Poems

Poems from Journals

“Earth ” from Verse Daily

“Still Life with Glasses and Tobacco ” in Umbrella

“The Sanatorium at St. Paul de-Mausole ” in The Big Ugly Review

“The Twentieth Century ” and “Sleeping Beauty ” in ThePedestalMagazine.com

Poems from Western Motel

Salmon Run

Town Diner

Consolation

Excerpts from Gas Stations, Drive-Ins, the Bright Motels

What Distance Brings

Western Motel

Salmon Run

It is always life or death—Chinook, Coho, Sockeye 
inching, first stair-step up the ladder, and the woman sits 
	and clicks each one past the underwater glass window— 
		salmon thrum, salmon clobber, singular, 

desperate by ones, by twos, salmon sling themselves, fling 
	themselves, fall back by fives, by tens. In this way, they meter out 
		life’s dry measure—ghosts lost in the spillway, 
			sucked into the turbines, shredded by the intake

 grates by twenty, by one hundred, roiled downriver in the tailrace 
	by one thousand, diminished, three thousand and five, three thousand 
		and four, diminishing, three thousand and three 
			savaged mad with singing.

Town Diner

Refuge of the Dream—Gulden’s
spicy brown on Hebrew National,
honey bear, bottle of Tabasco,

cartel of napkins, dispensed white
from steely towers, and the grill:
the short-order cook in his blue baseball cap

is humming hard work’s Anthem.
One practical flick of the wrist
flips a pancake wide as a prairie.

Waitresses clatter plentiful platters—
black angus, tabouli and tofu, tongol tuna,
polyglot Reubens and Rachels, Cobb salad,

democratic potpies. All day
breakfast rides, like a good poem,
Robert Frost says, on its own melting,

and all the yolks are sunny side. Deep in our duct-
taped booth, we are sated, flutter
greenbacks from our wallets, plenty of change. 

Consolation

And dead fish eyes set in silver 
bezels, ringed and pouched and crumpled. 
And the sun that made those eyes glisten, 

or lit them from within. Smaller 
than my thumb, knife-thin and rubbery. 
No, not rubbery, exactly, but not yet stiff, 

either, and still sweet-smelling. The skin, 
immaculately foiled with cross-hatched 
lines that scrolled all up and down. 

And the mouth, two bronze shutters, 
that tail, a gossamer, a ghost, a ship, 
though all day I had been trying to renounce 

metaphor. And wondered if Death 
will make me beautiful, and hated 
Death more for that irony—not to see 

anything at all! And so my consolation 
was less than I’d hoped for—beauty 
and death held together in my palm.

  

Excerpt from Gas Stations, Drive-Ins, the Bright Motels

 
i.
Daffodils that sang of yellow, 
saw only yellow, awoke 

from the yellow other side. 
Clouds clattered downward, 

upward into vanished air. 
I was a child, wobbling 

the wet cement on my bike. 
Already good 

at cutting corners, how could I
not ride out this far?


ii.		
Nothing has happened yet—
so I scratch a piece 

of linoleum kitchen counter 
with a paper clip to see 

whether or not I’m sorry. Daddy 
comes home. Mommy tells him 

to spank me. He has never 
spanked me. His voice rises, 

then dies. Maybe he won’t. 
My life is a yellow box 

too short for pencils. When 
I play, I play alone: separate 

into families my trading cards—
horses from flowers from birds.

I let my yo-yo sleep 
on the end of the string, cut out

a new pink dress with sparkles 
for my Wendy doll, take off 

the plain paper dress she wears 
around the house, press onto her 

the tabs of her gown, wind up
the ballerina in the music box, 

make her spin on one thin toe. 

What Distance Brings

Who knows why desire grows 
		in its own shadow? We see

a distant lighthouse punctuating 
			that sandy spit, 

the sky swollen, rinsed in haze, swarming 
	like a herd of stallions— 

		we like to say that—
			a herd of stallions—

and when we get there, the lighthouse
	is a stack of white-chipped brick. 

Don’t all clouds obscure something
		we thought we wanted? It’s distance 

creates desire, and the lighthouse 
	better far away. We want the singing—

gleam and shine, gleam and shine,
		which leaps from our hands, or is

too terrible. We want a frame 
			to contain the vastness. 

		We want a Hopper postcard 
	to hang on a wall. We want 

to hold the sun but not
	its burning, or we want to burn.

Western Motel

Have I been sitting here for hours,

straight-backed on the bolstered bed,
alone among the molten elements,

sand ground down to its hardest part?

Hours jut and leer like a car’s
chrome mouth. One last flare

of gold, and the hills gather into loaves.

To be the one. To be the only one,
my wrist shapely and disconsolate.

My fingers grip the bedrail hard.

I console myself with light detached
from the empty wall. If I let my hair

go wild, will shadows spill

their liquid spines, and break?
Everything is right

beyond my vision—prologue,

denouement, the ringing of the bells
after the bells have rung.

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