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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.