love song for lindsay

where are you now, lindsay lohan, when we
need you most? in a jail cell making constellations
of your freckles? today i swam the concrete
river with fifteen dolphins at my heels, their noses
empty coke bottles, their fins the soles
of long-dead shoes, the water itself
a trickle of drano, aftershave, souvenirs.

go under, lindsay lohan, where we
need you most. swim in our bathwater.
wash your long unfettered hair. let yourself be pure
as you were in ninety-seven, when all the world
was lovelorn and wading
in your open hand. let me see you now.
are those wrinkles? age spots? varicose veins?

oh lindsay, though you are beautiful
and i am small, we come from the same river valley
and this thing in our hearts
is just a starfish

waiting to regenerate.




Winter Guest
for Charles

A fawn lies twisted in the road, and inside the Chinatown bus 
a can of Cherry Coke rolls down the aisle and back again. 
So many little bombs throw their weight against time,
so many blessings, too: rain-wet, falling through December
I walk through frozen woods outside my stepsister’s house
and dream of exchanging bodies, mine to the girl who turned
a hundred cartwheels on the tangled rug, a world record no doubt
Mine to the boy with powder skin who swam
beyond the buoys for the fun of it
and mine to them
to know how sadness lives and breathes and tightens the lungs
to know how the spirit withers from use and underuse, to know the life 
that gasps and grows beneath the dust. 
In patchwork light of iPad, oven, chandelier,
the kitchen piled with dishes,
a little black dog guards fallen ice cubes by the freezer door. 
We step beyond the weight: the thing that moves
not souls but something closer to the way 
love sits in the body, expands the lungs 
fills the cavities of the self puts marrow in the bones and makes the brain plump
with matter and spark. The thing that moves not souls but something safe beyond
misunderstanding, the fawn asleep in 14B, the bunk-bed cradling
the Christmas guest as ice cubes
sublimate to dust.

That night the children sneak
on tiptoe through the room, once theirs,
now wrapped in brief
bewildered shadows of what’s yet to come. Each exhalation echoes.

They climb the ladder to the bunk to yank
aside the tucked-in sheets 
and there they pin
the last unbroken

souvenirs of childhood to their sleeping
winter guest, piercing skin and bone
and flesh and dreams, and knowing by the dark

to draw not blood
but gratitude and time.



december third

I have a friend who shudders when you 
wake her.
Gray and early, 
I get gingerbread crumbs on the gospel
of Mark. The small, sweet revelations between words

sparkle with quiet 

and joy             in the feeling of something.
Small words erupt in my mouth. Under the skin of all
things is a self 

I used to know: now can you pull
back the curtain a little more I want to see what they’re 
doing in there



Song for the Wild Mojave


Last night I drove the longlonely
road to Vegas
in my sleep and woke

to quiet in a cheap motel, a pile
of poker chips on my eyes
and the arms of some lost Joshua tree
around my neck.

An old coyote tapped
at the windowpane. Sun-

day’s paper was hanging
from his mouth
like a tattooed bone, the marrow
filling with dust

and narrow whispers
of wind.


I couldn’t find the four
sad stars of Los Angeles hiding

in the boundless sky
that gathered the coyote
in its arms, the Sun

-day times


from his blackened
mouth and puffs
of words



from the page a thing

you could take, gently

in your two soft 

lungs and hold but


Let them scatter
as they may. Let everything
vanish but the desert
and this silent night.


I want to be your house
when all the old stories
are gone
and the Joshua trees
are lifted

to the sky in prayer.

I want to stand 

in chains

of x-mas lights the ones
you plugged — 

the ones

you plugged

into that last cold glass

of water

clinkclink      this side 

of Barstow

white as ice and shining
in the sunken 

night — I want!

to be the North Star
to that trucker who sails
the Mojave with loneliness

always at his heels, his next meal
waiting on the stove

of some 


dinr where 
every waitress

knows his name
and pours the coffee
just the way he likes it.


three love poems, take two

2. ugly people in love (we do it how brad and angie do it)

see how the beer bottles look
in the light. see how my shoes fit in yours.
see how something more delicate than wind
is rustling the blinds.

now look at me the way
you look at me.
i’m taking off my skin and hanging
it over the door 
with the towels. lie still.
i want you to feel
so warm as to be holy, so warm as to be drowning in light

lie still. my skin is somewhere
getting holy. i’m lying beside you,
my insides showing
my body
looking terribly thin.

3. you love me, but i treat you bad

how the light, how broken the fitting
of things. how all is more delicate
than breathing
through each other. how the taste,

the last thing you remember, how the heart
the heart beats past the breaking.



When All Breathing Was Gone from the World

One winter when I was a kid, it was so cold the birds of the neighborhood lost their beaks to the frost. But that wasn’t the half of it. On New Years’ Day, we woke to find the neighborhood dogs frozen stiff like statues, each with one leg raised to piss. And over every tree stump, there was a yellow icicle suspended as if by magic — like a lightning bolt! Yeah, like a lightning bolt. 

Our drunken fathers heaped the dogs into a pile and swung them into the river, and all of us raced out to watch, our mittens swinging, goose fat rubbed on our ears to keep them from falling off. How those stiff corpses graced the ice! How they skated, slipped, cracked, collided! What cheers erupted from the crowd! 

When the ice melted, our mothers opened their doors to let in the sweet air of springtime, and the dead dogs washed up on the lakeshore with their tongues lolling out of their mouths. A few days passed before their bodies blended into the earth, and their spirits drifted toward the neighborhood, easing through the screen doors on a westward breeze. How we spoiled them! How we celebrated their return! We filled their airy bellies with lemonade and rhubarb pie until the whole neighborhood shook with the waggings of invisible tails.

But what became of the others? What became of the dogs who didn’t wait for the ice to melt before they awakened? The ones who grew gills, who learned to breathe when all breathing was gone from the world?

Long after the thaw, in late summer when only the bleak and downtrodden could recall winter’s pastimes, those among us who swam with our eyes open were rewarded with a glimpse, here and there, of a smiling golden retriever, a prehensile dachshund, a wistful spaniel -- who, wagging his tail through the seaweed and the barnacles, winked -- yes, winked, with a survivor’s forgiveness -- then propelled himself further into the murky depths and vanished.



First, the language of flares
in June grass, a fragile binary

of here and gone, of here
and gone of every small sweet
of summer into the here
and gone which we gather
in our palms, our bodies

as they vanish, our bodies
as they return.


The boy in the orange hat
runs the airport. The tip of his finger
guides planes
across the glass; his breath
clouds the windowpane

and clouds
appear. Voices
fill the terminal. Here
is the echo without end.
Here is the long distant journey
into the reaching
beyond. Here is the boy
with wings for arms
who steps out

of the glass.


You are my fullness
and my loneliness. You walked
into my spirit where I was homesick
and tending to blades
of grass. Be careful in your wandering.
The morning of your parting I felt my body
turn to dandelions all strung

with wishes.



“Two dingoes that mauled a 3-year-old girl on an Australian beach”

have been caught and destroyed, officials say
and here I am watching the wind
shake the tethered saplings that grow in circles
of earth on the sidewalk, leaves rattling,
bodies stiff from wading life-long
through broken glass. Stand still.

Breathe deep. Soon the tide will swallow
the concrete and rid us all 

of our



february, koreatown

A parade of sedans slowed its twilight
march and the squirrels
of the neighborhood spread the word
along the wire but no one knew
what to do about the hawk that stood
paper bag still in the wilderness

of Normandie avenue, its great
sad body gleaming rain-wet
on the cracked cement, the skies
of some lost country calling

out its name which even
if we knew we would not speak
and even if we spoke would never answer

only echo through the doorways
and the hollows of our lives
while all the stoplights turned to stars
and some lost taxi, meter running
poured its heart out on the pavement.




my heart is that frazzled dog walker whose fingers
laced with leashes on the first false day of spring
are coming out of their sockets and running

with the terriers to the fountain
with the bulldogs
to the bare grass with the park avenue
st. bernards to some hallowed ground
still marked
with the scent of autumn squirrels.

somewhere, there are well-trained dogs
playing bridge in dusty silence, their tails
and full of secrets, their mouths
plugged with expensive cigars.

let them live
as they know how. our hearts

are pulled
in the direction of birds.



The Lifting

Adrip with vines, adrip with marrow 
in its cedar bones, I think it whispered something.  

Stand next to me. See who stands longest.    

I climbed, and o how the leaves shook! 
But then you will never shake the earth, I said. 
It was quiet as moss. I lay on high
in crooked wood.     

I’ve seen a thousand lands change under me, 
seen rivers change direction.     

I swung on vines. I looked for owls
in its belly, played xylophone on its back. 
My heart was woven still with branches;
that old love feeling of skin against boughs
(o boughs conceal me, o raise me up!) 
and fingers splintering through carvings. 

But there it is!the skin that has not closed
over my life, my name
my loyal dogwood, labrador, 
knifewood name which barks
and howls
from skin of trees
which lives!which reaches, ascends
to love and have you
noticed that way up here the sound
of wind is like shouting?     

O yes. It is the lifting of names
from bark. It is the shouting of names

to highest heights.