I feel a shudder
As of spring buds
And think: soul?
I feel a shudder
As of spring buds
And think: soul?
We meant to prune the roses someday,
but didn’t. Now a single monstrous branch
bursts out of the jasmine, weighted down
by long-necked heads
untamed by shears.
Where one is severed, another sprouts
into a frenzy of shattered spirals
(It is a pleasure to behead)
Red-clenched buds burst open and fall,
and leaves behind on each lonely stem,
a naked face
a green-petalled star.
We hear the first lonely calls in the dark,
although the sea that tramples
the shell-and-seaweed littered shore
seems as distant as a dream
Lying in bed with you, drifting,
I see the wave-tossed buoy and clanging bell
See a fat scarred bull, neck twisted back
barking at the iridescent spatter of stars,
before diving into the black waves
His mate nuzzles a velvet-sheened pup
and waits out the cold hours,
the slow creeping hand that fades
angry indigo to indifferent blue
Outside the window, the sky lightens
shade by shade, the silhouette of
pine branches barely visible
Morning taps the window blinds,
creeps into the room and over us,
like a sheet pulled over our heads
the peeling pelt
of eucalyptus and
of its flesh into the
that envelopes the forest
a copse of corpses
sluggish the sun rises
over the cremation
and casts a red
eclipse from which the forest
repelled by the
recall of heat and loss
trees unfold back to the earth
We’ve grown older. We are now bindweed
tamed onto garden trellises
Back when it was always morning
we spread without ever touching anything
We unraveled our palms to take hold of the day
and made dense thickets of wastelands
Now we shield our faces from the light
Tragic this, how the dew stays on windows now
unmarked by sleeves to look out into morning
We’ve grown older
The unborn call to us from somewhere
close and faraway,
on the other side of walls
their voices sound like water
They are jays scolding from unseen branches
They will glower when they see us
wag their chubby fingers in disapproval
and write on chalk boards with rusty nails
And they will say:
the lost one became blind through herself
the clouds got trapped in her eyes
we were the sky on the other side
that she could not see
The old man is there as usual, haunting the stained and narrow doorway. He hunches over his bony knees in layers of newspapers and dirt and ragged linen. Skeletal wrists dangling over the crusty blanket on his lap. A small wiry dog lying next to him whines uneasily and raises his head as the bear walks by them.
Straightening, the old man reaches out to the bear. The bear, black and shaggy, flinches back involuntarily and almost overbalances on his hind legs. He huffs angrily as a group of hooded teenagers walk by them and laugh.
The old man shuffles towards him on his knees, arms outstretched, baring his cracked hands palms-up like two tattered white flags. He clutches at the bear’s leg and hoarsely cries, “If the world is on fire then why are we laughing?”
The bear roars and shoves out with his meaty arms and the old man falls on his side. The dog shrills like something mortally wounded and noses the writhing form.
“We are blind!” The old man howls after the bear.
The bear marches home the way irate old women march, in a furious protuberance of movement, trundling forward with bent head and thick-jowled glowers. His short, stubby arms swing closely to his sides. Barreling down the crowded sidewalks, he does not appear to see the world around him; the florid and artificial surroundings, the people crowding along the concrete paths. But then his nostrils twitch and his shaggy head turns and his eyes follow a passing group of long-legged clicking heels. His arm is jostled by an elbow and the shadow attached to it turns around to say something, then looks up at the bear and walks away. There is something blazing in the large heavy face, something arcane and bestial.
The bear finds himself on a bridge on the outskirts of the city. He is hesitant, in this crepuscular hour of silent footsteps and stirring street shadows, to roam into unknown territory. There are signs in the sky that tell him to run and run until the breath heaves in his side and all color and light leaches overhead. He hears multitudinous sounds of pursuit. And feels a humming of the highest frequency that is redolent of den noise, the thrum of routine and repetition and dormancy. It both beckons and warns him to flee; flee and seek shelter elsewhere, and break free of this sonorous lull. Near him, a mountain of steel walls are emblazoned with huge spray-painted words in neon green that look like newly budded branches, and he smells the bitter sap released from the tortured forms of oak trees that line the street, imprisoned in unyielding concrete.
His body tenses and he starts to lope in the direction of mountains, on all fours now, towards a dim thrum of color and sound hundreds of miles to the north. But then the wind carries to him a piercing honeyed musk. He smells the warm wafting droughts of golden syrup, sweet mammalian secretions. In sharp bursts of snorts and whuffles, his keen nose catches hold the stinging pheromones—a calling, or an invitation. He abruptly rears to change directions and with heavy tread, returns to the source of the scents.
The air in the house is almost as chilly as the night he inadvertently brings in with him. The source of the coolness stands in the entrance of the house, arms crossed, heavy lines along her mouth already twitching in anticipation for the flood of words about to escape. She pushes back a tuft of earth-colored fur from her forehead impatiently and it springs back. He leans forward to brush it away gently and she steps back fiercely. The cubs are sprawled around in the living room ignorant of the plummeting mood of the atmosphere, or indifferent to it.
The female looks up and reads the taut mask of her mate’s face, the yearning in his shiny, black eyes. She bites back her words. She holds out her paws to him, palms up, unaware that it is not the first hopeless, supplicating gesture that has been proffered to him that day. Outside, all colors slowly bleed out of the sky. The darkness closes in and triggers the artificial lights to turn on and drapes a sheet of sickly orange light over the stirring street creatures in their bundled up swaddling of rags and quiet despair. The lights flicker on throughout the concrete wilderness, and the lights in the sky dim and fade entirely.
I am the one who stacks on bleached logs
cairns of smooth pebbles
and leave, in my wake,
fleeting spirals in the sand
Footprints glimpsed for a moment
before the tide comes in
With a stick
in the sand
and below that
ten other words
That mean the same
I watch the girl
long tan doe legs folded
hands burrowing the sand
And trace the contours of her shoulder blades,
the flecks of freckles across her back,
and shade each hollow
the vertical range of vertebrae
revealed in sharp definition beneath her top
And later that night on canvas
her last look,
smeared and abstract
I hold your heart
(in a jar on my desk)
His roommate calls him imo, the potato,
just another hick flailing
in the city, caged
in his tiny shithole apartment,
the unpacked boxes collecting dust.
He sleeps in the closet where
the futons are kept, at night
walking back from work,
he dodges careless elbows
on streets zebra-striped with crosswalks,
of bodies all color motion murmurs
He gapes at skyscrapers
looming steel walls all around him
and sees in them the mountains
of Toyama, its swells of pine,
sees the rice fields
swaying in the narrow streets
and turns to the murky night his blank face,
the city lights bright as the stars
in a quiet dark.
The trees outside my window were singing. Everything looked loud like a wind going through them but I don’t remember the sounds. They kept moving back and forth like they were going to fall and if they did then the house would fall down too. It was dark and hot in my room, so I opened the window. I couldn’t see the tops, just all the trees without leaves going up forever. Then I got scared because there was nothing outside except for the trees singing quiet with their black mouths getting big and small and I thought the world had gone into them.
They were hard to draw and I got mad because I could only use the black and brown crayons. Mommy said what are you drawing and I said they’re trees with mouths wide open don’t you remember they were singing last night and she said no because I was sleeping. I said you couldn’t hear them. She said then how do you know they were singing?
They darken the sky, a cloud of shrieking feathers.
It is said that years ago, when fire flew
through these hills, a woman released from steel and flame,
a frenzied flock that rose, screaming, to air, and stayed there.
Now every twilight sounds as wings turn
To the sunset fading fire behind the oak and eucalyptus groves,
wings that falter in the hazy light, at the incipient darkness,
as unknown and unkind as a cage.