My life with a gardener
The screen door firecrackers closed.
I find her at the sundry drawer
prowling for twine. I’m nothing
she sees. There’s a tornado
in her hair, her face is streaked
with dirt like markings applied
before the rituals of drums.
I’ve watched her shadow break free
and tend the next row of corn.
I understand this eagerness
as fully as I can speak for the ocean.
I say water is behind everything,
a blue dictator, say waves
are obsessed with their one word
but have no idea what that word is.
Her hands enter soil like needles
making the promise of a dress
from cloth. In December she begins
smelling lilacs, by February
she sees the holes
peppers burn through snow. I see her,
she’s the last green thing I need.
When finally she’s pushed inside
by the rude hands of dusk,
I set down my life for her skin,
taught all day how to smell
like the sun, and the hundred
directions of her hair, and eyes
that look through me to flowers
that only open their mouths
to speak with the moon.
Frying Trout While Drunk
Mother is drinking to forget a man
who could fill the woods with invitations:
come with me he whispered and she went
in his Nash Rambler, its dash
where her knees turned green
in the radium dials of the 50’s.
When I drink it is always 1953,
bacon wilting in the pan on Cook Street
and mother, wrist deep in red water,
laying a trail from the sink
to a glass of gin and back.
She is a beautiful, unlucky woman
in love with a man of lechery so solid
you could build a table on it
and when you did the blues would come to visit.
I remember all of us awkwardly at dinner,
the dark slung across the porch,
and then mother’s dress falling to the floor,
buttons ticking like seeds spit on a plate.
When I drink I am too much like her—
the knife in one hand and the trout
with a belly white as my wrist.
I have loved you all my life
she told him and it was true
in the same way that all her life
she drank, dedicated to the act itself,
she stood at this stove
and with the care of the very drunk
handed him the plate.
Downtown photo adventures with Colby.
Arson, bikes, and a whole lot of that central valley sunlight
Some things never change.
Fierce Creatures. May | 2014
Your garland, my shaky lamb,
we are close in this
slow evening gown,
we are growing down,
our winter-slung bodies fooled
and necklaced with furious morning.
—Brenda Shaughnessy, from “Lure, Lapse”
Read last night for the 2014 issue of the San Joaquin Review. So grateful to be a part of this journal filled with talented local artists.
You know what’s strange? Taking senior portraits of your 18 year old brother, and how looking at these makes that part of me want to keep him all the more. To not wear our father’s shoes and sew himself into a barrel of a rifle. The part that wants to show him the clearest answer that war is a succession, a bloody money battle and to convince him of an independent life outside of violence, for the first time. What is left to prove to the man who raised you that chose to bring the fighting back with him? To maybe become stronger than he ever could be. To come back a little shaken, but the roots unchanged, shielding a nature I have always known. I’ll write pensive letters. I’ll wish upon a quiet eyelash.
I like the feeling of words doing as they want to do and as they have to do.
Call your mother. Tell her you love her. Remember you’re the only person who knows what her heart sounds like from the inside.
We must not allow other people’s limited perceptions to define us.
Some days I am a machine gun
of apologies and gratitude,
an automatic weapon of regret
and sincerity and when the smoke
clears in the firing range
of our kitchen, your ears
ringing with vows
that it will never happen
again, I am the sound
of a hammer chattering
against the hollow
chamber of my promise.
I am every calibered casing
marked I’m sorry, forgive me,
I didn’t mean it.
Every brass thimble
of thank you and thank you
and thank you, scattered
on the tile floor where we hold
each other, swear nothing
has changed, and kiss
cartridges into the empty
magazines of our mouths.