Note: Poem Titles Marked with a Double Asterisk (**) Have Been Published or Accepted for Publication.


In Buenos Aires, the men sit stirring
Their thick espressos, rapidly stirring
Small cups of coffee, adding sugar, still
Rapidly stirring their small espressos.

She has been arrested and beaten, she
Tries to remember her poetry, her
Music, her eyes cracked and sharp serrations
Her cheek bones honed as if with a whetstone.

In Buenos Aires, the men sit stirring
Their thick espressos, mindlessly stirring
Small cups of coffee, adding sugar, still
Mindlessly stirring their small espressos.

She has no spirit for any dull rites
Of interrogation, they seem to need
Ceremonies to make her death that much
Less ridiculous, something less to miss.

In Buenos Aires, the men sit stirring
Their thick espressos, endlessly stirring
Small cups of coffee, adding sugar, still
Endlessly stirring their small espressos.

**epicenter, 6 (2002), 10.

Santa Cruz

That they’re here at all is both
Natural and difficult to fathom–
A milk-carton crate full of my dead
Sister’s life: autograph books, stray images,
Keepsakes I thought lost. The sea here
Has manifold faces, lozenge presentments, quick
Surfaces; it is the same water, though,
Give or take a current, we marched along
Full of direction; the damp here will
Damage much of the crate’s piebald
Contents, but my brothers couldn’t have
It otherwise, there is no other place
For them.


She twitches her blankets, and looks
Sweet and distant, like some wool cat
Languidly ignoring the lives
Around her, and her eyes glove-warm
With the morning, avoiding each
Other eye that might keep her from else
Eternities she senses. This
Death does us a kindness, taking
People away in their pieces:
Beginning with the need to wake,
Knowing where we are, were, what we
Might be doing here while waiting.

**The Waterways Project, December, 2001.


The universe lies as God’s upwelling
God cracks open the hard ground summer clay
Becomes, and lifts out plants only destined
To die, and still they eat the air, and trim
Dragonflies measure their geometry.
I keep Rebekah’s brown eyes in my eyes,
Her skin more indwelling of life’s
Sinuous understanding, her body
Supple as any remembered springtime
Stalks in creation: the cosmos
Is an upwelling of God.
**Silver Wings Mayflower Pulpit, 32 (2003), 11.


Good can tumble out of anything,
Yet good heads are best, their round
Shape–however masked by hair–
Remarkable for rolling, eyes smooth–
However by abrasion: Presents are
Eternal instanced memories, their wraps
Device, protecting, treacherous-
Mysterious, and inside is a heart
Made vague and vulnerable by hollows.
Solutions are surprises, children
Astonished, opening doors, overcome
With unexpected lurid colors, gifts;
And the frantic, the frenzy, the fidget
Recapturing them.


There are so many other sides: eyelids
Heavy and solid as seashells, they’d sleep
Longer, but it’s been long enough–harsh noise
Could crack them open, but there are better
Ways to wake–the angels that kept tender
Caressing them past measurable time
Are willing to surrender them to new
Other angels, if you but enter them
Softly–if they are to love you, you must
Love them back, for that even angels can’t
Unless you choose to make you do.

**Creative Juices, August, 2002.


It is imagining that sends
Us aching, rushes, that urges
Where we generate, hurts
Us at the fork: hardly can we
Stand for wanting. It is the real
That wakens us: the panoply
Of sky’s a most wide, passionate
Cerulean, yet we can bear
Outdoors in confidence; the sun
Makes upper branches other than
Strange, yet they etch; a shadowsome,
Self-loathing, retiring, hidden
Secret tree suddenly changes,
There are bursts of blossoms, cloud-white
Of ordinary.


Hazel, yes, the color of an autumn
Elsewhere, I said ‘brown’ only to finish
A sentence–“hazel” would not, being
As they were, precipitate themselves. But
Colors have their own reminding, regard
The patches of glazes and tell me their
Silent containers told you their contents’d
Be your children, then leave you firmly fired
To their own singular hue, and none would
Be hazel; it’s proof we should kiss them when
They’re finished into orbits of their own.


Considering waking next to you,
Considering what you might look
Like, waking, passing from what
You are not to what I sometimes
Know you to be, considering how
You and I might complement
Each other’s bodies, how in the end
We might not fit, considering what
We now are, what this place is, what
The time is getting to be, what
Are the deliberate motions of stars,
Of the dead, of oceans hissing along
The beach.
**Love’s Challenges, Winter, 2002.


A ream of Vivaldi running nighttime,
Vivaldi doing his demanding, so
Some small orphanage oboist might then
Attract Luigi, her curly-dark hair
Sighing, her prim head pivoting in tight
Concentration, her mouth in most darling
Pucker, that blowing might make more brown-eyed
Venetians for the craft and the Republic,
The slipped air afloat with light Venetian
Language, bouncing as wavelets off the Grand
Canal, as leaves do, when the Po takes them
To try the sea, on the Adriatic.

For Jim and Bill

They’ll still do it, because they still do
Anything they’ve done, though it can’t be
Common: engraving owners’ names
Along their pens–not as a means to counteract
Misplacing, but rather as a sign
Of simple, reciprocal motion:
Back and forth, from pocket to employment,
Regular as a schedule of tides.
It took years and it all stayed,
Traversing, home to work, slowly the keys,
The wallet-pictures emerging and changing them,
The pen, that it was so steady
Still, and it was they did.


We have identical
Hands, so that’s why holding
Them could not distinguish
One’s fingers, one’s palms from
Another’s, holding each
Other’s hands would not be
Different from holding
Our own. I, then, should not
Miss you, having your hands
As my hands crafting curved
The vortices of grace.


It’s mythical that maelstroms swirl coiling,
Coursing, swinging, contrary to the clock,
Below the equator, there where flourish
Ragged rainbows predominantly red
And orange: liquids will sink hankering
Into foxglove-like interiors, plumbed
Down into a last, lost, glistering eye
Within: folds lap and massage, disarming
Wayward interlopes–the right brain drives left-
Some tendencies for making, fires, cascades
Of longing.


Art may be pure intention, art may be
Accident–a single strand of your black
Hair descending as rings over your egg-
Shell stem neck might well be someone’s doing,
As it circles, spirals, ends as perfect
Wisp, as though there were fingers coming
To resolution. Or it may be simply
Twisting. And that difference may have no
Direful consequence: Art is not a thing,
Art is feeling as if the thing were real.

Doctor Joe Sweeny

Because of the war, my uncle
Met my Mother’s gorgeous
Sister Amelia, meeting
Her a nurse, he a doctor, come
To San Francisco; he dour, hard
Spokane, Italians must have seemed
Incredible dancing creatures
Their beckoning him on with huge
Tables of savory and sly
Banter–and if the blood later
Wrenched him, because of the war,
Made him silence it after, so
That he’d dump his locker with us
Because of the war, his scalpels
Still watching in their wooden box,
And he served Spokane in silence
About the dying, with his lovely,
Alien wife, because of the war,
He gave us children place to put
Our toys, and use the spare scalpels
To sharpen pencils, whittle wood.


Teiresias had it wrong: I who have
Made women wait, and do, am now compelled
To keep my watching; and I tell you, its
Exercise of lashed imagination’s
Pretty much a waste. Teiresias must
Have been remembering her orgasms,
And that may well be so, but nurturing
Carries its own peculiar punishment,
Lugging moot laundry in the avenue,
Mousetrapped in passivity: civilization’s
Not easy for a man, any man, but
It’s agony for women.


Sunday they ate together, Monday there
Was nothing, Tuesday he planted a rose
For her, Wednesday he wrote her about it,
Thursday he left her muffins, Friday he
Cooked scallops for his potluck, Saturday
Was an all-day Union meeting. Mid-week,
The Wednesday letter said she must do her
Self’s own cherishing, her flailing weeping
Was a moon’s false phase; but it overturned
Agglutinative soil, set her lips, eyes,
Hair deep and sonorous. As a mother,
She could bear her brood, the muffins
Had a dollop intended of honey
For to attract children.

**Blind Man’s Rainbow, Summer, 2002.


In an evening, we were silent
In the garden, I found myself
Watching for just-appearing stars,
And–where I looked away–they were
In that second there, indigo
Skies smattered, evading attention:
Just so may those fondnesses I
Feel for you come manifest, far
From mere bare intention, as if
For attenuated soundless,
Sublimated through a garden.


So should everyone be surprised
By unexpected roses, but
Especially you, deserving,
But unexpecting them the most.


Roses arrogant themselves at reason
And pride at issues of direction;
Though less than they, I can only
Emulate their wisdom
By still providing.

American Troops in the Mexican War, 1846

Diablos! These soldiers waste the powder
And shot I could use for taking game–deer
And antelope–I could use to scare wolves
From my sheep in the high winter pasture,
And these drag the santos from the mission,
San Jose, Santa Barbara, San Luis,
San Francisco de Asís, and shoot them;
Do they think the santos only of wood,
Only there to waste their shot and show their
Bad aim? The santos will tell them,
When they die, they were better off giving
Their powder to Francisco Ayala,
Their shot to Pancho Ayala, than stand
And try to hurt the ones who welcome you
To paradise.

**Devil Blossoms, tba.


My sculptures, attending the walls,
And hanging over like kindly
Ancestor children, hold their tongues;
The black spider in the paper
Shade rests; sunlight stays languidly
Recumbent–but a tower’s built
For seeing, not just waiting in:
What I can perceive is, windowed,
Regardful visits of sparrows,
A walk someone’s paved with stippled
Blossom-petals, and a cosmos
Now commencing, intending me


Leaves burgeon, acknowledging the wind,
And bivalves smooth their silicates surround
According to the draw and fine caress
Of water; earth’s reversal is itself
An instance of edges to galaxies,
Through mediating spirals, claysink,
Claylist, claylift, into the light lapping
Hawkswing of ellipses.


The roses
And glosses
Of Pumpkin


The stuff of tenderness impels
Roses’ generous swelling, erupts,
Uplifting faces for the stir
Of night air–it readies for our
Beyonding, but does no beyond
Beyond itself, with just such pure
Pressure as you might shape a peach
Picking it, and have its features’
Own yielding self respond.


So much Rachmaninoff in the morning
Reduces me to manner for weeping
Over what is lost in its unfolding,
Over notes cracked open in their fall,
Tumble, not returning in recumbent
Memory. If music is a candle
Gnawing at its matter, stumble flickers
Still are pure efflorescence, gape, rear, break,
Make its moments all moments that can be.


I take no credit, allowing them
To be, for their own part, noble:
They are driven by their own roots’
Desires for far more abundance.

[done for Spanish money]

They’ll like the light, tightly curling
Chirping–it is so like doñas
Singing their gossip in whispers
Back in the eye-dark recesses
Of their boxes–so I, too, will
Have taken them in.


If not being able to love
Me makes you weep, it is only
The welling of a tender heart
And I would not stop you the tears,
Nor would I make you want to love
Me even if I could.


Was her smile ethereal only set,
Or did it say hello–her straight eyes
Gave me no way to tell, I hope
It was hope, since she thinks,
And may have thought me
What I try to make myself–
Generous with cookies, too
Lenient when she ought


God, make John kind, your
Powers can extend to this,
I ask this not even for John, but
Because we all should be kind
And cannot do it even if
It’s all we want it seldom
Is. It seldom is with John
Yet make him kind.


It made palatable a Midwest
Flat, the longing anesthesia,
Liquid having in its belly
Liquids having in their bellies
Liquids. The intervals by which
I heft the wine and sip may have
Their rule, but does my heart’s angle
Widen as a cosine setting
To the sun? It cannot be so
Easy to require everything
That I desire.

[For many years
they wandered, in the determining of fate,
through every sea]

Love that circles and contains tidal energies
Fails no one in her keeping, sleeps in your bedsheets:
Showing her sculpted shoulder-blades, stepped vertebrae,
The slight inturn before the hips become notion,
And one leg slings itself over the other, its instep
Caressing a calf; love’s breasts she has held from you, her arms
Keep them, but yet in her folding they have scalloped
Towards the center of love’s weightlessness.


Both, they had felt a paper consciousness,
Perfunctory abstractions, what had been
A gnawing grew, until consuming each
Gesture, every caress counted a cold
Cancer of consignment: bitter heaving
Last dry terrors before forsakenness.


Lying in the evening grass, I’d imagine
The high, thin Washington palms as uncles,
Grandfathers gravely nodding, stern, swaying
Uncles, the wind the gold, bright that we—through
The Peninsula—love. My Mother’s round, wide,
Wizened face reminds me of the full moons
Rising in those palms, shining mysterious
As they always have, wistful as my Mother.
But her eyes are dead pennies, their umber
Blue is edging gray at the iris, they
Have no recognition. Nevertheless
I must say Hi to her in her corner,
Her rapid and not-so-rapid and her
Shallow and shallow-and-not-so-shallow
Breathing sighs at two brief, full moments, it’s
Something like Hi as answer.

**The Storyteller, Jan/Feb/March, 2003.


How my Mother came to break so
Many rosaries eludes me:
She might have worked them to the point
Of parting, though the roll through one’s
Fingers could not unchain those beads
And scatter them, as would have gone
Over kitchen linoleum
Where we prayed, to seek an unclaimed,
Lost corner, to wait there, a seed,
An olive of promise: it’s more
Probable the chains entangled
The contents of her purse, as full
Itself providing for just such
Emergencies they have in San
Francisco when there are children:
That snagging linen, meant to blow
Noses, dry tears, wash spit-dabbed
Faces must have been exactly
What caught her rosaries.


Reluctantly, a springtime morning mist
Hovers, but never so reluctantly
My love, as the world is warmer, unfolds
From her coats, her sweaters, her long sleeves, so
That her forearms, her arms, her light shoulders,
Her neck arise like hills that streams have long
Patiently made smooth.

For Dean Langland

That it’s news at all means it’s bad,
That it’s bad at all means it’s new–
Sources anonymous tell you
You’re best, the false lubrication
Water is, you slip, thinking that
It represents forward motion,
And, descending, you find your fell
Sack on the bottom: now curse those
Who told you you were right.


It is Chopin again you’ve put
In the air, Chopin spooling out
Into the South Wind, turning back
Again, Chopin weightlessly
Querying what I am now, that
I should now be hearing Chopin
And think this second, however
Without you, the single best most
Splendid second I’ve lived.


The Sacred Time for Lamp Lighting
In Roman Households

To Honor Zoë Nutter (1984-2002)

A candle’s sole fire has at its base slight
Diaphanous blue, the merest, most scant
Breath that can be missed, so silken and sheer
The thread is–and as it’s ascending
It turns no green as would be seen jungles,
But climbs yellow with a gray heart. Your hand
Makes a cage for the candle, there are faint
Suggestions of your fine bones, a gray heart
To each. And more and more you move alone
At these services, you believe death does
Not kill: what would have been the hope of Byrd’s
Whole audience you hope, and not to force
Some vapor consolation in cool air,
But rather to find meaning in fire, life
In that dark time before all the house lights
Are lighted.


Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Walter
Savage Landor lie there, just among weeds,
Some grandiose Russian aristo,
Perhaps a prince, Protestants, Orthodox
Surprised that death would pester such a city,
Astonished that the traffic swarms to avoid
The ship their cemetery is. Doe-eyed
Melanie Ferguson pointed out fire
Brief flies that I had not before noticed,
Probably Landor’s and Browning’s and Clough’s
And the Russian’s tremulous new souls.


A doctor watches the route of disease
Through her organs, and dispassionately
Notes the white cast, the yellow, the umber,
Red and blue, so I see and still cannot
Prevent hews necrotic of our haunted,
Haphazard dreams.


In the bombing of Coventry
Plays continued, in the bombing
Of Dresden string quartets still played
Mozart, and children died sleeping,
And dogs and cats and rats and mice
Died in ignorance, and mainstays
Arts could not halt collapsing walls
And bodies.


My parents on a Saturday in the morning,
Carrying clean sheets, sheets rough with so much
Washing: standing there, opposite each other over our
Beds, they’d snap the sheets, so that they’d rise and billow
In cumulus exuberance, a panoply,
A parachute, to save us from later waking
Acquaintance with nightmares, relentless, stone-useless
Cruelty. However ungainly, we too can
Ignite the ceremonies of stirred Saturday
Mornings, heavily approaching our daily means
Of dying, shrouded, and–in the wrist–flap covers
That have us top-and-bottom flying access out
Into the open.


They sleek into elevators in slippery gray suits,
Murmuring ironies over the concentrations
Of power in the fists of the foolish, they
Sheen as dropsied fruit abandoned on branches,
They low intone humorless ironies, they
Care the whole time, they slick.


There’s nothing in its being eighty-five years,
Except that no one could be left who had
Anything real to do with it–seventy-five, there
Might still be a teenager, clumsily working
An Enfield stolen from the English, or bought
With money come from America, some
Child who didn’t die on the Post Office roof,
Or hang later. By eight-five years that voice,
That must have, at the end, wondered what
It was, will wonder no longer.


Note: Among ceramicists there is often
a surprise awaiting their first glimpse at
what the kiln has done to their piece

Through the dining room, through a kitchen
More like a hall, through the studio,
Three kilns in deeper, greater
Meditation squat, brooding over what they’ve
Done to progeny. So private passion mulls
And anneals, and shatters or conjoins
According to some lost mystery of moisture.


The moon, though withdrawing from the sun’s close
Surrounding, allows its moist features
More, by backward and reverse stepped
Turning; so am I away, but rolling
Over this, my growing and reflected


The stirred emotion art requires
Is fuge for all our details
Of living–the turn of line,
The spread of form, the coat of color’s
Imprisioned in single bachelor’s buttons
Stretching for the sun, and finding
Their great longing in between
Fulfillment and always wanting more.


Some years ago, the last such wall in Hiroshima,
vaguely indicating the places against which
pedestrians had evaporated, was removed

Taking down the wall of shadow people
Has no message for them, what the fire did
To them: it caught them thinking love, children,
Rice, they could have no thought, I am only
A stain on no one else’s conscience.


The foreground was red-and-ochre marshweed,
Punctured with yellow flowers, and a white line
Of spilling bay, the bay itself an iron blue
And the mountains over it more charcoal
Holes in the horizon, their heads settled
And unsettled in the ensuing fog.

The most dramatic skies have cloud cover,
Pieces of scarcely-tangible moisture,
Keeping and releasing the sun and the other
Stars, vacant, pale, pastel and middle blue,
Contrasting blue as deep as the blue eyes
Of the passenger in the train-seat across
From you.

Night is very like the morning, the artificial
Lights are lurid, it is not peaceful, no one
Living moves. It would be better if the slow
Massive contours in the hills were first
Apparent, rather than white trucks,
Newly corrugated, cement paving, were
Not so dimly then stridently asserting stark


I’d like these transitions going differently,
Not their easing me out, but easing us closer
In; the flung hands swing horizontally in wrists,
Might be forces thought to shatter, but arch is made to brunt,
To bend as red-wing blackbirds do in tall grass.


The butcher where Pisarro bought his meat
Has disappeared, but had he–out of his custom–
Bourgeoisé oblige–sold him tainted meat,
So that Pisarro, dead, ill, or at least
Out of humor, would not have painted,
Would not have succeeded, would not have supported
And fed all his friends the painters not so
Congenial to the gallery-owners’ eyes,
How much poorer would the world be:
So where is the brass plaque in Paris
Found to honor Pisarro’s butcher?


What can be imputed to too
Long negligence–taut occasions
Of so much accident elsewhere
Choke you nearly–I know that–but:
You must have lost now so largely
That tentativeness, you tend toward
Artifice yet to ignore me
At those times you need more measure.


The Western sky over Lake Michigan
Is a girl in Ontario wearing
A new pale-blue skirt, which she spreads her hands
Over, so the folds gradually smoothe
And disappear–in the daily closing
Of eyesight, the keeping of it is hair
Dissipating on her neck like waves,
Her mouth, tongue, throat curling in ever taut,
Deepening currents of passion promised
In her tight sides and her small, trim breasts.


I had forgotten how beautiful my Sister
Had been, because I saw her at the end,
Wizened, the random buzz of medication beat
Against our time together; but there are
Pictures my Mother’s taken down, and these have
Images of truly beautiful women, women
Most compelling, proof against notions that
Order only is, symmetry’s simply’s
Nature, harmony one of many hap-
Hazard accidents: here is my Sister,
She is more than all your accidents.


They want big music he can no longer
Hear, but he is beyond their icy
Flattery, he’s provided them warmed-up
Mozart, Hayden wasted in a massive,
Expensive orchestra, and he tells them,
Noise is fine enough for wishing it,
But remember, music no more evolves
Than silence does: go back to your brittle
Sheets of Mozart, neglected in your dark
Piano benches.


That terrible summer, seventy-eight,
California ruined so many lives
For a few dollars fewer in taxes,
I put myself in a shed in almond
Orchards, and dreamed of the truth that wisdom
Teaches love, away from the bloated square-round
Tomatoes needing grading–and grace
Came down and made it all make sense to me.

Midsummer, 2003
For Peter Schaeffer

Swerving from the solstice, the days
Dim sooner, sooner the darkness,
A curved, purple, earthripe shadow
On the eastward evening rim edge,
Hanging. Peter, you had no fine
Notion this would be your dying,
Your throat had done it for you, rasped
And battered by intervention,
The dark poisons of our working–
The hands shaped for concerts, the mind
Enthralled by Erasmus’ flinty
Latin, uselessly resisted sunder
So that it all collapsed.
So that it all collapsed.The night
Heron takes the darkness in, feeds
Among the edges of marshes
In fading times, is both priestess
And forgiven priest forgiving
Our terror of eclipse, our bland
Refusal to contemplate her calm
Beating as prelude to the stars.

Father Bill O’Donnell
Saint Joseph the Worker Parish
December 8, 2003

Memory’s only an old, cracked cup
Abandoned by its deviser, losing
Warmth and weight in too slow outward
Seeping. There is, then, no worthy
Remembering of many such
Women and men: there are many
Who in raw, rough, roaring laughter
Shame the powerful, the stark-smirk
Arrogant; they shame us, but love,
Keep us in believing, if not
Being there to nourish , as they
Do, justice and the poor. So let
Memory be being such women
And men, never yet forgetting
The loud, tumultuous laughter.


How many of men are not on the brim
Of bald insanity, how many are
Not yanked toward easy harm and stone murder,
How many do not long for tight firearms,
Hefted, spitting in palsied spasms, and how
Many don’t desire to rape the shuttering moon,
Who reproaches their own lifeless landscape:
The miracle of newspapers is that
Today their signal madness hasn’t been
Paraded in them.

For Emma

Normally solitary egrets, hundreds
Together in the marsh, they cannot be
Competing for fingerlings, for frogs, bugs:
Maybe in their stark elegance they’re just
Passing gas, time, jokes: the one about two
Humans watching them, one big, one little,
Who came out to stand in the marsh, and not–
Like big stupid heads–bring their own strong wings.


Are volcanoes more deliberate
Than keyhole limpets, yes, they are,
But the notion’s the same, a soft,
Anchored inside, ambitionful
On the out, the same fluid,
Core determination: but not
All life can go so sculpted shell-
Ward, it is not all earth. They both
Need air, there are other sources
Alternate, ultimate of fire,
Sunsets gone flesh-pink in instants,
Dawns, middays, midnights incredible
With burning, stars, galaxies, strung
Clusters in the billions, letting
Elsewhere streamings in.


Her diet lies before her–frogs’
Motion, winter worms curling up
Out of the wet, fairy gray shrimp
In the vernal pools, they wander
In their contexts unawares, but
She is aware: she sees, senses,
She hears the slight frequencies made
By changes in nature. Ring-neck
Pheasants may be striking, even
Exotic, but egrets are where
We want to be.

For Richard Cowen

You can’t kill microbes grown on our
Corpses for hundreds of millions
Of years; organisms not of our
Devising eat pure hydrogen
Sulfide and don’t as much as cough;
Packed under some kilometers deep
Ice bacteria clamber, smooze;
Our own cells hold survivors’ wild
Conventions: next time you think life
Is going to hell, look you up some
Single, emphemeral virus.

For Victor Squitieri

The poetry that wasn’t written
Because of bargaining, is worlds
Lost, is love far unrealized–
Yet life lives in Victor, his Sainte
Bible agape, his Cicero
Calm in divination, study
Of externals making all these
Terminals flamingly fecund,
Work worth while.

For Lynn Baker

Against a skeptic bishop’e scowling, pale
Speciousness, Juan Diego’s on the road
From Tepeyac, bearing in his tilma
Roses, Castilian roses, in this
Wintertime, and bearing a woman
Bearing God, the color of dirt, the face
Of long ages, brown the color between
Roses fading and corn ears rough and husk


Those tatoos and subtle, pierced silver ears
Disparately exclude you, my young love,
From final access to ordinary
Graces wired in the sunrise, and inks dyed
In dawn; yet how much more rise light circles
Than the gray hate those old men lather on
Their skin’s collapsing crockery, their eyes’
Gathering absences.


Your small hand cupped in my hands
Is so natural, it is a net
Of love most providential, most
I will say ordinary in its limits,
Boundaries–love that is familiar
As one’s own face in mirrors, it tells
Us the landscape of the soul
Is nourished by the daily weather
Of a usual.


Eliot Gilbert’s bones lie there longing
In three cardboard boxes under the stairs,
In the stairwell after all of them have
Been picked over, his bones, his books, readers,
His rescuing of Kipling, these yet lie,
They are to be gone, following crooked
Pathways, as if they had been churned on through
His failed and failing heart.

The San Joaquin Valley
For the Ziskinds

On the week’s first day he’d risen
In shapeless khakis and a red
Short-sleeved tee-shirt, to pass beyond
Outsized, stark flags and strewn tombstones
To Jewish veterans’ graves, one by one
To say the blessing over them.

Across the road, at its unfenced
Shoulder, a white cross watches, what
Chicanos use to mark the dead
From cars–faded Guadalupe
And a few plastic flowers: let
Us all lie down there together
And deserve the blessing.

For Diane

You’ll sleep, but you will stray above
That still, luminous, open pond
That’s being asleep; there you’ll send
Round images, floating, leaving
Oval dimples to punctuate
The moonwake, purring, massaging
The further banks, at last ripple
Another baptismal shore.


The main-street square cannon at Disneyland,
Competing for irrelevant nostalgia,
Are Hotchkiss guns, the sort fired in Western
Parts, fired against the natives in other
Ages–men loving history haven’t loved
It quite enough to notice, or having
Noticed they found lost, faraway slaughter
Specious. But: perhaps it was indeed these that
Killed, like distant dogs barking, Ghost-Dance
Families at Wounded Knee, children as well.

For Fred Meyer

Up in Calaveras where we left
Fred’s ashes (illegally I suppose),
Among two-hundred year-old sugar pines
And juvenile giants that welcomed him
Back, I took from the woods (illegally I
Suppose) two big-tree cones, green as living,
To remember: the size and shape of duck
Eggs, or more rightly, the balls suspended
In his scrotum when surgeons excised it
On account of prostate. He thought he’d lost
His manhood, but, no, the trees primeval
That he’d kept from chainsaws still stand potent
Enough to seminate all the Mother