Saturday, April 26, 2014

Summer Journal


I remember the grim Navajo staring
          coldly at me, the red mesas
jutting up from the desert and distant
          like the planets. To reach
out and touch one, a meteor
          in the midsun on a Tuesday
when everything was too common
          but the intruder. The stark
waterless breeze dusted the windshield.
          I could hear whimpering
in the rocks where the ancient ones withered.

              The buds belch out
         a kind of stickiness
that leaves an aftertaste in their droppings.
         The sensuousness of the heat
is deceptive—a groin feeling that repeats
         and repeats and seems to weaken
in the moonlight because it has too
         much to recall. I could smell
the black waters under the clay.
         The red mornings, the red
mountains, the green rainstorms
         in the east where the lakes bloat
are flesh scented from so many
         passings.

I keep a blue bottle with
         a paper flower, a yellow
swirl on a pipe cleaner bursting
         from the inanimate
decay of leftovers. I think of an oak
         impregnated with minerals
until it is perfect stone. All
         things solid and spiritual
that die out and go on—
         the Hohokam, the people who
have gone, from the pit houses of
         the Gila basin to
the mountains to the heavens to
         the boulevards where their spirits
are encrusted with rubber and seem
         to have lost their inheritance.
The worn-down teeth of the Pueblo
         who could not separate
the sand from the grain, the ancient ones,
         the Anasazi, who held
the black waters in their palms
         and shivered from the deepness
of such despair.

                         The beach house
         romances, the dusk, the evenings
on the porch, the stick figures
         in the petroglyphs
lost in the slashes, our feet whispering
         because it was best not to speak . . .
I remember the slow-moving waters
         of the swamp—the windswept
surface of the saw grass studded
         with hummocks of palms and willows—
the dark cypress death tree . . .
         as if symbols were necessary.
The wet planks of the pier vibrated
         as I sniffed the rot. I could smell
the white man in me, the oak, the yucca,
         the incomprehensible waters
flowing over my wrists.

(This poem appeared in College English.)




Friday, April 4, 2014

Prisoners


The bent-over professor in Ohio
instructed us on the lineage
of the backbone, the triplet,
in his water voice as he dragged
a leg through the door, through the room,
a gravestone in his knuckles.
    Buckled to the seat in the inclement
    weather, a death’s-head to my left,
    its slate eyes on the lines of the verses,
    I scanned through
    the centuries the lakes,
    the tubers I chewed on,
    the mornings I rose in the famine,
    the bone parts in the bog
    where the steam boiled off the flesh
    and were raked up like leaves on a Sunday.

The brute pit of his leg
expanded through the odes of the poets,
sprouted into a plant 
could sniff in the stale hour
where the spores were unbreathable
and the windows fluttered in the sun.

    The gold fillings that bridged
    the gap between decades
    I picked out of the mud
    like corn out of manure,
    I was that hungry.
    I strolled in a circle
    in a courtyard the color
    of sludge, the color of blood,
    or was it the blue sky I ingested 
    and threw up?

He caned his way through the aisles,
one finger in the air where he carved
his initials in the immediate and knocked
wood when his heart took a beat.

    I was impenetrable, I could
    project myself, I could dominate
    air pockets, sing lullabies, smell
    echoes in the woods.
    I twisted myself rearward,
    the moaning in front of
    me no longer mattering. I reached out,
    touched the tips of the sounds
    as if they were maggots, let them crawl 
    through my wounds to heal them.

He hauled the mudstone of his body after him—
it decomposed in the evening, left
a residue on the sidewalk that no one
scraped up. I, too, stood flat on the stone 
and intoned, “I know who I am.” 
I drew up a loose chart of the days,
a ledger indicating the amount 
I owed each hour. I had no pretense
of my uniqueness. I was culled from 
the forest like a slug. I could smell 
rebellion in me as it swelled up
in my shoes.