from “what we owe each other”

Ode to Brevity  

Why does transience brew such dread?
It’s not difficult to grasp that gentle dispatch,
not longevity, is the kinder portion.

He ate a full breakfast each morning
while he could still chew. A thimbleful of hemlock,
sooner or later, is soothing.

It doesn’t taste so strange after a few sips.
The dying are not so sad to die
as we are for them to leave us behind.

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After reading

After reading Meridian by Kathleen Jesme

Paper is easier to find (back of a sales slip, the blank end sheet
in the book itself ) than a pen.                                      The absence
of a pen,
the lost thought.                  My homage to this lean volume ─
how could it have been read (without response)?

How to explain: I don’t love you, I love this.           (And what is an explanation
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxgood for anyway?)

I tell my grandson (who asks: Is that a poem you are writing?):    I
am now married
to poetry.          I cannot deny it.                (Yes, married, like maman and papa.)  

We argue and cling,
separate and crouch,
betray and mend,
before this temple of our own making.                                           He climbs trees

while I swallow these poems whole. And admit (to my grandson, to myself)

that this
is an all or nothing venture.
Without it I would die,
just like growing is all this boy can do

while I prepare my garden
and he says,  I wrote a poem once
to comfort me.


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the missing comma

She wanted a long, lean body,
closed her eyes as she grabbed chubby hips
licked saggy tits,
tried to re-enter, womb over fist.


We make so much of this small discharge
of neurons,
this exclamation mark.

A flower-pot of love-sick soup
is ready on the back burner
Eat, my child. Eat my child. Eat.
We don’t really need another’s imprint.

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I vow to write a poem at the ocean’s edge

Kant touts good will, but Einstein swears by relativity.
I’d bet a week’s wages on Einstein. There is no certainty.
I feel fruitless as if I’d swallowed an entire grapefruit.

I am mouthing unknowns, because there are so many of them.
Here, where I walk west into the Pacific, having left everything
nowhere, where it rains, where I fill my pockets with stones, not shells.

I can’t, but I will, I always do. I feel empty, blemished, unable to enter.
Grey sky drizzles as I slog along at high and low tide, forgetting
how to count pulses, how to add up the pluses.

All the words hung to dry, briny air offers the succinct phrases I need
for starters, holding on to my story until it delivers — vertex or breech.
It chooses for me. I didn’t say it had to be good.

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Traveling light

Lying in bed, uncertain
if I would sleep.

Leaping off habitual paths,
a gecko in heat.

No dream in sight, my rubbish soaked in rain —
a sodden mess.

I watch how clouds surrender weight ─
drop by drop.


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It’s how nothing happened. How my talentless body
macerated my rapturous mind in the pickle of wanting. 

It’s my try at the talent show and I find it broken
in its cardboard envelope. I did the ballet routine
sans Vivaldi, girl-body ignoring the pan-
orama of others’ gazes. The voice that mocked: what is she doing?
Feeling shame for my untalented chubby body.  

No one has a spur for you. You earn the spurn.
You learn to fake it, burn for weeks,
cool off in the shower, burn again.  

I learned to fake it. I served you well.
What to do with verbs? Don’t ask a bittern scribe. 

(There are things I’ve stolen, they are words.
I write them here, my effort to return
them to their rightful owners.) 

If the body holds weight, refuses tears, a child will chew
paper. I did, did you? I shuckled. I masturbated. All you need
to say is: it is good. Isn’t it good?  

I predicated injury, incest, suicide.
Some of which happened. Three meals a day,
trays of white food, some sort of dress rehearsal.  

The time he called me a lousy lay.
And ideas: parallel play. But what do I know:
kicked out of high school, pregnant with my abortion.  

The senses (read feelings) diminish with age.
I rehearse until there is no one left to unfold.
What will carry my poems?  

Bodies break. The height lost to kyphosis.
Now I go for shoes. My flouncy hair.
Earrings, glasses. Shades of orange.
To hide my fat.  

I held such hope for love, never prizing
my vital talent to do without it. 

No more touch. This is not a tease, it’s a warning.
Volta, turn, torsion, torque, twist. A shift, a pivot.
Saving grace for after the meal. The pirouette.

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Where I’m at (a prose poem)

It all seemed to coalesce after I donated my television with its ancient VCR player to the intern house at Copper Canyon Press. My sluggish connection out here on Discovery Bay won’t stream. YouTube just hiccups and sputters, and I get up to make another cup of coffee. I no longer listen to NPR; if anything, it’s documentaries from the RTE. Sometimes CBC, as long as they keep it local. I’ve learned to think in Celsius. I have no idea what the beautiful people say. I work in a clinic, listen with kindness to stories of suffering but I draw the line at hugs. Also: sex, not. Today, I almost googled curling, but I decided I liked my image of it best: fat men on roller skates, swabbing a bowling ball with a mop across a polished ballroom floor. I’ve figured it out. I like my own versions more than theirs. Friends don’t hear much from me these days. I’m losing weight. I subsist on poetry.

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