November 30, 2022
Alice was actually a labeler and not a pickler. Still, she knew what Mr. H’s picklers did was nothing like her grandmother’s pickling, sweaty and stained and clouded by hot vinegar steam, shoveling already rotting vegetables into their boiling bath like some kind of unbelieving prayer. Everyone winced when eating what came out of her grandmother’s pickle jars. Mr. H’s were made of faceted clear glass, and the bobbing pickles inside were a bright, inviting candy-green. To look at one was to feel it snip crisply between your teeth, to set your mouth watering. Alice was midwife to that salivary burst. That was what she dressed up for. Today it mattered even more than usual.
November 23, 2022
I SAW ALL THE STRANGENESS IMMEDIATELY,
I saw it in this very particular slide of swell’s,
the sylphspun silk of the sylph, she sideways,
her garage is paradise in masque, her sweep
is saturn, szturn im sturm & string, install’d
in the area’s traverse. he follows that lucky
old sun, the gesture of her lining and loose
knot, and pulls herself through burns and a
dry wash and some soft lead. in discorporate
minerals, or in the sharing of the black sleek
sharing with the wild man in her soft shoes,
all over the panes of the various sworld and
out into the superhighway of bywater, hard
by marigny. to flow through one to another
indetermination, the posture of their brush
must be immaculate fray, all them, all they.
November 16, 2022
One wants to grasp a latch.
The broken star, the cellophane.
One suffers if untethered from
the pain that brought a lock.
Across the way the husband tends his teeth.
The wife redresses, parted from her paper.
To emblemize, to separate the word
grief reaches. Grief reaches, unseduced.
November 9, 2022
He had thought for a while of having his ashes placed on a ship propelled out to sea while being set aflame with burning arrows—in his dotage, my father grew obsessed with Norse myth—but in today’s regulatory environment, bringing him here was the closest feasible compromise. “The best moment is when Fenris the giant wolf appears,” he’d told me on Zoom, his voice trembling only slightly. “It draws everyone’s attention, so nobody will be watching you. Do you remember how you used to cry when we got to the wolf?” This sounds more like something Ulf would do, although Ulf doesn’t remember coming here either. Most likely it was a lost intention of my father’s. He might have spent a day talking to strangers in a bar about planning a trip here, an imagined bout of quality time so vivid it became real for him in retrospect. Towards the end, the winter and the lockdown getting to him, my father was drinking forty ounces of vodka a day. I may not have been his favorite son, but I was the one who agreed to scatter his ashes here once, and if, the park reopened after COVID. Ulf would never violate theme park rules.
November 2, 2022
“O orzchis ecclesia ... es chorzta gemma”
– Sibyl of the Rhine
O measureless church ... you are a sparkling gem scored
from the lingua ignota, the language of the
unknown. Secret tongue of the sleepless alphabet.
You probe the lowest bass of body’s dark matter.
I swing my hips to your rebel science of spheres.
When you asked if your poem was controversial
I consulted a Penrose diagram made to
see the entirety of spacetime through a black
hole. Light rays at the beginning of everything
null infinity, the channel we now ignore.
So here I am, back at the counterculture, that
open tower in the sky. It travels through the
city within the floating city, wavering
like heat on flexed concrete. I dream of the fractal
fuel we used to turn into optimal stanzas.
October 26, 2022
She named the dog after a Hollywood actor, someone she had shared a scene with once. She had only one line in the film. She looks straight at the camera with her famous dark eyes—someone once called them wounds—and asks or says, A beautiful view? This was supposed to hint at one of her current scandals. Once, on one of those rare nights when she asked me to sit with her after dinner, her face red with port, which she drank out of those miniature crystal glasses you have to hold with your fingertips, she said, That’s your father’s name. Of course, the years don’t add up, but then my mother was never interested in the truth, or rather, her truth was fluid, changing with circumstance or whim. But she didn’t lie, she believed whatever she said completely. This, more than anything else, was why men fell in love with her.
October 19, 2022
The Inside of a Wolf
I gut the wolf. All I find is a hole/and I follow/the hole farther in and farther/into earth shaped like a great sigh./The earth, open and airy/as sky. The earth is blue/as thought inside, farther/and further, the wandering/into earth, until a great opening opens/up beneath the hole/and suddenly nothing has a body. Nothing/has a body but me. Into the belly/of the wolf I fall, farther/and forward into emptiness. Inside/the earth is blue. Blue/is the absence of all/earth, all body, and I tumble into blue/so shattering, so empty/all body comes/back, a kind of courage, holding on to one’s body, so/tight, while tumbling/and turning/into a sigh. Holding on/to one’s body so tight/all breath is lost. Falling/into the earth, so careless/with its emptiness, so daring,/hiding inside a wolf, the moon’s mouth.
October 12, 2022
Olga’s coworker, known privately as her Work Wife, had said the wrong thing about Olga’s new haircut. “It doesn’t look like the photo you showed me,” she’d said. This is what the Work Wife fixated on, rather than the glory of the haircut before her. The Work Wife said something else about the staff potluck later that day, but Olga could barely hear her. She cut the conversation short and walked back to her cubicle. Olga could feel the Work Wife rolling her eyes. It was ruined between them now, at least for the day.
The Work Wife had said other things to her over the years.
During a discussion of celebrity lookalikes: “You have a striking resemblance to Anne Frank.”
After Olga had accidentally, horribly, dug a deep, slow-to-heal hole in her cheek while popping a pimple and tried to hide it with makeup: “What happened to your face? Asking as a friend.”
And yet, how Olga loved her, the Work Wife.
And yet, how she hated her, the Work Wife.
October 5, 2022
Amid the storm, a phantom
formerly Coronado remarks:
“I was the beating heart inside
that insidious breastplate.”
Between bursts of hailstones
his companion confesses,
“I was the low-level prelate
sent to raise a clay church and
ring the altar with paintings
of the most fantastic torments.”
The rain’s fierce silver slashes
red hills above a spatter of cactus.
A fringe of lightning, unfurling
from a black cloud, tears apart
some first and final place.
Old ghosts fade out, become
songbirds at the cusp of
the mating season.
September 28, 2022
When you were the size of a fist, a coyote dragged a three-year-old Angeleno out of the living room by the Peter Pan collar of her pale yellow shirt. She survived but was left with a sizable scar on her cheek. The scar resembled an American flag, pocks for stars and gouges for stripes. Her mother was on the news all the time, which led to the child signing a deal with an agency, and quite soon after that, the child and her scar started appearing on billboards as the new face of a California restaurant chain that sold bratwursts. Last month, for reasons unrelated, the little girl passed away.
The querent used to say we come back as either human or animal, that in the spirit world, there is no delineation.
It’s nice to think the end isn’t the end.
Though I wouldn’t dare say that to the dead girl’s mother.
September 21, 2022
What we had done was trample on Johnson’s city, four sheets of paper, loosely placed side by side, with buildings growing in no particular visual perspective, some upwards, some in profile, some in three dimensions but others in blueprint, and this, we felt intuitively, was a triumph of Johnson’s city, or would-be city, it’s resistance to confinement, its ability to transcend.
And we sat with Johnson. We consoled. We patted Johnson on the back and said that we might rebuild it, that it could be rebuilt. That it could be better and that we could help.
We collected the roll of white butcher paper from its mount and unfurled it across the linoleum, gathered the colored pencils, the crayons and scented markers and watercolors and even the Sharpies we’d hidden in our cubbies. We collected scissors and Scotch tape, and began to connect the sheets of paper, for there would be no limit to what we could design.
September 14, 2022
Midnight at the pit of my irrelevance:
a hair’s breadth away, I step closer to the mouth of it, no more afraid to
shake hands with my lacuna than a bird is of the air
whistling in its bones. To stay possible as long as possible
had felt like enough now—a persistence of streaks
in soft butter yellow shed from the clock tower onto the indigo-
freaked slate-to-black vagueness
that indicates the river. The light lives
July 27, 2022
from between the lines of Another Love Discourse
I thought I was good because I had borne the brunt of society’s manhandling, because through halls
of terror I fled and gangs of girls followed me, seeking to press thumbs deep into
my arms, cheeks, back of my neck, thighs, because goodness lay heavy in the air around me, because
most around me were powerful underprivileged role models, I thought it good enough
to know and read vexatious histories and in my own private sanctum feel the pain, to dwell
in sorrow through theater and dance, that just by being around, goodness could rub off on a person
July 20, 2022
The island appeared in the playa –
a thick family of vegetation in sand
as if risen from the undulation of blued snow over
grasses, purple. Huddling
through time, as bodies green and dark
in me knew better, yet compelled me
to run from the tall thick house
where I lay resting
and take refuge from the wind
where wind blew.
July 13, 2022
The feet trudge the path of the eyes.
Vouch for snow-covered trails skirted by galvanic tamaracks,
the previous fall’s needles a carpet of #2 pins.
Vouch for garrulous waxwings captivating powerlines,
mesmerizing middle C and rising,
Vouch for the rich acoustic world of moths
fallen silent, streets of pupal stillness,
bodies suspended in glycerol sleep.
July 6, 2022
I. THE SYMMETRY
In the beginning, they told us that only babies born with a herringbone of downy fuzz running the full length of their spines carried the gene. Then it was the nostrils: if one was larger than the other. From there, it grew into a hysteria of symmetry. If one eye was squintier the baby was a carrier. One ear higher. One testicle smaller. Left side of the labia fatter. Oh, how Richard squirmed at this. To think of his daughter having labia; such a prickly word for his pure baby girl whom we’d designed one night on a whiz of bubbly wine and goat cheese, right down to her delicate parts. That area I engineered, being the woman and inherently more attuned to shades of pink, shapes of flower petals, and all. But, still, nothing was guaranteed.
June 29, 2022
Here, they combine the knowledge of choosing words with the art of touch. Before somebody utters soft fur, they keep their hands on a dog’s head for years.
From granaries, they dispense hunger, a spice that stimulates the sense of lack. The king trusts that absence is the saltpeter of things susceptible to nonexistence: what doesn’t keep in salt will be preserved in hunger. No myth can be cut like the fabric for a coat, the halves of which will be dragged through life. Thanks to the spice, the subjects of the kingdom don’t know stale love, only unfulfilled. The professed religion is apnea. All maturing is mutiny. Red fruit get a visit from hangmen.
June 22, 2022
No, that’s not it, that’s not how it happens, it’s—
—because I’m here, have been for years and years, in the backseat of the Oldsmobile 88, top down, wind enraged, tearing along some country road at night, Jackson drunk at the wheel, Ruthie by his—
—the world all quick nervous giggles and skinfizz, the whirled world, the world like leaves spinning in a crazy autumn gust, only it’s not autumn, no, that’s, it’s what, it’s—
June 15, 2022
THE SPEECH OF THE THIN KING’S MINDER
The thin king bound in the fiery hollow shook
The chain by which his left arm was suspended
And from a hatch that rattled open just
Above his right eye dropped a demon like
A glass-winged gerbil, who immediately
Began to stab the thin king’s pupil with
A dripping claw, and said, Forgive me, king,
For my unwilling violence. I bite
My paws off, but they grow back while I chew
So that I wonder while I’m chewing, Is
This still my paw I’m chewing, and, forgive
Me, king, but that thought helps me swallow.
June 8, 2022
He decided he would die and then
drove through mortality,
a motorcyclist in heavy traffic. He
was afraid for his dog, which he had
loved and abused. The neighbor said no
to taking it, but he died anyway and
the dog—no one knows. Cigarette butts
and dogshit left in the litter of his lawn.