This Land is Our Land

How many watches had it been,
when I first caught sight of Paradise?

Seven – or is that the first digit
to come to mind?

Regardless, I would have kept kissing the dry land,
until it soaked in my sins,
had you not been
standing at my bower,
with tape
and parrot flowers.

The ship was splintered,
worse that any storm
or winter could do;
my lips, too.

Yet, I was fixed

on the mountains in the distance,
skirted in Doug Fir forest,
and decked with heavy fruits
(pear, apple, persimmon,
perpetually in season),
suspended in mist.

Never had I encountered a landscape,
as hard as it was soft,
particularly at the edges,
where rocky bluffs
terminate to sand,
and primrose grows
in mats that prick,
rather than provide respite
for the sick.

Yet, I was fixed

of the pain I had long-held,
from believing myself unhomeable
outside of childhood.

Or, perhaps, restored

to original condition:
an only daughter of an only parent,
(for which the treatment is
undivided affection
and absolute understanding).

How many men had it been,
when I first washed up on Paradise?

Seven – or is that the first digit
to come to mind?

Regardless, I would have kept gripping the shore,
until I was born into safety,
and then trained out of it again,
had you not offered more:

Your hand, a surrogate for my father.
Your land, for my Fatherland.

 

Signs

When the pencil skirt fits,
but doesn’t sit
at the hips,
as does the cyclist,
who would rather
be caught dead
than with a bulge,
even if it’s just
an extra bunch
of fabric;
and so she walks,
in measured steps,
passing where
the sidewalk ends,
and then, drops off
into dirt,
until the final block,
where precision goes
to posture,
and so go the toes
– over the lip –
and then,
the heals,
and then,
one palm,
one knee,
and the
stack of crepes
planned to be
for everyone.

When the rice is simmering,
and asks for stirring,
just occasionally,
and so she drops
the wooden spoon,
takes up the sword,
and decides,
right then,
and there,
to prepare
kimchi
for winter,
which is yet
months away,
unlike the hand
on the timer,
which begets
a ten-second
countdown,
“Oh shit,”
and the other
on the blade,
“Oh shit,”
there is
salt
in a wound,
and it is time to move
back to the pot,
with rice searing
to its bottom.

When the appetite,
stirs the night,
she slips
to the cupboard,
looks in,
up, top,
middle,
bottom,
but sees nothing
with nearsighted eyes,
which is why,
her past self
put out
the one-half
cocoa-carob
energy bar,
on the counter,
where apparently
it is heir apparent
for ants play,
because something
tastes like
plus two grams
of protein,
and feels like
soda,
“Fizz,
boom,
pop!”
on her tongue.

When she arrives, at last,
not merely late
but also hungry,
and asking
for further
accommodation,
like a band aid,
a courtesy call,
a chance to sit,
it might be
a sign of immaturity,
or being irresponsible,
or at the end
of a misguided hike,
but more likely,
of the universal struggle,
of learning to live
outside the bubble,
where there
are new types
of pressure,
on the air,
to focus
on marks
in the floor,
to tune out
the sink of dirty dishes,
empty the mind,
and then,
get back to work.

Sequoia

The sequoia stands so stately
that all humans ooh and ahh.

They have not seen the sun lately.
Above, birds hoot and caw,

knowing not where to find water.
Creatures cradled in her crown

can attest the climate hotter.
In ashes, most fall down.

Except she, who is too thick
to catch colds – let alone fire.

Her hardy bark, red as brick,
seems to announce something dire,

like: “If you don’t see me soon,
better send a search party,

or a rocket to the moon.”
Now, Sequoia, don’t have me croon.

The Muse

Reading her poetry, it stirred me up,
with eye of newt, wing of bat,
and things like that;
and so I stopped.

When I called, there was no motion;
there was no potion, and yet I fell.

Instead, she slipped a note,
and I read what she wrote:

“Reading your poetry, it stirs me up.
Afterward, I can never remember
what to do with my letters.
I connect vowel to consonant,
and then consonant to vowel,
but what comes out —
is no language I recognize.”

That’s just how it was;
it happened just like that.

She came out —
in a collared dress,
with thimbles on her thumbs,
and flushed cheeks
that seemed
to say:

“I know more of
hugging and kissing
than I will ever care
to admit,”

and taught me —
how to color in my lips,
with pencil crayons,
and keep inside
the lines;

how to be
a sometimes red,
and other times deep magenta
kind of girl;

how to come out,
and say:
“I FELL IN LOVE WITH A WOMAN.”

Enacting our poetry, it stirred us up,
with each forgetting that she
was not the other,
and so we stopped.

The Editor

Turn the knob, he said.
Don’t be a stranger.
Come in.
Have a seat.
Allow me
to pull out your chair
to pin up your hair
to —
introduce yourself, I said.
Don’t be pedantic.

Not I, he said.
Haven’t you met a true Romantic?
    I fear thy mien, thy tone, thy motion,
thou needest not fear mine;
innocent is the heart’s devotion,
   with which I worship thine.

May I have a drink?
Just water, he said.
No wine.
On second thought,
you’re fine.
    Here lies one whose name was writ in water. 

In order to catch up,
with the spirit of the times,
I indulged this verbal eroticism,
tracing the vowels
of Shelley and Keats
back onto him.

I veiled my conceit,
in a deep-twin sheet,
and introduced myself
to The Editor.

Emily

This is not another one about
how I would like to kiss you,
how I forever and always,

Sincerely miss you; because
I is tired of acting, because
You is tired of passing, because

We are tired of writing poetry
that pleases the masses,
but leaves us feeling like asses,

For dishing out what is expected,
for speaking in a different voice
that sounds too akin to a whine

to belong to a prophet or pastor,
or someone in the business,
of delivering advice,
and receiving forgiveness.

This is not another confession.
This is a poem. About something.
A poem about politics or pedagogy

Or people, but not a person not
some arbitrary object of love
named You.

There may be pretty rhymes,
enjambs, and bits of tulle,
but do not be distracted.

There’s more to be desired
inside. Go ahead,
and unwrap this.

This poem does not care
if you muss up her hair,
and feels no shame

For setting it, or for wearing
a belt to accentuate her form.
That’s what [women] poets do.

We have the tools
for spinning letters
into fine language,

And are not afraid
to use them.
That’s what makes us crafty,

And crooked.
Beauty is essential to our strategy,
of getting you to pick up this thing

That, despite its gender, does not bend
to the feminine style, or other limits,
which do not exist.

There were no concessions made
for your taste, aside from that
brief mention of love,

Just because. Because

Emily is an ode, with brown hair
and brown eyes, and a mouth that
shouts sometimes;

To her lover, who also has hair
and eyes, and a mouth that gives
kisses to Emily.

Emily is neither sweet as pie,
nor humble as mashed potatoes,
but she is what I like,

And this is not about you.

Aubade for What Stayed in Reno

Twinkle, twinkle, little star
How I wonder what you are
Up above the world so high
Like a diamond in the sky
Twinkle, twinkle little star
How I wonder what you are

Oh, darling one
I wish I may,
I wish I might
have that wish
we made last night,
on that bright star
neither first nor right
but fixed as it was
to the grid of light
seemed a safer bet
to count on to stay
twinkle-twinkling
than a dumb rock
in the sky, though,
not so dumb as we
who got hitched
to a deadline
not certain, as we
who bet love
on some number
of days before
the Chapel of Bells
goes under.

Oh, bright star,
would I were
steadfast as thou are,
could take your
leave-taking
with no hand
in the jar
not reaching
for crumbs
when there’s cake
right in front of me
full of butterlove
the better love,
the solid, yellow,
stick-to-the-ribs
kind of love;
with no head
under the bell
not stewing
on what you are
hanging aloft, alone
in Reno’s sour air
when there’s someone
who cares, standing
right in front of me.

Oh, sweet heart,
so soon we part
— yet, you are
still steadfast
still unchangeable
still as night
at the break of day
with eggs breaking
with sugar shaking
how can you be hungry
for lovemaking
it’s too early, too new
too much, too fast,
and too soon — yet,
I am still happy,
still over the moon
still laughing along
with the little dog,
at seeing such sport
as the dish carried
off by her spoon.

When the blazing sun is gone
When he nothing shines upon
Then you show your little light
Twinkle, twinkle, all the night
Twinkle, twinkle, little star
How I wonder what you are.

Would you like to throw a stone at me?

There’s a rat-a-tat-tat on the window
that my imagination takes for bird’s
play — swallow — and then I see her
dancing, with her twin in the glass,
damn narcissist, she’s asking for it,
go splat
at my feet. No feathers?
There’s a feet, or two, or
a pair of Converse shoes
faded that familiar blue-
like lavender but not so sweet-
smelling as bodies do when hot
so hot so fucking hot are you
here on some errand? Here, winner
take all that’s left of my peach.
Pat of butter? Cup of sugar?
I have none nor the patience
for solicitation
for polite salutations
or whatever it is that you’re trying
to sell me today.
I want to give more
than what fits through a window,
so, if you will,
please come to the door.

My First Place

lamplightIn the northwest corner
a tent for the sun
diffuses light muted divine
across this uncarpeted territory
that I deign call mine
but rather than bask
in the afterglow
of an energy bill paid
and my utility proven
I shut the lamp again
until it cools
“it” being the bulb
but also the fear
of being outgrown
as toy is by child
of being the child
who outgrows
the clinging
the tantrums
and toilet accidents
the infrastructure
for success
in health and happiness
that I built last season
when legs were shorter
and it made sense
to sit on his shoulders
for a clear view of the stage
beyond the next hill
beyond the walls of our bedroom
beyond “us”
and I stand
corrected of all errors made
under the influence
of the status quo
the normative hetero-
and other biases
on the subject of
how women and men are supposed to live
together
to live creatively
and I shout
I was an artist before we met
before he gave the go-ahead
by commenting on all my pictures
cute!
and I will stay an artist regardless
of how I use (or do not use)
my sex
and I sound
self-righteous and overexposed
to darkness and solitude
but I am not low
because my ego is so high
and I step
off my soap box taller
the tallest in the room
knowing one thing to be true:
for as long as I am here
I will not be where he went.