Category Archives: SelectedPoems

Intaglio

You left side reminded me of Jesus where the centurion speared him
And skin sores like a field of feral poppies
I am as lonely as treated water. Letting go or hanging on
Two sides of the same stupid park statue

The hospital road colonized by lumpy strained soup buildings
Hallway smell of disinfectant like your smarmy doctor I couldn’t stand
The baying from husks of old men; you insisted on dying there
I think we were all a bit relieved though I am ashamed to say it

Like skiing off a cliff edge leaving tracks
on the window skin colliding with the bed and the sound
of water running in the linoleum tile bathroom
Pillows with old car badges pinned on them

A bedpan propped against a footboard
Curtain strained light around the head and hands
The moon sliding between your Navajo black pottery
like a hubcap rolling off a car and down the embankment

Begonia

I went out to water the hanging begonia next to the driveway
I held the hose up for a second and a sparrow darted
away to the maple tree, scolding me. Under the leaves, in a careful
nest of sticks buried in the dirt, I found two eggs the length of one joint
on my little finger, each the color of sky and muddy clay

I stopped watering and checked on them every few days
One morning a brown lump stirred, looked up and snapped open its mouth
like a tiny coin purse. Two days later, two listless lumps with bristle feathers
sticking out. Maybe Mom told them sleep was the best to way to wait for her

The begonia seemed to be take this in stride
Its waxy-ribbed dark green leaves
and coral colored flowers drooped a bit
but they still provided cover for the chicks

Now I’ve become a novitiate of What Comes Next
I hope to be ordained someday but I am actually okay
with staying in the rectory making a sandwich and drinking
iced coffee while the neighbors run their leaf blowers
and Mama bird hunts for bugs in the evening light on Juarez Street

This morning I looked and the nest is empty. I stuck my finger
into the soft pocket and was rewarded with a smear of nutty
smelling baby swallow poop. The Buddhist app on my phone
reminds me with wonderful quotes to follow the Tibetan tradition
of contemplating mortality five times a day. Here is this
morning’s quote:

The graves are full of ruined bones, of speechless death rattles
— Pablo Neruda

Pirate Sloth

I
The sun is a farm truck that riots the bean rows, curating and collecting on the debts of stillness incurred by dreaming.

II
I am learning radical slowness, like the sloth that carries algae and bugs in his fur to make him smell like a tree. He moves so slowly that predators do not notice him. I find the bark of life is good holding ground for my preternatural anchor.

III
In what story book are we imagined? And what dark salt bed, succombed to what inland sea, holds us here transfixed like Lot’s wife?

Boxing Coach

Drop your hips when you punch
and when you block. In close
don’t forget the upper cut

Be quick as a heart attack
but don’t show all at once
Like a deadman’s hill on a back road
you don’t see until you are right up on it

I bet Jesus had an uppercut
Way he threw them money changers out the temple
You need something to back that up
Remember, drop your hips

Writing Letters

After five years of working with Amnesty International writing
letters to foreign leaders asking for the release of political prisoners,
I finally got a response. It is from a general in Uruguay.
Reading the letter, I can see the general in his wood paneled office suite
In the old section of Montevideo. The balcony opens to the Isla de Flores.
His crisp dress shirt is open at the collar. It is the season of llamadas,
and the riotous sound of a neighborhood Candombe band drifts up through the open balcony doors.
He sits at his desk in front of a pile of papers. At his elbow,
A whisky decanter of Laphroaig scotch rests on a silver tray.
He is feeling generous, the music has made him so.
He picks a letter at random from the pile and decides to answer it.
He is not a bad man. Why do so many strangers around the world think otherwise?

It is dark in his office, but the balcony is sunny. He walks to the railing and looks down.
A street vendor is selling melons. She is striking in her flower print dress
As she carefully arranges her wares for the morning. She reminds him
Of his daughter, Francesca, away at college in Boston. She wants to be a journalist!
What puts such ideas in a young woman’s head? Does she listen to the lies
In the streets about the mistreatment of Tupamaros dissidents?
And what is a lie anyway except a truth that is stillborn and must be buried
To make way for the future. The woman in the street looks up at him and looks away.
He walks back to his desk, puts down his drink and picks up my letter.
Dear Mr. Brandis, he writes. Thank you for your concern about senor Mujica.
We are proud of our people. We treat everyone fairly.

Facing In

The fish in the closet
are wandering

Diamonds have become used to
force feeding

No wonder the stadiums
are turning inside out

I wish to learn how to swallow
this morning blindness

Waitress

Almost out of gas
But I had enough to make it to Lake Charles
Carrying everything I own that could fit in my car
Driving like a tweeker
Even though I wanted to slow down
Finding a rest stop only made things worse
Given that I was nearly as empty as my tank
Hold on a little longer, I thought
Ignore the possibility that she was already gone

Just outside of Slidell, I stopped for coffee
Kindred is kin to me is what Dad used to say
Less than something is better than nothing
My waitress plunked down a menu
Nothing but rain all week, what’re you havin’ honey?

Only what I can’t have, I said
Perhaps you have something that makes you strong
Quick, like a gust of wind on a railroad siding
Reaction time is everything when you are meeting a lover again
Sure as you’re born, and as soon as you know
Timing is everything, she said

Underwater as I am, I don’t know if it would help though
Vines and more vines, all around my life, my brain
Where are you heading, she asked
X-ray me and find out, I smiled
You know, my x-ray is broke, but I think
   you might best turn around, she said with quiet eyes
Zero chance of good weather where you’re goin’