Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Salt is the opposite of ice

mix of acid and base we launch with gunpowder
to rocket into the new July night: sunburst and pandemonium.
A sunbeam though is old mail---over 4 billion years–
no cause to crane our necks, cry out.

A stone is for carrying under your tongue
or filling your pockets on your way into the river.
If it's soft carve eyes and ears holes. Grief

is the long fish
with gauzy filagree of scales
that moonlight paints on the bedroom wall. The one
that swims toward you, or away,
on your saltwater tears.

Love is nothing

you ever saw— and satisfaction's just a hole
you fill that you dug and dug
tearing your nails raising blisters.

a while in night's back alley
and loneliness lumbers out

a wall-eyed beast

wraps you in his arms, his stink,
and maybe hands you your pen:
your last straw, your slice
of life, your wafer of transubstantiation,

your third eye with its psychic powers
and little clocks, your courage, your rising tide,
your price, your poison, your prize,
duty, modus operandi, your hocus-pocus.

Your Barium salts burning wicked
green, your Strontium-red
your Copper Oxide
blue cascade,
your blinding
titanium blast.

First appeared in Notre Dame Review

Thursday, November 15, 2007


If you've checked my profile, you know I've been reading essays with renewed interest. I heard essayist, poet, Lia Purpura (On Looking) read at Western Michigan University a few weeks back. Gorgeous stuff. Whether she's describing the experience of watching an autopsy, or the nuances of the view from a certain window, her language pulses with vitality and poetry. I don't know if the autopsy account is difficult reading for some. I took Anatomy & Physiology at U of M when I was enrolled (briefly) in their nursing program. We studied cadavers in an old lab—horror movie potential, with it's marble slab tables you tilted with the big iron wheels at one end. Though not as shocking as dealing with the just-dead, the experience lends a slight advantage. Even the most squeamish reader, though, is bound to be caught up in the author's wonder and respect, her effort to understand what is in front of her. I enjoy her ability, like Goldbarth, to weave associations, questions, ruminations, through tangential paths, to establish her circuitous connections with ease and logic. They both leap topic at stunning angles, then find the perfect curve that brings them back to it.

Monday, November 5, 2007


a boy
ankle deep
in cold lake water
and nearly submerged beside him
crooked in the silt, a white bird cage. Lake reflections
show sky empty of cloud or bird, no freed parakeet
circling. Makeshift fish trap, salvaged
toy? Look close: caged rocks,
a rope. Pray
he's bound

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Drastic Angles

Angle of slope, corner, turn. Having to do with the setting of the ladder, whether the walls are plumb, and the attitude of the mirror propped against the wall. But also, motive: What's his angle? His perspective on the situation, point of view---which depends, we know, on the angle from which he sees. The photographer freezes a specific moment, coloring future interpretations and memories depending, in large part, on his camera angle. Detectives, forensic scientists, & therapists must look at things from every conceivable angle, of course, and reporters continually angle for a scoop. (If they get it, they'll need a fresh angle for writing the story.) The angler on the northern lake drops his line and sees it bend beneath the surface, though he knows it's just in his eye. Say he works for the road commision, say giant mounds of salt and sand, delivered this week, shifted---angle of repose changing for no apparent reason---just as he passed between the piles on his way to clock out. If no one sees in time, he doesn't get to the fishing lake, instead, ends up at the mortuary, where the table pitches toward the drain (I typed grave here, instead of "drain," which also works.), technicians reset his neck at a natural angle. All this is just to say that life is all rays and tangets. We don't anticipate the angle at which one act or choice reflects, refracts, intersects---we absorb the bounce, then see what's next: straight on till morning, off on a tangent, at an unexpected crook in the road, vertex... For instance, I started out intending to type angel up there at the start.