There’s an oak leaf, one caught in the latch on the door
lodged like a letter in a letter box.
It knocks slowly, eight-prongs the wind
tips it back, head leaning away stem like a tail,
wind knocking softly turning over the life of a tough brown leaf.
Stronger than a grasping hand, it takes years
for the veins to dissolve to brittle lace and still not want
to search the good brown dirt.
How did it? Why did it come so near the end? The oak.
From the bathroom window,
green rubber gloves across the sash
splay fingerless in crumpled, inside-out positions.
The leaf waves again.
The handsavers grow lazier and may have to go
in the trash bucket before the next cleaning.
I study the oak the many kinds of brown
graying and reddening oak across the clearing.
The message will open, and I will not have touched the veins.
I write a friend whose blood is not making enough
more real blood the kind that carries what we need
to every extremity in a day. I spill out, too much on the page.
The oak scratches a life into the soft wind.
I wanted to send word, tell her I got the message--
you don’t have forever you know.
(published in Ploughshares)
1. If I am empty and emptier
and no longer know
how to weed out hollow fury
how to walk away--cracked shell,
then the shape of a bowl is what I'm seeking
space more than water
air lighter than drifting sound.
2. If I cannot be hurt, then the wound was never forgiven.
If I have learned to praise, then scars glow, old dry shiny moon.
3. I walk the hard dirt road
slowly the flow of hillsides
reach of trees
my shadow lengthening curving
I empty as I walk.
One time, I saw a bull frog on the dirt
big as a full-spread palm,
brown skin peeled from one muscled thigh
whole body in a pose of high alert
organ spit out the back, empty of life.
(published in Sinister Wisdom 81)
Nothing to Hide
in memory of Assotto Saint
I was born caged with love,
and I have an infinite
amount to show,
so I wear a coat
that turns out, the way tulips like to do.
Tulip, I insist on saying your name,
Tulip, I insist on being hauled from the ground
in a tight gray glove, a curling fist
sent straight to the sun’s rays.
I keep it up–and who’s counting–for a month,
bobbing in the air, more modest and choosy at night,
and splayed open at noon to all of Rome,
then petal by petal, triumphant,
drop, bloody drop-dead gorgeous.