When I was born, there was no noise for him,
while she heard everything at once:
roil of water steaming the windows,
damper of milk rushing in to the ducts,
clockwork cry of each contraction,
again and again, the same frustration—
unable to feed itself or feel the illuminated touch
that makes us breathe or sigh.
When they lifted me out of her
body’s blue kiln, swollen as a fistful
of walnuts, veined cord
clinging to my neck like wisteria,
doll drowned in a jar, my spine coiled
like a screw into her woodenness.
When she told him, was he angry?
Was she waiting for something to begin?
-previously published in From The Fishhouse
The Opposite Of The Body
Of the face in general, let me say it’s a house
built by men and lived in by their dreams.
When you’ve been plucking eyes
out of the floorboards as long as I have,
you’ll see this, just as you’d see
the patience it requires
to render an eyebrow, half an hour
and an understanding of architecture.
When you see your body,
think its opposite: not the bridge,
but its lighted face reflecting the water,
some other city as seen from a ship—
your forehead, once ponderous, now light as umbrellas—
still not beautiful enough to make time stop.
The pleasure in being a woman’s
knowing everything’s borrowed
and can’t be denied,
as when you take apart a clock,
there’s always another inside.
-previously published at Boderlines Texas Poetry Review
Edison In Love
Thomas Edison loved a doll
with a tiny phonograph inside
because he made her speak.
Is there any other reason
to love a woman? Did she say
the ghost of my conception
or something equally demure?
It’s hard to be sure how he feels;
when he holds me, I fall apart.
I’m projecting here. He didn’t feel
her first transgression
was in having no expression.
René Descartes, too, traveled alone
with a doll-in-a-box
he called his daughter. Francine,
is it better to be silent
and wait for everything
we were promised?
Or should we love them back,
the way a train loves its destination,
as if we have the machinery necessary for it?
-previously published in Poetry
The Past Is Another Country
I’m no longer in love
with the sand that makes the pearl,
or anything grainy
that hardens its beauty
by passing through pain.
Bone revisits the porous soil
and presses itself into coal.
Whole colonies of canaries
refuse to return from that mine.
Is there anything yellower
than their dark shaft of regret?
The past is another country,
all its cities forbidden,
their borders closed to you
on every side, while here
God has many mansions,
all too small to live in.
When I inherit his palace,
I’ll take my moat everywhere,
making difficult any crossing.
-previously published in The New England Review