Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Last laughter

I don’t know what got into us, but thank god Mama wasn’t there
to see us laugh in the face of death and dare the old man to
strike us dead. That laugh is a compass I wear in my hair
so I can find you again in the dark, and when I do our hearts
clink back together and I’m a whole sister again. Just think
you said. Imagine this: My body is giving up every scrap of extra
just to keep me alive so we can bother about my death and plan to
charge this credit card up to my baggy butt. But—no buts.
You cannot save me. You can only help me go. Oh, no.
Walk it off, you said. You’re not the one dying. It’s my turn.
Your chemo skin swirled around you like moths, and your bald
face split into a laugh like lava, like a hot spring bubbling upward,
like a token you passed to me, like you never laughed in your life.

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Sunday, July 8, 2012

As above, so below

Your heat transfers to the surface of my brain
when you touch down on the planet we own and
set your sweat-hot boots aside to rest on me. In me,
like I am the rock that formed around your molten core.
I'm not afraid. You have the same ice eyes you had
as a boy and those lashes, like thirty lashes, still flick me
with their secret code. Don't look now. I dare you to laugh.
Did you ever sit out on the porch and watch a hot prairie
storm form over the fields, laying down the corn like a lover,
while I sat watching two miles away as the lightning pointed
out your family land and lit up the wind overhead?
Of course you have. Well, that.
My heart is the same hot storm even now.

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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

First steps for making something from nothing with words

for Tom

First, fall head-first into a hole that is
so perfectly fitted to your heart that
you will never again be free of it. Always
have your tools with you. Never let a moment go.

Roll in the scent like a dog and remember.

Take that rare color, the gem of a sound,
the shoes that you noticed side by side in
the grass and smear them on paper
as fast as you can. Don’t think. See without eyes.

Look at the sketchy map you’ve drawn,
trace your finger down the lines, decide where
you plan to take us. Nod once. Go slowly.
Hold that place in your mind like a distant castle.

Choose your own best reader, the one who gets it,
the one who knows your truth. Speak into their chest
with a megaphone, a feather, a rich dark whisper,
depending on your style and prevailing mood.

Your language is image, comparison, memory,
the clear ting of the finest china bell. The senses
are the way you get another heart to hear you, so
say what your skin and your ears and your eyes know.

Go back to the top and start again and again, smoothing
and dressing your thoughts in words made of all of the
men you are. Don’t use lazy tricks. Pluck out extra words.
Turn all clichés on their heads. Don’t be afraid to cut.

Best wishes,

Monday, July 2, 2012

Tweets gone by (found)

The future is not now.
I am losing all empathy but
finally hearing some noise.
Do you know the issues
or just watch the world burn?
In the Great Swindle
your hair looks awesome
your avatar is freaky
your mother is the one who sets your course.
marketing weapons overseas
The revolutionary girls are tired of waiting.
Thank you.
You’re welcome.
The frosting looks divine.
World’s largest naval exercises in Hawaii
Would you document the mistreatment?
 We are just chowder for the aliens.
Anger and dissent in Hong Kong
Revolutionize your fellow citizens for
you have nothing to lose.
I crawl around with my camera
looking for the Stairway to Heaven
but never is the cat at home on time.
attempted overthrow of 50 governments
Stop war funding.
Mexico elections update
Longing to be becomes subversive
but finally my mother has listened to sense.
destabilization in Kenya
2 cops hit him with their bikes, you know.
Chaotic Pakistan
Deep sea creatures never seen again:
when the coral dies the ocean is all but dead.
Egypt votes
Psychology must not be used in
the manipulation of America.
Blood-sucking corporate vultures horde your
eyes in the deepest pockets of dirt.
Police arrest poachers in Changbai Mountains
warmongering isn't working
fearmongering is popular
fishmongers sell mutant frankenfish
Oil falls below $84 in Asia
The calm before the storm
highlights of your fake achievements and
death for 20 million people each year:
it’s just what happens when you’re not looking.
The Lone Gunmen and his
constant cheering for the murderous home team. Yes.
China court: Apple pays
Designed to implant the seeds of hate
in a permaculture of resistance.
Largest Stand Ever Against Chemtrails
Etheric gloom of
the old world crumbling—
that's just how it works.
We have always been associated with DEATH.
nite nite
Because there is a lady it fits perfectly.
Thank you.
You’re welcome
I learned from a good teacher.
I can sing you a sweet ballad.
Don't kid me like that.
A collage of white, grey and dark and
some great organizing music!
There are two fences to keep the dogs in.
There are mountains with hidden peaks.
There are seven girls who believe the same.
Please be careful.
Sorry to hear the tree fell but
your love came back, ok?
and the rest of your day is gravy.
All I see is grey and very bright things
I might sneak that one in.
oui :)
non :(
I would only have to guess at that.
Have you ever seen anything strange in the sky?
My little hole in the wall where
I am only the messenger.
Watch the whole black hole show and
I’ll ask when he’s finished how he feels about
the Denver airport artwork
cats with smirks and dogs with bowties—
nothing is as it seems underneath.
I don’t want people to think I’m crying.
Don’t give up, babe.
We’re stopped in a dead zone.
boost me
I <3 you so hard.
This is all fabricated by your brain.
London airport chaos
Reactions mixed.
I live on a main street.
I will fill you in on others.
My thoughts are a mile a minute.
Dude, that’s just a bad memory.
Ringing like a head-sized bell, it’s
hard to quantify these things but
we were not allowed downstairs during parties.
free speech
food independence
I’m broadcasting.
Do you have your ticket?
Take the time.
I don’t have time.
Squander time.
Time is an illusion.
Time for bed.
I would like to go for a ride.
boost me
Precious Jewel.
I am sharp as a blade
And that is the story of my life.
Shaking awake from my typical childhood,
I don’t believe in beyond all hope.
extreme weather blankets the nation
rubbing it in
sleep, love, sleep
affect the outcome and
we will tell you what reality is.
Your choices are a living book of you.
Goodnight. Sweet dreams.

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Saturday, June 30, 2012

The poetry of bats is hushed and light

They wait,
whisper awake
as the fruit cools,
as the sonar song falls
over their dreams like a lover’s arms
and pushes them toward the twilight.
Their eyelids snap up,
they glide on black wings
out of the safe, into the fat nightbugs.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Delicate balances

I once saw a man dropkick a cat
because he could, a dark sharp creature that
only hoped for heat and light and food
like me. I did not look up. I merely sat

and stared into the meaty hollow of the mood.
He has demons too, said the heart pale and good.
How dare he! said the tattered black stone on the left.
Balancing my fears on the end of my nose, I put up my hood.

I am mighty compared to the girl I was; now I have a certain heft
and lack the fear of being heard, a being full of laugh and breath.
But something dark holds its heavy hand above my head
and the world has turned like a worm. Hurry. Talk quickly. Be deft.

So, now I’m a mountain instead of the girl sent early to bed,
but that girl is still here: She remembers imagining being dead
and the bomb shelter drills and the way the teacher said,
Hush! I am also the cat who pushes headfirst into a crevice instead.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2012


I’m a thinker.
I put words together,
links and seams,
daydream, fantasize,
write down my dreams,
live in my head,
purposely absent-minded,
perfectly lagging,
solitary, literary, mad.

So this is the vernal equinox,
a day so balanced that eggs
will stand on end, and I am
tipped so far over that I can
see the world between my legs.
But now I’m really mad.

I see that I cannot be only the chronicler,
the girl with the stories in her pockets,
the researcher, note taker, fool.
I can’t be the one who reads and thinks
and lets the world wallow and sink.


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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

My Sister's Notebook

One year, one month, twenty-four days
(depending on whether you went before or after
midnight) I sit in this spot with your
book in my hand waiting for time to start up
again, waiting for the planet to creak and
shudder and start down its tracks like before.

But nothing will ever be the same without
the yip of your laugh, the tangle of your hair,
that pinched little squint of your smile.
Sister, could you whisper what would bring you back?
I’ll thumb through the scraps, touching what you’ve touched,
tracing with my fingernail the dents your pencil made.

A recipe for dumplings,
the name of the mayor of Ficklin,
three apartments under $300 a month.
The address of the boy who cleans the glass,
how to reach Emergency when the switchboard
at the funeral home is dead for the night,
how to make a birdhouse from a bottle,
a pinwheel from a placemat, a purse from a sweater
unraveled and re-rolled. Sister, could you whisper
what I need to bring you back?

I realize that you would have enjoyed
one of those memorials in the paper so that
everyone in town says, Ahh, poor sister, has it been a year?
But I forgot. I did get the stone bench with the wording
you wrote, plus a little bit more from me, and all the kids’
names lined up in order of their birth with hearts between.
Half the family thinks the stone should be turned
to face the east, but who can tell what’s backward?
I am here without you, and that makes nothing right.

Remember the letters of questions we’d write?
Why did you go alone in the middle of the dark?
Who came for you? Why couldn’t you wait for me
to slide my arm around you? Who will I tell
what’s in that trunk we buried in the mud of our girlhood?
Who will stand by me when my time comes? Why
can’t I come there, at least to visit? Will you visit me
in my dreams from now until my dying sigh?
Where did you get that strength at the end?
How did you know what to say to me?
Sister, can you whisper what I need to know?

I stick my nose into the middle of your book,
bookworm monkeytoes hooknose wooden eye,
not for the words this time but because you're in there:
your smoky lavender scent in the leaves,
your skin cells powdery on the page.
Now I know why I took it
and why I kept it
and why I opened it today.


Monday, February 20, 2012

Three Steps of a Kiss

A kiss begins with the eyes.
If yours meet across the dishware, if you
fall brain body breath into each other,
if you drink the eyes the lips the eyes
the lips, regardless of the sound
you never hear, continue to
step two: the hands.

The skin is electric, grows hot with
thought. If I press my palms against your
ribs to cool your blood, to read your
smoky outline, I will know your heart.

Step three: lean into me, let me feel
the static between our lips before we touch.
If you notice me rummaging under your ribs,
a pickpocket, an investigator, be quiet.
I have to know. Because a kiss
ends with the soul.


Saturday, February 18, 2012

Our Hedges Were Hibiscus

We played out all year topless,
boys and girls in a wild swirl of yellow sun.
Escaped parakeets flickered in the trees,
trees that fluttered prayer-flag fronds
and offered fruits and nuts and bees.
We killed fire ants and ran beneath the moon,
raised the yard dust with our feet as
Blanche’s mother taught us hula,
rolling her feet and her wrists and her waist,
whispering stories gory and historic, so real
I could repeat them to you now.
If anyone found a centipede, we’d call out
until the boy with the big shoe brought his stick.
He was our killing expert. It seemed to do him good.
Red hibiscus hedges; every day I drank one perfect
drop of nectar from the stamen of a bloom and
put the bloom behind my ear. Mama said just one.
Brian Kahiki could run right up a coconut tree,
throwing brown monkey calls down at our heads, and
Toshiko’s baby’s hair stood straight up on the crown;
when she put the baby down he howled
until other mothers touched their chests,
turned toward each other with their eyebrows up.
On days they moved the Dumpsters, we jostled
down the path between the yards and squatted
on the asphalt to hear the maggots scream.


Art by Reena Walking. (See more here.)
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Thursday, February 16, 2012

There's More to the Story

When he was out to sea, my dad
sent coins to me from every port,
stuck at the bottom of his thin blue letters,
the whirls of his fingertips preserved
in the tape. I’d smell the paper hard
to find his bristly scent.

When he was young, he stole bread
and cigarettes, watermelon and eggs.
He picked up coal along the railroad tracks
and wore whatever someone gave him
to cover his scabs. He found an orange
one Christmas and ate it like an apple,
skin and all. It was the most magical food
he had ever held on his tongue.

When he was sick, my dad was
crazy as a loon, one screw loose,
taking direction from TV and
writing nonsense on the bills.
There is a spook talking nonstop
in my head, he’d say. We wouldn’t
let on to the neighbors, even when he
burned a mattress in the yard
for reasons we could not explain.


The USS Ruddy, my dad's ship, a fleet minesweeper.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

What I Know about Your Heart

Anatomically, a heart is small,
the size of a fist, and not really a heart.
A doctor will tell you: there is no way
a heart can make a spark of light,
but I know better. I can read by yours.
Your heart is a planet lit from within;
smoldered by your solids, calmed
by your waves. Sometimes the clarity
pierces me: so that I say: and I am a small creature
on an unexplored planet in a solar system
that is constructed of only you.
You always know the way back.
Your heart is a steed, a ride as smooth
as love is thorny, hooves striking sparks,
nostrils breathing fire, a mount that rises as I rise.


José de Páez, c. 1770. Sacred Heart of Jesus with Saint Ignatius of Loyola and Saint Louis Gonzaga.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Before she died, my sister told me

to write about our life.

She asked me to slit open my chest and pin the flaps back against my collarbones, cut through my sternum and spread my ribs into a chapel. She said to step into that space and go poking around in my swollen [raw] heart, taking out pieces, holding them up in two fingers under the light, examining, admitting, a [thing] that she would never do in her airy fairy skinny-butted earthmother life. And she asked me to perform this unspeakable duty in her absence. As her stand-in. After she died.

She said, You know, anything can be funny. You're good at taking the bitter stuff and wrapping it in something crispy and sweet. Something you can chew slowly, like Good & Plenty.

That's pretty good, I told her.

Write it down, she said. It's not like I'm going to remember it.

My memories of myself begin on the day my sister came into our house. She is with me still like a Siamese twin I carry over my heart. In the blood that thuds in my eardrums, I can hear her voice.

I'll embroider, I told her. You know how I am.

I know. And one more thing, she said. Don't go posting any sappy updates on Facebook like that girl down the street does. Just start by saying: Most people don't know that brain cancer can be funny...

I wasn’t going to chew myself up like that. I told her flat out: I can't.

But of course I can.


Do you have a sister? I wouldn't want to go through life without a good one.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Austin Bats

Pups with wings
whisper awake, nudge
and squirm against their cohorts
as their hearts tom tom tom together.

They stretch their bony elbows
as the fruit cools, as the sonar song falls
over their cavemind like a lover's arms
and caresses them toward the twilight.
Their eyelids snap up.

One by one by one they leave
the musty deep by some signal we don't
hear and soar into the fat nightbugs.
We think they will come flapping
from under the bridge like vampires
but they are a silent trickle,
a vortex over the lake,
a spike in the moon.


Peter17 2008. Emergence of the bats of the Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin, Texas, at dusk.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Old Love

I may need a stout rod
for the journey but
I can walk it on my own
because your skin smells of ocean
and your sea glass eyes are still
the same shade as your laugh.

I expect certain considerations:
a touch on the neck,
a brief clasping of fingers,
a kiss that has nothing to do
with a peck. An opening:
your mind into mine; an emptying:
your baggage, the polished suitcase
in which you carry your heart.

And then we fill each other gently
with secrets torn apart and shared
like bread. We spread a net of crumbs
to keep us each from stumbling
into hunger. Know that I choose
exactly this way: the way you
made your way to me again.

You may expect me
to be more of a trellis
than a blade. More of
a rich dark vein and less
of a potion misted in air.
I will keep in my heart for you
a small portrait, a mirror that shows
you standing in your finest pose.

Some seeds don't open
until fire and heat have brazed
their useless outer layers.


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Wolf of the World

A woman on the other side
of the world sleeps when I wake,
wakes alone without map or net
and watches each way while I sleep.
A candle burns on both ends.

A harsh note on the other side
of the dark vibrates up my last nerve
and sets me humming in my spine.
Speak now. You will not be allowed
to forever hold your peace.

I must stand with the woman
who stands with me, because
women can do these things: pull
each other up by the boot buckles,
carve each other clean sin by sin.

I send notes to the other side
of the void to say: yes,
I have not only heard of the wolf
I have seen him from the corner
of my eye, that sly worn devil

Nearly toothless in the light of cold day
but large and patient in the dim.


Retron 2008. Dakota, a grey wolf at the UK Wolf Conservation Trust, howling on top of a snowy hill.