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My father threw his language overboard,
a bag of kittens, waterlogged mewling:
small hard bodies.
My mother hung on to hers —
Wove the words like lace, an open web
over the window, light caught on the edges.
My daughter is starting to pick at language,
names at dawn – dog, star, mumma –...
Mariah according to my yt mama
when I try to talk to my mom about what it was like
to grow up surrounded by yt people in the prairies
in the 80s though it seemed like the 50s
she tells me in a so-there tone
that Mariah is a mixee and that people love her
I tell my mom that Mariah has talked publicly
about feeling some type of way about
Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride...
i thought it was ok - i could understand the reasons
they said there might be young children or a nervous man seeing
this small piece of flesh that they weren’t quite expecting
so i whispered and tiptoed with nervous discretion
but after six months of her life spent sitting on lids
Not the Music
Not the music.
It is this other thing
I keep from all of them
that matters, inviolable.
I scratch in my journals,
a mouse rummaging through cupboards,
nibbling on a crust of bread, apple skins,
chewing the edges of photographs, the small
details of a life. I hoard and save,
place one thing inside...
Editing the Prairie
Well, it’s too long for one thing
and very repetitive.
Remove half the fields.
Then there are far too many fences
interrupting the narrative flow.
Get some cattlemen to cut down those fences.
There’s not enough incident either,
the story is very flat.
Can’t you write in a mountain
or at least a decent-sized hill...
The other people quit their stone fields to come here.
They slip in from nights that even the snow abandons.
They leave ashes in their glasses
and stains on the table.
The house is littered with bits of their hair and skin.
Bones clatter through the holes in their pockets.
All night long their hands scythe the air....
from Quit Dying to Die
When the doctors burrowed into my body, they unearthed a slew of tumours. Growths speckled across lungs and kidneys. (Later, they would find the duo nestled into my cortex.) A Starry Night, the ultrasound technician titled my organs. He said they looked calcified as an alcoholic’s liver. Before the calcification was recognized as tumours, before those tumours were known...
The Fatigue is just fatigue. It
sprays my body like
a numbing agent. Say the
way I sleep might not be
working, say the way I eat
might not be working.
Hope to god the meds
start working. The other day
she said you need firmer
this looks like an earlier
bedtime. Fuel your...
The New School
Do you remember, Nancy,
when we sat in the Creole restaurant
and glanced up at the television to see students running
with their hands in the air and photographs
of two young men?
Their angular faces. Trench coats.
We didn’t understand what was happening,
our brains felt like mush, it wasn’t the wine,
it was like being...
My sister cries the sea
My sister is crying and crying
her tears grow to salt stormy showers
to rain and to rapids and rivers
they run to the sea to the sea.
My sister sobs softly she knows
she listens at shells and the shoals
she hears from fish sleeping at nightfall
she gathers from mushrooms and moulds.
Ideas of Home
Winter has landed; my boot bucks on a stone
surrounded by snow; I swear, I murmur
Oracabessa. “The rock” is what I call home,
all islanders do, and I’m in blessed Ann Arbour,
mainland, where I found safe harbour under
green sea of trees now becalmed, frosted.
Ideas of Oracabessa propel me forward...
Let's Not Get It Together
The world has become corrupted
from our hearts
to the way our gods love us
as if they know they’re already dying
and they’re determined to drag us down with them
and just like a flagpole in winter
demanding our affection
we’ve stuck our tongues to their ancient religions
leaving us dumbstruck and blinded...
Just off the highway to Rochester, Minnesota,
Twilight bounds softly forth on the grass.
And the eyes of those two Indian ponies
Darken with kindness.
They have come gladly out of the willows
To welcome my friend and me.
We step over the barbed wire into the pasture
Where they have been grazing all day, alone.
It is like an exquisite spider web, this world, but I
don't get trapped.
I have ceased to tie the strings of one shoe to
another in the morning,
so now I don't trip over my wants. This leaves me
nimble. Any mountain I can scamper up.
A long rope shoved quickly into a sack can easily
There, the bolting black kale,
taller than it has any right to be
and not the twitter troll who asked
if you were on your period.
In the corner, a pile of dead
zucchini leaves, spotted with rot
and not the neighbour who yelled
at you about a parking stall.
Lining the sidewalk, invasive
they say we are a family that is good at death / i make a decision to hold
a seminar on how to live / i schedule this party for my uncles on the first
day of spring / my dead uncles play hooky with the afterlife
slipping out of their graves while the ground unthaws / the earth still soft
i could never play hooky myself / all my...
My father liked them separate, one there,
one here (allá y aquí), as if aware
that words might cut in two his daughter’s heart
(el corazón) and lock the alien part
to what he was—his memory, his name
(su nombre)—with a key he could not claim.
“English outside this door, Spanish inside,”
he said, “...
“The link with poverty is there is there in the man's hat, too, for money has got to be brought in, got to be brought in somehow,” M.D., The Lover.
Poverty is in the language, it is in her gaze back. It seeps and oozes into every poverty-stricken word.
Each word is used sparingly as if each word were currency.
It is everywhere. It...
My dad taught me to never give out my real name, age,
address, or photos. This seemed obvious to me. My fake
birthday entry was always my crush's birthday plus a
random year from the early 1900s. I spent hours making
my avatars look like everything, anything but myself. It
didn’t matter how people (mis)pronounced my name, how
young I was...
Picking Up a Dandelion
I pick you up,
then bring you closer.
My fingers slowly roll
over your body,
removing seeds attached to you,
free them into the air.
I hear you sigh
as if breezes swirl at the bottom
of mountains. Through wheels
of twilight, I see you naked and fresh.
A shadow, and now a...
Women Do This Every Day
At the park I look for Levita,
because our work is the same—
swaying wide-legged over foraging toddlers,
we avert bruises, discourage the consumption
of found objects, interpret primordial languages,
serve fruit from hastily filled containers,
and trade a few stories and questions, so I know
Doña Josefina Counsels Doña Conceptión Before Entering Sears
Conchita debemos to speak totalmente in English
cuando we go into Sears okay Por qué
Porque didn’t you hear lo que pasó It say
on the eleven o’clock news anoche que two robbers
was caught in Sears and now this is the part
I’m not completely segura que I got everything
porque channel 2 tiene tú sabes that big fat guy
Packing for the Future: Instructions
Take the thickest socks.
Wherever you're going
you'll have to walk.
There may be water.
There may be stones.
There may be high places
you cannot go without
the hope socks bring you,
the way they hold you
to the earth.
At least one pair must be new,
must be blue as a wish...
If you want to travel run
around the neighbourhood with an empty
suitcase in hand. At least once, full circle.
Wear yellow underwear
for the 31st, lest fortune oversee your cup
as she pours. Yes, thank you. I too wish you excitement
& wealth in the New Year.
Mostly, I hope you get
through tomorrow, and then the day...
Place a foot upon a pedal,
Put your pedal-pushers on;
To the pedal pin a paddle,
Paddle-pedal push upon.
Place the paddle-pedal-cycle
On a puddle in the park;
Paddle addled through the puddle,
Pump the pedal till it's dark.
On the puddle-pedal-paddler
Place a poodle with a pail:
Give me a few more hours to pass
With the mellow flower ofthe elm-bough falling,
And then no more than the lonely grass
And the birds calling.
Give me a few more days to keep
With a little love and a little sorrow,
And then the dawn in the skies of sleep
And a clear tomorrow.
Give me a few more...
Through Time and Bitter Distance
Unknown to you, I walk the cheerless shore.
The cutting blast, the hurl of biting brine
May freeze, and still, and bind the waves at war,
Ere you will ever know, O! Heart of mine,
That I have sought, reflected in the blue
Of these sea depths, some shadow of your eyes;
Have hoped the...
My Poem Without Me in It
My poem without me in it—would it be like
my room when I had returned to it
after my mother was done with me.
Under my bed, only the outer
space balls, of dust, only
the asteroids of hair, no bent-legs
spider drawstring purse, no fly, no
I. My poem without me in it, would it
be like her house before I was granted...
Lima Limón :: Madurez
I wear a peineta & pin a mantilla to my hair
I want to be Conchita Piquer warning women
about becoming lemons. The goal: tener alguien
quien me quiera. I want to be my mother singing me
to sleep: A la lima y al limón, te vas quedar soltera.
My grandmother hated peinetas, mantillas & women
people arrived from portugal. people arrived from africa. people arrived from
india. people arrived from england. people arrived from china. people
predated arrival. people fled predation. people were arrayed. people populated.
whips patterned rays into people. people arose. people rayed outward to
toronto, london, boo york. people raided people. people...
waiting. then comes rejection.
anger follows. shame makes
the shadows jostle between
the walls of the scarcely visited cities.
time nips at our heels we are
afraid to arrive last
I love the rain when it
wraps me like a
river. grafts me to the...
The Negro Speaks of Rivers
I’ve known rivers:
I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the
flow of human blood in human veins.
My soul has grown deep like the rivers.
I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.
I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.
I looked upon the...
The river is famous to the fish.
The loud voice is famous to silence,
which knew it would inherit the earth
before anybody said so.
The cat sleeping on the fence is famous to the birds
watching him from the birdhouse.
The tear is famous, briefly, to the cheek.
The idea you carry close...
I never thought Michiko would come back
after she died. But if she did, I knew
it would be as a lady in a long white dress.
It is strange that she has returned
as somebody's dalmatian. I meet
the man walking her on a leash
almost every week. He says good morning
and I stoop down to calm her. He said
once that she was...
January 1, Dawn
After the celebrations,
people, TV channels, telephones,
the year’s recently-corrected digit
finally falls asleep.
Between the final night and the first dawn
a jagged piece of sky
as if viewed from the open mouth of a whale.
Inside her belly and inside the belly of time,
there’s no point worrying.
That feeling of my soul getting yanked
That feeling of my soul getting yanked
I wonder where my soul hides when I’m sick
My heart feels as if it’s getting beat up
Is it because the restless ocean is clumping up?
My heart beats regardless of the pain
It beats spewing out red thread like a red spider
A sinkful of red thread gets submerged in water
My heart beats like a...
Parable of the Eagle
An eagle egg fell into a farmer’s chicken shed
and when it hatched the farmer gave it chicken feed
even though he was the king of birds. The farmer
clipped the eaglet’s princely beak and raised him
as a chicken. When he grew large, wildlife control
called on the farm. “It has the heart of an eagle,”
said the public...
How to Triumph Like a Girl
I like the lady horses best,
how they make it all look easy,
like running 40 miles per hour
is as fun as taking a nap, or grass.
I like their lady horse swagger,
after winning. Ears up, girls, ears up!
But mainly, let's be honest, I like
that they're ladies. As if this big
dangerous animal is also a part of me,
We Lived Happily during the War
And when they bombed other people’s houses, we
but not enough, we opposed them but not
enough. I was
in my bed, around my bed America
was falling: invisible house by invisible house by invisible house —
I took a chair outside and watched the sun.
In the sixth month...
The Young Poets of Winnipeg
scurried around a classroom papered with poems.
Even the ceiling, pink and orange quilts of phrase...
they introduced one another, perched on a tiny stage
to read their work, blessed their teacher who
encouraged them to stretch, wouldn’t let their parents
attend the reading because parents might criticize,
believed in the third and fourth...
You knock on the door
You knock on the door but nobody answers. Cupping your hands around your face you peer through the side-panel of frosted glass. A kettle is whistling, a woman singing as she sets the table. This is a familiar house. You knock again. Inside, the sounds are festive. Glasses clink and a band starts up. Pressing your ear to the door, you hear the sound of your own laughter. This is the house you...
From Verso 4
I was nine and I stood at the top of the street for no reason except to make the descent of the gentle incline toward my house where I lived with everyone and everything in the world, my sisters and my cousins were with me, we had our bookbags and our four o'clock hunger with us and our grandmother and everything we loved in the world were waiting in the yellow washed house, there was a...
Oliver Sacks is going to die,
He tells us blithely in the New York Times.
He’s 81. His liver’s shot.
He’s blind in one eye
Though when both worked fine
He could still get lost in a parking lot.
He’s extremely famous and terribly shy.
He’s lost his leg but it's still attached.
Happy Birthday Moon
Dad reads aloud. I follow his finger across the page.
Sometimes his finger moves past words, tracing white space.
He makes the Moon say something new every night
to his deaf son who slurs his speech.
Sometimes his finger moves past words, tracing white space.
Tonight he gives the Moon my name, but I can’t say it,
his deaf son...
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