Never-to-be-caught, Now,
falter me. The reined-in horse
neighing, wide-eyed, made
to be still,
not happy yet closer, Now,
to you—to being alive.

Dear Anger,

get me past the girls’ gate
beyond all that God-sap,
honey of sex flowing, heavy in their veins.

I’m moving beyond all I adored.
Come with Brutal Awareness.
Her value until now
I never understood.

The Cerebellum Singing Its Cosmic Scales

I am still a sucker for the sky.
For evening’s azure negligée.
The pale-green canopy of spring—
bullet-ridden or lacy—
take your pick—
through which the dead
come and go at whim.
Feel them watch, brush past?
No amount of liquid tongue
can cling or clasp.
Yet these lines stack themselves
one by one, from the coccyx
of darkest matter to the spinal
cord of a thought.

For Vermeer and His “Sleeping Girl”

The room is drowsy with darkness.
Things are in disarray
but the girl sleeps on, sitting up:

Her cheeks flushed and soft
as the fruit in the bowl before her.

Her widow’s peak cutting a heart
in her brow.

Her sturdy body beginning
to contain us the way the jug
in front of her has contained wine.

And the door to this room
always part way open.

So we go on wanting
what cannot be had:

To behold what her closed eyes see
without shuddering her awake.

The New Room

When I see the nervelike
beginnings of ginkgoes,
something unknown in me sets off
up a tributary, entertains
leaving the ones I love.

I dream time after time of a new room
on the apartment, an undiscovered wing
I might grow into, huge
and full of light, with a view of trees
and sky. It saddens me to awaken.

It is death that grows, life that falls apart.
I live in a dark four and a half room walk-up.
My sister was a half-sister.
I hardly feel a pang now when I think of her.

My secret is the trees.
They let me go on when it was she
whose bare feet I had climbed upon,
she who smelled of autumn
and had autumn’s apricot hair.

I have stood at her grave
a few long minutes,
felt great agitation in the air.
Though the elms above me remained peaceful
and the Ompompanoosac still pleased me
with its vowel-full name,
neither could soothe
the Susan in stone.

The Tightrope Walker Whose Wire Is Herself

In Rodin’s sculpture of Iris
she is compacted into the smallest
space imaginable then opened from the center
like a sectioned fruit,
legs bent and parted, one knee northeast,
one knee west,
the pressed-open flower of her sex
reversing the tucked-in pelvis at prayer.

My iris has some of the hues of bruises.
Its petals dwell in the dangerous
bands of the spectrum I love,
where brightness fails and red orange
yellow green step down into blue indigo violet.

auGUST AUgust

Nothing shone.
Even the trees limped
under such foliage.

And the implements
—rusty and large—
in the machine shops

whizzing past had no luster.
Words missing letters
offended the eye,

causing the proofreader’s
brain to struggle—
what took so long

in forming
why take it

Then the solitary
showed its face

amid the densation
of green

Ah, sunflower,
 you were my . . .  weary,
clack  clack clack

of the woman on the train’s wondering
how to remember
what you are.

Cambium Girl

Girl, who earlier
dreamed of ringlets
fat, brown slinkies down her back
and of the sophistication of wearing
slingback shoes,

Now has become this slim fish of a person
testing herself out
still too easily swallowed
by the deeps
or a field of tall reeds.

Her father called her
Long Drink of Water,
this frail changeling
to be returned to
for however many years
there are to come.

She was modeled on the tree,
whose writings are also internal:
tracings of
a single open vowel
O o
held, drawn,
echoed within itself

to mark time and protect
the living part of the tree:

Where cells divide
and exchange themselves
for something tougher,
more useful:
xylem or phloem—
though it is here:
place of utmost passage

without which neither
she nor the tree
       could survive.

Hummingbird Haiku

Ruby throat, come near.
Feed. Be punctilious—
Stitch-stitching—sans thread.