Even at night
the heat comes down from the sky
up from the earth at the same time
to meet in the middle, chest height,
all parts of the body melting into
the center: the heart: beating thickly:
cicadas in the pecan trees, aloe vera,
lush palms and roses tangled in your hair
as you walk by, and by, and
by the bungalows, the trucks strung with
lit bulbs, round and warm,
by the broken glass shimmering in the gutter,
by the sidewalk tabletops, by the roses,
the palms, the roses strong enough to
follow you through the gate,
your heart: beating: submerged
into a pool surrounded by roses,
this middle place between two heats,
your skin like the surface of that still
pool at night: there is a layer that
holds for a moment against penetration
when you dip a hand into that wet
green, lit from beneath, looking for
In the Control Room
At dawn the fountain is empty
and the leaves blowse across its bowl
in rolling bursts with the light wind.
The chipped paint is hardly
noticeable from a distance,
or the words scrawled near the edges.
I have seen sometimes a cat shadow
the wall hunting birds.
A hundred yards away a man
in a yellow vest points a hose
and washes the ground where
the day before a boy
The water will have dried by noon.
Yellow caution tape removed.
I work in a studio
dim and cool and quiet,
tucked in a windowless hallway
on the second floor in the center
of a building in the middle of
campus. In the control room
we are suspended, and separate.
In the studio all day
long computer screens flash
and beam out broadcasts to students—
huddled under blankets in dorm rooms,
sipping coffee in their cars, laptops
balanced on their knees,
or in a cubby, maybe, at the library,
watching with headphones—
wires strapped to the ground and hanging
coiled from the walls the conduit
for these streams, though who can say
what really happens between the wire
(physical) and the image (something not
physical)? There is some invisible leap
in logic or substance. But we see the
picture in the end.
I find it hard to keep myself
out of the scene, to speak
outside of my experience,
or to ignore a need to find
the things I should have looked at.
A negative-space record.
There is the thing that happened,
and there is what is left.
And there is also what I can see.
But what ends up here is something
else and I cannot tell
if there is some immorality in
speaking without being able to say
what I feel, or in imagining that
what I feel matters very much.
Who is the subject and object
when every act is collectivized
shared archived remixed
the wires so crossed like the
thickest tendons or
venison, bitter and stringy
between your teeth?
The fifth wall: a membrane:
a caul: a way to tell myself
this writing matters.
The morning crew
goes to work in darkness:
at San Jac and 24th
too tired to stand straight they
slump, shoulders almost touching
but not quite
men dressed alike in orange vests
hardhats—cliché, but comforting
to see the familiar white: they are
a job, an action, a thumb-worn
dollar purchasing a one-way bus pass—
heading to a skeletal building where
every room inside is floodlit
and the hammers sound all night.
Mist gathers, rises from the creek.
Cicadas and traffic mingle.
The morning wraps hot arms
around the city.
Where do they come from, these
men? They ride every bus, wait
at every corner. Their work never
ends. The city spreads out and up,
roads, sidewalks paved to accommodate
millions in this desert town,
hard materials (sounds: cement,
concrete, ceramic, steel) hardening
their palms. They’ve touched
everything here except one another’s
hands, arms. Gloves in between.
They are men: they do not
do that. They know the smooth lines
of a truss bridge, or the swell
(sudden, satisfying) of foam
insulation, the gun nozzle tipped
with dew. Tufted weeds between
slabs of brick and stone.
They know what the city feels like.
Across the street their orange vests
flash. Red streetlights change to green.
And as they make their way to work
the bus follows its
own way through the city,
its other quiet passengers’
faces reflected in the windowpanes
we pass too fast to register
ourselves staring back,
the glass too grimy to let us
see precisely what we want,
details in the architecture
lost even as the sun begins
“The cell phone lot”
Planes fly in overhead
while I wait in the cell phone lot
between the highway
and the airport
my brother in the sky
descending, Paul Simon on
the radio. A song about
angels, about time.
Six cars in the lot beside me.
Dark interiors, no one
visible behind the glass.
Paul Simon says
he writes only when he knows
it is true. Ten to
midnight and this sounds
good until I consider
his discography: a lot of
words, Simon. I wonder
in your confidence.
But the music:
he’s right. It is
the only song for now
alone in the cell phone lot.
now on the tarmac
a mile away
rolls to the terminal.
And I start the car
leave with the others
lights on in the dark
as we hurry to collect
those people waiting
for us at the curb
looking for our headlights
becoming brighter, sharp,
out of the distance,
this poem already existing
in a place between me
and where it is n
walking home birds
on the line wait until traffic
(nonexistent) hits its only lull
before they lift: a cloud: unfurl.
Grackles make no noise this early,
when the heat hasn’t risen
cars rowed on the street sides
bamboo and palms shirring,
leaves guttered and dry.
It will rain today, though later—
like everything, we’ll wait.
Continue reading Morning Walks