swamp song

mama begs her baby for some wishes and she says
pointing to the center: dead dead dead.
from the outskirt of a circle, vicious thumping at a chest
seeing centered on the enemies, bring their heads
baby hasn’t tasted teat milk and hasn’t yarn to spin
and she weaves from empty spools
and she blankets mama’s din

is there a right side to a spiral, sinking slurping down a drain?
or is this our sovereign swamp, the bugaboos’ terrain?
treading tired on the peat are these calloused childs’ feet
and while mama’s pleading patience,
baby sinks beyond her knees

still she’s steeled and seeking saviors, weak and vapid and in gloom
but if meaning is the matter, this miasma metes a vacuum
and so mama’s sipping stomach acid
in intrinsic flagellation, begging baby choose:
leaky canoe, cement shoes, what to do?
baby blinks and says to mama: lead or lose,
lose lose.


in the morning when I watered the plants
the trash truck backed and beeped its way by and
one neighbor in an oversized black SUV burst too strongly
up the street, then gruffed her tires to the curb
squeaking rubber and scowling
to let the collectors slip through before
she shot down the remainder of the outlet, squealing onto
the main road and rupturing this morning ritual of
crow squawks and municipal noises with her engine growl.

and even the family across the street, whose coop was clucking
into the morning din, sighed relief through breakfast curtains
as her roughness dissipated into sea fog and
the chickens finally quieted down, perhaps though just because
enough of their work was done to quiet into Wednesday dawn.

that afternoon I wondered what the other neighbor noticed
as he gathered his cooler, mask and hardhat from the passenger seat
of his little red truck, the one he parks across from our front door
did he hear you mumble in the street, crouched and staring
through sunglasses at a burst milkweed mess,
questioning the dry stems as you snipped carefully
around butterfly eggs and scrounged what’d gone to seed?
did he notice me in the sun spot on the steps,
looking on softly from below a furrowed brow,
nose atwitch at the sharp smell of sliced stems wafting up the walk from your workstation,
or was he as lost in a thought as we were, perhaps blind to everything but a summer moment, last year
when his daughter bounced
out of the passenger door and soccer-cleat kicked that truck’s bumper
affectionately, her cheeks aglow from a well fought win, his too.

I wonder this as I hear Kate across the street clanging dishes through an open window, as she laughs in her kitchen, preparing dinner
and the crows caw in waves, hummingbirds cackle at our too brown salvia,
and you sweep the sidewalk smooth.

a word i am owed

the yellow angels of my underfeet, these little golems
little fishy mimics little gilled wisps
promise “I am upright I am straight-backed,” tell me
rest grow rest grow rest hunch less
little loves little prayers
alive as my own whims they are granted
and so
I take their smoke on faith of fog and burn
I deliver each a name in turn:
patience pain filth forgiveness youth and yearn
a rounding into the self I wove away from,
hurts of sturdy history gathered as thin strands to shred
in bold fabric I blazon a song to my own
tingling roots,
notes to rattle each cell loose
cadence is that
or a frequency beneath it something fearful something
rotten, no
are wrought from all, you
are a word I am owed

paint poem

there’s summer’s pale breath in the softness of your shins
shiny smooth and I’m three, at your feet
transfixed by your hair shorn short like a little boy’s
and little me, I think I wanted to touch it
I know I was tall enough to reach it when you sat
instead though I stood and picked at your hot burnt shoulders and you shrieked
you were just trying to
cool down
I’m sorry I was too little to know not to peel away the dead parts,
to at least ask if you were ready to let them go

in a different form of our lives
I’m five, a squished face and short sobs as you pick apart my curls
on the bed in the guestroom
your last bedroom in that frame of a family home
looking ahead, we’re a mirror
your scowl a backwards evolution of my miniature frown
I wondered again at the shaggy shortness of your own hair while your patience wore on mine
a nest you couldn’t sort
the foreignness of twisted curls, the turns of a French braid a sudden and humbling humiliation
the magazine made it look so easy, still
you flipped through glossy pages and taught me motherfuck instead

grown now I fail to recall
the measure and might of my own shortcomings, like when
you painted the living room ceiling, I was fifteen and for weeks
red-brown patches stuck to the wrinkles of your elbows
and your salted pepper strands, blotches like earned badges
after I refused to help you,
or wasn’t around to speak the quiet parts
softly, that
love is slow moving moments, small changes
and forgetting