When the Lord God went belly-up, out of business,
little brats went shin-kicking through the streets of Lapaloma.
The Watchmaker closed up shop to peel wallpaper off the Vatican.
Neitzsche was in my dream too, in a tedious spat
with Anna Mahler: the syphilis was invisible, so he thought,
these are my thoughts. Sunny, a hundred degrees. Frozen daiquiris.
I wasn’t going to let any sordid affair spill my happiness.
Until the Romanian chipped away at the pieta.
He was driven, bi-polar, mood disordered:
at least they could name him this. As for the dark stuff,
blank page after blank page, motives sail by
like an afternoon cloudburst, and I don’t want to be belabor
the matador, how speared he was, or how she came to me
in a black dress out of Manet and took me in her mouth,
and I’m whispering Dear God,
the way we talk about the old rhymed poetry
with a reverence for clarity and a few simple rules of behavior,
don’t make me feel we’re all drives and cracked hardware,
wired wrong: I want to blame someone, I want to
paint over the underground, where I’m waiting at 3 A.M.
for the train, and yes, I’m sure I’m being followed.
Once I Could Say
Once I could say
my loyal friend, the house wren.
I might even sing to him.
Did I not hear the beatific,
the breathlessness –
a patter shaking the tamarind pod,
the bright green feathery foliage
stammered by a breeze?
Those muttering implosions,
did nothing intend them?
Is the harp, too, obsolete?
When the wren took his awl
to the infested branch
he fed me an idea there.
I was standing between two screams:
shortcomings the virus I spread through a crowd.
This time the stage was heated and galloping,
and vital life forces were the sheen of a horse’s back
after a run. The water was choppy too
when the nun removed her habit
and waded into the river. Wading into the river
was an act of faith, not a mandate.
This woman, lover of Christ, as I’m
a lover of Christ, wants him to raise us up
past storm warnings and electrical pulses,
past detonating impulses, wants us
to rise above the given flesh. On my knees,
coughing before the mother of Pearl, I’m shoeless
at the shore of the river, dipping my foot in.
-all three poems from the collection True Faith
My Father's Leaving
When I came back, he was gone.
My mother was in the bathroom
crying, my sister in her crib
restless but asleep. The sun
was shining in the bay window,
the grass had not been cut.
No one mentioned the other woman,
nights he spent in that stranger's house.
I sat at my desk and wrote him a note.
When my mother saw his name on the sheet
of paper, she asked me to leave the house.
When she spoke, her voice was like a whisper
to someone else, her hand a weight
on my arm I could not feel.
In the evening, though, I opened the door
and saw a thousand houses just like ours.
I thought I was the one who was leaving,
and behind me I heard my mother's voice
asking me to stay. But I was thirteen
and wishing I were a man I listened
to no one, and no words from a woman
I loved were strong enough to make me stop.
-poem first appeared in "Palm Reading In Winter"