Loving

Alone

I never thought Michiko would come back

after she died. But if she did, I knew

it would be as a lady in a long white dress.

It is strange that she has returned

as somebody's dalmatian. I meet

the man walking her on a leash

almost every week. He says good morning

and I stoop down to calm her. He said

once that she was never like that with

other people. Sometimes she is tethered

on their lawn when I go by. If nobody

is around, I sit on the grass. When she

Parable of the Eagle

An eagle egg fell into a farmer’s chicken shed

and when it hatched the farmer gave it chicken feed

even though he was the king of birds. The farmer

 

clipped the eaglet’s princely beak and raised him

as a chicken. When he grew large, wildlife control

called on the farm. “It has the heart of an eagle,”

 

said the public servant. “It will fly.” And the farmer

asked, “What if he likes it here with all the chickens?”

As they spoke, the birds crept off to don disguises.

 

The Young Poets of Winnipeg

scurried around a classroom papered with poems.

Even the ceiling, pink and orange quilts of phrase...

they introduced one another, perched on a tiny stage

to read their work, blessed their teacher who

encouraged them to stretch, wouldn’t let their parents

attend the reading because parents might criticize,

believed in the third and fourth eyes, the eyes in

the undersides of leaves, the polar bears a thousand miles north,

and sprouts of grass under the snow. They knew their poems

Happy Birthday Moon

Dad reads aloud. I follow his finger across the page.

Sometimes his finger moves past words, tracing white space.

He makes the Moon say something new every night

to his deaf son who slurs his speech.

 

Sometimes his finger moves past words, tracing white space.

Tonight he gives the Moon my name, but I can’t say it,

his deaf son who slurs his speech.

Dad taps the page, says, try again.

 

Tonight he gives the Moon my name, but I can’t say it.

Bury Me in Arabic

“Morning of goodness to you”

— “Morning of goodnesses”

Or add flowers: “morning of roses”

Always multiply the gift—

 

“welcome” to “two welcomes”

“a hundred welcomes and kinship and ease”

Keep offering tray after tray of words

 

When someone fixes your engine

passes food, serves you in any way

say “May your hands be whole and healthy”

They echo “god keep you healthy and hale”

 

Wishing a sneezer “mercy” is a three-step dance

They reply “guidance and rightness of mind”

Unfledged

What did I know, what did I know

of love’s austere and lonely offices?

— Robert Hayden

 

 

Weekends too my father roofed poor neighborhoods,

at prices only his back could carry

 

into profit.  In the name of labor’s

virtue—or was it another bill collector’s callous

 

calling again?—my brother and I became

his two-boy cleanup crew.  During those hard,

 

gloved hours under the sun’s weight, I studied

my father, from the ground—the distance he kept

 

Let Us Be Fireflies

Let Us Be Fireflies

                          All day we

     practice morse code signals

                                telegraphing ghosts

                                                    of intent.

 

                                 Between us

                                               unsayable things

         heavy as bone.

                               For any hope of plain

                 speech we must do away

                                  with skin suit propriety &

 

Jesse's Farm

We’re driving and the radio says mass marine extinctions within a

generation. No silence, no sirens — an unflustered inflection, then

stock markets, cryptic as Latin mass. I force myself: the interval

between a mother and her child — not enough for refuge in numerics,

reckoning we’ll be old or gone. Her in my rear-view mirror when I skew

it. Undoing velcro:  velours crochet — the maker plucked burrs from

his sweater, studied them under a microscope. There’s a microscope

I inherited, embedded in a fake snakeskin case. Ravaged scales,

We Are Surprised

Now, we take the moon

into the middle of our brains

 

so we look like roadside stray cats

with bright flashlight-white eyes

 

in our faces, but no real ideas

of when or where to run.

 

We linger on the field’s green edge

and say, Someday, son, none of this

 

will be yours. Miracles are all around.

We’re not so much homeless

 

as we are home-free, penny-poor,

but plenty lucky for love and leaves

 

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