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My Pulse

My pulse

brushes its fingertips

against

cochlea and canal,

scattering

sand and aural glitter.

I listen

to my arrhythmia,

sliding

into sleep along its

drunken

stumbling. Sometimes, instead,

it slides

a thin-edged knife along

the line

of my jawbone. Sometimes

it pounds

like an ex-lover who

never

did listen, becoming

all I hear.

Sometimes my pulse just stops,

paused

like a dancer in mid-leap,

balanced

as if gravity

has lost

its grip. I open

my eyes

to see what happens next.

(untitled)

Words used to tumble

in my mouth like smooth stones.

Fractured, now I choke

on them, broken teeth,

cutting the soft scars

inside the pink cheeks

so they bleed again.

The dentist says nothing,

but sees better than

the priest the way faith

has fallen out of

my mouth, the way lips

and tongue crave new prayers

made of milk and honey

to cool the throbbing

of this silence, this

hollow that echoed

with voices like organs

and chimes, and tongues like

warriors. Are there words

to stitch up the cuts?

If I hold a pebble

against my gum, will it

put down roots, and bud?

On Edible Flowers

I was born of a flower that opened,
questioning, and found me, petalled with peals
of laughter, for the moment unbroken.
My daughter was born as slippery as eels
and blue as violets, ruddy with restraint.
I wonder why I hunger for colors
and blooming, adding rose water as faint
whispers of flavor to spice and butter,
orange blossoms gold in apricot syrup,
perfumed pansies with lemon in salads,
linden flowers for tea, nasturtium versus
caper buds, dandelion wine, garlic petals …
When I lost my first child, I picked fists of Scilla
siberica, so cold in my mouth, and swallowed.

Alleluia

When angels streak after a speeding ambulance
the wings look like ribbons trailing, tangling, whipping
in fierce winds shrouding cars. An utterance
of sorts, I can almost hear low voices singing
in the beats of their passing. Sometimes, afterwards,
I find their feathers in the street gutter, shining
and wet, slick to the touch, as if feathers are words
and wings are the stories they tell, paralleling
and layering word over word, story over
story, dreams over dreams. Scapulars blend colors
and details, blur or edge the mantle, and cover
the heartbeat. The covert shift eye and air — lovers
of veils, flight. Alulas are a prayer that hovers,
saying pause, wait; let flight lift up and recover.

Knees (Bodymap, 2)

The melting sun inserts a butter knife

into chill layered clouds, pries them apart,

spilling light into once subtle windows,

dropping globes of yellow to float on waves

and in isolated puddles. Insert

broken poem fragments into my knee joints.

“Strange adventure,” to the left, and again,

“Strange adventure,” to the right. Off to the

summerlands. Away to the ice. They used

to be twins, but life has beat them up in

different ways, and they wear their nobbled scars

distinctly. Is that why they ache? Swelling

with bruises and shivering with questions.

The hinge of words swings back and forth, creaking,

unable to decide what direction

they should take. My knees argue, unable

to agree on where we’re going. They want

to take a vote, but it’s just them, the two

of them. They aren’t listening to me, or

anyone else. How can I walk, half snow,

half heat? Freezing and melting, refreezing,

melting. My knee buckles, bending wrong. What

would it mean to bend right? Would it feel strange?

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.” Come along,

they whisper, with us.

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.