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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?

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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.

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.

Forbidden Sonnet, 1

“The server understood the request, but is refusing to fulfill it.” RFC2616.

Black rice has a certain reputation,
you know. Steam rises from it, light and hot,
and it is said to relieve frustration.
(I am speaking with words that slant and knot,
as one does when speaking of illicit
matters, so we can keep secrets hidden
while we reveal them, consent implicit
in the coded curves of meaning.) Women
do not ask for this food. To ask implies
hidden heat, intentions that can be judged
by others. Stigma lies in this dark prize
legend says emperors fed their beloved.
I laughed, but one taste, and that night my dreams
carried with them the heat of writhing steam.


English or Shakespearean sonnet form.

Ice Storm Sonnet

The whole countryside shivers and crackles
this dawn, phones lit with alerts & warnings:
Trees down. Power out here. And there. Grackles
ignore the empty buzz, the doves’ mourning,
the cardinal’s cheerful swoop through the gray skies.
Thin branches shiver, glitter literally.
Lichen glows fervently green under ice,
feverishly so, while the terminal
buds practically bleed with joy,
bright red stamens frozen in mid-burst,
as if a supervillain was annoyed,
but it’s probably climate change, which is worse,
somehow, because it’s our fault the buds fall,
wounded, and dusk’s late slow thaw fails to heal.

Written upon learning of the loss of Sam Hamill.


English or Shakespearean sonnet form.

Necromancy Sonnet

Start with the dead things, she says. The stink bugs
that hid under the floor boards and shriveled;
the spiders that starved blanketed in rugs
of their own soft webs. There is a brittle
delicacy in exoskeletons
prepared to shatter with a puff, the grace
of dry bones, the so tender elegance
of perfectly still lines in a limp face.
Perhaps it’s a little shrew tucked in
under the snow. Perhaps it’s a dark star
in a black sky lit only by the light
it released with its final gasp. We swim
in the dust of dead things, beautiful char,
abandoned pain, and emptiness of sight.