Note to the Pacific

Nothing to speak of.
A few small rocks,
brown of course,
some slippery strands
of your worst weeds.
Just one whole shell all month
you give up to the shore—
oh yes, those plumes, too,
that disappear off waves
twisting and rushing to nowhere.
You hoard your capacity—
queen conchs and whelks,
cones past your breakers,
your treacherous rocks—
as though daring me
to swim to the Aleutians,
where you bring your winds from,
to see there’s nothing there,
if ever there was you made sand
out of it, in your ancient practice.
You think it isn’t possible
to be taken for some slight force?
Big and strong isn’t what it used to be.
Give us more than a cracked claw,
a transparent tentacle.
You could be a serious sea.



Cold water in a cup,
my father said. Then
no, get a bowl.
And when the woman did, he said
twice that size. Now I want you to fill it.
And when she had and brought it close,
I want you to empty it.
She came back to show him the bowl empty.
Now, that is exactly what I want.


When Your Body Will

You fuck through the anger
because otherwise there is no
fucking, let alone loving,
Jessica, and I believe this
isn’t what you came to college
to learn, your dorm decorated
in the teddy bears and posters
and dreams of you beautifully
white and frilly and loved
forever, as soon as possible,
at least once you get through
my required course    oh Jessica,
you are sweeter than you’ll
ever be today in the corset
you’ve been laced in for class
and I’d never tell you any of this
because you have stepped away
into Friday night breathlessness
and the line of your brow breaks
just where it should, evenly
and flat, like a place to lie down.



In my shaking hands, you shake, you
teeter the spoonful of soup to your mouth,
you, dogged against that turbulence
coming out of your own arms, graceful
as you weave around the table, sink the eight
(flailingly accurate when I least want you to be)
and end the tournament, you with the genes
I may carry eighty years or so, too, dancing
along the circuitry of my intention, explaining
nothing of that advantage, my hesitating hold.

Just a shake away, you, in your beautiful beard,
in your last house, watch birds light and linger,
and hear the waterfront rush just there, beyond
the property line (and the highway, you sweet fool),
you tell me that we won’t be rattled apart
by any thunder inside or out, and I stay to listen
nearer now, in case you admit you stayed away too long.

--in memoriam, HB (1917-2002)

Published by Pif Magazine.



The tom with mordant eyes
and a squirrel’s gray tail is ugly,
but if suffering were beautiful,

the world would be fair
and he’d get extra fish
so much that his bony face
would soften with our love

he’d be glossy as any of us forgiven
for pain that repels even a mother,   
like all the sad friends
whose pills make them prettier--

the lone cat is afraid, unattractively.
Watch longer out my window,
where he warms the feet of a skinny tree,
one eye a leaf, a verge, green and good.


I Hate Us

Of course that’s where hiatus comes from,
I think in the morning, when I know he’s right,
we need six or seven states between us for a while
despite everything to dread there:
slick roads and wind knocking and hunger
and looking around for what’s lost even more.
Bones, mine alone, sticking into the mattress.

Published by Kestrel.



I fall in love with husbands
when mine’s out of town--
all of them, the idea of them,
the wonderful function of husbands,

the dearness of my own
slipping into the plural,
the sea of them,
all these married men

seem to be rightly mine,
just not yet belonging,
on their trips still,
like my usual one—

It’s true a quantity of wives and children
vanishes in these fantasies,
and I regret that, though it’s understood
to be another era,

a decent period passes quickly,
and now the kindness and fun
clogging their middle-aged hearts
is for the good of me—

and the lovely lives I saunter in,
the wives also made them,
that’s the luck, too,
in loving their—or should I say our—husbands.

And when he comes back to me,
my present husband--no tragic loss yet for him,
no kids at large--he may notice I appear

Published by Pif Magazine