The owl drops its wisest feather,
the dragonfly its stained-glass wing;
the body is a beautiful
but quietly breaking thing.
Because the World is Owned by Guns, I Don’t Believe in Dolphins or God
not with this nut-job
this asystole, throbbing nothing,
the way that days fall
into the G-string
the days fucking and falling and puking and nodding and failing and filling and cocking
and yesterday I heard a newscaster say
that it was the anniversary
of some atrocity
I’d never heard of,
as if there are so many massacres
that we can’t even count,
as if the newscasters
have to throw their lines
out into the lakes
and see what barbed-wire fences sunk to the bottom
they can get caught in,
and when I say massacres,
I mean acres,
the fight for land,
the pipeline having burst—
and no one seems to know
that the goddamn pipeline burst
and no one seems to know
that the goddamn pipeline burst
On the Evaluation that Preceded Being Institutionalized
A stethoscopic snake
listens for the vibrating lisp of
my little mouse heart.
The white coat bares its teeth and
I raise my arms above my head to
A threat not worth fighting.
The needle slithers into my vein and
steals my plasma to feed
that drink my salt and solute and
Conversation Overheard Between Two Monarch Butterflies
Waiting for a friend outside of Subway,
2 Monarchs perched on top of a garbage can
are engrossed in an animated conversation:
It’s crazy! I just flew down from Sacramento.
Everybody was freaked out.
It’s weird, I thought it looked cool.
The VFW barbecue was wild!
I can’t tolerate the heat the way I used to.
I heard we may soon make the list
of endangered species.
Don’t worry, what goes around, comes around.
I spied some delicious hibiscus behind McDonald’s.
Watch out for monkeys in the trees, stinkbugs
on the ground and the homicidal praying mantis.
Do you ever miss being a caterpillar?
I much preferred being cozy as a chrysalis.
We’re luckier than people—we know how to live in the moment.
Without being French, we got genuine joie-de-vivre.
Let’s meet in Acapulco this winter.
—Milton P. Ehrlich
On the Edge
I do not know for certain
where you are.
You have no phone.
I can’t call just to make sure
you are really there.
Do you still have a job,
a home? Are you one
of the lost, homeless ones
wandering the streets,
dirty, unkempt, scary to those
who pass by on the other side?
I know this could happen to you.
You are always on the edge of this place.
Please don’t topple in.
I am afraid for you
and for me.
I don’t want to lose you
more than I already have.
Nothing is Random
Nothing is random.
I say this because there is always some reason.
There is intention in every action.
The outcome, desired or unexpected, is meant to be.
Everything is connected in some way.
Energy brought you to this place,
Purpose has lead you here.
Energy is moving you along on this earth.
The mind is always working to make meaning.
The seed falls from the tree and lands with the
intention to grow.
When a heart meets a heart,
the love is always meant to be.
Apology to Mary Adoki
I forgot to dig up the bamboo
to give to the gardener’s assistant.
I meant to do it before, but it rained.
I should have done it, but it is too late
now. I do not like not keeping my word.
It is small, for one to go back on one’s
word, even if it is unintentional, even if
it is a small thing like digging up a clump
of bamboo for the gardener’s assistant.
So I apologize to you, Mary Adoki, for not
digging up the bamboo I promised you,
and as penance I will suffer whatever evil
thoughts you think of me and the bony
scratching the bamboo branches make
against my window at night.
Shapes Resemble Houses
My therapist has only one eye
Look for some thing you can comfort
I had admitted my terrors, and she saw
in my voice the truth of it
Just an idea
And I found him.
Torso squared, bear head
limbs open & exposed—
a body so flat it could almost be written on.
& I felt my heart already stretching
She said I could!
She said I could.
Purity can be astonishing—
Darkness gave circles
in eyes, circles of infinity
I was three and I don’t remember
creatures or dolls,
I was three.
Doubled in this life, replaying the wound
packing the edges, gazing through two
imperfect black holes,
calls in the night
And reading to myself
my pen runs out & the zipper
stuck and I’m all wet inside
I’m thirsty &
I see you too.
And somewhere a refrigerator chills its own
somewhere a fat air conditioner is offering heat
to the sidewalk
So The Story Goes
When I told him I was a shapeshifter,
he was not surprised. He had known
women like me—mother, sisters, wives
with wolves’ teeth for blood, owl’s talons
for eyes. Most men don’t believe
what they have when they have us
so we ghost through their houses, leave webs
in their beds. We are not elegant,
whimsical; vapor trailing up mountainsides,
courtesans sighing through closed doorways.
We walk heavily, sip whiskey, hang laundry
over lattice, trace naked bodies
in sleep, wake with them crumpled
beside us, grizzled and rare. His dark stare
hung quietly over the bar. He brought small gifts,
asked for only conversation, my loud laugh,
held my shapes like a secret, his hands hardened
by iron-work folded on the counter,
wise from his ancestor’s lore that warned
this magic is real—women like me disappear
the moment you build the pedestal. Foolish
in our youth, we wished to marry the stars
but in spite of the tale, didn’t miss the earth;
we return to pour scotch on the rocks,
guard paintings of the night sky—we are pathfinders,
stiletto-stompers, rain-keepers—certain men
find us, palm open our wild, taste our skin
on their shadows, believe.
Another Thought from Another Bus Ride
i’m waiting for someone
to come along
and show me that
i know what i’m doing
Her bones predicted loneliness.
She was a gossamer belladonna in the shade of night. Hašhur, tafaha, mílo, pomme, apple, she trained her tongue to share memory. We kissed & on her lips I tasted I would leave her.
She was a nesting doll. We took our turns picking at her layers until we lost her smallest piece to unrestricted loneliness & she plunged into a bacchanal existence. (We were all descending those days.)
She painted post-apocalyptic monsters across our eyelids in our sleep. They leached into our dreams & we huddled, crows in the rafters of old bones, passing dust past our lips & piecing together why pomegranates taste like sex/history/severe death.
Her heart beat against little infants of burning ships. If only she bared breast, she’d be acquitted for loveliness. The coincidence we have our boxes full of jewels, our prima-ballerinas turning over & over…
Ghosts of Us Trying to Get Back In
We can grab who we are in every moment
let it waft away
as we fall slow
into a form baked to the shape of something we never chose to make.
Why I biked home in the rain or Virtual Reality Poem inside Subsequent Poem
With the chances of rain 30% and rising, I work out until dark clouds press
against the gym windows. I leave as the rain begins. It quickly picks up speed.
My glasses get cleaned.
My clothes get washed.
My hair turns into more curls.
My mind gets rinsed and cycled.
My legs get good and wet.
I kind of sort of know I have to bike home
and on my way I mentally “write” a better poem.
—Jan Garden Castro
A house bounces, gravestones lean
Jellyfish umbrellas open and close
Drifting down to darkness up to light
Water lapping tongues slap and sip
On Infinite Repeat
Will it rain and should I
buy olives and is there a viable
candidate and can he who will not
be named be defeated
what will happen to this country
and what will happen to the Palestinians
and Israel what will happen to Israel
and will I ever read James Joyce again
and should I volunteer for Stacey Abrams
if she wins the south will be changed and so will
this country and how can I connect my stories
so that they are not called Linked Stories because
those words are no longer popular and should I
publish 20 poems about County Route 20
and can we stay upstate in September and what about
dinner after the movie dinner after the dinner what about
exercise and should I buy the graphic novel
nominated for the Booker prize and how can we help the children
the immigrants how can we help the divide and what about
Khanyi and college where should she go and maybe after all
I will write my Instagram novel not a novel exactly more words
that look a little like pictures there should be a murder so
people will keep reading Alice Just Leaving isn’t enough
maybe it is and what about sleep last night I listened to my favorite
podcast Sleep With Me guaranteed to make you sleep and although
I didn’t sleep much Scooter talked about how sand gets on sand
paper and if it’s real sand and he said that some of his most avid listeners
are in Malta and I started thinking about that. Why Malta?