10 December 2008

The fall of standing cloud

I was still soaking wet from a hot shower when you called.
“Natalie.” you deadpanned. “I am hangin down with these people, Puerto Ricans maybe, and they was jokin about my friend who jumped under the train a few years ago. I told you about that. And now they fuckin jokin about him. Natalie. I am tired. I am old and tired and I aint sober and I lost my higher power. And Darnell jumped in front of that train, he just straight jumped... over in a quick second, it probably didnt even stop.”

I blink and my words come out strangely, “Please listen to me when I say this cause these days I am hardly never impressed with people and even more rarely do I say so if I am. But you, your strength is earth shaking. For the love of god, dont fall down now….it aint time yet. hold on to your higher power.” and I shiver in my towel from the chill leaking under the rotting back door.

“Natalie. Everyone is always sayin that I am strong. I aint strong. Im just fuckin alive. And Natalie I am tired. It is always this hard, it just dont never get fucking easier and I am too old. I cant even see my grandson. I am so tired. Come on, you always paintin those pictures back in your room, well paint this: a little girl, tired and dirty, dirty teddybear and dark brown hair. And a big heart. Paint that and you will know.”
You are very drunk by now. You pause, gulp something, breathe heavy, and continue:
“You made me that CD for the bus ride and I listen to it and that makes me happy but underneath, those songs you played for me back at the lodge was so sad. and I feel it in you, that sadness under you. I say, damn that girls been through a lot, been through some shit. but listen to me, goddamn it, would you fucking listen to me, I know you aint listening!!! dont let it get you like this, dont take my fuckin way, cause look a me I aint happy Natalie I am so fuckin tired and Im just like when you finally hike that appalacian mountain trail or whatever you call it think of me, girl.”
Through the static reception and the Puerto Ricans laughing in the background I swear I hear a train start clacking down the tracks.

30 November 2008

the Denver gentlemen

"Hey girl, what are you drinkin, and why you lookin so down? Come on, make that fine face of yours smile, it's more becoming!
Oh, youre workin out on the rez huh?
Hows that goin for you? chaos, right?and welfare! What about you, surviving on charity tonight like the rest, right? I bet you want me to buy you a drink. Shit, I bet right now we're on sacred land stolen from the indians! [laughter from wingmen] Comeon, I'm not trying to insult you or nothin, dont look at me like that! Cheers to the land!God bless america! Drink up, girl!"

The walls and the irony and tight jeans suddenly close in on me and I slam my club soda on the table and grab up my coat and set my jaw as they turn to watch my body leave. Outside this grief wells in my chest and I start home down Colfax walking too fast.

24 November 2008

eagle killer

is an epithet around here.
An eagle killer cant wait for the feathers to fall-one-by-one from the sky; no, he needs needs needs a whole sacred handful now just like them first pale washichu who stalked the land.

and sunday I was walkin down by the cattails and the geese when I seen a pair of bald eagles sitting still by the water in a naked oak. They were calm, well-fed, but as I moved towards them they looked at me with a certain weariness.
A few more steps and they spread their wings as wide as my height
and took off in separate directions: Southbound flew herself in slow circle towards the hills; Northward came over me and up and as his shadow swept languidly over the lake, a thousand floating geese startled and the sky filled with birds.

Id just begun pushing through the brush to find a feather under their tree--didnt have but ten feet more to walk--when gunshots echoed close over the water and I had to turn my head to run.

22 November 2008

into the deep freeze

Well, you see, Id noticed a recent element of instability in her movements—
she was of late prone to pacing in the evening like there was worn out gears under her hunching back. 'you gonna fall, gonna fall, gonna fall, you pathetic fucking disgrace,' she chanted and chanted as she eased her failing legs across the living room boards. As I recall, they creaked loudly in the cold under her weight. She paused at the sound;
then there was a long silence punctuated with snaps as they settled back into the freezing night. I called the ambulance at dawn.

16 November 2008

the brass plate and a drum memorial

Outside the old 4H building the farm equipment is slowly sinking like dinosaur skeletons into tarpits. Even with their flat tires and diesel engines heaving towards the ground they are still things that look hungry and howl as the north wind blasts through their gears and scythes carrying their cold metal in its teeth. the wind breathes up dirt and almost-snow to blow it through the long pens to bite the livestock...

but now there aint even a hoofprint to be seen; the sheep long since been sold
and the cows don't give milk no more for the arthritic hands of gnarled farmers who are themselves fossilizing under their quilts back in the hills somewhere. theres no Now here. Shit, even the brass name plates up front havent been updated since EDNA SOMMERS 1988.

however. tonight the lights are all on, and you step inside the 4H hall and it's more people even then youd see at the twice-weekly AA meetings, more people since the last great farm wife gave up the ghost and gingerbread squaredances some time back.

The big room is warm and packed and it smells like stew and wet winter jackets. There's frybread going and women four times my age are sitting in metal fold-up chairs, telling jokes in Dakota, and laughing rusty laughs.

Their many dozen greatgrandchildren are dancing around to the drum in the corner which is beating so deep the linoleum is shaking. The younger kids have started their own ritual of knocking over sodas, getting more cake, repeat.

Then suddenly the drum stops, the room falls silent and draws in a breath.
those up front start this low song that builds and charges the air with all the aching heaviness of the time we have that never stops moving even as our tongues fall away,this thing that keeps walking past all this taken land to leave everyone eventually.

09 November 2008

rush turn

a wolf indoors is not a dog. a wolf indoors is
still a wolf: striped with scars from the fights, eyes that seen kills, a nose that been buried in things spilling apart back in godless black night allyways. its gray tail might wag on the kitchen floor-- but a wolf indoors is
not a dog. I just turned off the tv and looked up behind me to find that the tail has stopped and its walkin soft now in the lamplight with switchblades for teeth. stupid me let it get between the door& my seat before i recalled that this wolf is
not a tame animal whose slow walk is suddenly snapping forward like steelmuscled trap wild blood run for my throat.

24 October 2008

the white horse [revis'd]

growing up I remember some scripture saying satan and his horses was pale. so I always saw him as pale and fine-boned with the eyes a dead giveaway.
now his sister—a deadringer if I ever seen one—is standing in the kitchen with cheekbones that could cut glass, staring at me, running her narrow tongue across red lips.
the way the light filters through the heavy nylon curtains and fills the hollows of her lovely face moves me, inexplicably, almost to tears of joy or ruin. it is hard to say which as
I watch the long bone of her thin wrist twist in the fading light to open the Ramen for me;I take it stupid and thick as a lamb deep in the wolf.
the water comes to a boil and I toss the noodles in and we are suspended for a moment, facing dark-to-dark in the late october evening. a step closer and anyone could see that her eyes is full of beautiful black water like a sea that is strangely luminous under a moonless midnight.I remember I dreamt yesterday that both her cold hands was on my face with my tongue pulled deep and feeling the sharp edges of her carnivore teeth..

we snap out of it as her kid falls down the back steps. she walks out calm and comes back with the girl on her shoulder howling like a banshee. I creep out unnoticed and lock my door but the walls are still howling like a banshee and I'm burning alive in my cheap flannel sheets. I close my eyes that wont close knowin that shell be riding pale white horses til they lather with sweat over my dreams.

16 October 2008

vacilando heart

blues like your worn out shoes in the dead tired end of main st. town with its battered plywood windows,
blues like the bar with no sign but Bud Lite alight behind the glass,
and them real hard time blues like your woman with her neck wrung and still steaming down by the James headwater this first freezing night of the fall,
behind your trailer which is coming down on itself in this prison scented with whiskey breath and empty sky. youre just pacing there, caged behind cheap vinyl siding, not saying much to this land of bluffs and buffalo rolling weak kneed into an oblivion of ancestors that the sunset burns alive over and over till there aint even a memory of ashes.

11 October 2008

and thou shalt not sow thy field with mingled seed:

Leaning against his dented truck, this old timer runs a tired hand through his gray whiskers and pulls up his jacket against the wind which is cutting its first fall teeth.
Behind us the husks of STRAIN RB34™ are rustling behind their laminated trademark placard. Each row has a different trademark and all the plants are dead, except for a spray of insubordinate white wildflowers on the other side of the fence.
He tips up his trucker hat and wipes his forehead. “This thing is not, this crop is not a wholesome crop,” he finally mutters with his tongue filling in for the missing teeth.

10 October 2008

Back to Donna

The phone rings in the kitchen and I answer it and stay in view of the stove so I can watch the meat fry.
You say, Oh Donna’s real sick, blood coming out of her ear, I tell you she just doesn’t care even with her kidneys shot she’s still out there drinking margaritas. Well now she has one of those, what do you call them, an-yer-isms, maybe a few, and she called and said she has blood coming out of her ear, and I was like, shit just chill out and I’ll be there at the end of the month. But it’s coming out of her ear and I have to go, I’m at a greyhound station and it’ll take two whole days to get there.

and I say, 'safe travels and stay out of trouble.Straight road!'

And you laugh so loud it hurts my ear, Oh Natalie, come on, you know me! click.

I open the door to the windowless little room next to mine. The bed is neatly made. In the drawer there is a pair of plaid shorts and seven bars of soap. I take the sheets off the bed with the feeling of reverence that comes when you move something that was last touched by someone who is gone now, someone you will never see again.

09 October 2008


shes a silverhaired woman on the porch looking down at the old buffalo run that once was. shes standing on an Everest of years with a heart as light as a pebble.
this lightness it is spilling out of her like it was water over the brim of a drinking glass held to catch a waterfall and she speaks and it washes over me cold and clean and I cant say nothing else.

we’d all been inside all day for two days talking about how to help those whove fallen through the cracks to the wolves, bars, and police cars. we are taking a smoke break cause the cracks are wide and yonder dogs are hungry.
she thanks me and thanks the rest of us for this gift of a day. she smiles, lights a cigarette, says ‘good luck with that battle into medical school, we’ll look for you on the other side. Me, I’ll still be kicking. HAH!’ she shakes her head, and leans on the railing and sweeps her gaze like a hawk across the plains.

I had been standing there incredulous that she has seen all these winters, darker winters than Ive ever known naked with the wind howling through the snow. I was thinking, how in the fuck is it that she never laid down and died under the weight, even when she wanted to, even when the world pointed towards it and said ‘you must?’ but then it occurred to me that that a heavy burden long carried is not so easy to cast off. it starts to settle deep till it shapes the shoulders under it. it is even as we speak twisting through my guts like a beautiful but troublesome vine that will kill the tree if you cut it off. I put my hand to my stomach in wonderment.
but she has seen this before, knows how it is. and now above this buffalo run that’s given way to soybeans and other strange fruits, she she starts to laugh
and it catches and we roar with it, doubling over, until tears stream down our cheeks.

08 October 2008

the itch

Everyone gotta lose it sometimes," you say, and laugh a sooty laugh. "We'll smudge your room tomorrow, get out those bad dreams thats haunting you. You sure its not anxiety from the sober life? You going sober, getting that anxiety? ..Everyone gets the damn itches sometimes."
you another light one, hitch up your fading plaid shorts, and ask me to check for lice in your cropped hair.
"Even me, I got them itches all right. I can feel them bugs, scratchin at night, man I've had some crazy nights. I tell you one night I had five of em tryin to get to the halfway house, that was back when I had my body, and shit, I tell you, two girls was clawin into the front and two was at the back door and I think the other was trying to sneak into the basement! and man oh man I had to crawl out of that window right quick fore they all caught my ass. The nurse came knockin at the door and said, GIRL, you in some trouble now! haha! So I jumped my ass out the window. I don't know what it is about them. I mean, I got girls, they tattoo my initials on their wrist or their tit, and I just say, shit you are cr-a-zy. One of em, Charyl, well she was at a party with our friends and she left and aint no one seen her after that cause she got stabbed 17 times and she died with that tattoo of my initials still on her wrist, right into the grave. We think it was one of our friends cause no one else saw her that night…I mean, some of them are so crazy. Some of em are classy, like Donna drivin the Lexus, which my daughter likes, you know, but Donna that girl is crazy. She is crazy, breakin all my plates and shit."
you shake your head sadly. the cigarettes, by now, are done, and I didnt find any nits.

28 September 2008


She accosts the shadow at the window. The shop downstairs is boarded up and there's not another person in sight all the way down the empty main street.
There is something simultaneously hopeful and cynical about her appearance—the way her jean skirt barely clears the curve of her ass, the platform shoes, the painted-on eyebrows. Tonight at the mirror, before all this started, she was becoming
something beautiful, something more than the sum of a closet full of clothes that make her look like a cheap
She demonstrates for the educational benefit of the recipient. Demands justice, now, from the street, as any thinking woman in her position would do; the judge sure as hell don't get it.
The shadow stares down guiltily but makes no plea nor contest to a late-night crime with a weak-willed man who, god love him, thought she was prettier.
Down on the street, below the painted eyebrows, the screamer's mascara is starting to run with a lifetime full of could'ves, would'ves, should'ves. She wraps her arms around her chest, making some effort to hide the plunging of her neckline. She rocks a little in the cooling night, beginning to fear she aint nothing but a spectacle shrinking smaller and smaller with each year that sags her breasts and wrinkles her eyes.

Some young compañeros roll by, honk twice at her ass, shake their heads sadly.
"Oh, these fucking women, why are they all such crazy whores?"

the eagles touch down

The saturday morning football game is a big deal for two schools bristling with generations of rivalry and racial suspicion: Here we have the Eagles from the rez vs. the Pirates from the farm town.

Our junior high boys filed out of a beat-up bluebird schoolbus opposite to the grandstand.
Their shoulder pads were reconditioned. No one had pants that were the right size, and several of the yellow Eagle jersies looked to have sustained moderate to serious dog attacks. Behind them their uncles and aunties were loud and laughing and smoking cigarettes in the early morning mist.

Across the field the rival fathers stood quiet in front of their parked pickup trucks, staring with styrofoam cups of acrid black coffee. Behind them, a John Deere tractor rumbled green behind the fence on down the highway back to all this land that is theirs now with all that fat corn yellowing in the haze.

By the time the sun burned through and the field started to heat up, the team was beading sweat and wild as colts: two touchdowns before them white boys could even blink. The Eagles bumped chests and galloped back to the starting line; the Pirates regrouped and shook their heads in disbelief.

Behind me, an uncle jumped to his feet. "hoka hey, what, you never seen colored boys, huh?"

To that, the blue-eyed sons of settlers didnt say nothing but a mutter about how them indians was probably 2 years older but couldnt pass 8th grade. The Pirate mothers in sweatshirts and sensible shoes standing behind the concession counter just averted their eyes to check the boiling hot dogs.

The boys lined back up eye to eye on the starting line. Behind me, the loud voice hollared, "hit em boys, hoo-EE, HIT EM TILL YOU SEE SNOT BUBBLES!"
And the polite silence of the other parents was punctuated with the wet smack of helmets against nylon and flesh.

Finally, with some three minutes to go, a skinny brown quarterback parted the sea of anglo-germans trying to hold him back. He was balancing the football like a delicate egg and twisting and spinning as they tried to grab him. The crowd errupted, "Look at him move!
Like the grass dancers!
you MOVE, boy!"
He paced his pursuers like he had feathers in his cleats and flew untouchable into the endzone. It was now a decisive 42-6.
Even his granny was on her feet now. He looked up at us, all grinning and grass stains,
and loped back to his team who stood shining and victorious in the center of the field for the photographs.

Without another word, the farmers turned and started to leave. Besides, there was work to be done: their hard-earned crops were ready for harvest.

22 September 2008

field trip

put on those old black jeans with the splitting seams, wipe your running nose, and take your hands out of them empty pockets. today it dont matter cause we are gonna ride past the smashed bottles and tarpaper roof that is peeling like an old blister.
we're gonna burn a trail out of these blue few miles all the way back to the wide open rolling plains. i dont care how hot it is, how the sun's heavy fire sits on our shoulders, we will go till this damned township disappears and you walk your tall self off the cracked pavement back
to some secret memory blowing with the sweetgrass in the windy afternoon.

18 September 2008

A mid-Sept. Cautionary Tale.

You had better wake up while you can or you just might end up wearing a ratty sweatsuit on the filthy floor of a truckstop bathroom in nowhere, Nebraska, with your insides being eaten alive by crystal meth and bits of your stringy hair stuck in the corner of your dry mouth screaming how god did it come to this o lord jesus just let me die with dignity not right here next to the toilet that someone didnt

16 September 2008

the manicure

she eases down into the cheap folding chair, and starts to unconsciously drum her fists on the table while we wait for the boss. her knuckles are tattooed
atop hands that hold a highway of lines and a lifetime of shifting horizons. their tectonic power is quite evident: these hands have long known a weary strength like the Mississippi slowly wearing down the rocks of its riverbed.
the boss is late. so we sit and shoot the shit and she presses her large palms together. she folds and unfolds these witnesses to war, misdeed, and other things done in desperation or maybe in bravery
some long gone winter night.

14 September 2008

wind madness

the air never really stops out on the plains. today it started whistling blue from the north in earnest, knotting my hair and making the kids ask for sweatshirts.
when the settlers first came in grim lines of white like hungry teeth stretched across the horizon, this same wind teased the pale sails of their covered wagons. all the bearded men in dirty buckskin were obliged to walk with heads down and one hand on their sweatstained hats while beneath the billowing canvas their women were going mad.
this was because the wind blew right through the tents and into their dreams; no one could get proper sleep while it was sticking cold hands in their quilts and moaning like some strange heathen ghost.
when they couldnt take it any more, they tore up the earth for sod houses but the wind still pressed in through the roots. so, still tossing and turning and fed up, they built heavy log cabins but the wind wound in through the inevitable cracks, the window panes, the chimney.
it battered the laundry, toppled new flag poles, wouldn't stop touching their faces.
folks say that finally the wind drove some of them settlers so crazy that those who could not swim walked into the lake, and those who never hunted finally knelt and squeezed the trigger.
so now the wind whips the long grass against their headstones.

13 September 2008

dream journal, sioux reservation, no. three: the swine

today I woke up laughing so hard.
I recognized an old boyfriend of mine—one who caused much grief last year, and who entered alcohol treatment at the end of the winter. We sat in a dark pub and I asked him why he was drinking. He said he was learning to limit his consumption to three beers only. Even in real life, I would have laughed. After the first beer, I realized he was slowly expanding until he looked 10 pounds heavier. After he downed the second one, he was so round his face was almost unrecognizable. When the third was through his voice started changing tones, and strange squeals kept erupting in place of vowels. I tried not to acknowledge it, and the conversation withered.
He finally turned, as usual, to check his reflection the mirror. When he turned back I saw that his shapely nose was now a snout and his hands were fusing into hooves that couldn't grasp the pint glass. Before I could react, an angry farmer cursed in the distance and dozens of filthy pink-skinned pigs came bursting in with their enormous stink, squealing
and breaking dishes. Without another word he fell into the herd, knowing his place with the new curly tail splitting his levis.

dream journal, sioux reservation, no. two: the horse

I woke up twisted in my blankets and full of anguish.
I was riding a fast white horse bareback with my long hair flowing wild behind me. as the plains were flying by, a teenage boy—the son of someone important—stepped out with an ax and struck the horse down.
we tumbled and I rolled to a stop and saw the horse's body disappear before my eyes, leaving long elegant bones but for the head whose flesh remained. The boy had gone. With tremendous grief I gathered up its bones—especially the broken shin—for the long walk alone to demand justice at the court house.

dream journal, sioux reservation, no. one: the lion

I woke up with the feeling of feline teeth pressing gently on my neck. I had been holding a large mountain lion by a piece of rope wrapped around its neck. It kept turning, snarling, jumping on me, trying to bring me to the ground. I was standing in a gully with the blue sky and rolling dry country silent all around me.
There was the achy feeling that everyone had moved on and that I was left behind.
Every time the lion would turn and lunge, I would grip the rope more tightly in my hands instead of fighting. I could feel its muscular body trying to push me down, and I stumbled and finally its hot breath was on my face and my ears were splitting from its fearsome roar but I would not let go of the rope.

05 September 2008

..into the desert

manaña slowly turns the san juan valley into a frying pan till the sun boils dead overhead and the hot air sucks the water right out of your skin like a lover greedy with the need.
out here the mountains overwhelm the steeples, so that believers bow instead among the cactus,yucca, and other razors of faith.
redtail hawks float spread-winged in the electric blue sky like archangels above this flock on their knees who still wait with their skin leathering in the heat and lungs that wheeze in the sage and dust.
they finally break and lay back, shirts soaked from their labor, and sit in the silver shade of the piñon. no one speaks but sometimes their chapped lips move vaguely, wondering when the sangre de christo gonna wet these arroyos again.

28 August 2008

leavin new england

swept the last of everything out of the house in amherst. dusted my dust of the mantle, gathered the hairpins and worn shoes, dragged my battered bags to the curb. gathering my possessions has taken on all the cheer of dressing for a wake; loading them is like pulling the coffin.
but it is done and we are sweating a little on the grave in the latent, weary, slanted end of august sun. i wish it would stay this hot but shes gotta go, like all the rest of us.

so we pull on to the road and i am homeless, again, and the road is clear but the adventure is fading. our whiskey-shot eyes have eyes only for the chaos, the uneasiness, the half full bottle rolling and cracking in the back seat of the aged volvo im riding shotgun. i leave everything but the malaise that grows like snakes crawling up my belly.
i am not wiser, but maybe older since last august—more tired,
worn down, increasingly bowed with the unbearable lightness of being: all this heaviness in my boots, all these miles i've put on, but leaving no real footprint no matter how deep the mud.

18 August 2008


'..and then you've got your opioids.' she sits back and cracks her beefy knuckles satisfactorily, which causes her huge breasts to swell forth and strain the fabric of her faded beach-scene tshirt.
'you can take them through the three points of power,' she indicates the soft corner of her elephantine elbows, her papery mouth, her dripping delicate nose.
'opioids have been shown to give you the optimum exposure to the breath of jesus. that's why, obviously, it's illegal. if everyone was breathing with jesus there'd be no reason to pay taxes.'
she draws silent and fixes her blue gaze on yonder clouds, smiling a little, shivering and shaking with the need.

16 August 2008


in bed my eyes wander outside. moonlight has turned scars to pearls and rimmed our unslept undereyes with precious onyx.

this evening the silent silver highway outside my door could go anywhere and its strewn garbage could be gleaming undersea treasures wrapped in the weeds of these forgotten farms.
our overripe moon is bursting above the clearcut meadows
which are still exhaling copper dust from their conquest.
high moon midnight casts man's industry as glamorous: the factories emit rivers of warm gold, the sawmills sing shakespeare and the smokestacks billow holy odes to god in the sky...
i finally snap to as a truck thunders through, shakes the panes, and hushes the crickets:
its headlights cast a coke can as a coke can once again.


i could sleep, but someone is tapping gently and persistently on the other side of the basement door. behind my squeezed shut eyes the door yawns open into empty silence breathing old air.
it is punctuated now with the delicate sound of fingernails scraping painted wood. i do not get up to answer it.

08 August 2008

old man of king st.

even now, as you read this, he is probably sitting on his front porch.
he sits unmoving through the hot afternoon, as the lengthening shadows stripe his grizzled face, as the wind picks up and the afternoon rain soaks his stained trucker hat. he blinks eyes that are focused on some far-off time, and the water drips down his sunspotted nose, but his hands don’t move.
darkness comes, obscures him,but he remains patient and silent in his chair. the weeds—on the other hand—are restless, and growing taller by the minute in the cracks of his sidewalk that no one ever walks up.

27 July 2008

"I love you

." he says to me. I look up, startled, hide the bottle under my bag. I am sitting alone on a park bench in Northampton. The sun is setting. I remind him he doesn’t even know my name.
He apologizes. Asks my name. I say if I tell you, I imagine youre gonna start making all kinds of declarations. He has a moon-shaped smooth boy face on a man's body. His hands are lonely, anxious, bunching and unbunching the pockets of his cheap corduroys.
“No,” he says, “I just wanted to know your name.”

08 July 2008

the tourist

the light comes into focus. i am not supposed to be here, clutched like this between the tired hip brick walls of williamsburg. the tiny window frames a sky of steel painted sepia with smog.
i am still coming down. i am descending into the subway with my done deeds on my back in lieu of the bags i didnt pack. life perseveres down here, but it is brown and crumpled as the liquor store bag whispering from the tracks: even now a beetle appears from under it.
my shorts were so tight and they were thick like months to a lightbulb at midnight, so that i imagined that if i touched them they would fall. to meet their fate at the lightbulb,
when all they wanted was to swarm and touch wings and make something of their eyeblink long life.

25 June 2008


tiny flies bud and burrow out of the mud. the oily film of the ground outside the sawmill behind my house coats them and they leave trails of it as they crawl across my naked skin. the sun heats us and the dirty water steams out of the sawdust and the sound of their hatchings clicks in my ears.
i fall asleep and dream that my eyes and tongue are covered in clutches of wasp eggs, that i am accidentally swallowing millions of them and then i can feel them inching awake inside me. i snap awake and night has come with its centipedes and worms underfoot no matter where i stand.

hall pass?

whered you get that circle, girl?
He looked at me again, accosting, refusing to let me drop my eyes.
you been fightin?
I was sitting with my legs crossed on in the back of the colfax bus, and he was cross-armed in the seat across from me.
why arent you in class right now?
I was 14 and wearing knee high combat boots, stockings, piercings and all the rest. I wouldn’t listen to interference.
dont have class, I’d say and look away.
But there he was, watching his own folly play out again. He didn’t know me but he was me, and it pained him to watch us going to shit all over again. And so he camped like a fucking vigilante on the back of the downtown bus right about when morning class was supposed to start. Every kid who walked by,
you goin to class, you on your way home to grab your homework and hand it in or what now?
He didn’t tolerate silence. You’d always answer him eventually, maybe you’d even stop and think for a second about whatever risky thing you were probably getting into.
More often than not we’d ditch anyway.
He always watched though and it got to be that every time I was fucking up, his glowing eyes and knitted eyebrow came to mind। I never did learn my lesson till it was too late and I was hands-bound in the back of a squad car.

19 June 2008

the gulf stream rains no tears

the night i met you i couldve no more resisted your gravity than i could stop a freight train with a
feather or a hurricane with a whispered plea to our lord. i couldve been something but you were already
coming dark and hot like katrina roaring up over the bayeou:
there was those last moments on dry earth before you forced me down with your jaw sharp in the dark and your promises slick on your lips like oil from the gulf rigs oozing in and smearing my naked skin so molten we couldve melted all the ice up north away. and then the wind brought the rain and the city died violent and i went from 'could have been something great' to treading bloody water with an armful of cinderblocks: a hollowfaced refugee with no fucking doctor in sight to lay hands on pain with a strong heart in the face of them rising floodwaters.

11 June 2008

nuit blanche

maybe two hours into laying open-eyed again in the sweltering night,
the sweat of your unsleeping brow begins to melt the dust off memories
and other things that had been long buried। all you can do is lay

there twisting in the unmoving air, feeling the hot mouth of june at
midnight begin to issue its ghosts: they come with eyes like empty
windows and spread themselves on your soaked sheets with their long
gone faces drawing close and repeating your every violence and
dawn is hours off. maybe you put on a light, try to read a little, but their breath in your ear dont stop whispering lists of the sins you cant forget, things that will weight you
till your reckoning
comes down. chains made of times and places enmesh you in decades and
continents till the walls of every hot room you ever slept in begin to
press brick by brick on your throat: and it is now, with weary eyes
that dont cry and a throatful of thick air, that you first begin to
wonder what kind of trade the devil would take in exchange for a night
of silence.

28 May 2008


oh, i tell you, that love was the kind where you love and they take it like it was water in a bucket fullve holes. you pour and pour and the ground gets wet alright.
it was on such an occasion that me and my muddy feet woke in a daze some days out from the trail. with the yellow sun shining my eyelids red i just lain there awhile thinkin how funny it is to be born barefoot for carrying water in a hot asphalt world.

07 May 2008

the firing squad

my eyes hurt from studying all night and the morning light is damaging their already precarious state and my brain and body are fighting a losing war with eachother—
i know what is coming and draw it out by walking as slowly as possible to the office at the end of the hall. more fortunate prisoners are taunting from behind the lab benches
'dead man walkin dead man walkin'
my professors invite me to have a seat. each takes a sip of coffee and exchanges a glance with the other. my evaluations from the last two semesters are spread out on the table. the first glances over the pages.
these are poor, she says, and demands explanation.

there is uncomfortable silence as many things i tried to bury come rising up in my chest like worms after the first long rain. i only wish i could cast off the weight of my many mistakes like they were ugly old clothes; but nothing i can say will save me now from my goddamn foolish youth…
i think this. my mouth stays uncharacteristically silent.
a blindfold is provided and they load their rifles, reassuring me that they are only trying to do me the favor of saving me the trouble of wasting my time applying to medical school.
the oldest one catches my eyes with their purple circles like one too many bar fights. last fall, what the hell happened, what were you thinking? i tell her i dont have the heart to tell her ( i was weighted with darkness, pressed with the cruel hands of god and men and poverty. i stay silent and )

she smiles the weak smile of the executioner after the last appeal is denied. my stomach churns its last meal of ahab's revenge coffee and stale cheerios with no milk cause i aint had groceries in two weeks.
they stand me up and line me against the mark, clemency maybe if i grovel but i am too proud
and it is too late and my paper-thin bones are already beginning to float out the window, rising up into the clouds bright with the sun, away from the objectivity and vivisection, the captivity and microscopes...

28 April 2008

la abuela habla muerte

someone's abuelita died. donning our blue rubber gloves, we unceremoniously lifted her tiny corpse which was folded up like a child in the fetal position waiting for comfort.
but in the dream version we dont have a gurney for some reason, and carrying her of her humble house becomes a procession and we are lifting her light bones high above our heads, me secretly wishing she will just be assumed right there into heaven rather than a cold metal locker and a leering mortician downtown with pumps full of formaldehyde.
we are getting her into the back of the ambulance and something slips, her body tilts in our arms, her mouth parts and spills tar and ash that covers us like a cloud of damnnation. the bystanders scream and retch, i can hear it splashing all over the pavement and it is cold soaking through my shirt but aint nothin else to be done except moan the same low song and wring our hands all covered in black death.

26 April 2008

riverside portrait I

he is thin as thread and grizzled as the flagstone sidewalk hes settin on. 35 and lucky to be alive, he preaches now to his brothers down by the river who are always sneaking slugs of colt forty five between their amens.
he absentmindedly traces his trackmarks, watches those wretched men wash themselves with water full of the sky's clouds. when they catch a hint of their staring reflection they slap the still water away, bring their hands to their whiskered faces to see if it really could be true, if the drinkin and whorin have really cut lines deep as oak bark across their sunspotted skin.
they ask him for soap, for lye, for lotion. he just shrugs, spits.
'them stains dont wash off. youre jus gonna have to answer to yer tally one of these days.'
each looks down his clothes, noticing the traces of gray that stay now after scrubbing, after bleach, even after stealing new ones from walmart: the cotton is spotless for a moment but
something telling always seems to seep through.

22 April 2008

for judas

the other day I met the Big man behind the biochem lab where I'll be doing research this summer. he smiles, gestures, welcomes me as a new acolyte; projects are discussed, chemical reactions go up on the white board. i politely resist the urge to say that
it strikes me, increasingly,
how quick stainless steel and plastic entirely replaced stained glass and iron crosses as the ornate monument to a myopic obsession with invisible things. these new alters are maintained (much the same) by devoted, celibate young monks in robes of white; now their gloved hands hold not chalices but pipettes, with bunson burners to light the sacrament.
maybe cause i am not a man i cant revere this dissection, vivisection, the deep satisfaction of gutting, cutting, pulling everything apart into tiny pieces, separating gray into black and white.
even the smallest molecules themselves cannot have their peace: we drown them in magnetic fields till they are forced to let go of everything and fall apart.
once the last fragmentation is complete, he at the helm turns toward me
so delighted in all this golden hubris,
with his pale face bathed in the green glow of so many machines.

10 March 2008


amongst all this toil, all       i want is to be reincarnated as a june thunderhead
blooming blue above them red mountains

04 March 2008

in rambling,

longshanked highway runners
live to fix their vacant eyes on an empty horizon,
never holding nothin but a cheap butterfly knife
tween them and the dark wet places flying by beside the road.

02 March 2008

apple & farmer

i got these tattoos,
electric imprints beside my breast, the skin surface changed forever --i will be drawn to rest someday as an old oak cut with the easy scars of verdant sapling youth.
any spring tree could tell you that nothing grows back quite the same after each frost. its new april-green chorus is shaped with notes of misshapes that are their own memorial:the freshly marred bark flaws mark the memory of fruit and leaves who already done breathed their last sunshine and let go of the sky and wind to fall

down there to them earth standin men who watch simple and hungry
with the moon waning in their eye, reducing to a scythe, their harvest beneath the blade coming up cold and colored red in its final phase

27 February 2008

put me in the ground

of late i find myself dreaming of bones, living and dead:

and these days, i am afraid to open my mouth fearing that my ribcage may fall through; i could
live down the embarrassment of spilling such    personal things all over my professor’s floor. what would become of my bones' mess spattered there on the linoleum,?—aint no reverence in science; &i could never put em back myself.
their new livid stench would draw forth so strong that vultures'd circle overhead like id been gone for weeks.

24 February 2008


sometimes i catch a faint tendril of your scent—your discarded t-shirt in the bottom of my dresser i keep aiming to wash but never quite do. i open the drawer and

your tan face suddenly glimmers flushed and sharp like a casino’s neon lights rising like knives out of reno coming forward from the cloudless brown desert.

17 February 2008

dream a highway

i do not know if the way memory fades like so many tungsten faces is a blessing or curse, only that now it has twighlit some august night just short of the end of days, back when you could smell the girl so ripe in the dusky heat with her sweat dripping like honey to stick
the bees down towards her naked toes sunk deep in the red mud. it is almost enough to know that junipered hillside wont never answer to us again, wont forgive the time our campfire defiled a millenia of sandstone talismans.
the moment dissolves into the shimmering air above the sunbleached miles; the blacktop cleaves the desert driving mercilessly forward, each minute one more distance between that body and this one.

now it's one month later and your lank hair has faded on the pillow of a hazy morning you awoke in agony while i retched up the hangover having crashed up my bike on broadway in some overbrave 3am mania.

11 February 2008

sunrise on route nine

there are two motels on route 9, not so far apart but spanning an entire lifetime of mine: i can yet see the green carpet at the hadley inn, us the rapturous and unwashed gazing at the lampshade’s new hole where it hit the floor while the laboror’s pickups idled outside in the dying night.
down the street on the other side of that dream there is a hotel chain’s cheap façade with a window facing the stripmall that caught the sun in my eye so shockingly crystalline that morning with me lain out screaming and screaming on the tile.

10 February 2008

FLOOD-new orleans, 2006 (previously published)

The bottles had been underwater long enough to soak the labels off; they were dark and anonymous. We lined them up on the floor next to the mattress we had dragged in and then we lingered in the electricity-free silence for a few minutes. Dead computers surrounded us and their associated hopeful vocabulary—modem ! keyboard! url!—was tacked up on the wall and peeling. Rescued religious statues regarded us from their pile in the corner.
I kept flashing back to the refugees' scrawled notes still on the chalkboards.
R gave me a long look and twisted the cap off. Not a tight seal. He smelled it and brought it to his lips—"a little funny."
I thought of the squalid, horrible place this liquor came from.
He looked at me again with those eyes like an tomcat in the darkness, killed the flashlight, took a long draw, passed it to me. Opaque brown bottle. I raised it and drank; it was whiskey with a faint taste of the smell of rain near factories. I raised it and drank what brought fragile order to its knees, what roared through houses and filled lungs to the brim. tearwater mudwater bloodwater: the flood of the people's funeral. i swallowed until my stomach was hot and my eyes burned. and then when the bottle was empty and r was unconscious as usual, the ghosts came in and we raged in the ruins with me laying down my body and them breathing in their bones from my breath.

Alone in apartment 89

at midnight I closed my eyes on the weary sodium lamp yellowing my cellblock-sized bedroom, falling asleep to the most curious feeling of tiny seeds unfolding under my skin. things were moving, pushing through, there were green thorns splitting my flesh. i had no choice but to tear a hole in my t-shirt between my breasts and let the wildflowers push out of my chest, fragrant and dripping from the bone.
my sole witness, the sodium lamp, just buzzed jealously as i twisted up in the sheets with visions of those dandelions lit by meteors burning across the night up there, way back in my eyelids, on top of some summer mountain.

28 January 2008

after eden

and what of adam? these days you'll more'n likely find him cursin the lord jesus, laying in a bed of fleas he made himself with hands full of murder and seed spilled on his shrinking belly, reeking of dread and emptiness.
as for her, eve, the new whore of babylon? she is still wet from the fuck, all slimy with snakespit, mascara running in the mud and smelling of her rebirth in a den of feral dogs.

25 January 2008

a humble ode

in denver back then it was all threadbare houses and drinking cheap tequila deep in the chill of july midnights. id been desperately in love with her, with that supernatural gleam and ancient tragedy weighing and lifting her skinny brown body. id always wanted that night, out there by the bonfire in a weedy backyard. she was yowling like a bony allycat under a red moon some old blues song. everyone was drunk without watches and time stretched till i could barely stand having been overcome by the smoke and her perched so high on that splintered log with her songs and scent drifting down to cover us in all of our earthly mortality.

22 January 2008

wade in the water

only thing worse than seeing someones eyes too full is seeing them too empty. when the soul is a forgotten gray rock sunk in some cloudy pond.
after the eyes go, all you got left is your pulsating blood in a fraying body. soon it is tripping down the asphalt sticky from the heat, bellydown draggin slower and slower away from the demons,heaving into porcelain till everythings thin and brittle as twine.
i heard the splash but the road was steep so that i didnt dare turn back to see the submergence. i knew it and i just moved aside cause baby went to drown wasnt nothing i could do.

17 January 2008

a hustler's lament

“strippers only wanna fuck and get high—an down here they want you ta think they wanna fuck jes you SO THEY GIT MORE MONEY!!!” the lonely man hollars in the parking lot to nobody in particular, alternately exhilarated and cynical.
inside the rest of them are still twisting in their bar stools feeling lusty and nervous. they are married, religious, or otherwise, and they are buzzing from the bud lite and neon signs and visions of moaning whores as the next one takes the stage.

what a specimen of thick strong limbs, drawn from some ancient majestic bloodline! she is carved out of granite with tits and ass like epic rolling hills. her ebony hair could flow all the way to the sea. when she moves surely the earth will shake and its rivers part. why is she not on the ceiling of the sistine chapel, what business has she here in this smoky den of dingy men?
and o lord! how she dances, though the pole is no worthy consort. the rednecks closest to the stage start to feel faint: there are tigers, maybe even demons buried in those Hips. beads of sweat roll between her breasts; the flimsy g-string can barely contain itself. they only want to bury themselves in her milk and honey, to be smothered in her smooth flesh. but she won't meet their eyes, no: her face is bored and haughty as a proud racehorse paraded in a petting zoo.
will someone not break her free and bring her to sanctuary or green pastures! but there is no room for heroism here between her full thighs and the clapboard walls of this swampy town. and so she gyrates, knocking unbelievers stonedead, wondering if the campbell’s soup’ll still be on sale tomorrow.

16 January 2008

down the river phlegethon

He was shaped as a mole, with a hunched soft body and a sharp nose. beneath the large, balding forehead his skin had the permanent pinkening of a white man who has languished too long in the sun. he’d caught wind of my politics.
“you fucking terrorist,”
he snarled, accosting me with eyes long deadened by whiskey and cocaine. even his drawl was reminiscent of something washed out, faded, shriveled in the middle. though educated, he was wanting in both depth and wit. he was losing.
“sir..,” i set the glass down sadly. “hateful of many things as i may be, i know there isnt righteousness nor honor in violence; all dreams of such are vanity. the maggots waiting in the ground for the war dead don’t taste the difference between iraqi and american. it is all dust and vanity.”
he couldn’t answer and my words faded unheeded into the smoky air. he was deadset unreachable and i should’ve quit. but this strange desire for cruelty was rising black in my veins, hearing his prideful declarations having never seeing the horror of a human body coming undone and bleeding its life out.
i sat there quiet, dragging the remaining bourbon between my teeth, knowing that the last blood-choked cry in the saharan heat wont carry god nor dignity.
but he will not see this, and so did not deserve punishment— yet i found myself wanting to hold a mirror up to the dumb spittle exiting his frothy mouth so that he might gape at his own foolishness. some part of me wanted to play with him as a cat mocks a caught mouse, to disembowel his simple argument and stretch its oily tendrils across the filthy floorboards. it would've been easy enough; he wouldn't have been able to keep up.
and so verily weighted by these violent thoughts, i watched myself sink to his level. i turned away, held my tongue, and couldnt help but smile cause all of it aint nothing but dust and vanity.

14 January 2008

hobo tomb blues

I was walkin down the old train tracks by the bayou and after an hour
I had to pee. I turned toward the scrub sticking out of the retaining
wall, and lo & behold, a cinderblock house half-sunk into the
hillside. the sea had aged it past its years but it was solidly built
with a concrete slab roof wreathed in empty cigarette packs. I peered
through the tiny glassless gap of a window, which revealed the edge of
a sleeping bag and a table. upon the table was an open bible, an empty
bottle, and a fresh book of matches. the rest was darkness and I
couldnt make out if the sleeping bag was occupied.
I crept toward the low door with some perverse urge to know what
passage stood open in the bible. but as I got closer I was hit with
the ripe smell of rot, washing familiar through my memory like the 9th
ward after the Storm.
there was broken glass all over the floor--some final rage? was it Job
or the Revelations? but I remained on the threshold in the silence,
unable to enter, not knowing the fullness or emptiness reposed in that
fraying red nylon fabric.

the sky meets the sea

Wandering down the chilly beach today, trying to think peaceful thoughts, I came upon a large heron in its last hours. it was disconcerting to see such a formerly majestic bird laying on its back, spread as if on a crucifix beneath the sand with its feet pointed toward the ocean and its head resting on its chest staring wistfully at the sky.
it gave a small cry as I approached but said nothing further.
indeed, it died more quietly than I imagine its sisters did. beneath the watery winter sun it was eulogized by the rising tide with a cairn of broken seashells and, for flowers, man-o-war jellyfish washed ashore and gleaming.

12 January 2008


clutching giftcards from distant relatives, we descended into a carnal
haze of capitalism that blazed gloriously with pink neon and overfull
bodies. the shopping mall was perplexingly large and misshapen, with
no natural sunlight or landmasses to offer reference or shelter.
I hadn't been in one for some time and felt a pavlovian panic as the
heard moved through its linolium-glazed hunting grounds. what if there was a stampede, a feeding frenzy at the nintendo store? we'd be crushed!
I glanced around nervously, wishing I'd brought some kind of weapon
for self-defense, a lasso, or at least wristguards.
people stared at me, as they often do. was it the wide-eyed look of
horror on my face, the ridiculous 40-year-old dress or the enormous
faux-gold thriftstore belt buckle? obese men coveted me between
attempts to look longingly at the victora's secret postergirls, only
their equally robust wives kept blocking the view.
restless, I ran through the buffalo, dodging their adderall-addled
seven-year-olds, and crept between clothing racks that whispered like
the collective memory of the trees beneath the bulldozer and concrete.
distracted by 3 elongated starvation victims
adorned with sequins, I lost my footing and stumbled, falling between
gym calves and spiked pumps. parting their crocodile-skin purses, I leaned my unpainted face up and asked the blank lady at the Macy's counter if
she got any rosaries.