Friday, July 15, 2016

Poem for Friday, July 15, 2016


Bird Watching

A crow steps out into the uncut grass
to warm its wings.

A bluebird lands on a windowsill overtaken by kudzu,
vanishes in the vines.

Three blue jays eye the birdbath;
one levitates toward another tree to change positions.

A male cardinal becomes a single flame
streaked against the cloudless sky.

A robin guards her speckled infant eggs
in a nest on a low-hanging limb.

A mourning dove coos in the elms.

An indigo bunting appears as a bright blue flash,
scouts the ground for worms or seeds.

A mockingbird kamikaze dives
to claim a strategic branch.

A wren stubbornly builds its home
in the sealed off corner of the porch.

Two blackbirds glide up and away together,
dissipate like dark mist.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Poem for Saturday, July 2, 2016


Gospel

The brick steps on my mother's back porch stay warm
well into the dark like oven burners set to simmer then
neglected. This summer is pure and proper: the watermelons
are juicy, the leaves curl into the heat. A few days ago, I drove
to the cemetery on a whim to search for my grandparents and
finally found them on the edge where the grass met the asphalt:

        suddenly, the history of this place unfolded
        like a patchwork quilt, the kind once stretched
        across an old country bed where people bled
        in the cloth.

Sometimes, I feel like the night before me is an enormous painting
that I must interpret, derivative of all previous nights until
a new season is born. Sometimes, I think I don't want this anymore 
when I hear the metallic shriek of a lonely train.

Sometimes, I give my eyes to the absence of color, my ears to
the chorus of tree frogs, my gospel.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Poem for Saturday, February 6, 2016


Supernova

Think back to the river walk, how gray it seemed,

jaywalking across the one-way streets, the wrong way

down first, third, fifth—how odd we were, all the way
down to how our drinks clanked at sharp angles

as we ascended the side staircase of some condemned
building, some gorgeous red-brick piece of shit

that has since been torn down, and I’m honestly sad
about that, but I slipped a man ten dollars to let us

on the roof, where we leaned against concrete and
gave ourselves to the August heat for hours,

and I’m thinking about this now as I wake up in the
middle of the night to piss, and I know I’m older,

I know my vision gets milkier every year, but my
memory is well enough to recall that particular

night, the sky had a clean conscience—cloudless,
star-heavy, clear as the ice in our tumblers before it

physically changed into the same water that's in our
brittle bodies, and we danced to the faint notes

of a jazz band six stories down, and I held you
as the saxophone kicked in, and you burned like a

supernova in your summer dress, a nuclear reaction
balanced by gravity, so I pulled your matter closer,

knowing we’d implode any moment, leaving remnants
of debris and dust after exploding together, brighter

than the whole galaxy, and here I am now, still
waiting eons for your light to reach me again

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Poem for Sunday, December 27, 2015


Delirium Poem

I.

This time, the sweat leaks from curved pools
behind my knees, trickles down my
motionless legs. My legs are turning pale

in a foreign winter. My skin hasn’t breathed
in months. Now, I must run—

barefoot along the tracks, kissing steel,
wood, and rocks. I am the Union Pacific
cutting across America’s heart.

I pass the exact place where a young boy
fed up with life stood and waited for a train
to take him under.

They wrote about it in the newspaper the
next day. They never said the engineer’s eyes
turned into moons and then went white.


II.

In the woods, everything is asleep. The pines
are bark-stripped. I knew a girl like that once;
my legs are still pale, too.

I pull a locust skin from a branch, stare into
the amber eyes before I crush it into dust
and let the wind lift it from my palm.

There could be someone buried beneath my
sore feet. It is time to stop running.

Here is my routine when a fever breaks:
wash my face, take brightly colored pills,

wonder if my body has betrayed me or
the other way around. Still half-dazed,
I say to no one but myself,

“And you were there, and you, and you.”

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Poem for Saturday, November 28, 2015


Above the Ground

Two men on the roof of a Soviet-style block
apartment, the evening against their broad
backs; there aren't any tools, none

that I can see. They're either testing the
integrity of a recently repaired spot or
making sure the turbines spin beautifully.

One of them walks the ledge with just
enough finesse necessary for balance, arms
wing-spread and eyes down, examining

each step. What he doesn't realize is he's
bisecting the universe; his arms are splitting
two halves of the world that would normally

embrace in an air-kissed collision. The other
man kneels down, strokes the edge of a scrap
of tin. He cuts his finger, winces as the blood

pours out like lukewarm beer, shocked at how
smooth metal has betrayed him. In the same
moment, the sky glows fierce: a fire, shrouded

in a negligee of wispy clouds, consumes
everything above the ground. Then come the
blackbirds, flying north to south from one half

of the world to the other, straight across the
tangerine sky. The man on the ledge looks up,
letting his arms fall slowly to his sides.

The man spilling blood looks up, forgetting
about his pain. And I look up, lost in the colors,
wondering why your hand is far from mine.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Poem for Monday, October 19, 2015


Flight Patterns

I never learned it was autumn from the trees
because their transition from green to gold
was too subtle. Instead, I depend on

the white-breasted magpies, the cerulean
trim of their wings streaking against
a Central Asian October sky.

Make no mistake: these birds are thieves,
clenching shiny metal objects in their
beaks, depositing them in nests tucked

among anonymous branches. Back home,
Canadian geese fly south in v-shaped
patterns, honk in unison when they feel

the first bite of cold. But magpies fly alone,
bullet through the clouds with a certain
stoicism. They seek shelter in treetops,

chirp like a freight train collision. I walk
below them, expecting to catch the gleam
of a silver bracelet, a piece of tinfoil.

I look up to nothing but frantic sounds.
Darkness drapes my once-blue eyes, and
my ears ring in the shadows.

What they are saying is this: love migrates
faster than any bird, with no guarantee
to return in the spring.


Sunday, October 4, 2015

Poem for Sunday, October 4, 2015


How to Greet a Man in Samarkand

Make sure the palm of your hand
is spread wide over your chest

like a sun-blotting canopy,
covering as much of your heart

as possible. Nod your head
slightly; you cannot wish peace

upon someone without succumbing
to gravity for at least a second.

Look him in the eye during
this exchange, pupil to pupil.

Half of the work comes before
you utter a sound, and when

you do, your pronunciation
doesn't have to be flawless,

but your intentions must be.
If he reads you correctly,

his chin will shift downward,
his respect is yours for life.