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
We watch horror, Eli
and I, while Laurel sleeps
in the raggedy recliner, my friend
tired from too many office days
and not enough pay
and knowing time drifts now
bracken on the rivertop
moving faster than the eye can
follow. Gold sequins on her
dress glitter as she breathes.
She is beautiful, but worries
she is not.
In photos—I think of a sepia-
filtered shot, taken two days
after this night—she and I look
like the same woman. Hard to
tell us apart, our bodies and
hair swum together,
Ophelias in a Chattanooga kitchen.
Later this evening
Eli and I will go to a bedroom
not our own
fall asleep woven together
while Laurel sleeps alone.
There are still strands of her
hair on the pillow, the same
copper as mine.
I can hear her breathing
through the thin basement
walls, so little separating us
it might as well not be there.
But now here in the den in the mountains:
the creature from a Florida lagoon
backstrokes to the light—the heroine
screams—the hero leaps.
Three figures wreathed in salt-water
seaweed while bubbles constellate
burst, the monster falling away.
The movie over, the television screen turns
blue, washing over all our faces
so we all become, for an instant,
there is little wind tonight
brush of cars
enough though to make the wind
Continue reading Some Madeleines
Bucks rake their antlers on the
birch trees in my backyard.
All day long they scrape and
scrape the velvet skin until they have
bared their bony racks.
The trunks drip sap from the gashes.
Sometimes beetles crawl out of the gaps,
amber centipedes and malachite cicadas
scuttling over the ridged bark.
Birds eat the bugs. I watch them
drop from under the porch eaves,
frail flighted arrows, just as precise,
snatching at the trees.
Beaks like knives.
As though precision might lesson
the simple fact of murder. A clean
incision sterilizing horror. Though it is
not murder: only death. Just
suddenness that makes it appear cruel.
All night the clack and clatter of antler on
antler rattles the slim white trees.
The sound of rutting madness.
I cannot sleep, imagining
the force and pressure of those bones
driven skull to skull.
In the morning
strips of antler velvet
hang from the branches:
soft, soft like the skin of an
earlobe, like the tip of a man’s
cock. Sweet and tender on the lips.
I gather the skin,
boil it in a copper pot.
I mean to eat it all.
I want to consume that
fragrant meat. The fleshy
strings bloody the water,
pinkish clots floating—
globes, turning moons.
Transformation from solid into
something closer to lightness:
purified and risen.
When I drink the water
eat the velvet flesh
I imagine what it might be like
to rub myself raw until,
uncovered, I became
sharpened to the finest point.
My father took my brother and I
skiing: late at night we drove the eight
hundred miles north through pines
taller than a house. At least they
seemed that way to me. I was
seven and slept in the back
seat of the car. The windows had
a latch that popped open, a thorp and then
wind and cold and snow!
The Saab beetling into the dark.
Jim Croce on the radio.
I woke and the sky was green:
borealis lights finning above the
trees. The dome was paper thin
enough to push your hand
Look, my father said. You may
not ever see this again.
In the morning we went up the mountain.
Strapped our skis on, found a
slope to use. Too small to go
alone I rode the lift with my father.
I have never been happier than
watching the earth pare away
complete silence and
cold. He told me how to stand
when we reached the top.
I never wanted to. I wanted
a way for us to continue rising
upward into cloud
snow and calm
a sky that could be green
(don’t look down, he said)