POEMS

Trimmings

The long day softens, and just as my body begins to ease its beseeching, her family arrives— her mother’s heartless fingernails, her little brother’s fury, Grandpa Harry’s penis joke, and, fresh from smoking weed out by the garbage cans, her sister, careening, her attempt to kiss me on the mouth, stumbling, falling onto the kitchen …

How We Met

Do I have any pets? “I’ve been wanting to get a dog. I’m kind of an old soul, and I think dogs also tend to be old souls.” Psychobabble to convey depth— I don’t like dogs. She finishes her steak, re-applies lipstick. Faint lipstick fragrance: gardenia. “You smell good,” which I considered saying earlier. Much …

How We Met

She walked behind me at first, then alongside. When I reached home, she simply walked in, sat down, and immediately fell asleep. She woke, as if at the end of a long illness. We ate grilled fish and sat together in silence. She spent the night and the following day, which turned into another, and …

Violets

In the thick  of our holy quarrel you leaned in  to whisper  the most important thing, but were silent,  and I wanted to leave you  alone across the table on your device,  but I knocked over our old vase  spilling the violets, and you looked at me as if before they fell, you’d seen them …

The Salt

I set out to attain nothing more than myself, and before long,  had no money  and only one tooth, the price I paid to locate this exotic kingdom, where mud-caked holy men  wander barefoot from place  to arduous place, where the people need salt,  find it in the sea, call  what we call sea, “The …

Hero Worship

My big brother Harry was something: Leave the crude undamaged beneath the sea, he said, sold his car, and even refused for a time to ride in cars. (Later, he lived in a car.) Immediately after college, Harry changed his name to Harrison Redwood, moved north, and chained himself to an old growth redwood. There …

At First Blush

At first blush, it appears an unambiguous portrait, the subject a man in meditation— adamantly upright posture, well-cut jacket, background in soft focus. From another angle, one sees a woman with a broad, strong face and red hair. Viewed from a third angle, the subject is a beast, half-covered in sleek fur, half in phosphorescent …

Vermeer

When she was getting close  to the end, we cached the hospice morphine  in the fridge behind the ricotta cheese, in case. We moved her bed into the living room,  where she could look out onto the Hollywood hills.  She slept and slept. Waking, she said she’d dreamed she was a delirious little bird, and …

Causation

Acquittal is caused by crime, tooth decay by Cupid. Winter causes diligence which causes nuns, and Popeye is caused by spinach and the ocean. One leaf causes Fall,  which causes New England and sin. Sunset Boulevard causes hitch-hikers and Cadillac Eldorados, which cause men  to reach over, causing night sweats. Insults are cause for accounting, …

Date

When she arrived, she did not say  too much about her journey  or the mint tea she drank en route. We did not lament the destruction of earth or bring up the vegan position on dandruff. We watched an old movie  with women in hats as big as braising pans.  and when we’d touched and …

Table for Two

We dreamed of a life of pâté en croute, always arriving with a fig mostarda, a life in which a contralto-green cilantro pesto  could be counted on to refresh the gamey lamb. Why should the search for perfect cheese puffs be less important  than the search for pure black or the sound of one hand? …

Notes for Wedding Vows

We’ll watch black and white movies exclusively. I will not be fat. There will be acoustic guitar. It will be feng shui. I will not smoke indoors. I promise I’ll stop doing that thing you hate. Also, the other thing. Two or three children—you decide— I’ll read to them about snow, and when they’re older, …

Self-Portrait with Tree

I want to have you, I murmur to the photograph in an airport of a tree on a ridge, its frail silver gelatin silhouette leaning against a bright sky. The shadow hovering at the edge of the frame must be me.

Trigger Warnings

I believed I knew the contents  of the firing chamber, knew  the sear surface and hammer materials, until one day at the zoo, as I leaned on a railing watching the gibbons balletic, I saw in the acrylic panel enclosing the cage my own reflection, an unarticulated skeleton in a specimen jar. As snow fell …

Dear

I saw Mick Jagger once with his girlfriend at a café two tables away from where my mother and I were eating lunch. “Mick Jagger!” I blurted under my breath, as if I’d just arrived from the sea floor. My mother was eating a wedge of cantaloupe in her manner— first, the silver knife under …

Sword of Glass

It was my father’s father who at last came to dinner from far away, gulped a whiskey, grinned, and said When I have a whiskey,  I feel like I’m a new man & then the new man wants one, too my father pouring another & the new, new man also wanting a whiskey who tucked …