- Mom's Canoe
Do you remember your old canoe?
Wooden wide-bellied, tapered ends
made to slip through tight river bends
swiftly, like shadow.
Hull ribbed delicately, wing of bird
Sometimes seen, never heard when it flew
through the water more glider than boat,
ponderous in portage, weightless afloat.
Frail origami, vessel of air,
wide shallow saucer suspended where
shallows met shadows near the old dam.
Remember how it glowed like honey in summer
rubbed with beeswax and turpentine
against leaks, cracks, weather and time.
All your housekeeping went into that canoe,
then you rode high, bow lifted,
arced up like flight, all magic, power,
evening light. You j-stroking,
side-slipping, eddying out, frugal
with movement, all without effort,
just like you walked and ran.
I still see you rising from water to sky,
paddle held high,
river drops limning its edge.
Brown diamonds catch the light as you lift, then dip.
Parting the current, you slip
silently through the evening shadows.
You, birdsong, watersong, slanting light,
following river bend, swallowed from sight.
It's quiet here in the windshadow, hills
and mountains of the island of you
humped up and dark in the dusky dawn
light of this room. The sun will
continue to come and continue to fill
the room until the shades must be drawn
gainst the blank flush and heat of afternoon.
- Apologies to my OBGYN
Sorry that my boy birthed himself
too early, took up so much room
in your prenatal nursery
with his two pounds, two ounces
and did not oblige your nurses
with easy veins.
Sorry we were such pains in your ass
asking you to answer our night calls like that,
and that he did everything so backwards:
lost weight, gained fluid
blew up like a human balloon
Sorry about how he defied your prognoses,
skyrocketed premiums, weighted the costs
in your cost-benefit analyses,
skewed bell-curve predictions
into one long, straight line;
sorry he took so much of your time
being so determined to live. He spent
today saving hopeless-case nymph moths
trapped in the porchlight, one matrix-dot
at a time, and now he's asleep; blue wingbeat
pulse fluttering his left temple;there,
there again. Just like it did then.
or what remains,
can leak out
or jolt of joy,
of phantom limb.
- Kinship of Flesh
I swung my legs up to the table
as I always like to do
and saw another pair
swing up, identical
gesture, length and curve.
I saw your taper-finger,
knot-vein, walnut knuckle
hand just like Mom's
and mine, somehow
knitting together years
miles, dollars, cultures
Visits, letters, calls, e-mails
until it seemed we had less
in common than people I met
on line at the post office.
Then you sat down next me,
sister, and I saw
what I'd forgotten.
- Strip Mine
A terrible, lunar beauty,
pale and sere
like leaves past withering
when we run along the edges,
slag bits broke loose and
rolled down the wash
to the bottom,
as dark marbles,
two halves of ancient bivalve clam
facing each other
in frozen contemplation,
the animating spark
buried in sediment eon ago.
At the edge
wild chicory contributes its blue
to the green and white tangle
of Bindweed and Queen Anne's Lace,
then, the shallow mine pit,
wide, rusty gash,
of rock scoured of soil by the rains
since the miners packed up their rig
Ledges with crumbling faces
of limestone, gneiss, and shale,
whole trays of layers which separate
to reveal the mystery
of delicate calligraphy on slate,
ancient fern or fish,
or link to man.
- I Know How The Fish Feels
hooked, jerked up from all
it knew; fluid, muted milieu
before bright bite of metal.
Gills burned, drowned in air;
under slanted blade, afraid
as rainbow armor scales away.
Laid wide open, butterflied;
broken-booked, spine revealed,
entrails tangled overboard.
Gutted, cut to bone
past pain or thought or
twitch of brain.
You'd go back to him, then,
your swaggering full-bird
second husband, fragged in Korea
and now hunkered down
here in this backwater?
How could you,
after he blackened
and wrecked your canoe?
You escaped from that place once,
his cottage collapsed
on the banks of that dirty, dredged ditch
he calls a river; all you needed was a car
where you could sleep, keep your things.
Yes, you're alone now we kids
are all grown and left home;
but would you really go back
to that tarpaper shack squatting
in bottles and weeds,
where your beloved canoe still lies on its side
split like your lip
where he kicked it,
the night you ran home to us
in your nightgown and only one shoe.
- Fossil Record
Ammonite, Crinoid stem,
fern in stone with spores
strung like pearls along
each bract; snakeskin
tree bark, imprint wing
pressed and fanned; one
metatarsal wears a ring.
Substrate less self,
embraced by stone
womb, Corpus Luteum.
What has and what will,
pre- and post-virginal
virgin of be, preamble
and postscript of am.
Thick wedged slate,
old X-ray plates,
dense and dark,
shot through with light,
the inner part of things
what's been unveiled,
what's been enshrined
in sunken shaft
of mine or light,
bones thrown down
of Czar or thief,
of bird or wife.
- Altoona to Marin
Go ahead, aspire to transcend
yor hardscrabble roots, bootstrap
the life you dream on,
escape the small-minded tyranny
of your small-minded Midwestern
But when you've left it behind, you
may find it still there, in your dreams,
your syntax, the smell of your hair,
its real smell, under the shampoo.
Beware DNA; it will out or be outed,
and you'll find yourself back
where you started, back home,
unable to refute the logic of blood and bone
you'll slip, and pick up Velveeta
instead of brie. It's inexorable.
Kansas one day will turn out to be Oz
and Oz Kansas,
with the same back porch weeping,
the same husbands sleeping around,
addiction, cancer, babies born wrong;
the same siren nights pierced
with stars seeping light, all that
gorgeous, pitiless song.