A father once. Loses a leg. Becomes clay.
Tells me for his daughter
there are plenty of reasons to grieve.
Tells me the houses we build know this.
They let the winter in. Enough to need
novel corners of afternoon sun.
Come like the owl to a dying man.
Come like music from a third-floor window.
A gray dove dies in the throat of my dream
and a father laughs and tells me of reverence.
How it is nothing we think it to be.
And he tells me of the bone dancers who come.
And he takes off his shoes to tap against the door.
And he sings as he leaves,
holy as all things that live and die are holy.
Lays his song down in the earth to grow.
The hills carry the last of his burden.
Swallow it deep and always remember.
He learns softly how to open.
How to see everything
Sid Vicious killed Nancy Spungen because she asked him to.
You mistook this for love.
Jump back 15 years:
I tried it on.
I wrapped the Madness and the Fury
in my body and put your name on it.
I was too young.
Everything spoke in whispers
when it spoke at all.
Bruises looked like continents and you
were the most intrepid topographer.
You channeled yourself into monsters.
Eyeless roaring heirlooms handed carefully down
by your father. His father.
I made a footbridge because you asked me to.
So you could find your way back.
I mistook this for love.
You were beautiful when you ate the parts of yourself
you hated most.
Jump forward 15 years:
I smell of copper.
The wound is a tongueless mouth.
Its bridge of sutures dissolves.
There is only what comes after.
The world, sunny and bird filled.
We dismantle ourselves to fit into this better.
We are roads and roads, sloped and dirty.
The birds are midnight. The birds are fireflies.
We sink better than anything. We roll.
Dodge our own bullets. Just barely. Just by fragments.
We know no better. We try. We choke.
We pull teeth in lieu of feathers.
We vomit, endless and agonizing vowels.
The birds are waves. The birds are endless.
We draw beaks upon the world and pretend to be still.
As cabins in a forest in the morning are still.
Empty places. Echo and ghost.
Things that slip through my fingers when I try.
Like birds. Tiny gods.
Things I used to know but have now forgotten.
An endless concourse
of hallways. Sterile corridors.
An opiate sleep quickened
through a dying window.
The hum of compression.
The cold, surgical.
The grasses, bent in longing.
The wind and all its burden.
The stitches. The bleeding.
The basket-weave muscles
bruised and swollen.
Skin and sky of distinct stages
of healing. Armour of water.
Forests of leaden quiet.
Whole mountains of gathering,
here, in the abdomen.
A fugue of yellow.
A ladder to anywhere.
An alcove that wilts, perfect,
The window is open.
The blue house wakes.
The lights come on.
It will take time to say this.
Press your ear to the ice
I was suffering somewhere
And when you drove
the black car
through the cave in,
my name lost its only syllable.
Parted as an ocean.
Scraped, clean and gleaming
In the palms of your lovely hands,
life was formed. And I was changed.
You stood and carried
the house of my name
away. Where I was born.
Where I rose
up and out, bare of feathers.
The robin was not so lucky.
He died in the tree
by the kitchen.
He said it will take time
to hear this. Sawed the trunk
in two with his human hands.
Sang as though
we needed it
more than he.
I buried him in the dustbath garden
on a day the color of clay.
Dreamed that night
of the Pisgah.
The humid breathy sheen
of the rhododendron
pressed like a hand
to the small of my back.
The leafy drip
The kind that lasts.
I had a poem but I lost it.
The space between the lines,
cramped as toes in a boot.
The dagger cliffs of end,
the jumbled tumult of falling
off each one.
But there is a sea to speak of.
One where all fated things go.
Poems and people. To lick wild
the salted currents. Green
and open as a heart. One I know
to cover every season
of a life. Any life. A waiting
that ends in water. A cleansing
and the comfort of being
a real thing
when it’s over.
There is music there,
in the deep. A string of harps
plucked in the vastness.
The open door beyond.
Where old burdens
are taken further out
The shell, outgrown.
The body, a page.
no longer needed.
The dance of exoskeleton
beneath the glow
of timeless orbits.
Calcified and shed,
meted to the rocks
In the quickening cold
through its walleye darkening
like bitter oranges I sing.
a lamed whale
beached and dying I sing.
Blighted and proud I sing.
Morselized and sparkling I sing.
Blue as days and rolled as oceans I sing.
Weeping sister in the glowering dusk I sing.
Father of rivers in the churchless earth I sing.
Old bone brother at the cusp of breaking I sing.
Aching mother ‘round a hollowed body I sing.
Exiled daughter of rain and red graves I sing.
The sun shifts on its columns and I sing.
The wind lays heavy and I sing.
The night falls hard as a hammer and I sing.
My lungs burst into tiny fragments and I go on singing as if.
My thickets burn into thorny pyres and I go on singing as if.
My tongue splits into shards of granite and I go on singing as if.
I go on singing
as all creatures do.
I go on singing
A record of water lives here.
I dig it up in search of you.
It sleeps when the books are empty.
When the ground is hard
beneath the salt.
The birds sleep
in the sky and under it.
Fluff into tufts that hum
sadly of warmth
in such a climate
You’d pull the burden out of me
and lay it on the world,
But the water freezes. The birds
go on sadly humming
in their open cages.
The pages keep turning
faster than I can read them.
And this is what it is
to be cold
You are somewhere,
Your voice is caught
like a draft. Billowing.
Rusting quietly on a spike
by the door. The wind hand.
The old fish. Gills closed
I hear you in my blood
as I step into the street.
The dog shivers in the wind.
The bluer stones of cairn
Why have I not see them