Canyons

When I was young I used to drive
with no companion or destination in mind.

Cutting through heavy valley heat on the 101
then curving toward the coast through Topanga Canyon
1969, on an unmarked road by a no trespassing sign,
parked between the boulders, eucalyptus and
sage with four-track off and eyes closed
I’m seventeen and waiting for a
transformation—that wasn’t coming that
afternoon.
Or any time soon.

For every hasty engagement
there was a Benedict Canyon.
For every cleaving together
there was geography.

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Things You Can Do

In a room
with no books,
no paintings
on the walls,

with a click
you can look
over the shoulder
of Marc Chagall.

With his brush,
you can glide,
fly a blue horse
through a mackerel sky,

dance over the yard
in the garb of a bride,
or carry her
supine over Paris.

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Let It Go, Buddha

Let it go, Buddha
keeps saying, still so attached
to detachment that veins

I imagine at his temples
are throbbing like the chanting
of ancestors on a CD

I bought cheap for $7.97.
For once again I’ve had
the wrong idea, Calvitholicism

an indissoluble oil slick floating
on Buddha’s smooth sea
of equanimity.

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February Full Moon

I watch the full moon struggle up the redwood
branch by branch and sympathize. So changeable,
tonight a little mirror on the dark, next week
a sliver of lozenge disappearing in the stars.

A wounded being, not a self-starter,
as the astrophysicists might put it,
just a cold misshapen rock made alluring
by a dose of sunlight and the silent longing
of millions across history, wanting to be—
even three days a month––illumined,
silvering the silent forests, meditating
on the darkened lakes of the Italian Alps,
caressing the high slopes of the Rockies

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The Hard Way

You never know people
till they die
you gingerly page
through their privacy

Those fresh, fateful photos:
mothers in mauve miniskirts,
fathers frying hash browns, wearing floppy hats

After there is nothing at stake,
you find out all that you could have given

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Twig

Twig,
you are a small thing—
a slight appendage to the astonishments of the universe.
But to me
your slender, silent testimony,
your sheltered winter sap
sticky with promise, your fullness:
they seduce me.
I want to share
your slow, secluded breathing,
breath in my breath;
to search, to caress
your leaf scars,
your lenticels, your shy buds

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Piano Lessons

            That spring, I was ready to drop piano lessons. I wanted free school day afternoons. I wanted to be driven far out of town in beat-up jalopies at high speeds. Put on greasy lipstick dark as bitter chocolate so that some boy would think I was at least fifteen. I wanted to dangle a lit cigarette and drink gin and gingers in roadside dives, like in the movies. I wanted the boy behind the wheel to say, “Hey, you’re cool and sassy for a girl.”

            My mother didn’t fancy my growing up so fast. She said, “Give it one more summer, honey.” Meaning the piano.

            I crumbled. “Okay, but that’s it.”

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Stories and tea

and the casket cream white,
done off-white with pink
roses, and her face
in the casket
off-white
with pink lips.
one of those griefs

where the people are quiet,
except for her sister,
once, sobbed like a saw
through the service,
pulling lumber to pieces,
sending birds out of trees,
knocking down toilet seats
in all nearby houses.

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Crosses

Jesus lay between my breasts on my 18ct cross. My future husband fell in love with Jesus before he fell in love with me, but I married him, anyway.

I always wanted to marry a man like my father. Someone who would protect me when screen doors unhinged from their wooden frame and flew across our farm. A man who ran toward flames in January and February and returned home with singed hair and face covered in soot. A man who sat still, silent, letting my voice take center stage when I needed to be heard.

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Only This, Just In

I once positioned my outpost on earth –
at the time, within earshot of owls
and a lake’s short waves –
to be the center of all communication
beaming in from everywhere, out
to all the warped, rounded corners
of this universe. I was hoping
to fool that alien sense
I imagined as native to many,
that I was actually practically cut off
from the prime gist of being alive.

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