Feet (Bodymap, 1)

I only have two.

They grow and shrink, lumps

and bones, distorted

and perfectly flawed.

They arc in lovely

lines, dangling toe-buds

like pearl drops & chains.

They fracture/fragile.

They are beautugly.

I love them. They keep

walking, and walking,

even when they ache.

They each have their own

name, but they won’t talk

about it. One is drawn

with blue waterways,

gaps patched over with

lime and whitewash. Clean,

exquisitely fresh.

The other flushes

pink and gold and orange

like a swollen dawn,

gaudy with heat. It’s

hard to guess they’re twins,

mirroring right and left.

One is labeled: “If

someone forces you

to go one mile, go

with them for two miles.”

The other’s labeled:

“For they will be shown

mercy.” Do you see?

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Uniforms

Chief Uniform bans the attachment
of the inferior where he is
in front. The band is found descending
on the borders. These bands serve, produce
character. They are scattered. They spread
out. Uniforms form beings. They form
layers. They become and form the coat.
The layers close together, pale, and
grayish pale, quite destitute and raised
into folds — thicker, darker, more loose.
The coat is thrown in folds. Directions
beside certain folds. One on the right,
another the left. The largest? Most
constant, backwards, opposite. An inch
on the back, half an inch. Empty, they
overlap. Used, for kind. Simple, they
open. Minute form. Solitary.

An erasure poem derived from page 740 of Gray’s Anatomy, 1870.

On Being Asked What Is Triggering

(i)
The bird didn’t mean to fall
into my hands, all trembling

and stunned, poor thing. Fluttering
of hummingbirds, butterflies,

and fingers, all fragile, all
shed feathers/scales/scabs/moments.

Fluttering eyes, skittering
like water on a hot pan.

Fluttering of thoughts. The bones
are not broken, only nerves,

startled and stopped. Shhh. Shhh. Shhh,
I say. The bird still quivers.

(ii)
Cast from a cheap, bad, bronze mold,
my eyes don’t line up quite right.

My eyes are from a statue.
Stone-blind. Like weeping angels,

they look at nothing, nothing,
shifting in micro-jolts. There.

Vibrating at the level
of electrons. There. Again.

My eyes are from a robot.
They rotate on a gear shaft,

jerking. They need to be oiled.
My eyes are seeing something.

I don’t know what it is, but
they look so hard at nothing.

My eyes belong to the Fates,
looking across time and space,

seeing everything the same
then as now, the same as once,

the same as it will be, now
and always and forever.

My eyes lock, but there’s no key
to unlock them. A filmstrip

stutters and loops, repeating
the same few frames over and

over and over. Black. White.
Counting down. Counting down. I

won’t look, won’t look, but I can’t
close my eyes. Those dark shapes break,

flicker like static and sparks.
My eyes throw off sparks to match.

(iii)
Where are you? they ask. I don’t
hear them. Where are you?, they ask,

repeating and repeating,
until the babbling slows. Where

is now? I’m not sure. I look
around. I don’t remember

how I got here. As soon as
I know, I know where I am,

I don’t know where I was. Gone.
A cold clear gel fills the gaps

in memory with numbness.
I don’t know where I was. I

don’t know, don’t want to know. I
don’t want to know where I was.

Like You

Long thin fingers fly and float
over guitar strings, drum
skins, keyboards. They pluck

and press, push and rest,
painting stories with sound
and sleep. There is a rumble,

a murmur-mumble. There’s
a strum, a thrum, a
rock beat, a bop. There
is a cascade of notes,

a steady tone, an open
chord. There is a whir of
wheels, a bounce of balls,

a blast, a blare (there),
a burst never curst, roar
of jets, a roar, a roaring,

a flare, where the hollow
of the past curves ’round
silence. Mute answers
to questions never asked.

Everything I say is, was.
Everything. It’s all in
round numbers. The date

you began. The date
you weren’t. Ages, years, gifts.
“I feel moved,” you began, then

spun on wheels whirling like
laughter, curved like smiles,
round as eyes. It was
a piece of everything.

In memoriam, Carl A. Larkins, 1948-2018

Leaflet

i. Create

Stalwart and sturdy, the tree’s trunk
is luminous in the late light,
standing before and against dark.
Its roots are burrowed deep into
the valley between the green hills

and dry, hidden, invisible.
The leaves cluster tightly, cling close
together, wondrous and wary.
The dry and the dark creep close, but
the leaves are not ready to fall.

ii. Redeem

Even broken, even shredded,
wounds can be woven into one,
something new, a form to be found.
This is the shape that suffering
takes and makes and shows
                                               as it heals.

iii. Sustain

So many. So many. We are
not alone. We are together.
We are a forest in autumn,
full of ripe fruit, bright fruit, bright words
to carve the light, the light that carves

us. We are sharp, crisp with edges,
with wounds. We are soft, moist and warm
as if coming out of ovens,
out of caverns, weak with hunger,
fading, yes, but first, branches blaze.

Leftovers

Scrape the leftovers into a pan on the stove,
whatever was chilled in the fridge, crammed in cupboards,
canned or covered, not quite fresh but only newly

expired. Things others would throw away, broken tools,
laws, a person telling the right story at just
the wrong time. Call this truth. A bit of fajitas

with peppers and onion from the birthday party
two weeks back, a can of too spicy tomatoes,
the last can of sweet corn, yesterday’s rice still there

(forgotten in a pan on the stove overnight,
but only barely starting to turn sweet). This works.
Cook it all again, hot, really hot, and simmer

long enough to kill off the early signs of rot.
I was raised to save what’s still useful, and so, here,
we are not throwing anything out, not tonight.

Black Birthday

When life is too black to play the hap-hap-happy
jester, it’s tilt-your-fedora time. Where’s Hyde Park,
where’s “la Rue Mouffetard”? Time to lounge under lamplight
or a fan, at least, in this solemn sweatbox town,
sin city, hidden city, dark city. What kind
of city is it? The kind where “They say it’s your
birthday” gets bellowed out on Facebook, and Facebook
denizens bellow back (not at all concerned with
the shadow behind the curtain, the sooty shoes
poking out from under the bed). It’s never time,
never the right time. The beat bumps, heart pumps. Beatles
scream, “We’re gonna have a good time!” but the screaming
isn’t at all convincing. There’s a sweetheart there,
somewhere, whispering, “Well, Happy Birthday to you.”