It is true. I hated my father’s
reptilian toenails, thick,
ridged, battered, as if remnants
Of an armor plating that had failed
To protect him from the world,
And below that barreled belly,
those thin measled shins,
Spotted with their mysterious
Purple bruises, and his deep snoring
As annoying as the buzzing of a large fly
trapped in a tight room
That was my childhood
Recurring nightmare. I still remember
The day I looked down at him
Seeing for the first time
A small man.
It is true. I hated my father’s
Babies, ice cream cones, umbrellas, cell phones, walking sticks,
Groceries, the newspaper, a fresh pizza, flowers for the one you love,
Car keys, a purse, pen and paper, a snack, reading glasses,
A book, two books, a Bible, a pair of gloves, lip balm, a lipstick,
Bicycle helmet, a hairbrush, gum and breath mints, a hand mirror,
Earbuds and a pocket watch, a penknife, nail clippers,
Camera, screwdriver, hammer and pliers, a wrench,
Flip-flops and a towel, a folding chair, a handkerchief,
Which is a very strange word when you look at it,
A Leatherman, another strange word, but we got used to it
I am lying, arms helpless at my side and sunk into the tiny gravity wells
Formed by ribs and hip bones, framed in this comfortable chair.
It’s only a nap, in a chair that is not my mother, its arms not my mother’s arms,
Yet I sense that I am upheld by love, and a poem runs through my sleepy thoughts.
I am aware of my hands cupped without care or purpose, at full useless repose,
And I think of marble, of a sculpted body eternally at rest, perhaps the Christ
Released from the agony of crucifixion, the artist carving his ahistorical palm
Wounds like lovers’ openings in a waiting corpse, tender lips traced through the Shadows of holy
Even the universe was young once
but though it was small
its events were immense
and shaped the course of all that followed
the matter inside us
the starlight around us
No memories remain of that formative time
but its afterglow is everywhere
faint but unmistakable —
three degrees in the background
pervading our world
whether we see it or not
Rage is so respectable. Her top hat’s
made of smoking coals. She strides
the streets and kicks small sheep.
She knits up snarls on telephone poles.
She breathes in daisies, snorts
out ash. Her house is made of corners,
boned with whale. She turns on you
so quickly that she tops the sport Whiplash.
She combs her hair with matches
so the sparks light funeral pyres. Her invitation list
is stuffed with Holocaust deniers.
Her snack’s a cat. The dump’s her park.
Last night the sky was a child
coughing into a blanket, drawing
itself from a pale aurora jabbed
with another storm on the sun,
as if it’s got a circle of old friends
jumping tombstones. There might
have been a tribe of younger stars
dropping empty green rose-stems
through our curtains. Except last
night the child slipped its ghost
and stretched the sunrise against
the river trees.
The cowbird cares only for her own
propagation. Nest-stealer, child-trader.
A clutch of brown-spotted eggs
sheltered elsewhere. The cowbird
merely uses what others have created.
Others raise her children.
Others feed her young.
If her child stabs a fragile fledging
from the colonized species
with a beak that hungers for more,
this is no injustice. The cowbird is not evil.
Survival is a promise of life, not a tragedy
How did this happen?
Did the poet really say she hates commas –
on a lake on a wind-free day or
stepping stones so even your foot
takes for granted a perfect landing
until your ankle turns a way
it was never meant to
and you must wait by the lake
to watch water rinse pebbles
We hover low over the river. His eyes are shining,
wildfire breath coming in gasps. Wildebeests
stampede through the tall grass below us and I pray
to God everything works itself out, one way or another.
His hands are rough like mine and my father’s
before us. He’s fast undoing the knots and then
a dead weight falls away. When I look back
down, all I see are ripples across the surface
of the dark water, the disappearing backs of crocodiles.
after you cut
down the dead
the field yawns
and gives for the first
time in twenty years
of red beyond the shuddering
metal and wood teeth
the remains of man’s work
no life except
a gray body
shell of hollow skin