Sunday, September 11, 2011

Looking Back


A TV viewed
through a closed window

and the sound of roots lifting.


Grow, grow, grow! Turn your roots

upside-down and suck the sky

from the glass. Then, break it.


My boots are two horse heads
singing for their spines, bone trees

above the pay phone
where we meet. An orange hangs

from the branches. You peel the rind
with your teeth, telling me to hold

out my hand not for the fruit
but for three seeds that you fold

in my palm. Two are for the horses.
The last, you say, is for you.


And was it worth it, you ask,
the leaving? Was it worth

the view of Sunset Acres when,
looking back, you thought you heard

the clomp of earth on boxes?


real sugar. Here,

a cafe empty
but for our clinking spoons
and your forest, the city ripe
with fruit. Pouring banana milk

in our coffee, we remember
deserts, white mountain
air conditioning. A boom box clings
to a passing car. Here,

open windows--
a breeze like hot radio.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

What You (should know)

When I get there the kids are smoking (I don’t

inhale). Two hits before they’re talking like you

when you were sober (I’m reading your book

about New York horses that dream

of flying from their carousel). Later the cops nail

our eyes for being too open (My veins burst like weeds

around the handcuffs). The officer takes

our names, feeds us bologna

sandwiches(I will always smell

horse meat). When I come back

our mom’s taking pills-—or is it candy?

(I never ended a sentence

with a question mark) My pupils fall on the table, twin marbles

she swallows whole ( I’m afraid of leaving her

with empty boxes). I can’t sleep

because one eye won’t close. Sand blows

in our bedroom. Your forest grows in a distant phone booth.

At the station they offered me

one call (you should know it was you).

Our Dad's Army Jacket

falls from your kid shoulders. He says he was a correspondent,

which means writer, which means

he didn’t fight. His advice:

“Words are weapons, arm yourselves”, so you read

the names of tress (now streets) as I read the stitches

unraveling the patch of his name, a ghost

with phantom limbs so heavy they sink

in the ocean lapping our front door.

Later the water spits his jacket on the sidewalk,

one long thread that you stretch over your bones

in a limping hug , arming yourself.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Plastic Horses

Your room is a forest, roots
clutching dirt the way our mom must have clutched

the table cloth when you took her car. I was combing
plastic horses and thinking how, like a horse,

or some gypsy women, you never stopped
moving. That night you called

from a pay phone in a city
that still had pay phones. I imagined you shivering

in our dad's army jacket. There was rain
of course, an orange streetlight thumping

in your mouth when you told me to get out
after high school, a white hallway

that in 1998 only existed on TV. A leaf unfurled
in my throat, and I knew I wouldn't see you

until the seed you planted shot out
my ears, a tree with leaves red

as tongues. Our mom hooked
the phone, and I lost you to a field

of plastic horses, cold
but for manes of your chopped hair.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Nail


Hammering the roof of our barn, our grandfather smoked

the sun in buttery rolls: “I know a gypsy who made soup

from a single nail.”


The red barn became a white house that became a lane

of shrinking boxes. Nails hum in the boxes. Our mom pours

the nails into bowls too hot to swallow

though you’re getting better. Your smile is a dead filly:

“It just takes practice.”


You crack our bedroom wall hanging

a picture of an actor on a bent nail. The picture laughs

over your record player. The other kids use CDs

but you like feeling old

and used like the skinny book about New York

whose pages are bird wings in your back pocket.


Your fingernails grow into hooks. I try not to breathe

on your scratches as they open into streams. Maybe

you’re fishing. Maybe my eyes aren’t burning

like the barn inside you, a horse galloping

over our carpet as hooves rain

like nails from the ceiling.


Your record spins

in ever-tightening circles, a gypsy singing:

I’d rather be a hammer than a nail


Every morning our mom sweeps

the nails from our carpet. She opens a box

and puts the nails inside. Then she opens another box

and waits.

At the bottom of the box

is a single nail.


She’s waiting for you

to step inside. She wants to make nail soup—

you soup—

me soup--

our house simmers on a low boil :

“Only a gypsy can make soup

from a nail.”

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Upon Moving to Sunset Acres (1996)

1. Arrival

The engine crimps the forest
in your ear so I hold your hand

as we step into the van.

2. Our Neighborhood

is a world at once small, a mouth
of baby teeth yawning

in the desert. Our house is like the other
houses circling the pavement, windows

facing other windows

with invisible soup
can telephone lines between our bedroom

and theirs.

3. Rain comes to Candyland

Sidewalks marshmallow our lawn, vanilla
sugars sanding pavement seas as cars lean

against curbs like beached whales. The sea
is lava, but we are

safe under our umbrella. You wave
to the kids on the opposite shore, cheeks swelling

like a soldier on the 10 o' clock news.

4. Your Memory

Our bikes rattle parking lot fences, diamond
shadows on our legs. The shopping cart

is a black horse, a dot sinking
firework horizon. Dry mouthed

we remember the forest.

5. Blanket Fort

Sleeping bags cocoon our wide-awake skin, dandelion pillows
in Cheez-It fields, a river
of Capri Sun. Blankets stretch over crooked bones

or furniture, flashlights pulsing
story book hearts. I pull my tie-dye wolf shirt
over my leggy doorknobs and smell the desert

in a single carpet fiber.

6. Want Something?

The bus comes tomorrow, they say.

The shopping cart, our dirty teardrop, chomps
his bit. He gallops into the firework horizon, ears bobbing

like TV antennae. Their mom ghosts the door:
“You kids want something?”

7. Bus

The door opens into a yellow bellied centipede.

I draw my name on the window as you read
about growing up in New York City,

a place you’ve never been.

8. Friends

“Which house is yours?”
“The white one.”
“Mine too.”

9. Mr. Kay Says

the sun is dying--
in 15 billion years the Earth

will collapse like the blue
inside our squeezing eyes. Our parents

will die before then and I guess we will
too but what scares me

is that even in a black hole
our Neighborhood will diamond the nothing:

red, blue, and green compressing
singular white.

10. Cul-de-Sac

The circle sleeps as I pop
tar bubbles, tiny planetariums collapsing

under God’s finger, which still has a scar
from the firework that burned our barn.

Your horse screamed like a vacuum
jumping sidewalk silence. Your horse died

before running from the barn, skeleton streaking
the night with a yellow bruise.

They say the circle is a Cul-de-sac,
which is a pretty word to say aloud

until I remember your horse, and our parents.

11. What You Ask Our Parents Over Dinner

“Did you die before running here?”

12. Wal-Mart

Our mom parks between lines that we cross
with shadow-eager legs, asphalt twigs snapping

mountain frost. Mountain: a dragon constipating
white light. A lanky kid

herds caterpillar carts. Sliding doors swoosh
air conditioning, skinny dads in plaid

surveying corn flakes in aviator silence,
kids orbiting Jupiter moms. You hold

our mom’s doll wrist. She can’t decide
which cerealbecause they all have

high-fructose corn syrup, which is like sugar
except fake.

13. Automatic Coupon Dispenser

Endless paper tongues, I never wanted
anything else. The green light flashes Save Now!

What are we saving?
You rip another tongue. Lives.

14. Check-Out

Our mom’s cart, a coffin
rocking paper tongues. She never decided
on a cereal but is getting me a water gun

and you a book because you hate
getting your hair wet. Car windows
reflect Mary Kay skies, a panda propped

on parking lights. The lanky kid
flashes his smiley face sticker

and frowns. From our backseat I watch
other kids in other backseats and shield my eyes

from the white mountain.

15. Acclimatized

The forest in your ear now grows
in our bedroom.

A stream bursts
from your mouth. I forget the taste

of bottled water. We ride our bed
downstairs, oceans filling carpet deserts.

Our mom looks up from empty cereal boxes:
“You kids want something?”

I hold my hand over your mouth to keep
the ocean in. My other hand scrapes your chest,

a horse-shaped space.