My grandfather dies at CJ’s Motel

Then in the motel room they rented by the month—with the kitchenette & the microwave & the mini-refrigerator & cable tv When he sat upright & peered at the ceiling each lung an ocean eyes wide & hands tight on the arms of the recliner My father swears he saw the host of heaven call […]


My mother fashioned my hair +++++iinto rows of wheat. ++++++++++++++++iI am in a plaid button down ++++++++++++++++++++++iand cow girl boots– ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++this is the year +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++iiI will declare my All-American heritage: +++++ino more cornrow pleats ++++++++++++++++ior Southern meals. ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++Today I am not my accent +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++iior choice of meal. I am a black stain +++++ion a white […]

Helen of Troy in Hiroshima

Yesterday, a man walking his monkey on a leash kissed my cheek offered sweet potato ice cream. A flavor I’ve never tried. This note— Please burn your bread at the right toaster. Temple sign teaches what to say before I cross the bridge: careful of the footing because the responsibility cannot be assumed about the […]

On Seeing Swans at the Embassy Suites, & When You Ask About Karen

On Seeing Swans at the Embassy Suites I wasn’t expecting swans. You were partial to dark corners oaken Algonquin lounges smoky with cigarettes and specters, stories we spilled across the bar, but that night you offered swans their pearled splendor indelible, dappled promise of what our lives together could have been— long necked beauties swimming […]

Our Lady of the Highways

Find, if you can, the brightest stars— her right shoulder, the toe of her sandaled left foot, one on each of her hips. Her halo has gone out. Stars flicker on and off from her lifted wrist, her right hand raised, index finger linking with thumb, blessing the shining northbound lane. How exhausting to be […]


In trying to reach the other side of whatever separates us—blue expanse or two fingertips inches from bridging— I have become as much an anchorless boat rowed too near the horizon as some great vessel moored a lifetime in the shallows. If I could speak what is missing by silence alone I would have already […]

Self-Portrait as a Chicken Dinner

                               Half-dark, extra mild. I pass these words to the cashier standing behind the bulletproof glass. She returns those words to me with a tone change, eyeing my buttoned shirt ironed as crisply as my speech free of twang. Shot through […]

Alarums and Excursions

Here is the street where we shop for ammonium and cabbies deliberate over paper cups. They work the hours of risk from gunshots to breakfast. When a motorcycle manipulates space to crash spectacularly, a woman beyond the circumference of wreckage turns to her man: Why won’t you detonate with me? We are restless, we travel. […]

cheviot hills

chlorine is one of those smells that reminds me of home and the first time i tried to kill myself how if you were one of those kids and i was whose parents dropped you off at the pool because it was cheaper than summer camp you know an indoor pool is one of those […]

You Left,

and I ate all the sweet potatoes. I’m sorry. The raspberries, the honey, that locket you gave me. They’re gone. I was so hungry. I ate the metronome and the black bear skull we keep on the bookshelf. I ate the books. I ate the empty frame on the wall. And our bed— the mattress […]

Somewhere in Afghanistan

a child unearths a charm I gave to you. Sand weathered the face of St. Michael into a tarnished silhouette, the vow cut into the silver on the back no longer reads “more than my own life.” A whisper of distorted letters remain as estranged to this child as we are now to each other. […]

CHRONOSCOPE 40: Night Walking

in this whiskey bottle sky night the sidewalks purple greased with moon flooded poplar shadows: I walk toward hummingbirds’ wings, the morning green: snapdragons, daffodils trained to bow by an earlier rain: toward the kimono flutters of a water’s edge. John Walser, an associate professor at Marian University in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, holds a […]

Noir, or Imitating Tom Waits

Women draped over pianos like spilled drinks, wearing push-up bras and corsets, trying to become long-stemmed wine glasses. A midget in a black suit paints shadows on the floor; he has Peter Lorre’s eyes. Breath smells like cheap scotch, men with broad shoulders and smoke for bones sit at the bar and peel their squints […]

To My Husband As Velveteen Rabbit

And you cause all the horses in me to hurtle their shoulders against stable walls purpling hay with their thick dripping hunger bruising black boards with their crescent moon hooves And you cause all the kites in me to sing as they singe in the bright teeth of lightning fluttering paper dissolving to ashes twisting […]


After he was gone, she looked for him to return, perhaps as a bulldog, a stag or tusked-boar. She did not expect this parrot, perched on her sill, preening and carrying on conversation. Flying, it seems, exhilarates him, and he enjoys the perspective on earthbound life. Treetops and leaves create a kind of jazz with […]

The Grammar of Parenting

for Will & Howard  *     *     * Walking Lower Wacker in Chicago, we debate how strictly vegan you’ll raise your son as snow melts and fills the shoes we all, January ill-equipped, have worn here. Will’s yellow sneakers, Howard’s loafers, my bright green Adidas. You will raise, your son, the one […]

Birthday Song with Piano

Forget this aging maw of yellowed keys, more flat than sharp, beating wrong notes on twisted strings. Ignore the film of dust on the wobbly bench overstuffed with music no one plays or even cares to hum. Avoid the bad keys, the ones that stick and stutter, the ones that are ashamed of being silent […]