Monday, November 8, 2010

They call it writer's block

but all you can think of are stacks of alphabet blocks, towers of them tumbling from their wobbly height: there goes E; R; T! There goes the raw solitude of sitting criss-cross applesauce alone in the clean silence of your bedroom. You were a child once. You played with the alphabet, spelling in a sloppy row, not really knowing how to spell, trying out your mama's name. Do you remember your own pink, fat, two-year-old fingers? Fat smudgy fumblers. Somewhere, probably in the dim far away cave of the living room, your parents hissed and grimaced. You built your trembling ABC towers. You just kept piling them up. Little baby alphabet-carpenter. A humid breeze pushed through your window, told you the world's strange secrets. Strange secrets, ninety-four degrees.

It is different now. Those secrets wrapped and hung your ribcage, green and serpentine, years years ago. You learned them all by heart, by degree. Now you are thirty-two and the blocks are smaller, duller. You sit criss-cross applesauce on a wooden chair in front of your typewriter. The chair sags--the years have promised nothing. Still the alphabet eludes you and trembles at its great height. Careful primaries: A--B--C. You keep the letters in absolute order. The jungle breeze hits you differently, a thick hot hand on your cheek. Traffic jams your nerves. The endless shimmer of metal-to-metal clogs your moody arteries. Still your fingers do things without you--they are thin now, sore and pink as ballerinas, invasive and shaky; anorexic maybe. One is necklaced by a wedding ring. It winks at you sweetly. Monkeys breed and stomp in your heart. Words swing from tree to tree, evasive and screaming---your typewriter waits like a patient wife, a clot of letters and symphonies right there under you: only air between your fingertip and the faded L key. How do you spell the words for it hurts; I can't breathe; my god, stop talking? How do you know their bright, special colors? How do you cry in a different language; keen in silence; get down the iambic of grownup savagery?

These days you type from a different country; you watch the sun rise like nuclear citrus. There is nothing between you and the alphabet: nothing but the salt-burn of A to Z.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

There Is Husband or No

Say I have a husband

Guilt is magical

And what I really have is a ladder
leaning against
an antiquated barn

Where hay snores
like a man and passes days full
of needles like a heroin addict

or a methadone clinic
and I am one of those swearing
smoking women

withdrawing on
the couch

Guilt is magical

my baby is a thirteen month old fever
crawling the walls
and the walls are not nearly

punishment enough
for having a baby with
no husband to keep

me from

from the coup
of my sultry

Guilt: lovely, magical

and addiction claws at itself
mercilessly in the chicken’s opium den
at the dull edge

of the hay there is
husband or no

husband and always the
singing scream of a kid,
plenty of guilt to go round.

Plenty of easy, say like sleeping
your way up the ladder.

Monday, August 16, 2010


Hi, could you have Carl call his wife
if he has a moment? Yes, I'm sure he's driving

tonight. You know, I'm on the brutal brink of the wineglass
and I just need

to tell him that Jesus Christ himself
couldn't have done

any better really please tell him I love him tell him
the sky is emptying itself like a bladder

the rain you know is ammonia oh and also tell him

the world

is a blunt object doing its violence again

tell him there is something to be said for what cannot be

my sweetheart, my rubberneck!

You know the accident was atrocious
but I tell you next day brought a blue filament of sky and

a whiff of the end but there was a moment when there were children


I swear I heard them laughing
despite the metal twisting itself into a smile

despite the twisting

So, if he has time, could you please have Carl
call me?

Tell him I cannot stop listening for that soft laughter.
Mr. Dispatcher, I
cannot stop listening.

*Published in Words and Images, 2011. Won 2nd place in the Betsy Sholl Award for Poetry.
for Kobi

You get the feeling you are dragging
an empty suitcase. Even sunlight

is suspicious, something cutting off
your vision, your moth-drawn idea of who

you are, full of flame, full of endless
circumstance, the agonizing dance toward

the mirror: one time you found the mirror
empty or was it just brimming with night, was it two o’clock

in the morning when you realized you had lost
the stick, forgotten the baton

had in fact been passed to you
long ago at the last length

of the race. Who did you lose to? Who
did you disappoint in your breathless

attempt to cross the already tattered ribbon,
knees crushed by the humbling weight

of the rest of you. O the deadly frenzy
of packing it in, beating at time with a knotted

stick, looking always behind you and hoping
that one day your shadow will release

with the crisp grace of a leaf, waving good-bye,
good-bye like a hand, a strong hand

ungrasping all it has strictly clung to,
even the graveyard of the suitcase,

even the ghostliness
of aching to be leaving.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Mornings, sunlight spreads like piss
Across the kitchen floor. Birds chant.

What kind of birds

Chant like monks, tiny and sacred
In their sad brown rags?

The day goes by dripping

Gaudy jewelry. Later,
After supper, the sky bleeds rubies.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


"Who shall measure the heat and violence of the poet's heart
when caught and tangled in a woman's body?"--Virginia Woolf

I don't know
if a woman
can win

a poetry contest
with unwashed hair
and unwashed linoleum

I don't think it is possible
to win
with her edges of words

like cliffs stepping off
into boiling canyons
I mean she has no degree

but the degree of her fury
flaming as a wild fire flames
vast and disproportionate

smoking trees like cigarettes
laughing at the pissing hoses
Will the editors in their

jackets hear the crow outside
her window screeching
from its short branch

or the baby snorting awake
in his crib
I doubt it is possible

from the far away
mess and warmth
of her small brown apartment

tripping over plastic toys
to get to her desk
the way other people run

through the gate
knowing already they are too late
for their flight

Monday, August 9, 2010


I, Lady Lazarus, have been raised to meet my match. The copper smell of blood drives me crazy, the need to kill what haunts and destroys, taunts and infects: the deadly
mouths of fakery. It is the animal in my head, an unnamed wheezing breather who craves the guts to speak, a grand roar, a many-toned truth about living. No vintage
notions of freedom, Kerouac's dead roads through dusty towns in an America that no longer exists. The map back is burning. The smoking trail of stones could kill,
sharp as a politician’s smile, sharp as the knife in America’s back.
I am no longer torn but aligned in algebraic fever with the killers of the bride and groom, the marriage of Soulless and Fearless who have plenty of nothing to lose.
Ginsberg long ago asked America, why are your libraries full of tears? The answer
was static, illiterate with fear. My country, there is no one now to greet you soft at the door, no angelheaded hipster sweetening the threshold between less and more.
Our cities are cold and poisoned. There are hungry children scrape-kneed at your door
but you are not home anymore.

We were born into gardens pastel and hostile, our mother’s Martha Stewart blooms. Now hours of television tantrums and cellphones chanting electric songs.
Call out the bloodhounds, sniff out the antique beauty of bedroom sex, the lure of love or a continent. Born, born into our father’s pill bottles, bowls loaded with pills, pills to kill the Vietnam memories, the vague echoes I can’t help hear because all my life I’ve lived in the black light of his eyes and no pill can ease the fury of murder gone by like a season, cast into a memory-ditch and expected to rust, dust to dust. My father was a carpenter
trying to build a house with no hammer. We were born full of rusty tools, bellies round with debt. Momma says What kind of attitude is that?
Momma, I am shivering with fever, cannot deliver this bluesy baby. A yowl in my belly, sermon in my brain. Maybe the nauseous riot in my soul is mine alone but no, no
we are born killers and it is not enough to write a poem or smash a fist against the wall. It is not enough to fuck with bored casual violence---losing face won’t abate
the sin of being born into the great white alarm that sounds HUSH, sends a rush of salt into the wound.

A young soldier’s face contorts fantastically as he hauls another drink; I ask what he thinks of this bloody desert madness---me in my sparkle-shining dress, mascara mess,
craving to control his stiff ache, the weight of his uniform ugly on stooped shoulders. He is fresh from Iraq, drinking himself into a private dark room. Again I ask but he keeps his secret cocked, a weapon. His sanity now depends on it. And later there is viciousness in the kitchen, my swerving voice hissing something about the purity of rage and hubby says You're not old enough to hate this way. I tell him the fear of hellfire saves. Shit man, he says, I’m going to bed. You're a fucking lunatic. Love this, domestic bliss. Maybe I am not Lady Lazarus but instead halfdead and howling for Jesus. We were born into the world naked and believing but isn’t it the old cold human policy
to kill without rhyme, meter, rhythm, or reason.

"I was much too far out all my life
and not waving but drowning."--Stevie Smith

Will I die in the low calm of winter?
Certainly not under the ruby sky of summer, sweating. Will
I swim up like a fish in an ecstasy of forgetting
or will memory swing down like a hammer and fasten me
to the old swarming backdrop of regret, the buzz
humbling, the buzz too close finally to ignore.

Will I walk angelic into sleeping water, ignore
the yellow song lighting behind my ribs? Winter
water is a mother. Maybe she will slosh and buzz
softly, hold me under her silent freeze. I will
not be afraid, then, of the sun-song leaving me,
of the familiar world calling then forgetting

my name, unleashing it: Alicia forgetting
already the muted sound of drowning, able finally to ignore
the dark eyes of windows and doorways that follow me
with their open watching, able finally to swallow winter;
the white heart, the cracked sea will
lull and rock me. Oh sleepy mama-buzz

cradle me, baby, baby, violet lullaby-buzz
a close tide rising in my ear, forgetting
the boom-sound of my heart: my name will
sink like an anchor, my name will ignore
me. Will the whitewashed sleep of winter
dance me down, someday, what day, tell me,

will the polar ocean sing me
to ever-sleep and pass with me the hushed season: the buzz
and swarm of her cold needles, her winter-
breath held, moment-frozen, forgetting
Alicia, Alicia, forgetting the lush summer sky? No. Do not ignore
the thrashing singing keening mouth-gaping will

to endure--Alicia--to live, to surface and live, the fierce gasping will.

Bitter smoke clogs the kitchen.
Supper is burning. Knives smile
up at me, newborn botchery.
I am an elephant, a clown.
Today I brought the kids
to the circus then I brought the circus
home with me. I slice
carrots, onions, (ignore the smog)
carry on stabbing potatoes.
Later when everyone's in bed
I'll slice my nouns
in thirds.
Believe, believe
when I am Monday
back to work
after two years home
with the baby
there will be no chicken dinners,
or chocolate chip cookies
gone wrong.
You know, what I’ll miss most
is the whole four o’clock (just
before you get home)
bottle of wine
goodgod gone!
No more napkin poems
while the water boils or
ass pats.
You laugh and say
What, no more domestic angel?
I pull on my oven mitt
and answer you back:
Domestic angel? Fuck that.

*This poem was published in the spring edition of "The Wife of Bath".

Crow of dawn, you
piercing trumpet. Brainless
how you slave
to morning's
iron rule.
You cocka
doodledoo godless
inanimate. Morning, 5 a.m.
The tangy warmth
of last night’s fuck still
lingers in
layers: quilts,
sheets, blankets:
my dreams loaded
with bad chemistry.
My mind’s not right.
Echo there, I know I know
Who said it first?
I wonder, does he want
to be reimbursed?
drag my body heavy
out of bed when your electric
cry explodes.
What hell did
you clunk out of,
devils lighting your
Who invented you?
Probably some jobless fucker hopping
to your tune. At a.m. 3
I woke hard
and watched your minutes
collect like buzzards
at the heap
of some purpling corpse.
Heard dogs fucking behind
the house, sweat
greasing my half
sleep. That dampfur stink.
Not like my
man’s familiar warm peak
when I tumble him
across wet fields,
roll him
into Latin, lost lang
uages, utterances
of grief
and hunger
twining and coming.
But that was last
night and I knew
you were gearing up for
your savage rouse
5! 5! 5! it is 5!: up you work-
hag, you drugged poet.
at the palmslam,
not sly but a brutal swat.
I loathe you
because you crow
that this newborn day
will live and die
between my first
to last yawn.

My father understands the ravage

of crow’s wings spread

    across the sky like a funeral.

    You see, sometimes there aren’t enough

pills in the bottle

    to separate death from the lunar weight

    of life. For instance, this morning

the kitchen gleamed,

guarding its canned goods

    like last resorts

    in the pantry. Once again the phone warned

against leaving the house:

the ringing was church bells.

     Also the orange pharmacy bottle

     was empty. Its emptiness reminded him of something.

Then a fantastic blackness swept the sky.

Suddenly, the empty plates

    shot blanks from the table and where the clock

    hung yesterday there was a crazy face:

manic talk talk of time,

yammering little maestro conducting

    minutes, a harsh

    Oriental symphony.

You see, sometimes morning greets him

like an angry dog.

    Sometimes church

    bells clatter like silverware.

Every morning I call to ask if he’s all right.

This morning he tells me

    there’s something he can’t quite

    put his finger on:

The sky is full as a blood blister, the dogs are singing.
Everywhere, he whispers, such perfectly coherent rage.

*Published in Words and Images, 2004