Going First

—with a nod to Jane Kenyon and Donald Hall

He’d meant to outlive her, but didn’t; had vowed,
(if only to himself) to see her through.

We have little say over these things really,
he realized late, as his heart crumpled
on the blue screen, his topography of sharp
mountains converting to flat plains.

On the first anniversary of his death,
a broodish day in June, her breast erupted—
a volcanic calcified corpus
mixed with pus and blood.

She had misprized the cost
of losing her breast, what’s more,
her dignity, and, for what it’s worth,
the moments left to be used as she pleased.

She was glad to see him go first,
hold his cold fingers as he went,
content to spare him the messier death.

Life costs too much, she thought, as hers ended.
A quarter for each x-ray, fifty cents per pill,
the bargains brokered by hope,
the cut enormous, yes, it costs, dear.

Time is an ink spot running in many directions
at once, with nothing to guide us home, no choice moment.
After so many broken promises, we each die
our own death.

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Here where nothing is familiar

She slithers through a black reservoir
to land in gravity. No longer floating in muffled timbre,
clamorous insults pound and harass.
Startled by her own shrieks, she lures sleep.

Wakes, gazes, smacks
into the eyes
of a wild universe.

Days are chores—assembling colors and shapes,
tasting space. The feeling of being held,
the feeling of being let down
into the container. Adding bars to the inventory
of presence and absence.

Air is cold and dry. How to learn not to forget to breathe,
the boundaries of substance. For loss,
she creates longing, for contact, her own thumb.
Skin is next best to bathing in nectar.
She broods. How is everything
to be created from nothing?

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Dream Parable 

A hideous man grabs for my keys, I clutch them to my throat. My car is missing, he must have stolen the recipe and forged a simile. I plead with his mother, she replies dryly, I didn’t think he was that sort. Friends urge me kill the culprit. He should suffer, they lament in chorus. My therapist tells me the car has departed the station, I must stop rummaging in sewage. I bawl and snivel. She hands me the keys. The car has vanished, she says. But you never lost the keys.

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April 20, 2011

A short lesson in immunology

―for Pat

The thymus is a lobulated lymphoid organ that polices T cells.

At creation, we exist within the other,
waiting for selfhood to begin.
Beloved other!  

Before birth, each cell parades
before the thymus, salutes,
and is dubbed self. All else is other.
Beloved self!

T-cells learn to attack all that is other, but
are taught to tolerate self.  That which tries
to attack the self is annihilated by the thymus.
Beloved Thymus!

The thymus recedes by adolescence, leaving us
to identify danger unaided.
The enemy, the other!

Despite preference for self, we install love in others.
Beloved others!

Remnants of thymic cells persist for years,
become addled and attack the self.
The enemy, the self!

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4/19/12: Togetherness


Couples—with their dogs
and tethers, cats and kids,
car seats and Snuglis
breakables and fixtures —
merge the day’s exertions.

Not altogether discontent,
but perhaps irked with the other,
or disappointed in the self,
and vaguely forgetful of lost
or amalgamated dreams,

and me alone.

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04/18/12: snow

Snow like Fog 

Snow falls dense like fog
sopping all but the closest
street lamps and most of the cars ahead. 

Its whiteness confounds senses
—no sound, no smell—
a mere scrim of rime. 

Through flurry’s mist—
naked trees, a row of chimneys,
not cold enough to stick here,
this gray slate of cloudy ice
secretes its marshy-crisp whiff.


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4/17/12: Inside the girl

The inside girl

It’s time to stop burying the inside girl, the one
who could suck her thumb chew paper, shuckle,
and masturbate in the den, while the family
watched Gun Smoke.

The girl who swallowed her eggs, but longed
for toast, the side dish she could never count on.
Oh yes, her mother had her hands full.
She barely wanted to live, so filled

with shame, as if sadness were a religion, a way
to part seas and drown. Dumb courage was her style
of silent resistance, passive agreement, all nouns
and verbs agreeing that she should go and not return.

The buried girl was blinded by voices entering her body
like a binding that snapped and left her dangling.
The fetid memory of sex rushed like a shudder
and covered her in its wake.

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