my father: younger, handsome, downright square,
eyes like brown buttons fastening his face
over his soul, mouth not too straight to swear,
to say, man, sonny stitts ass trashed the place,
hymning his saxophonist small-g god,
enlisted arms push-up strong, lips curled less
and less around cigarettes (in an odd
reversal of what the army did best:
march men to foul habits) and more around
his mouthpiece, in search of pure embouchure:
not square: hell-bent on welling a full sound
from his horn: a liquid literature
with biblical phrasing, an interlude
of stimulants unchemical to blood.
[Initially published in Brilliant Corners: A Journal of Jazz & Literature, Vol.
7.1, Winter 2003.]
a poem about
in small-town michigan, a loose
fit in the parentless apartment,
we four. neat, het pairs, sorted
for size and matching colors.
in the master bedroom, trophies
aping gold and wood-paneling
resign themselves apologetically
on cheap shelves. the rounded
waterbed bucketing toward red
shag carpet. the short, brown two
wait for you and me to leave
before easing onto the sea of love.
you lead me by the hand to a back
room that could be anyones, a stack
of newspapers against one wall,
the bed unremarkable, except
that we are going to share it.
darkness, then growing light
as my pupils gorge on the black
edges of the room. your face,
so pretty, even up close, skin
a blank braille that reads "baby."
i pulse like a star, enlarged
with the idea that i, the "girl,"
might be in command, really
be an "older woman." bright
with the thrill of detachment,
of being coolly unindulgent
to you you! with your living
penis, which i never see, but press
my palms around until it leaves
a long, white kiss on my good
nightgown. i wonder if your
sweet groans have crawled
beneath the door and down
the hall. i spend one wide-eyed
moment listening for sounds
to wash wash wash from the next
room. hearing a ripe quiet,
i kiss you goodnight, content
with having waded in whats
drowning him and her. we were
all young, or younger, then,
and unskilled at breathing under-
water: but the difference between
our splashing and their immersion
is like the difference between me,
later, writing a poem about you
and writing one for you. this, my
double-date dear, is the former.
[Initially published in the chapbook, The Gorgon Goddess (Carolina Wren Press,
my sisters visit
to india begins
it. i asked for a sari,
what would fit
in her pack.
after link, bone
O. a blossom
of bells at the clasp.
before i dared
to wear it. finally,
the snaky spine
my skin. a tinkling
paces me when i
to my feet.
the encircling gift
is a freedom:
the one leg chained
only to itself.