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selected poems

The Snow Woman

The most important reason to read Mrs. Dalloway
is to determine
whether or not you’ve given up
on intimacy. Nuns

walk around all day and night
carrying open empty baskets
ready to catch what comes from above – acorns, God’s love,
a dead crow. Snow, revelation, and sometimes
in July, tree frogs.

Who else maintains
that level of receptivity? Thinking I am willing
to turn my body
into enough light for you
to read by,

I open a book about Rodin
and do everything I can to make myself
as broken and unadorned as the kneeling
headless and armless Desinvolture

because to let you in, admit it,
it is best if I am broken. I can’t see Clarissa
on her knees, head bowed, in conversation
with God or Richard. It’s possible

nuns too get defeated by the static of everyday concerns,
that they waste time talking to God
about interest rates and lost electricity.
Once I came back from a walk. I found you

in winter. You had nothing on your hands
to keep them warm. Before you stood a woman
sculpted in snow. Nude, head thrown back, her breasts
were mine. Her ribs and neck astonished me.

For the next week we watched her
carved into by wind, melted by sun and frozen, diminished
until finally, without our mentioning it, any trace
of what you’d recreated was gone. I have no idea

how to open to or enter you though let’s say
we both believed
for one week one winter
that your hands understood me entirely. I consider

Mrs. Dalloway’s day and don’t know where
to place you. You’re not the friends
I used to stay up with all night, drawing blue
oil crayon chairs and easily agonizing. You’re not

Clarissa’s Sally of the single kiss
one summer evening.
You’re certainly not a tuxedoed ambassador or the god
to whom I pray.

I’m satisfied to watch
for now, while you stand at the slider
blowing cigarette smoke into the dark February air
taking in the Monk

Thelonius’ fingers release. I know your shoulders,
lips, worn hands.
I know what fear looks like
on your just waking face.

Looking at R.B. Kitaj’s MaryAnn

Let’s say you’re MaryAnn
and nude, your buttocks
growing larger and larger only
a few feet from where
you lie because the painter
stepped inside himself when his
eye rode that line. In every
hour in which you’re MaryAnn
the sound of the former
residents of your home
arguing themselves to life in your kitchen
fades, and you begin to question
whether the lilacs you smell
grow in your yard
or someplace MaryAnn
reads letters most Saturdays, licking one
finger to turn pages, eating raspberries
the way she swallowed
trumpet music until
her skin glowed. You wonder
if you’ll ever stop longing. You
start to wonder if MaryAnn
imagines you in linen
slacks writing coffee on a list
magneted to an avocado
green refrigerator, whether she
opens herself, letting out mandolin players and morning
glory blue eyed women without voices, whether
she minds what the painter
takes of her and what he ignores. You think
you might walk her to the edge
of a gravel pit. Dropping
away is a sensation you carry
in the moments when you cease
being MaryAnn, but you don’t
want to frighten her, having heard
whole packs of coyotes
sounding like the nights that split
open the others who lived
where you live, long
before you ever dreamed white
curtained windows that look out
on long stretches without

Abstraction Too Is of the Process

Repetition, in my dream, is an interstate. I get off the wrong exit and find a bad hotel. A man appears and leads me to a park, a fountain, enough light, a painting.

Repetition is where I walk most days hoping a heron will take flight. It’s why we get along.

It’s not really about rectangles but a variation in rectangles. I put one life on top of another on top of another. Sometimes I can see down three, four layers. Sometimes, I can see through what’s laid crisscross all the way to an eleventh life and it keeps me awake at night.
Repetition’s why we don’t get along. I’m pretty sure this isn’t about mitosis or heads split by paned glass. I’m attracted to where blue collects.

I lie in bed thinking about repetition.

Repetition is the mirror we need. What doesn’t repeat drives me crazy.

From what direction does light arrive? Sometimes in the painting there’s flame. It might be a candle. It might be a fireplace.

I lie awake troubled by scale. Repeat a life story enough times and you’re certain to lose all sense of scale.

Red, for instance, is hard to nail down.

Repetition bears little resemblance to a watermelon. I see seeds in my sleep. Sometimes they turn into full-blown dreams. No way out.

Repetition makes nothing erase itself.

For days I repeat the word confessional. A priest on the other side of a grate. We are disassembled visually. We are mostly voice. Voice in a booth.
Repetition is the priest’s hammer.
I look at the painting. I have visions of an old man confessing an old infidelity. I change the location. I add cigarettes, stabbed out in a green ashtray. Repetition brings back the priest.

I lie into bed. I dream whatever one seed becomes.

Even though there’s fire of some kind inside the painting, I’m pretty sure there’s another source of light. This means the painting, a flat surface, has an inside, an outside. And a painter visits my dream.

Waking, I’m a long train.

Repetition is a railroad track. I want the painting. Sometimes I’m behind its bars. Sometimes I stand in a city street. I wear a long coat. I see my breath. I look up at a window. People move about in a large room, a party is happening inside, decorations sparkle in firelight. I turn and walk down the street. You can hear my footsteps.

Just Wide Enough

Someone pries a nail out of the wall
and hands you a framed
photo of a window and a field. This is
yours. Tall bent grasses. Curtains
and glass. Along with toast. I don’t know
who Evelyn is but you
trust her. Open the window, she says,
so her soul can leave. Meaning your mother.
Whose body you don’t unbutton. Whose body
stills the pillow and whites the sheets. You lift
the window just wide enough.
You don’t have to believe anything
to know the different ways
to be undone by that field. By snow light,
moon, or spidered purple in
vetch. Or now, on your back,
how the field’s rounded. By
all that sky.