because while some truths lend themselves to equations, others are best described in verse

self

why i write poetry

canal, drained

 

(because)

there are too many pine-sown miles
down sixty-four east between here
and the coast,
not enough syllables
in a night.

because the lightning flash is silent

and the cobblestones too loud,
chattering away our past
over slip-slick mouths.

because they pull
fewer bodies
from the dark of this water
than one might think

and our image
is a birdcage that goes
blood-deep,
is reduced to matchsticks
and catches flame,
sinks again.

the lightning, as i have said,
is silent.

because some suns
were born broken
and some days
destined to break and
once not many ago
i found an ant
in the sugar jar, drowning.

because (i
am not worth loving, sad, though)
some afternoons
there is a july morning
with open windows
and no thunder but
tucked in the space
where it should be
stands a poem.


untitled

i think i am in love
with little plastic needles, sterile
blues, the arrogance
of early a.m. overhead
lighting; size 6 latex
gloves that know
the thrill of a one-
handed knot
in 2-0 silk, over
and under
and over again;
back pockets
stuffed with blunt scissors &
stethoscope & note-
cards that read
like a map through
heartache:

the femoral nerve
courses laterally
to its artery as it passes
the triangle of Scarpa.
blood enters the liver
at 1500cc a minute,
mostly through the portal
vein, whose pressure
should not rise more than
5 millimeters of mercury
above the pressure
of other veins. neurogenic
claudication causes
pain on spinal flexion,
comes from central
locomotor stenosis.

other things too i
knew, that i would have
learned harder
had i thought they
could save you…

some nights
i miss those mornings,
sunless & taped
into narrow tubing
with adhesive
that still pulls,
even now.


words taken from the last line of a samurai creed

Ryoan-ji, the Temple of the Peaceful Dragon, is known for its Zen gardens. Kinkaku-ji, The Golden Pavilion,
was burned in 1950 by a Buddhist priest who had been seduced by its beauty; a replica stands today. Ginkaku-ji,
the Silver Pavilion, stands at the end of Tetsugaku no Michi, the Philosopher’s Path.

in the swirl of shinto-smoke
that reminds me of nothing

so much as my dead mother,
the absence of myself

is a sword undulled by blood or lust
and too bright for eyes

that have not known tears;
like coins thrust for luck

or safe passage; like
dappled morning on Ryoan-ji pond

where cranes stalk salvation
beside the unanswered prayers

of lost fingertips;
like broken glass

on asphalt in a hot Kyoto night;
Kinkaku burning in the sun;

Ginkaku-ji at journey’s end.


they told me this was a poem

the notebook i burned that day i learned hate:
i wish i had those words again.

the one long coat i’ll never wear

and the books i’ll never sell, that sit damply expiring
in the back of the closet beside this box
(since they don’t all fit).

the nights you spend alone, every
one folded tight like an unused rain slicker.

my mother’s wedding ring.

my father’s Saint Christopher, the one
he wore for years after they told his sixteen-year-old self
he had a fourteen-percent-chance.

the Saint Jude i lit for the ones who didn’t, their names
melded to the bottom now.

all the poems i write but that no-one can see, and this one,
tucked underneath.

that picture frame she threw at me, before she could throw it:
those hours picking glass shards from skin i will
never get back.


epitaph for the soulless

there are

wide-eyed whiskey
truths that trace
velocities, backward. this

was never about you,
the unfrozen intensity
of a moment stretched

into a night, a pair
of nights, sub-
aqueous drownings

in a river that knows too
many mornings,
inconstancy of under-

current winter
horizons & jagged
edges below the smooth

dark of summer waters;; an
itch inside my skin i
bury deeper with each

rasping handful of you
and that the sunlight won’t re-
wind; this,

this was never about you ex-
cept that it is.


molting

barefoot in the snow, pre-sun. icewater-drawn dawn baths & midnight
velvet across a slightly shattered mirror. dreamcatching by hand. from
a hammock by the water, she fig-picks the yellow twilights out of late
August, pulls laughter out of the lake with old cane poles. trawling
for blackberry-stained summer-skins, bartering breadcrumbs for bor-
rowed affection. a peeling front porch in grey reflects moonset on nights
as transparent as mother’s white nightgown (like the one i fished from
the rag box to cloak the scarlet & the steam, that first time). like head-
lights through dark bedroom windows. like January frost on fever.


She

 

wears
eternity tattooed
on her wrists
to hide the fractalled
mysteries of vein
and luminous
fragility, tracts
of yesterdays
that slide
beneath
tomorrow’s surfaces
like subway tunnels.

She knows
secrets:

when to
dance, where
to run,
how to
fly but
she
won’t tell,
ever;
keeps her smile
wrapped up tight
in shadow and
in truth

she
looks best illumined
by rooftop neons,
mirrorless and
deepening;
her eyes
change color
in the sun
about to
set,
the heart
about
to jump.


(she spends) April’s Tuesdays

Massaging quotidian
heartaches and
pouring
poison
down the kitchen sink,
clipping coupons from Nike’s wings
while lip-synching to gypsy notes
caught on the tails
of fast-moving clouds and
sipping salted spring
sunshine
left behind in
other languages.
Drawing flowers
from rusted faucet drips
on smudged
granite dreams,
breathing deep
of coffee steam
and bleach while
ironing out
the imperfections
of pore and
past. Studying up
on forgetting.
Practicing
for her
prime time
debut. Playing
barefoot and
dancing naked
and whispering
loudly the
secrets
no one wants
to hear and maybe
even
writing a
poem.


penitent

he walks backward
down a philosopher’s path
racing threat of rain
with the unmeasured cadence
of his breath, burying
regret deep
with each unhurried
footfall, denying every silvered
drop
the treachery tattooed
on his soul.
You can read about the author’s own journey on the literal Philosopher’s Path here:)


ebb and flow


it was a
quiet torture.
sudden dyings
and small footsteps in
quick-drying sand;
soughing behind windows;
pestilential dreamings:
if one were to cry
out, none would
answer, but

if anyone should ask,
i left in search of a muse
to make even my despair
sing; i
don’t know when i’ll be
back.


difference of opinion

it’s been said
in more languages than i
can speak fluidly
that i am not quite…
normal
that i drown
in the things
others drink to
forget about
but if
they had seen
unstigmatized the light
in these eyes they
might think differently if
they had read the
hurt between my lines i
wouldn’t have had to
spell it out
in broken glass if
they had listened
when i said i
think i’m dying there’d
have been no need
to call the paramedics but
me i don’t think
feeling is a thing
to be floodwalled
i
think “they”
is just an ugly
numb.


hope

maybe

when this still-beating thing
underneath my ribcage grows
roots enough to grab
onto something worth
grabbing; when those roots
turn tough enough to send
their snaking fibers back
up into its sagging walls; when
those slips of fiber become
ropes to bind and hold and
hang, then,
maybe,
a single bubble squeezed
from the microscopic cracks
between serum and soul will rise free
and from the depths of this chest
go whistling through windpipes and
saliva to form a solitary
syllable on tongue-whet lips:

……..



dangerous

i have this habit
of uncomfortable truths,
wear it over my day clothes
with a crown of cactus blooms so
as with the desert or a novice no
one can get close
enough to discover
the possibility of my
beauty without
risk of heat
stroke or eternal
damnation.


solitary, confinement

gate guardian, imprisoned

……

……

…….

…….

…….

……

……

…..

…….

…..

what color is your soul
when shadow ceases to exist?

who are you
locked in at night
behind the darkness
of your eyes?

are you even human?
every dignity gone,

all your dreams naked,
autumn branches
scratching at a bolted window.

the last question
they will ask you is

“If we have to use restraints,
should we call your family?”

last primeval answering cry from
deep in the forge-fires of
your heart, knowing:

there’s no one
you would want to tell.


unapologetic

wild horses

…..

…..

…..

…..

…..

…..

…..

this is weregild for a crime never acknowledged, for
the piece of me stolen but never reported missing,
a momentary antidote threaded through
the pulse of the year’s dying
to feed feeling back into numbed fingers and
assuage the inquiet in the hollow place
just to the right of where my heart beats,
where if you put your ear close enough you
can still hear the roar and swell of the ocean,
hungry.  each wave as it crashes devastating
over me i will take and
take, losing shoreline with each
breath, hoping to find in the rush of a moment or
a brush of skin something
akin to going home.


alone

joshua tree, mojave desert

i sit inside abandoned silence,
wonder
how many more
tears can possibly fall
before my body
exhausts itself
of moisture,
my eyes, my skin,
my veins
dry up
and my heart
turn to husk,
a clenched fist made from
four caverns of stone
?


verse, unhallowed

lanterns in nara

….

….

….

….

….

….

….

….

photograph courtesy H. Del Negro, edited by jsl.

i forgot
how to write
anything
but heartbreak,
emptiness
and the hollow
carved into souls
who dared be
lit
from the inside.


naked

looking over the potomac

….

….

….

….

….

….

….

….

….

albatross’d shadows
wing their way across
the spongy caverns of my
heartbeat, their darkness
keening into the cup
of my palm and slowing
my hand, swallowing
piecemeal my
spirit until
there is nothing
left of me but
fear.


Evolution

offerings at a shinto shrine behind starbucks in downtown kyoto

….

….

….

….

….

….

….

…..

I’m different now.
I wear shoes and don’t walk
in the woods anymore.
My world is smaller
and my hair is redder
and i forget how
to sing.
I look down a lot.
Cement-colored thoughts
prick the backs
of my arms, sending
goosebumps
up into an unconsciousness
i thought i’d left behind
years ago.
I miss my mother.
Sometimes i don’t
remember how to breathe.
There’s a hollow
just above heart-center
whose sternal contours i can
trace with a finger and
in the darkness sometimes
knock gently, listening
for sounds of a soul.


perfection

nara deer

his crests are almost golden
in the sodden heat that folds
over these valleys like a heavy cream,
his eyes so
liquid they seem to pour
out of the angles of his face
as he looks at you,
contemplative.
he moves as if
he hadn’t a single care, as if
the troubles that brush
against him through your hands,
the hands of hundreds,
soak into the matte of his skin
just enough
to be reflected in the steadiness
of his gaze,
dripping down strength through
the stones to your feet:
they do not linger.


zen

watching the dawn
drag itself up out of this
utter east from my
hotel window, i
open my eyes to
the truth that though
my skin and soul are
across the world
from the ring of barbed wire
strangling the hollow
inside my chest,
my demons are
no farther
away.


the state of things, monday june 15, 2009

writing bloodless words just
to read the hieroglyphs hidden
in the blank spaces they leave,
ducking my eyes whenever anyone
asks how i’m doing.

would kill for six hours’ sleep,
craving oblivion like some people
crave cigarettes, wishing
i could unfilter the thoughts
that churn like a steel mill:
that i

am pale and weak
and tired of crying,
eyes given up on their color and
their question; blindly accepting

the possibility i
lost my soul some weeks ago.


fragile

she walks with her eyes closed,
heels skating over an eggshell happiness
played up by a clear sun,
heart waiting to crack into a thousand
tiny pieces: of vessel, betrayal, muscle,
blood; to crash through roadblocks and
withdrawal and the thin layer of cloud
separating salve from salvage,
this moment from the next.


portrait in monochrome

statuehalf-frozen from
not ever having been loved
enough, soothing oiled
condolences over cracks deep in
my skin from things that never
happened years ago i
am chained to insecurity like a leashed wolf,
putting up storefronts every day for the patina
of seeing the thing through, the morsel
of salt and stardust i
pinch myself with
on the days i can get up
and look in the mirror.


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