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Read my interview with The Writer's Center here

Lorca’s Passport

In the photograph,
Which we know
The poet admired,
Which we know
He called spiritualistic,
The vague,
Spotted bowtie
Like a moth
Has come to rest
Slightly crooked
At his throat.
His shirt glows,

The visible portion
An upside down
Triangle or a lily
That has opened
To bear his head,
From the dark
Of the charcoal
Buttoned suit.
One eye on his face
Is shadowed. One ear
Is black, sucked
Into his hair.

The ear we can see
Is a luminous egg.
There is a pinprick
In the center.
The other eye’s socket
Swallows his pupil
Like a mote. “It borders
On the light
Of murder,”
He once wrote of it,
“Over my shoulder,
A sort of harp…”


Cortez Arrives as San Juan de Ulloa

He belongs to no one now.
He trims his beard with tiny golden scissors.
He whittles
At his fingertips.

Each shoulder in its armor, the liquidy hollow
Of an egg. He fits his feet in stirrups.
He yanks the rotten tooth.

And this is Cortez in his boots: Lord of Death,
Lord of Fire, whose ship is burning, who spits commands
Into the air,

That he is never going back; to the one wave turning
On another; to that ash heap; that boat;
That murdering sea.

Pig Slaughter

The house that held it
Still stinks of death. The hurdle
Worst to cross was killing.
The butcher with his butcher's gun
Arrived and got himself acquainted
With the pig. The pig has knowledge

Too; the pig is kind or cruel
Depending; it winces like a dog
Before it's hit. The happy butcher
Slung it to the ladder standing upright
At the house, and from the neck
He sliced the dead, delicious skin.

Someone stirred the blood by hand.
Someone cleaned the viscera.
Someone cooking barley
Stuffed the barley into warm blue tubes.
The rest is tenderness. The roasting of the pig
Is like no quiet I have known.

Breast Exam

Below us, the dog has made a clearing
in the field and fallen fast asleep.
The sky, boundless as it seems, clamors
All the way into the window behind you.
The house is a clearing for the human world.
You lie on the bed, the blanket pressed and green.
Your hands caress the tissue down
To the ribs; they make small circles
Across each breast, one at a time. It is late summer.
The corn, like thick, miraculous cilia, hisses
Whenever wind cuts through those narrow alleys.

Instructions for the Lost

Above the cellars
Lined with preserves,
In a foreign year,
Its calendar girls
Naked except for their parasols,
You may find
That you are lost.
You may listen
To the gurgle of the small
Red chimneys
Filling up with dark.
Into that dark
That sleeves
The bare branches
Like a heavy sack,
A crow will disappear, children.
Pay attention to the crow.
The windpipe
With its tiny rungs.

Our Secret Icarus Is

A railway conductor
Who sells coffee on the side.

He should be demanding the tickets.
He should be
Scolding the passengers
Who floundered at the station
With their goodbyes.
He should be pulling them in by the arms.

Ladies and Gentlemen
Let's drink a little Russian vodka and be patient now.
He's on his way with a hole in his pocket
And no change
Ringing his little bell.

Hi cups of coffee are soily grinds.
He spills them handing them over.
He can't interpret what's left
At the bottom of the cup
As a sign.

The math, he says,
Is beyond him.

This Story's Mine about My Mother

"I want to suffer my own suffering
And die my own death," my mother wrote
Into a book of poems I once gave her.
When I discovered them,
I felt those lines more brutally
Than any in the book. She told me once
And I believed her
That whatever I make with my own hands
Is mine. The earth is sad and right, she also said.

Max Jacob at Abbey St Benoit sur Loire

A poem grabs him by the nape:
The sullen French, their howitzers largess
Somewhere near Petite Pierre, a passage
Like the horrors of his sleep.
Fey and inattentive at the Abbey,
He twiddles in his pin-stripes with the monks.
At night he fills the heat-thick pages of his book.
He kneads his mound of bread all day.
He knows a garret where the devil feeds,
A little flop on Rue St. Paul, an alley
For the damned. He tries to pray.
But it's no good. The French are dead.
It's 1926. Lost without their war,
Statues and police lurk everywhere.

Waking on the Pribor Train, Near Freud's Birthplace

I hear before I see.
Halfway through the rain-wet
Fields of Pribor in winter,
Some distant, barking dogs
Suggest the town.
I have heard tell
Of its shops with names
Predating the war
When this was a Jewish city.
I have found it all this way
Like a cup or a pocketknife
Or a hat from childhood
I thought was lost.
Illumined by the station lights
The tiny veins
Flicker behind my eyes
And I open my eyes:
It's like floating back into the world
After prayer. The moon
Is out. The dogs are slick
And fluid in their thick, black fur.

The Sucker

It suits me fine. Because I smashed
The stone against its head, the sucker's lips

And belly split, bloody. I killed the thing
And left it. The scavengers who came,
They didn't care how if I had hooked it
On the eye, if it had galloped up
The bank. I smashed the head and out

Came the oily heart instead. The tail was a knife.
The mouth's white lips moved filthily.
You can't use reason. I had my portion
Of somethingness to defend. What I eat
Turns into husks since then.


Side Work

Great things begin
In the periphery.
Meanwhile my father

Works third shift
At the mustard plant.
He's around my age.

He's finished
For the night.
He revs his truck,

Waiting for the heat.
The ladder shakes
In its rack on top.

The heat is dusty,
Coming on. All this
Can happen

Without us, just
Out of view:
It's almost morning.

The smallest tools
Begin to shudder now
in their boxes.


The saddest trains go north.
Along the aisles
Men hang in place.

The grasp the drooping wires
And try not to remember
Their loneliness.

The women sit. They wave,
They move their hands
Like through water. They clutch

Their purses and square hats.
They are so busy, they have no time
To ward off stranger.

When this train stops,
All bow forward like in prayer.
The men unclench.

The women gather their things.
The hands of children still asleep
Are heaviest.

View from Inside

To teach me how to use the scythe,
Standa held his two hands over mine.
Beside my body

He guided our bodies
Through the high grass.
Like this.

By dark we had made a little clearing.
You’re doing very well, he said.
I couldn’t see a thing.

I kept looking up ahead
And swinging,
Like I do this.