Self Conscious


gaze / regard


The incident is trivial (it is always trivial) but it will attract to it whatever language I possess. (Barthes)



She has a seat to herself until the man

gets on and mutters to his kid sit by that


ugly girl over there. Stung, she has half

a mind to remind him she has beauty


for lunch, or to whisper to the child—

ugly is beauty’s aquifer, mineral silt


that feeds the creek bed before it

breaches the marsh. Not antithesis


of beauty but its ore, a thing known

not by example—wart, bent-kneed


cartwheel, gap after extraction—

but by need—prosthesis, proctor,


pore—a need akin to boredom,

to chagrin, the cringe in exposure,


the sediment in the cup. She is

uneasy before a camera or a corpse.


She hears the grunted “age” in

bandage, salvage, suffrage, spoil.


* * *




crush / engouement


Theatrical phase of infatuation in which the girl hoards signs of recognition and reciprocation, curating artifacts of desire and accruing their significances to herself.



Instead of a coffin, carve a six-foot pocket knife

with a church key & corkscrew, place

plastic ivy in a vat & paint a lavender man

with one sunken shoulder. Illuminate


toaster coils & paper lanterns, mount trout

on a yield sign, upholster a chaise

in faux mink, & dress the mannequin in two

boas & the stole of a beaded deacon.


Realign windowpanes horizontally & hang

several bicycles from the ceiling next

to raptors & hinged globes made of license

plates & glass. I should have warned you


I have the coldest hands. Set up some tollbooths

& salt licks, frame an old advertisement

for a bitter remedy that is no longer sold & never

worked in the first place, seat a mermaid


in a canoe & place a gourd in her prophetic hand.

We work ourselves up to the watery blues,

to the passage in Mauberley, & there’s nothing

to do but get off at the ninth floor. Look,


our game goes like this: you adore & I appreciate,

say thank you even, as if I don’t return

the emotion & then some, crushing in both senses.

Keep that in mind & go easy on me.


Give dragonfruit to the guy at the cash bar,

summon the tech crew to run puck lights

on a wire, envision a headless nude in tangled roots.

Devise a volcano that spews euphemisms


for war. If all else fails, park a Buick between

vessels & spread a pelt on the steel roof,

pick out the constellation you’d imagine if we

were looking up, languid with disdain


for the rest of a world we know will never live

up to the wistful ersatz aftermath of this.


* * *




dream / rêver


Sleep restores the girl to the domicile of fear.



I wake up smothering, pinned

in timbers, this time the beams of


the Hingham, Mass. meetinghouse

where they would have burned me


at the stake. Sometimes it’s girders

of low-end retail, or factory rafters,


or the pocked dropped-ceiling above

the berth where I lay naked, hot,


a boy’s flank blocking both fan

and light, saying restless prayers


to Our Lady of Byways. No use

trying to sleep again before blue


seeps through the pitch. And you?

In your otherwhere, are you trying


to fall back to sleep, to fall up

through a roof that’s a net, the one


you told me about last summer—

sieve for sky, celestial hammock,


colander to catch the errors of

the world? What errors—trinket,


ladder, dove? What sign, what

web, what sky, what world?


* * *




fall / tomber


The lover’s discourse, from dis-cursus—originally the action of running. (Barthes)



She tries to lose herself

on a muddy path where


skunk cabbages erupt

from winter mire, birches


fill in with green so new

it can’t be natural. A few


bars into the third song—

that guileless triangle if


that’s what she’s hearing—

she’s startled by sweetness,


by some moody business

with a flute from the get-go,


the vaguely Spanish guitar

sidling up like the cringe


of existing at 17 in skin

too raw to expose to sun.


That’s desire—a whistle,

strum, chime (an interior


ocean’s rocking, in long

capricious fugues and


chorales)—mistywet, slip-

stream, cherrywine—


these are the words she’d

pick up to try to skip them


across the lake. She runs—

miles later she hears the song


again as she’s coming down

the west side of Eagle Hill


under ashen granite, and

that’s when she loses track


of her body and it feels like flying.


* * *


Unfinished Fugue


you / tu


I myself cannot (as an enamored subject) construct my love story to the end: I am its poet (its bard) only for the beginning; the end, like my own death, belongs to others.



If I were you were waiting there

outside the door in a long coat holding

your breath, holding my breath,


if I were you were ruefully amused,

gathering trinkets in the night air,

moons & Mauberley, Burne-Jones’


boudoir & Delphinus & crocuses, I

would breathe the night air, observe

the row of stars above the roof, mis-


take moonlight for snowcover, snow

for salt, for a dune, a bolt of gauze

drawn across the moon, would know


you were (wish you were) asleep in

a white bed, or is it a white field

in Cezanne, shaded sum of colors,


as if the eye were I were you were

standing on an iron bridge, were

waiting at the door wearing cold


on your coat on your breath on my

hands if I were—there, this, a blaze

of summer straw, in winter’s nick.