now I think the instructions to perform a CAT Scan didn't mean I wave a cat over you while you slept as I looked to your body for poems my love, not scratch and struggle and Howl in shamanic pain or the dog doggerel barking frenzied free verse waking you my dear I'm sorry for the caterwaul, the catafalque of poems I've scrawled, their jagged arrhythmia ECG monitor boop boop hooked up to arterial dreams scanning and probing for heart murmurs
oblivious my coffee speaking to me too early while I am bleary as cold cream no I don't want to hear your stupid story again about the mezcalero and the jumping bean playing poker all night in the back of the truck on the way from the Yucatán you so poor nothing to wear but sackcloth the men in the fields stripping sugar cane with their machetes toothless from sucking cane all day rotting their teeth and no I don't buy the beautiful girl in the factory had eyes only for you picked you only you your anguished parting your torment like an oven from hell I want only lightning or silence between words the way I want only lightning or silence between buttered slices of toast lightning or silence in the interstices of morning storm and wind to wake to the smell of ozone the smell of burnt air zapped alive and cupped in the rain
every day, second or third hand, the dog gets a new name: "Bismarck" say, or "Windham", or whenever I peel a clementine – the skin fragrant and loose as a nom du plume – my lingering mind confuses the prerogatives of gods and poets right now she's "Walt" because someone said to sniff the grass and that is for sure her dominion, the adoration and open door of scent, and what she assumes I too will assume, breathing atoms of the restless and faceless tide then checking her for ticks and tocks, and time's re-reading of the leaves before they curl and fall and blow and I forget what I most needed to say, what was meant as song now more like the growl of a lawn-mower, the madness of wild seeds cut down to size
You sniff and snuff for me next to your pillow like a sleepy truffle pig rooting for your prize even in dreams Maybe love grows best in darkness – loamy, unseen – a carrot say, or turnip tapping our longing In the morning, all we can eat is before us among vases of daylilies, begonias, the table set for two
waking again with hair sticking up like antlers, my COVID doo and don't, pillow wet where dreamwater leaked from the corner of my mouth now the grass-fed belly of clouds and thinking to gut them – slice them open with the knife edge of my palm, hang them to bleed out then salt and dry or better my hair is a field of antennae scanning for life, where Heaven plays its Top 10 hits on the radio telescope in my skull
3AM lying in the bottom of our boat drunk as fishwives strung on hooks of Everclear we'd brewed with midnight sun brighter in our eyes than any moonshine, singing hymns to the cod in Norwegian Gunstig fisk! Utgaven av havet Eldste sønn av havet Flott fisk av havet! (Beneficent Fish! Issue of the Ocean Eldest son of the Ocean Great fish of the Ocean!) and the fish would rise to our voices, to our lures on ropes barely tied to the oarlocks Dde rolige og rene herlighetene Av havets dusør gitt Omrøring gjennom vår dødelige ramme Vend jorden selv til himmelen! (The calm and pure delights By ocean's bounty given Stirring through our mortal frame Turn Earth itself to Heaven!) Which we thought was hysterical as the fish would hammer the line 2-3 hits at a time and we'd haul them in I'd remove each hook pinched between thumb and forefinger laughing too at the blood from steel stuck in my palm I'm grateful to be the man Jesus taught to fish, grateful for the smell of fried cod with a pinch of salt and pepper
a pair of egrets flies long and low up the estuary long and low up the water long, beckoning water, white and low to the grasses where they nest across from our window feeling like flight, feeling low, stepping out – my face hidden behind a white wing folded across longing, my legs as strung as reeds from a nest of crow tangle – copper and liquid crystals woven ever tighter by zooming in concentric circles, whirlpools draining silica from an hourglass like sand never up and out, never as white as those feathers with no song, swinging into the air ready to dive and slice into water, speed first
A dusty piece of paper at the bottom of boxes
that rattled down the highway with me
from one place to the next
as I moved East,
said “Mineral Lease,
Lincoln County Oklahoma.”
Wasn’t worth one red hard earth cent,
but let me keep title I suppose
to the stories of families coming through
our ranch in Colorado,
A lease on my mother’s telling
what she saw of the Grapes of Wrath.
A claim too maybe on what lay below the topsoil
that blew away like the people –
what can’t be moved, but only extracted
like gold from the teeth of uncles
and left behind.
I made up tales my grandfather
won it in a poker game,
or took it as payment for a meal
at the back door,
but its origin as dark without genesis
as the sky
to the people of New York City
when it dimmed on Black Sunday,
in the Dust Bowl of ’35,
sky the color of deeds
done in wind
For Miz Quickly
If a friend insists TGIF, but the
near-beer, half-hearted/half-empty glass of your week
breaks in your hand so that you cut your finger with worry,
you mix a Bloody-Alice, because when life hands you blood oranges
you make Band-Aid, which
instead of raising a toast to wrap
the incredible bullshit you go on about,
Alice said “DRINK ME”, like in the story, and she
drank with you in the bar then drank with you back at your place
drank herself until squinting you looked like her wonderland, her velveteen rabbit, you want to ask her “are you my mother?” because its Go Dog Go, all now another story entirely
where you wake tomorrow with capillaries
that are toffee-sticky, a
headache gooey as cherry pie,
you didn’t listen to your friends
who warned you about the poison.
For Miz Quickly
Life ain’t no picnic
’cause when I open the basket
I get a head cheese sandwich
which is body parts, right?
In aspic, like the gelatin
of love, holding it all together.
Ain’t a bowl of cherries either,
aren’t the pits toxic? Dog got sick
last time she got into a bunch.
More like life is a bowl of crabapples
and those make her sick too.
If life is a journey, I’m amazed.
If it’s a game, my bones feel like
at-bats, and my ribs are scored.
If life is change,
someone stole my lunch money!
If life is a gift,
are we all supposed to
live in the present?
Tossing a salad for Miz Quickly’s Labor Day Picnic