
sunbathes, belly flat against faded beach towel,
breasts pushing out of her bikini top.
She flicks me away as I’m only a fly.
I watch her, wondering where I will split
from my body, sure it will be through soft skin
beneath my shoulders, in hollow places
rubbed raw from jean waistbands.
To the Young Stigmatic in an Undisclosed Rust Belt Town
You found your faith early. You gave quarters to God,
drank communion in plastic cups of cranberry juice,
practiced praying, asking whether it was better
with palms flat, knuckles rigid, or fingers curled
so that your nails clasped the back of your hands.
You recited the Bible from memory, weaving
verses backwards, Shepard my is Lord,
so that your mother swore you spoke in tongues.
When the preacher’s daughter stepped away
from Mary’s part in the Christmas play, you volunteered,
comfortable in a blue pillowcase for a veil, at ease
among old cardboard sheep made of mothballs.
You stared at the plastic doll wrapped tight
in blue bedsheets, believing in halos and angels.
So, when the young preacher’s wife grabbed you
that last Sunday, whispered a miracle, and caressed
the palms of your hands, you didn’t want to explain
how brick dust could linger on skin long after
a careless swipe, that dried blackberries left abandoned
in brambles could still prick the skin without leaving wounds.