My friend told me
in the mirror
her face reflected
was like an open wound
and I saw the bluish red
of scarred flesh
I thought was healing
now fluid and flaming cranberry.
And I wanted to stop the bleeding.

I brought ice cubes
tore up the bed sheets
made tourniquets
from my petticoats
and she said, “Oh, your clothes
are soiled,”
but I wanted to stop the bleeding.

I ran for hours
soaking, mopping, wiping, pressing
until my back hurt and
my fingers stiffened
and she said, “You never really
seem happy,”
but I wanted to stop the bleeding
and the curtains, the couch covers,
and the clothes I wore
couldn’t absorb any more
and she said, “Did you write a
poem today?”
Nothing I did,
nothing I did
could stop the bleeding.



 for Jana

You are the strongest
person I know. My most
devoted friend. I respect
your opinions. I like your
mind. Your grace and movement
an aesthetic high. Your
yet unseen vision my deepest
inspiration for man. And that
day when I cried in front of
the 7-11 you took my hand,
I said I was glad to have
a friend. You said I always
did and always would. For
the first time I understood
the photo caption, “We two
form a multitude.”



Not much news here,
the trees have been
exceptionally busy
spilling pollen and leaves
on the steps and walkway.
I do what I can
to make my own messes,
sweeping senseless stacks
that I circle and


I thought of your tonight, Daddy,
being Santa, alone.
Smashing my thumb and surprised
to see the blood running
down the toy was my own.

I thought of you being Santa alone,
and the night I saw you packing
away Mama’s china and a life
you could no longer hold together,

I thought of you tonight, Daddy
and all the blood and time
that falls away in silence
and dries up in a vacuum.


for Linda Brown

We talked
the quiet women
the timid ones,
who want not to go public
and do.
I confessed to not
believing in my own myth,
she admitted being tired of hers,
remarking that while she did
indeed have a center
it wasn’t operational.
Quiet women
writing poetry
in empty rooms
to put away in drawers,
talked of dinner
or the movies
and vacations
god yes, vacations,
quiet women searching
down dark corridors
neon flashing.
Our skin’s too transparent, Linda
the blood shows through.


Four thousand miles a year
around the block. At three
eighteen we roast marshmallows.
pick up friends who need rides.
Holding together in sand piles
of children and dull friends,
suburban mother strangled to death
by broken shoestrings and smothered
under mounds of holy tennis shoes.
Buy everything.
Nothing comes without its price
and inflation drives up
the cost of even shoestrings.
That sphere where you tighten
eyelets is my head, pared
like an orange, peeled and
Pared, peeled and sectioned,
fallen through stacks of dirty
laundry, picking up pieces,
always missing some part,
the sky fallen down to
the dirt and grass growing
out of the buildings.


Two artists

Two artists in love
fight for the air they breathe,
claw words from each other’s throat
to wring and squeeze dry in metaphor,
the fiercest competition.
I hold my breath,
give you permission to quote
me. Feel robbed when you do.
Word joggers, we compare laps
at dinner. Sneak out notepads
before dessert.
My nightmare memory of Ariel’s
copyright. I wake up kicking.
An old Leonard Cohen line
our contract signed in blood.

Sometimes when we make love
I hear the crushing of bird wings.



At four I scrawled across
the white-washed basement wall,
my first poem in bold
black grease pen,
a high point followed by
a long dipping plateau,
circles curving over
and over themselves,
feeling the absolute flow
of round.
The artist intently involved
with her creation,
the rough prick
of the cement surface,
the rhythm of each
primitive letter,
it must have said
this is me.

#31 to Los Angeles

Staring into the nostrils
of humanity
you sleep together
sharing smelly feet
and house slippers
snores and indigestion,
no doors to close
no shades to pull
the rattle of paper pillows
the clanking of doors
the all-night glare
of station lights
and nameless destinations,
days of rotten coffee
old people and
tuberculin air.

Too long the victim
of public toilets
and filthy linoleum
home becomes important,
with cobwebs in every corner
laundry to wash
and bills to pay
it gives some substance
to this life
tenuous as the trains,
home where it’s
quiet and private
and you hold me
when I’m sleeping.




For years
my throat
mute by
cold daddies
and mean men
Nazi teachers
and husbands
out of town
or fair
always hungry
and friends
who come with
the sound of silver
in their empty


Always in night
temples alone
I picked petals
and dropped
them balanced
point to point
quiver against
my blood dripping
down the altar
midnight eucharist
the poem
my sacrament
and daily

III Cannibalism

Your fork pricking
my flesh you said
you wanted to eat
me bite by bite.
I thought it
but now in the
cold night
shadows of your
neon marquee
your story
told in bold type
my words ripped
from the page
lying flat
I know
there is
nothing left
electrified death
a crushed S
in my hand
screaming, “Give
them back.”

IV Love

With my face smashed
at the wall you
said love
and crushed a
response from me
a moan
you thought it
my last breath
flattened out of
me by the weight
of your self-gratification.
The sound of your dreams
and the silhouette
of your back
too familiar now
I ‘d rather sleep