For DK, Who Doesn’t Think She is a Poet

Some of your work
gives me the poetry shivers.
Where can a mother and God go
to drink coffee among rockweed and plover?

I am fascinated to know earth
gets distracted by its own ruts.
And once, light was powdered and fell
in patterns birds later copied.

And a child’s ear is a riverbed
above the eave of her cheekbone.
And one can breathe in minnows!
I didn’t know, I didn’t know.

Eye Motes #2

1
After fifty feet, you are down to the smaller bones.

2
Rosemary and fir needles in an old clay pot on the deck.

3
Lotsa luck giving things away. Metallic tasting wounds.

4
Fluted window glass. Car tail lights going back and forth.

5
Dinner on the outer wall—someone’s tunic is on fire.

6
At the national art museum. Everything isn’t in there.

7
Thin people walking into you. Give them your hat.

8
The cracked face on a thousand year old bowl.

9
A Mardi Gras mask. Thumbs in a cast.

10
Cotton bolls on stalks in a brown vase.

11
Every time the wrong thing happens well.

12
They probably saw something and didn’t say anything.

13
The way you walk when go means not now.

14
This madness is like fleas.

15
A donkey slide. Know your betters.

Book Review: Soft Science by Franny Choi

I was prepared to hate it / well, hate is a strong word /
let’s just say give it wings and let it sail past the bridge
/ but it doesn’t suck / it doesn’t pretend to get on its knees
and make the rafters sing / it is a red owl on a bicycle with hungry eyes /

“Who isn’t bruised around the edges, peaches poured
into the truck bed, receipts faded to white?”

it sends out science mannikins to shout about being nervous in secret /
it collaborates with machines to make rain squalls / it argues for
a better kind of blindness / it warns others about dreaming in stairwells
and at crime scenes / it is a crime scene painted in butterscotch broth /

“The cop speaks and I call a plum into is his mouth
and it doesn’t shut him up.

The cop kneels in the grass below my friends, my friends
crowned with August and Salt. My marigold my wave.”

tendrils and tips and sprockets combine to give it firm plant awareness /
“cyborg means man made” I didn’t know / it is like new sounds added
to frost in the stubble by the road / in a Wyoming winter snow drifts
come and go like grainy herds of buffalo / this book is like those herds
mated with seigniorage — the profit made from the minting of coins /
ducats in the pillow / francs thrown into the Seine / everything costs
what you are willing to throw away / this book is completely free
in that sense / it is madly lyrical / and worth your time.

Note: this review is for the Rumpus Poetry Book Club. Soft Science
is forthcoming from Alice James books.

The Man Who Fished For Children

The girl’s body was stuck under a ledge at the bottom of a plunge pool where the river spun like some mad cyclone bent on boring to the center of the earth. His only tool a long grievous pole, his face set like he was born scowling, it took him a full day to get to her, tie the retrieval ropes and lever her out. The river, gorging on snow melt, fought him like he had no right to her body.

Quiet as cormorants, people stood on the rocks and watched. He brought her up, laid her on a sand bar and told everyone to leave. Later, at the parking lot, people tried to offer him money to say thank you. He said no and tied the pole to the side of his truck.

Tossing in sleep that night with a bone deep headache, he thought about the frozen knobs of her hands. He saw the outhouse at the Methodist church camp he attended when he was a kid. Putting his eye to the chink, a yolk of light coming out, then nothing.

Then his parent’s farm in Estacada. A Berkshire hog with bloodshot eyes standing in a field of stumps. Butchering day. Long skein of intestines. Head with its snout and hairy nostrils set aside for cheese. Steady drip of blood on the dirt. Dogs baying for scraps. Marshlights in the summer darkness.

Rivers of Oregon

Between the ribs of Oregon’s green and gristle
   rivers do the pulmonary work of short stories
The Rogue river once smashed my wooden
    drift boat into fist sized chunks
The North Umpqua river swirls around hip waders
   caressingly so
Where the sun breaks into pockets
   they land on the tree-lined Tillamook river
The Pudding river seems to have nowhere to go
   until flood season when it doesn’t have to choose
The Little Nestucca joins the Nestucca river
   on its short strut to the sea
Near Sarafin point the Clatskanie river
   picks up the rain from the forest
   and threads into to the Columbia
Near Sisters the Metolius river is where surgeons from Chicago
   come to fly fish in their two hundred dollar river glasses
In the Wallowa mountains the Minam and the Wenaha
   rivers are pristine as old scarecrows
Once I saw the upper Columbia river freeze
   I listened to its blocky grinding talk
   on my way to a funeral in Idaho
Steelhead sometimes come out of the Clackamas
   river like from a foundry
The Klamath river had dams for a while
   but now goes without
Sky barges full of water drop them
   in the Nehalem river
On Eagle creek I saw a river otter
   do a two step shuffle dance
Near its mouth the wilful Deschutes river crosses under highway 84
   obligingly but not without a hint of sadness
At nineteen I nearly drowned in the Rogue river
   on that sleepy hot afternoon
My friends laid me under a madrone tree
   while my insides roiled with adrenalin and stomach acid
I watched the green painted pieces of my drift boat
   wash down the river for days
Some rotating in eddies and others
   riding the rapids like tiny oarsmen

American Rebel Yellow

some see the virtue of drowning
faithfully like Jonah
thighs pressed together
in the fin and rib of things
cramped where tongues bloom
muscles tense like November trees
curving downward into moist blades
with just enough left for their desires
to be strapped to the back
still singing loudly
and overhanging like cattle

they do not obey language
like an SOS from
poorly healed stitches
buried in the viscera
only a bonfire of redwood
in the oilfields
can make them look down
can make them feel
the engine entering them
with eyes like elevators
inlaid bent and perverse

all along their bottle capped horizon
wearing their shirts untucked
singing falala songs
to buzz their hard won
southbound lives
they hurry along
hoping to curate
some kind of armature
or refrigeration system
made of steam
and the better kinds
of software

Propeller

I don’t need their winter curse
from a time gone by
even silence turns on its rails
staying clear of the painters easel
the windows of the old school
full of griefs harder than boxwood

down the road the gritty white ruins
of an Oklahoma prison
that held Clyde Barrow
that nobody visits

from these animal bones
in private gardens
the solitude shuffles where the boy
defecates in the dirt under the porch
his bronze body never again less
incurable than now

some are snags bare as chalk
some conspire to make noises among others
full of hooks and ministers
a flash of criminals

where a girl is walking
a fragrance of hips
smoothes out time
lines and ruts
cut into her school desk
far from profound
say things will remain
all the numbers and letters
stretch out beyond the heat plant
towards the winery
like copper trees at dawn

no balm in gilead
just a rollaboard suitcase
in the carousel
at the airport terminal
our secret decay
fills the gaps
in the paraphrase of faces
before words can

maybe Charles Lindbergh’s
only mistake was
he wasn’t a mistake
or Michelangelo
only a boy
carelessly bronzed
over time