To Settle the Night

Sky streaks lavender and orange to lowering blue.
Night chill rises, flicking at pants legs, leaf piles,
dampens sidewalk to footstep skate.
Beyond the greasy click of a security gate,
last birds circle to settle on a sleeping roost,
scavengers slink the hedge lines,
eroded wastes of tree root, fence rot.
Phone-nervous, the late-working husband,
lover late with wine and Chinese
hustles towards an unsettled greeting.

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Ode to John Ashbery

One day you finally knew
what you’d been put there to do,
and did it
while the loud voices rang louder
and tugged at your sleeve,
each cry a death cry, a flashing red sign.
But you knew.
You knew what you had to do,
though the thread unwound round you
leaving you nakeder and nakeder,
its melancholy terrible.
Then the queerest thing happened.
Being almost already too late, and too dark,
the moon threw down
a bird, a
shining wild raven and in its mouth,
a flower of life.
The stars burned in its brilliance,
at first saw themselves shyly
then danced and shone round to
find themselves extraordinary.

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A Drink to End the World

The map of the world has changed
since I photographed you;
faded in its frame,
ink lighter with the seasons.
No Siam, no Burma,
one Vietnam.

Across the room
your cheekbones are sharper,
hair shorter, bright blonde as
your lips and nails are red.
Aroma from a whiskey tumbler reveals
polite wine lost to single malt.
Surgical, your laugh slices the room,
precise as heels across an Aztec tile floor.
You step out where I stand
to smoke, to stare at the waxing moon.

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What Crows Say About Black

What else is black?

A dragonfly frequenting backyards,
hunting metallically.
Flat wings, smear soot thin.

A rural road’s moonless night
where tree branches take
the passer-by pulse—they rustle

the scrape history lammed
onto bark thinly thinly
as dragonfly wings and first time

hearing white tail bucks stamp
and hiss in the pitch dark I tumble
into the ditch prostrate like a penitent.

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Immemorial

That greedy wheedler the aspen 
shakes its golden leaves. In earth,
its shoots snatch another foot.

And a young woman suddenly died, 
quietly, from a quiet well-loved life.
No cause is known. Her eyes 
that flicked like lizards closed.

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Wildling

Comfortable in the cold,
mist tendrils rising
across morning garden,
dew-dampened boots
dry in the rising wind.
Cracking this year’s journal,
I release pleasure to the river.
Behind a dome of December clouds,
the sun struggles.

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So You Know Who You Are

Never a moment of still air. Memories
a rib-crack and a hard hard way to breathe.

In the living room a dream like an infection
hid beneath the couch covers. I kept my eyes closed

tight. What happens when a past looms against endless sky
spilling cyclones and debris. Whimpers, strings

of saliva, the space between his teeth, her doggy
long tongue. I kept my eyes closed. Displaced wind,

outside squeezing through the crack beneath
a door. What happens when history gasps.

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the still water that runs deep

somewhere on the coastline of my memory, two girls and a slick canoe
glide across a blue puddle, their opposite oars dipping in tandem.

one girl stands and stumbles like a wave overcome,
while the other sits and stares at their watery window.

beneath the girls, liquid glass and undersea sidewalk.
beyond them, a fish’s bones settled at the brink

of a sandbar’s black out. the girls are only canoeing because
the wave-like one is scared of fish, and feels their lips against her feet

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Rocket Man

I said my goodbyes, turned back to the shore, stopped trying to find you. It took me awhile, took me a few more pink striped skies, a few more mountains, a few more years. But I found my way, wrested my skin from yours, saved myself from going under. I talk to you still, the way we always talked, close and deep without platitudes or pretense. You know I have forgiven you for all the ways you almost took me with you. You didn’t mean to, never meant for me to get swept into your undertow. You tried to stop it but I was desperate for a reason to fade away.

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dialing down rage

in the shrink’s waiting room, in a big comfy chair, 
white noise machine cranked up full blast with 
new age flutes floating out of Bose speakers 
strategically placed to get wired up guys like
 
me calmed down, chilled out before entering 
the sacred temple of mental and spiritual 
restoration. they need me a bit numb before
beginning the session, actually eased off the 

ledge of discontent upon which I’m generally 
perched. And I gotta say, the waiting room
ambience generally does the trick

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