Sunday, June 20, 2010

blarf sauce

the light spills across the kitchen table. it comes from the soft yellow of the oven hood light. it comes from the bulbs above. it comes through the big bay windows through which the setting sun is seen. The periwinkles and pink are overpowered by orange.
“pass the potatoes,” dad asks.
“why is the sky so orange,” chuck asks.
“do you like it?” mom asks. “i found the recipe in the Friday food section this week.
“pass the potatoes,” dad says.
“i’m a fucking moron and i can’t write dialogue,” mom says.
“where the hell did that come from?” chuck asks.
“excuse me,” dad says and backs his chair away from the table.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

carry on, carrion

The wind comes in through the branches of the cottonwoods first. The rustle of their leaves sounds like the crunch of tires on gravel. He turns to see if a car is coming. The buzzards circle to the left, rising on an updraft.
He imagines finding a body. It is lying in the bushes. The eyes are open. The blue of them flashes against the grass. He takes a stick. He must take a stick. He edges to the body. He pokes it. He must poke it. The stick pushes against the thigh. It is soft. It yields and the stick slips inside. Bacteria has entered the venous system. The blood has hemolyzed and traces out green. He knows that eggs of the Calliphoridae family stud the corpse. Blow-flies. Carrion-flies. Bluebottles. Greenbottles. Cluster-flies. The body is fly blown.
The buzzards fly down, banking left and descending, each one a feathered do-te-la-so-fa-mi-re-do.
Choir room. Fifth grade. Mrs. Meyers who always stomped when she wanted a crescendo.
Youngstown, Ohio, Seven years old. He doesn’t understand why his cousin is not crying at their grandmother’s funeral.
“He just shows he’s sad in other ways,” his mother says. Already there is a gap between himself and other boys.
He navigates this gap: rising on updrafts, flight feathers twitching as the feel out the currents. Shift the pronoun left from He to I. Attach a list of events. Attach a train of memory, pulling steam wrapped out of the station. Sketch out a skeleton with words. “They are a strange and docile wheat,” but they will hold, twisted and knotted together. He has been crafting this frame for some time now. He must make sure it can bear the weight of “I” before he slips it over the head and shoulders.
His father always claimed that Africans has avians in their ancestry. Hollow bones. Weightless frames. His father claimed this is why Kenyans always won marathons. Kenyans. Nigerians. Ethiopians. Zimbabweans. Their names rolling out of the mouth, vowels jostling to be next to one another, separated by a slight suggestion of consonants. In his mind they are carried off in a surge of vowels. a’s. e’s. i’s. o’s. u’s – even a y every now and then, all drifting in on the wind and collecting under the arms of the Kenyans. The Nigerians. The Ethiopians. The Zimbabweans. They are buoyant. Only the balls of their feet meet the earth.
He stays up at night and whispers vowels over his frame of words.
“a. a. a. a. that’s right, nice and easy e. e. e. e.”
He speaks the vowels into the braid of the frame. They bump and settle into creases. Bends. Folds. The cleft between the forearm and the upper arm, the sweep where the body rests on the legs. Vowels curve. They roll the mouth, sound sliding from the throat. They smooth the frame of braided words and he slides the flesh of “I” over them. It settles into the creases. The bends. The folds. The clefts on the insides of the elbows and the sweep of the thighs.It spins out soft and new and glows golden in the reflected light of the vowels.
Gold like the coils of the toaster oven in the morning – all heat that cannot travel by word.
Gold like the rush of wheat in Kansas, curling in the wind like a wavehead.
Gold like this and like that and also this ting. You cannot understand the first gold I have told you, so here are several more. Can you touch against them in the dark and understand their shape? Can you now know the first gold? Can you now know anything I have told you? All the dark fumblings that are spoken. The sound of words like the fall of a mouse’s feet on a rafter.
The rain that comes silver slither through the leaves. The oak has watched him and those before him. The rain falls against its leaves. The rain falls against his wings. His arms stretch out, the beta keratins of his hair braiding foreign and wrong. Feathers between his fingers. Feathers in the cleft between his forearm and his upper arm.
He begins to mutter, “a. e. i. o. u. u. u. e. i. o. u. u. u. e. a. a. y. a. a. y. a. i. i. i. e. i. o. u.”
He rocks up onto the balls of his feet and the vowels gather in his armpits. He speaks down the length of each arm. The arms stretch further out. Silver like the feathers of a buzzard catching the full light of the sun. Silver like the feathers studded with rain from the oak tree.
He quickens, “aaaaaeeeeaaaaeeeaaaaaeeeeiou.”
The feathers fill out. Vaned feathers. Down feathers. Contour feathers. Filoplumes. Flight feathers. He leans forward, the vowels jostling out beneath his arms. He pushes forward and runs down the hill of the backyard. His strides grow longer. He leaps to the roof. one. two. steps and then pushes from the peak.
“aeiou.” his feathers shift, feeling for an updraft. “aeiou.”
An updraft of warm air washes over him and he circles left, riding it. The clouds spill out like gravel, mica glinting in the rises of the cumulonimbus.
The wind comes in through the branches of the cottonwoods first and his mouth fills with the twist of gray.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

This is a metaphor you cannot ignore.

I am sorry.
I am dripping blackberry jam
on your living room floor
and it is past the time
for me to be in bed.

The finches call as I leave
your house, confusing
the orange-gray glow
of the city for dawn.
I do not like the sound
of them, or the noise
of the 2 A.M. train running by –
all deep bumblebee rumble
and metal scream.

The metal of your doorknob
was cold as I turned it.
I have been walking
out that door for years.

Friday, April 9, 2010


There is no forgiveness
to be found along
these sidewalks.
The hands of men
have poured them straight –
the angles of intersections
cut with precision.

Back home,
Summer stuck
in the minds
of southern city planners,
and their boulevards
gently drawled –
buttered grits in bowls
and slices of coconut cake
sliding out the icebox.

Sherman’s armies
crashed along
Peachtree St. –
a swell of amber froth
licking up the sides of buildings,
a spray of char,
a touch of the torch.

This is to say
that the shirt I borrowed
smells like you in the armpit
and I wish
you would
talk to me
about architecture.

you may break both your legs

I was once a wolf. I was once wild. I knew the smell of the forest. Now it rings as a vague sensation of coming home. I remember the pines that stretched for miles, undulating across the land. I know the shape of the oaks, their trunks all thick and grizzled. I wove through these for hundreds of years and you tamed me.

No, no, that is not what happened at all. I am the one who tamed you. It was I who came to the edge of the wood to live and built my house and settled quietly.
The earth gave me fruit of my hands, my labor, my sweat. The forest gave me you, trotting out into a clearing and blinking at me in the bright daylight while I smudged a line of dirt across my nose in erasing an itch. You would come to me like that from time to time and in time I learned more of the forest and forgot my field with its young vegetables. I hungered for meat and you taught me the hunt. You taught me the thrill of the flesh, all form and fabric. How it would work. Strive and bend, in the hunt. I forgot my field of vegetables. I forgot the light and the cabin and the quiet settling. I lived in dark and silent places. I rushed headlong into the night but it rubbed raw against me. I did not have your toughened hide. I was all soft pink with curves in my hard lines. I worried. I worry.

You are gone to the forest and the shady reticence there. I cannot live without the sun. I cannot live without the dirt on my hands and in a line across my nose. We lived like this for years – you, blinking on the edge on the wood and I in my garden. My fields spread out over the years, rolling across the meadow.
I shaped the earth, planted rows, tended time and drew forth trellises of vine, laden with fruit. The land begged for the order of my hands.

Your pack came in the afternoon as I tended to the grapes. They flowed down the covered rows of vine. I saw them from the end crashing like the white froth of a wavehead. I waited and then they came upon me and tore and rent and crushed with their awful jaws and left me there guttering and piled. Spiders lowered themselves from the vines above and wove me tight around. The dirt sprouted roots that waved in the golden light of evening and then rushed across the ground. I felt the fingers of the roots passing through the webbing and tapping into my skin. They fed me until my body mended. My bones set in casts of silver web. My bruises faded and skin patched. I passed the time watching the grapes grow. They swung all about me, growing fat and swelling with the luxury summer. Time tended me and I mended. I counted the seconds with the sticks the sparrows carried to their nests. I learned the lattice of their pattern as they passed above me. The early morning weave of brown feather and sharp cry against the blue of the sky. I once watched a flock of finches fight a hawk, baiting him to fly into the glare of the sun and then attacking from the sides. On the ground, underneath the vines of grapes I felt the wet on their beaks, the sharp taste of iron flashing back along their tongues.

I mind my rows of vegetables with a limp now. My hip stutters in its articulation.
You catch in it. I wait sometimes on the edge of the woods for you to appear out of the shadow of the oak and pine. For you to come to me and press press press your hand against my ribs with the fingers shaped like the blade
of a knife. Tilt the tips so that they pass through my skin like hot wax and pass between the ribs, they will move to allow you entrance. There is light sleeping here. It huddles like the newborn rabbits we found, mewling and blind in their burrow. Press your hand to there and I will breathe deep and even, my chest moving around your forearm. The light will approach and you must be still, a movement will startle. If you are quiet and if you do not mind waiting, it will brush against your hand and then you will know. The shape of your skin rests against it. I feel your thrum out from my ribs, reverberating.

I remember the tension of the leeches as we would pull them from our skin after swimming in the lake. They gripped in my mind with creamy filaments, all hard cartilage. I imagined the tiny rends in my skin as I would pinch it by the tail and try to remove it without breaking it in half.

I remember you vomiting on the beach as I pulled one from your shoulder,

“Hold still, it slipped out of my hands.”

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Dog Lake

In the middle of June, every summer,
my father buried his fishing shirts in Canada,
rowing out to the middle of the lake early in the morning,
— the water all fog, wisped like a pot coming to boil.
Those shirts would sink, wrapped around rocks
my sister and I dug out on the shore.

I have wondered what those stones did
to the architectures of the pike and walleye below,
fish-sized boulders hurtling down
through the grey green of Dog Lake
and crashing into those mud towers
we dreamed rose from the basin;
all soft curves and suggestion, shaped by fin.

Tartan trunks grow up through these towers
and pierce the silver surface where all fish eyes gaze.
Bolts of flannel flutter in the breeze,
the branches spreading across the water are heavy with plaids.

Monday, February 15, 2010

A blend of nylon and spandex.

My grandmother told my sister and me,
the one summer we stayed with her,
"anything but Nana or Mawmaw."
We called her “pantyhose” for several years

I speak of her now as if she is dead.
It's funny how things happen.
Funny like a squirrel,
flattened on the road, at the edge of the white line,
so close to the grass, almost to a tree.
Funny like the way an incoming storm
pushes all the trees one way
and turns the leaves over,
revealing the curve of their underbellies –
Beautiful like my grandmother that summer,
while she tucked my sister and me
in to sleep, in her pale green night gown.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

every branch, every wire is frozen clean around

i cannot spell strathacona.
i left that language in the steam over the city,
cumulo-nimbus pulling out from smokestacks
and bleeding off into the white,
the white of the fog,
the white of your skin,
the white of the drifts, the flakes, the banks.

white fingers out across the road as we cut
an insistent streak of grey, travelling the wrong way.
the white waves over these hills,
over these stands of trees,
over those clumps of hedge.
i do not understand the speed at which we crash
through the troughs of these swells.
i do not understand the geography that pulls the land into unfamiliar shapes.
where is the distraction of green pines?
where is the distraction of faded grass?

there is more truth in these hills than I am accustomed to;
the sweep of white frothing out like a sheet of static,
settling over the slow curves of the ground.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

noli me tangere

My dearest sister, my Margaret,
You must forgive the scarcity of letters from me. You would not believe the hardships we have had to endure. This winter is unlike any I’ve yet to live through. The snow piles up to the base of the windows. It’s as if the house were built down into the earth. It is peculiar this year in that the snow not only blankets every surface but also smothers each extremity; every branch, every wire is frozen clean around with white. The stand of trees outside the kitchen, the old maples seem studded with feathers. I was watching them this morning as water boiled for coffee. I kept expecting them to shake off their soil and beat their branches into the sky.
Prices are rising sharply for every supply. I’ve not had butter or sugar in almost three weeks. Luckily, Charles and I have been able to keep the children sheltered from the understanding of how harshly this season is affecting us. We’ve plenty of firewood and a surplus of canned vegetables. If nothing else, we will struggle through this season.
I have been having that dream again. The one with the wolves. In this most recent one, I am in the kitchen punching down dough for the day. I am wrapped in the soft light of the morning, the perfume of yeast, and the occupation of my hands in something simple. It is not my kitchen here, but the one of the house when we were girls, all expanse and grey stone. I remember how chill the stones would be as we slunk in to steal cakes after cook had left. I am barefoot in my dream. I am wearing a simple grey dress and a muslin apron. The stones are cool on my feet. The dough is warm beneath my fists. Gasps of air escape it as I strike it. The ceramic bowl rattles against the rough wood of the work table. In my dream I close my eyes and imagine that I am Mother. Oh, how I miss Mother. She is the one who taught us to bake our first loaves. I close my eyes and feel that I am Mother. I have her hands, the pinky finger ground down by the corn mill. I have her simple flowered dress, her ravenous laugh. I feel the weight of her history, but cannot recall it. In my dream, I know I am not alone. I turn around, keeping my eyes closed. It is important that I think that I am Mother. If I opened my eyes I would check my hands and see my pinky stuck with bread dough. I would see it long and slender instead of the compressed shape left by the corn mill. I reach down and feel the fur of a wolf, grasp between his shoulders. I take a clump of fur in my dough-stuck hand. I follow as the wolf walks. I leave the bread dough behind. Out the door my eyelids flare weak red in the morning light. I hear the clamor of the geese as we cross the yard. I hear the gasp of the goose girl. I hear the grass rustle against my skirt.
I feel as if I have been wolf for thousands of years. I can recall moving through the pines in pursuit of prey. I have felt thousands of nights in the dew on my fur. I have hunted deer, cattle, sheep and in leaner times smaller prey. I have lost myself in the rush of paws through the undergrowth, the saliva slavers from my lolling tongue. The woodland floor moves underpaw as I track, sunlight dapples my fur dark and light.I have run for countless hours, always ending in the kill, the metallic flare flashing back from my muzzle, rushing down my throat. Margaret, you must believe me when I say that I do not want to stop when I eat the heart, the liver and the lungs first. I do not touch the contents of an herbivore’s stomach. I do not understand how I know to eat the leg muscles next. I remember the past smells of brothers and sisters. I do not know how I speak in strings of vowels, chill and mournful, slipping from my throat. The strings of silver from my pack move off into the sky and splash against each other. I watch them weave in the moonlight. The worst part of this, Margaret, is that I take pleasure in losing myself. It feels like coming home – as if I can almost remember how to move a part of myself I had forgotten existed.
Do you remember when Father decided for us to move out of the city? How Mother resisted. Of course you don’t, you were only an infant then. It was my duty to hold you on the long drive out. You were silent the entire time, your eyes opened wider than I had seen them. I held you up to the window so you could take in the change in landscape. Expansive swells of grey-green grass nodding in the wind beneath that endless grey sky. There always seemed to be a forest on the edge of the horizon. Pines hemmed us in. I remember how lonely the house looked as we pulled up the drive. After the crowd of the city, Hillford Shire seemed a sentinel against the surrounding wild. Why did Father choose to move us so far?
Margaret, I know all their names. To call them names seems so crude. Each name is a collection of sensation, a bundling of memory, or narrative. To call another was to pass through that memory. Margaret, my eyes glinted gold in the light. My name was in those eyes. They held the last light of the sun as it sank beneath the treetops. I flared with that final burst, all urgency and passing. Margaret, I know all their smells. I remember all the twists of scent. I remember Charles, and the children’s scent, Mother’s, yours. Human scent is soft. It is like the bubbles in a glass of beer, pale and passing in the gold and then the cannonade of froth. I remember you in the scent of school desks and needlework. I remember you in the smell of cinnamon buns in the oven and conversations by the light of a lantern. I remember you in the smell of snow. Have been thinking of you often in this winter.
You were old enough to remember when they found Mother. Do you remember? She has resisted our move, but took the land instantly. Do you remember her garden? She was satisfied with the neat rows at first, but started to venture to the forest for its herbs, its fungus, the seclusion of its shade. She took to the land, but the forest took her. Do you remember the quiet that crept over her? It clouded her eyes, ate at the edges of her laugh. She had trouble remembering us. Your laugh could always call her back. You were the one who found her body. You came running to me, in a fit. I was punching down dough, helping cook in the kitchen. I always felt guilty for slipping cakes. I went with you and we found her torn and red. We buried her alone in the trees and at supper told Father what had happened. He stopped eating and understood.
In my dream, Charles comes to live on the edge of the forest. I come to him from time to time, but always melt away back into the woods. We pass the years bound like this. His patience carves lines into his face. I have felt a thousand lives, Margaret. I have had gallons of blood pump through these veins. I have tasted meat, just killed. I have brought litters upon litters into the woods. I have taught the young to scent, to stalk, the hunt. I have gone off to die countless times. Age dusts my pelt with grey. I meld back into the briars, the brambles, the clump of blackberries.
You must believe me, Margaret, that I am entirely beside myself when I awake. Usually I have startled Charles in thrashing in my sleep and he is there, holding me as I awake. I do not know what I would do if he were not clasping me about the shoulders. Each time I wake, it feels harder to remember who it is I am. Please do not mention this to any of the Aunts. I have enough of their attention as things stand. This winter will pass as will these dreams. I hope this letter finds you well and peaceful. They are both luxuries in this world.