Saturday, April 26, 2014
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
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
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 I
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.