Small Strangers

They were small but we pretended not to notice.
They washed their own socks, they had their way.
We adored them, we were sad to see them go.

When winter came, we discovered they’d cut
the sleeves off all our shirts and larded the furnace
with our manuscripts and what was left of the lace.
Then we realized their perfect manners
were just ways of making fun of us.

In other news, we fully understood too late
the strategy of jumpy psychos picking fights—
“you lookin’ at me?” so commands your gaze
that when you say you’re not in fact you are.

Things in the attic, of course, straddled our minds–
spiked nut-crackers, screwy nails and studded nets,
the little arsenal some previous owner left behind.
We practiced denying they were ours so often
our aped innocence made them truly ours.

Levee

noaa ms fld 1927 levee breach comprsd flpd

between you and
things you don’t want
to know
a monument
places you won’t go
losses
you don’t hope
to recover, people
you love who can
never return, people
who won’t love you or
you can’t love them
unless until
what’s broken
reconvenes
it won’t
nonetheless
you tend
the possibilities
with miraculous feats
and vanquishings
and other such
imagined scrims
it’s the same
no matter how you
line it up
best not move
as if anyway
you could oh
errant satellite
from up here
down there looks
static as if
that silver river
never moves it’s
still a planet of
postponed
collisions
not forgetting
harder than
remembering till
cuts and pinches
rocks and words
recall self to self
when you’re so
occupied there’s
only being
there’s still
a little place
to store yourself
like other creatures
artifacts of living
you can wait it out

_________________________
image: Mississippi River Flood 1927, NOAA, National Weather Service Collection:http://www.photolib.noaa.gov/htmls/wea00733.htm

Dream On

living lights 2 pub dom rev

You dream you sleep inside a drum, all echo
and vibration, inside the dream you dream
of other rooms like countries you’ve not been to
where you arrive in dark mist or in sunshine with
dark mist inside it, where money’s the color
of bright jewels, where you realize you
brought the wrong shoes, where in a mirror in
the dream hotel you see not you but
a shadow self, the one who packed those shoes,
the one who–on the basis of imaginary
information–imagined you’d be dancing.

 

 

Behind the shelf

Behind the shelf the occupied heart sleeps
in its little jar–you cannot put your hand
on it, so it occurs to you that you
are haunting yourself. Nonetheless, there is
sweetness somewhere, consciousness like some
confection churned from the labor of
what’s left. It’s pain that’s the true little death.
The things you believed were not the things you
believed in, just your basic crenellation
and arrow slits, light shooting in whenever
you are not shooting out. We could not hear
the tree falling, we heard its aftermath,
like some errant tornado backing up
to fill the spaces it left behind or
you there moving at some spooky distance
from yourself and all your darling tendrils.
This big space I had for you, coterminous
alas with the outer wall where the
patrols are napping or whoring or
conspiring with wolves and beavers, who
suffer as we do upon losing a mate.
Wondering the opposite of looking–
how we could set so much of us aside
only to find it waiting in the lapse.

 

 

 

 

Gulf Spill

We were reading what we were reading
the gulf a muck a mucked up gulf
underwater every day the daily ooze
the outrage lapping washing flooding
it was all the news was was the everything
even you with your broken heart find a
mirror let me see my chest
you said I said
the scar’s not so bad, your heart and then
I couldn’t say don’t get old you said but
if you do don’t get sick
you said but if you
do hope you die
it was not funny funny
that was the way the television was all
the gulf and you were being manhandled
in your delirium you asked the nurse
to bring some tables in and chairs and
bacon and all kind of things to eat and
drink everybody’s coming you said yes
I said everybody is and everybody was
but just not then then you wondered who
those people were at the foot of the
bed that still wouldn’t go away when we
said they weren’t so the room was full
and the gulf was on tv the gulf breaking
put recovery out opened a possibility and
that was what we hoped recovering to go on
and it was raining like the devil a deluge
and everything clean then that metallic
smell that makes you think brisk that
makes you think clean open free even
with that lowering sky barred with bruise
standing at the window while you slept
there in the not too far black smoke like
a creature crawling up from earth to sky
somebody’s house on fire somebody’s life
burning up in the rain and then I thought
please let everybody live please don’t go.

Dubbed

??????????????????????

We are desperate for suspects.

A girl is not in her room, her father’s alarmed,
unless he’s just worried he’ll be late somewhere.
He’s on the phone in his bedroom now,
saying something frantic or grim–it’s dubbed,
so when he moves his mouth, it sounds like
someone’s in the next room mocking him.
He’s ignoring the naked woman who is dressing
one slow stocking at a time, surely not the mother.
I turn the sound way down.

A young woman’s pale body, floating in a canal.
Intercut with shots of cabbages in boxes.

The mother has arrived, they don’t embrace,
she almost faints, they are distraught. A priest
appears suddenly, as if he’s been shadowing
them, then a stern but distracted police chief and
two detectives who look like juvenile delinquents.
They eyeball the mother’s derriere as she leaves
weeping.

We’re in Venice. It’s 1965.

We are riding in the black boat in the past
or in the future, leaving perhaps or perhaps
returning, going to or from a dock that isn’t
a dock in fog that isn’t fog. If we could
call you back to us, we might hear what you
hear, we might understand what you are
saying just by looking at your eyes.

A neglected garden. A ping-pong game.
A madman. Not looking mad at all, but rather
avuncular, carefully tying someone to a chair,
saying things that must be mad, but mildly,
polite interest on his face, as if he’s asking
where the melon came from this time of year.

These people the police are interrogating–
they are afraid of something, looking at their
faces is like watching rain down a rain chain.
If they knew anything, they would be telling.
If they knew each other, they would be
keeping secrets, there would be betrayal,
there would be a morgue.

Someone we’ve never seen before and will
not see again says “go away, leave me be.”
In English. I read his lips. He’s looking at a
water fountain in a plaza, speaking to no one.
I turn around to see if someone’s there.

The father and the mother, faces mirroring
each other, accidental touches, glances, we
know where this is headed–know the daughter
had to disappear to make this reunion possible.
If they had been together when it happened,
it would have driven them apart. Forever.

An enormous birdcage full of canaries in an
airy modern birdcage of a house, the furniture
a mélange of spartan things no one will ever
love. A vast floor. Not a door in sight.

A hand in a stiff black rubber glove rips out
a phone, opens a door, turns on a fussy
bathtub tap, turns into feet leaving the scene.
As if censored in a dream, what happened here
will never be revealed, but that water will keep
running at the back of the movie’s mind,
even after it’s over, flooding everything.

Miscellaneous shots in miscellaneous weather
of places where no one is going. Things damp,
in disarray, narrow walkways that look imported
from some industrial city where everyone has
died or is dying from some insidious gas or
the nefarious doings of angry vegetation.

A shop window. Monstrous gewgaws.

Suddenly a face on its way to a door. This man
has the absent look of a man whose mind is
always on his stash of porn–why are we not
surprised but still uneasy. He invites the parents
in as if he wants them to go away already.
The father is now shouting. Unperturbed, the
man is serving cocktails. He’s not hiding what
they think he’s hiding, he’s not hiding the girl.
Maybe they are hiding something. Maybe they
are not even talking about the girl.

By the way where is she? Even we have
forgotten her, having seen her only once
early on in a photograph that could belong to
anyone, even the gloved hand or the excessively
jovial man who waves to the parents as they pass by
on their way to somewhere else. He later appears
in a chicken costume, grinning, snapping a whip.
She was wearing her confirmation dress.

A church. A static shot that lasts so long
it starts to mean things.

Cage door open. Birds flying out. Extreme
close-up of an envelope. Maybe that’s a name
on it, or maybe a note, “key inside,” who knows.

Here’s the secretary, no longer the woman in
the bedroom getting dressed. It’s late, she’s
touching up her lipstick at her desk. A man’s
looming shadow, she looks up, then he’s
up next to her with whatever that is in his
hand, the requisite sacrifice of the not-wife
who has no information or has too much.

Someone has hit you, poor thing, you are
washing your face at the fountain. When you
look up, it’s so close it’s hard to tell if it’s
a ship or a house or a flock of goats.

A café as featureless as a hospital corridor.
No one has ever been here but this one person
sitting outside and the one other person now
sauntering out with a smirk and a cup of coffee.
We are desperate for suspects, it’s the only way
we will ever maybe know the nature of the crime.

My sister passes through eating ice cream
out of the carton, wags her spoon at the TV,
I saw that, isn’t it the one with the giant frog
that traps people at a party in a labyrinth and
eats them or something?

The young guy looks like an earlier less young
guy wearing the same glasses. By now it’s possible
they are the same guy, but this one is wearing a
white suit and has the look on his face of someone
amusing himself with his own mind. Or someone
who has gotten away with something and is
pleased with himself. Maybe he’s our guy.

I am thinking where have you gone. I am
thinking how can I live without you.

An empty plaza, a sudden wind, trash tumbling
about, a page of newsprint flashing by that
we apparently are not going to see. The city is
shrinking to a few redundant blocks.

Joyous children running through the streets,
knocking down an old man with a cane. Nearby
people, not helping. Tsk-tsk on their amused
faces, oh to be young again, heedless of
the suffering of others, and the suffering we
cause, and all the other suffering to come.

A crazed woman in a veil.
Take us with you wherever you are
taking your crazy self. These other people–
these other people are scaring us.

A man napping, or dead, on a chaise on a
rooftop. Not much in the way of entertainment
now the birds are gone.

Another naked girl body in the canal, or
maybe the same body from an hour ago, now
being winched up by her feet. Somebody’s child.
Somebody’s jilted girlfriend.

A crowd. Thin coats, everyone in hats,
looking like people waiting for a shop to
open, anticipating perhaps a closer view
of the corpse. Or maybe the corpse will now
speak in the language of the forlorn dead,
words no one would dare dub.

____________________________
altered image; original image: Xanthorhoe montanata, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Xanthorhoe_montanata.jpg.

Lone Ranger, or, The Boson Speaks

NGC 6302 Hubble crop mod detail

Lone Ranger, or, The Boson Speaks

That which has no substance
enters where there is no space.
*

No signs of a lone Higgs particle have been detected in previous experiments. **

1: OPEN SESAME

here we are at the magic gate
eager to chat you up and
show you round the cave

I am the face you do not see here
the mouth that speaks words
that no one can know or hear I am
what falls out left over from chasing
things at massively high speeds
the thing that doesn’t matter
like a typo with consequences
or blithe sex with supersymmetry
the rock star goddess
of your current universe

while you look for me, I am looking
for my partner particle, that teasing
shadow racing past your panning
the nothing that follows something
when somewhere is everywhere

indeed I am here but you won’t find me
if not knowing me is necessary
if where you suppose me to be I am not
right now I am behind the construction
guy admiring nearby highspeed curves

we do not know who is whose shadow
though we know what shadows are
the mystery in some fanatic’s bomb
the meek assistant with the notebook mind
the kitchen table particle accelerator
the container darkness steps out of
the day everyone should have stayed home

but me, I’m just excitable
riding the sidecar of your head
you turn, I turn, my parallel your peripheral
I am hiding out where you suspect I am
so I can show you what believing hides:
you cannot find anywhere somewhere
I am alone because we are

2: PAR-TAY

if the pokey particle shows up late
after messing with the mechanism
and collapsing all that can collide
everyone but the clean-up crew
will miss the scene that breaks out
after closing time—lots of
good-natured jostling and quarking
a bit too rowdy for the standard zoo

meanwhile gliding homeward in a night
so full of dark it’s clear, you’ll muse
well, no one saw before before
no one will see after after—but damn!
was the thing elusive only because
we could not find it? did we think it was
there because it thought we were here?
is it even now circling our heads
an erratic nimbus unseen just because
we can’t see everywhere at once?

yes, you may halt friendly neutrinos
for questioning at icy checkpoints
but no one is stopping us
you may see our pilot wave as we
cruise into the harbor, but
I am the boson on this boat
we will arrive massively late
at a party for which you may have
the wrong address

3: DON’T LOOK NOW

I am dogging you so close that
I could be you, say, last summer
swimming in a lake of brisk dimensions
you cannot know because you are
the lake, because imagination is
an unmanned satellite and what
conveys cannot also illuminate

still, only human to want signs
that make sense instead of
sense itself since something that
one day can look benign can
arrive the next like full-on fate
a riptide, or perhaps a sleeper wave

look up now, the sky is your mind
pricked with conflagrations safely past
unlike your wonder, a fire inside
burning through this present moment
with its grace

*Tao Te Ching, trans. Stephen Mitchell
** New Scientist April 2008

altered image;detail from Hubble NGC 3602, http://hubblesite.org/gallery/album/nebula/pr2009025b/npp/all/hires/true/ NASA, ESA, and the Hubble SM4 ERO Team

2008-2012

Little Cake

 16th-century Prosthetics (1564) PDR HAND reszd

Oh for a special order of operatives
who could manage the routes of pain, tricking
it perhaps into circumnavigating
the center in you where you are holding out
with only a rag and a butter knife with which
to defend yourself. But pain travels its own
tricky path, arrives but never really leaves,
from time to time relents to let you see
its absence only signals its return
with fresh armies and replenished supplies
to fortify its occupation, to pull up
the bridge over its moat, meanwhile
that twittering outside about who feels pain,
how pain feels, how they feel about having pain–
as if it’s something one has when anyone
who knows can tell you that pain goes inside you
and locks the door, makes you its little cake,
burns up your life to clear a way to
the cupped edge of its inside world.

image: http://publicdomainreview.org

Maybe Hecate, Maybe Just Some Tramp

you won’t see her at the crossroads
but she is there
always ahead of where you’re going
she’s got a side that’s dark and blind
go that way, good luck with that
she doesn’t have the time
to give a damn

her magic is all misdirection
and disguise, she slips away from
easy expectations
knows the power in
not really being known
is the author of her own bad rap

she’s a threshold
she’s a gate
she’s the genius of all places
in between

she doesn’t take note of
pedants scolds or fools
she doesn’t bother with
people she can’t like

this is not to say that she won’t fight
the side she chooses
is the side she’s on

if you
lose a child
lose a mother
lose your mind
she has a hand for you
and a lamp for your feet
if danger’s where you’re headed
she won’t let you go alone

if you want the woman in her
what you want is what you’ll see
she lives in a room without a door
it’s not a place where you will ever be

don’t try to please her
she’s had all the pleasing she needs

some night you may see
light flickering through a forest
or across a field like
some otherworldly code
and there she is
running with a marten to scout
and a fox to fetch and a goose
to keep the peace, what a plan
the territory she crosses is all hers
even if it belongs to you

or you may see her
accompanied by fireflies
on your patio
gazing up at the sky
in wonder as if it has not
forever been her home

she stands aside for others
coming in and going out
lets them take what they please
so she knows who they are
she doesn’t want the things
most mortals want
so she has the whole wide world
to give

_________________________
image: “Hubble’s View of a Changing Fan,” NASA http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/hubble/science/pv-cep.html

Second Life

We knew we would die and we didn’t care. When we discovered we were already dead, we reckoned we’d been conscripted.

For several millennia we walked the outer wall, which was not the same wall if one thought of it as, say, an inner wall, which is not to say that we ever knew where we were or who we were, if we were us or if we even knew each other.

At first–in a remnant of maybe someone’s old neighborhood or maybe some coastal sort of place where we were maybe born–there was only one landmark: an iridescent oil slick, left behind, someone claimed, by a factory of former ones plying furtive somethings in remote and desperate locales. Well, hell, someone said, is quite remote, but others disagreed, saying hell was usually located rather close to where one lived and thus, given that we were dead and all, probably was not the remote we were in.

Rumors reached us that our pets were pacing morosely about near some
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