Porches

My wife asks me to leave the porch light on before bed. I ask if we are expecting guests; she says it’s to keep them away. There was a time a flame in a window was a welcome mat, a compass in the dark. Tradition has a way of unraveling the longer it lasts. Think candles […]

Aubade in Los Angeles

August 1981, and someone’s killing

couples from Santa Barbara
to Sacramento. A woman called Linda

sits with her boyfriend

beneath the buzz of a motel sign
drinking coffee in the yawning summer.

This is the year they drove the Pacific coast
through towns where men lay hobbled,

Durling Avenue

Summer in its simplest colors comes over Durling Avenue. The sweetest invitations come understated, the girl in the yard barely lifts her eyebrows, the boy shrugs his shoulders as if to say I’ve been waiting, I can wait. All we’re asked to do is recognize the beckoning—the grass splashed brown that will be cut by […]

Alternate Ending with Beach House

This is what I wanted: ++++++++++++++++mug full of coffee each morning ++++++++++++++++and a walk to the ocean. Wind blowing sand ++++++++++++++++into the curtain hems of your parents’ beach house where we wouldn’t pay rent and you’d reprise your role as the good son who spent the six months before I met you there, sober, fixing […]

The Only Star

Rolled up in my sheets, marinating in nervous sweat, +++++brain a flipbook: speed-painted images, words, phrases like ticker tape rolling on & on. I watch the crescent moon steadily sheathe its blade edge in a neighbor’s chimney. +++++Alarm clock says “4 AM.” +++++Hypothalamus says “Fuck this.” If I got out of bed now, I’d be […]

Elegy for Sylvia

Stripped down to nothing in the dirty river, my skin sheaved like silk from corn. The things I did not say grew malignant in my body. A cancer of words & the sickness that spreads from the inside out. By thirteen, I tasted like war, skin of wrought-iron & chrysanthemum seeds. The snowstorm girl who […]

Black Sun, 1935

Levee workers, Plaquemines parish, Louisiana Fourteen Negroes wheel barrows along narrow planks laid over mud. They build a levee to prevent flooding of land they’ll never own. Fearing bites of cottonmouths, copperheads, and diamondbacks, they sweat in humid bayou heat. Arrayed along a nearby ridge, four white overseers look on in the shadow of a […]

Glassfoot

glassfoot ++++++++++three a.m. thirsty and crawling ++++++++++chemo-induced miracle to be endured because ++++++++++(infusion clinic joke) the alternative is +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++glassfoot ++++++++++worse than fire ants worse than shoes full of shards ++++++++++fingernails falling off pulling away one by two afraid ++++++++++what’s in the beds they leave glassfoot ++++++++++behind sitting on skeleton sharp without my cushion ++++++++++once I […]

Instructions for Daughters

Pack sackcloth and ashes in your carry-on. Bring pens, your toothbrush, a good skirt, and a magazine you will not read. At the terminal, do not flinch at his diminishment. You are not strong enough to support the weight of his grief. You will support it. Accept tasks before coffee, urgencies colliding, lists so long […]

The Chicken with a Broken Beak

I want to be the chicken in the front seat of that Cadillac driving down Route 11. The chicken that reaches for the steering wheel when there’s another chicken in the road. The chicken that changes a flat tire and the chicken that doesn’t get beat up for loving other chickens. I want to be […]

Fat Tuesday in Samsara

Women gathered round the float like the waters of the night— nurses, pirates, schoolgirls in plaid—and they lifted shirts to necks and their breasts bobbed up and down. Beads of prayer fell upon them and hit their heads and throats and hearts. The women dropped to their knees to collect them—holy objects on sullied ground— […]

Logic

The child sits by an open window, watches rain bounce off red clay while Rufous-sided towhees wait out the storm, grip tangled limbs of azaleas. She hears wind tear through leaves, smells rain as it pounds the earth. ++++++++++Slowly, she picks up scissors, cuts off each finger from her only doll. The child talks to […]