Friday, October 21, 2016

autumn posy

My daughter beams, presenting her bouquet:
dead leaves--a damp, bunched fistful
sisters fallen from one tree, brown and big as my mommy palm
and vaguely stinking: leafmust, bitter-medicinal,
curious wet dog.
They are not all the same:
their veins, teacup-crack fractals, branch uniquely,
black beetle pockmarks unbeautify them like fingerprints,
one only flushes still with queasy green.
You can hold them all mommy, she cries
thrusts their flexible damp stems into my hands.

Thursday, October 20, 2016


does God sort people into boxes,
saving them--

I guess He would need a whole room full of
boxes just for the States of
american christians

the patriotic ones, for sure, go mostly in this box
waving their flags and their constitutions and their godly heritage
their ikons of pigtailed founding fathers

these ones are wearing bluejeans, they will lift up their hands,
they have free and beloved tattooed on their wrists and their shoulders
their box is blinking blueviolet
bass throbbing
over the praise chorus phrases
the phrases and phrases and phrases
that box contains a real worship experience,
they agree
some of them aren't solid on Who
does it matter

a box for the working class whites
much worn down around the corners
warped and speckled with grease stains and sweat stains
prickling, resentful
(what happens to the anomalies
who decide to go for doctrine
do they get a new box
or do they get thrown in with the middle class Presbyterians
and the wealthy Baptists,
with their skirts and their suits and their $400 youth camps and their
church schools)

you would think the liberal box would be pretty big
with ample space for thinking
but mostly they just fill the room up with
pinkhearted sobs and hugs
in between their
(can we say it in God's room?)
social justice work

Boxes for the white ones
the brown ones 
the black ones
a few for the ones who want to be mixed up

the psalm singers
the amen shouters
the babblers and fainters

i feel like maybe i should slip into the box He keeps
shoved under the bed
the one with all the broken pieces--

Our stories get us most of us tangled
so maybe He (metaphorically) asks us
where we want to go do this whole
"one another" thing,
which other we feel will be the least

in heaven do we get to switch churches if we
get that "outsider" feeling?

suburban faery (unfinished)

Do giants find the world of Faerie trivial
dollhouse-twee, all pastel let's-pretend?
Their eyes too high-air-buffeted to see
tender eyestalks or close-curled damp shells--
all they know is the crunch of anonymous
dull brown stones and twigs, 
all shapes the same breaking
beneath thick soles...

October glamours even the pocket lawn
behind our tidy house
Centered in the clipped brown yard, a fairytale tree
holds out handsful of heartshaped, gilded leaves
and in its branches a feathered princeling sings
warbles of spells and loss and splendid-tragic things
I can no longer hear
(It is years now since i lost my fairytale ears,
I have crushed too many toiling ants)

Its dropped sticks become swords, and wands;
its squirrels bring messages, brave tasks and tests

And the brown skink, fingerlong shadow
on the lattice,
perched in each eternity
before he spies, twitches, slithers, disappears--
he is an ancient, wise, dragoneyed thing

Cruel hunters with diamond wings
hover and dive
for morsels that creep and scuttle through brown grass

Geneva is hoarding acorns,
fistfuls of acorns,
piling them into the secret box under her tricycle seat
Is she storing up fairy seeds
smooth around so many wishes to wish--
Or nuts of gold, to bribe a bigeyed princess with--
Or maybe she wants only to treasure them,
that heap of treepromises
roundbellied with intention toward the earth--
It is enough: it is Fall, and there are these acorns
glossy brown in her cupped hands

Wednesday, October 19, 2016


The fog rolls up silent
and unstoppable
at sixoclock
it creeps in the kitchen window corners
holds out fingers thick with stories

the coffeemaker coughs and spits

this is one story: i am a barnacle
frilled and clinging, furled, alone
in this world, in this house

This house: this dead and drifting brickskinned whale
thickshelled, still i go on riding
this island
there is, outside his lidless eye
a single dark and brachiating tree
stolid among pregnant waves
a thick and secret sea

Thursday, October 6, 2016

labor (spoken word)

I am a man

unleisured, unlettered, i am heir
to as much of sky: i too partake
in 15minute nicotine drenched midnight breaks
of stars flung no less wide
thronged no less deep

than you
Sleeping in your mattress in its solid wood frame
in your 5 bedroom 3 1/2 bathroom
woodfloored wifecleaned roachless yardmowed

Look at you reaping
the fruits of your labor
casting bread on the water
did the debt snowball
you're the good Christian version
of american dreaming:
save and amass, one day you'll pay cash
for a palace like Dave Ramsey
till your taxes go to benefit
like me

(second shift third shift

what does it profit
a man
if he gain)

My name
is no less heavy
in God's hand
because it's on those documents of shame
(I have a name:)

wal mart employee
delinquent rent
stacked up infractions
unpaid child support
godforbid food stamps
haven of the shiftless unprincipled

Do you know my name? 
Your granddad called my dad
worse than a n-------
How do you figure the worth of a

white trash
no class
Back then at least he had his white skin
not at the bottom if there's someone less than

My sin
is no less grave than yours.
Your sin
My sin
For the same damn wages

And the rate of my redemption is not one drop less
of God's own blood.
I am a man

It is a much diminished thing to be a man
We lost sight of justice
we love our private school educations
   family vacations
   college savings
   club cards
   Chik Fil A (my kids eat free lunch and PB&J)
more than the rawscrape shape of love
and mercy

it is better to walk proud
in our righteous bootstraps
our heads so full of prudence up on those clouds
american dreaming
oh holy nation of white middle class self made

You want to work 9 to 5
and eat the fruit of that righteous toil
and eat, and eat
the little thistle prickles make it sweeter

A day will come
(it won't be my day)
when we at last go home
Work the earth together like we were made to

and you, with your Protestant work ethic, your prudence, your priorities
your middle class opportunities
You will own not one inch of it
that sweet black soil, wormrich and warm beneath your hands

Beside you I will weep
barehanded, bury deep this angry pride
This bitter seed, humiliation
I will reap humility

We will receive the same wages

Tuesday, October 4, 2016


Even in these days and these places you may find her
if you seek
diminished to a frail and shrewlike thing
like all her kind
Always, now, she has teeth

her mouth a dollhouse steak knife
serrate, swarming
you will remember the razor bite in your thumb
and the bite in your ring finger
later, the too-pink flush and swell and itch

remember that frantic bundle
needlebones, sharp stink, and matty fur
wrapped too thin around a shrill accelerating buzz
How tiny-frangible those bones
a dollhouse skeleton
a dollhouse heartbeat

Remember you held her,
teeth and trepidation,

and were amazed

Found her:
fear and featherweight, a thing
too heavy-huge
to fold in feeble giant's fingerbones