POEMS

Poems

Hindsight

 

It was the kind of night June was made for,

a night worth twice its weight in syrup, lemon balm air

like a soft damp cloth wrung & wrung

by capable hands.  It was a thick night you could eat

alive, a souped-up night of steam & ginger,

a night no one quite believed was real

except it was there & ripe for the picking,

cash crop of love under the butter moon.

 

The boys & girls slipped out of their skins,

took the dark lake like a sidelong glance,

parted the curtains of cedar wood as the firefly

meteor shower began.  One boy on the shore

cupped a bug in his hands.  It was cold light,

perfectly efficient.  He showed it to the girl

dripping oil & water, how the bulb kept pulsing

but gave no heat.  The night spread a rumor.

 

But the girl believed it.  Her heart was a peach

in a bowl of bones.  His heart was the stone

& he hunted for insects, spelling her name

in fire on the sand.  He said  look the moon’s

drawing water.  Meaning: forecast.  Meaning: rain

though she heard  you are the halo, the weather,

the circle of cirrus conjuring change.  Then the night

stepped out of its black chemise & lay its head

 

across their laps, the pale night shone

like a coin in a crack & they fell to their knees

to palm it.  Night of fingers, night of tips,

shameless night that would not sleep, pastille

night she put under her tongue & sucked the sugar

till sugar was spit.  Then he slipped it quickly

into his pocket & it balled up small, picked up

lint.  It swallowed its pride & turned to a pebble,

 

then a piece of gravel, then a speck of grit.

 

 (originally published in Puerto del Sol)

 

Divining

 

The big winters come in threes,

& so we are due.

 

Summer died last night. I was driving

 

fast down Cemetery Road—

 

my high-beams carved a white tunnel through the black,

swept the edge of the corn

with their x-ray fury, the corn

 

flashing by like a bamboo forest, so huge & leafy

I didn’t recognize it.

 

Home.  No porch light:

 

forty degrees & dropping fast.

 

The gardens were uncovered & the coyotes

whooped it up, the cat out hunting, the dog out cold

but trembling now & then, whining in her sleep—

 

what kind of dreams will bring a dog to weep?

 

I wanted to be the kind of woman

who always has a bag packed, a small bag

with underwear & potions

ready for the road at any moment.

 

I planned to follow my life

like a divining rod, & where it dipped

I’d stop for awhile.  Dig for water, drink.

 

How could I know that a stick would root me

 

here, at the crossroads of dust & corn,

here in the boreal forest of change, the winter

 

coming on like a freight train roaring,

pulling its rattling months of cold?

And me on the dark road, parallel to the tracks,

 

racing that engine to the river.

 

Wanting It

 

Wasn’t I beautiful, wasn’t I desperate,

didn’t I give a shit about world peace, inner peace,

only wanting it, wanting it, secret graffiti

 

spelled out in lip gloss on the locker-room wall?

 

The new underwire bit into my ribs, pushed

me up and I caught the mirror, wanted it, cocked a hip,

wanted it— front seat, back seat,

 

down on the floor, brag of bruises

blooming like plums on my neck, tender,

bad and legitimate.  I wanted

 

to ditch it, wanted to drive, alone

 

in the car for the first time, silence, such

concentration my hands tongued the wheel.  I could see

the brush-stroke of each yellow line, could feel

 

my tires crush pieces of gravel, and my ten toes

alive inside my shoes, firm and quick

on the pedals.  There was an orange

 

lodged underneath the clutch.  Squeeze it and shift,

squeeze it and there. Those boys

 

who juiced the halls with slouch

and threw their bodies around the field— they watched

when I punched it to second, third, burned my tracks

 

along the high school tar. They looked at me

as if I could kill them.  They wanted to kill me

back against a locker.  I could feel

 

my body jammed up on metal, my skin

in ridges where the grates dug in,

 

my skirt hiked up, my muscles like fish,

my third eye watching from the outside in.

 

I was some other girl.

I was anyone’s candy.