From Living in Paradise—New and Selected Poems
Mansfield Press, 2001.
Deep Consonant Wife
Deep, consonant wife, strapped to my
early years, whom I will always marry; beautiful
woman in the torso of a five-year-old, plummet me through
the furniture, stupid furniture; reorient
its nature, make prayers of it for my hot mouth.
“Hot mouth!” There is a conquistador in the leaves,
you know? I have seen whole armadas of affection
in a Georgia wood, under the loons call; a kitten
on a stump of a tree looking like a snake in the
moonlight, and when I got closer its hot little
mouth was whiskered with weather and cricket sounds
and an after-taste of moonlight. Just so, wife!
You, before the voyage, after which everything
else was after-wife, was after-life, was me with
a hologram of myself ahead of me. Blue sheaf of
a patch of sky, woman with a necklace of my chromosomes,
be here, wife with a thousand and one poems coming to you,
make me; every morning a virgin in your hands
—that’s what I am, behind
the suit of hours, years; come out from behind the
furniture, my warehouses of thought, and plunge your
white palms into me. Cup my face like a sun among clouds
and make the widowing earth green with envy.
Break me among my stupidities,
among my men,
give me that twig, out there, outside my window.
Let us look at it for the first time, again,
like a planned marriage among the stars in the stone.
From The Honeymoon Wilderness
Mansfield Press, 2002
the heart has turned to water;
—water, where the heart has split
like a river carving the stone, the
river of pain turned
to mercy, turned
water in place of heart;
a roar unlike niagara, the euphrates;
a river like a blind eye shedding rivers of
to wake up, mouth parched
like a desert, dreaming thirst for what was,
what might have been; when the water
is for healing, not drinking;
the waters of love and pity,
are the slaked dreams of the father.
dreams come true. the splintered
ones are His business.
like a snake eating its tail,
there is only healing and healing.
what was wanted in the first place,
beyond reach, forever.
to go home, to
pluck the apple
of desire—a name, a place,
one death and the healing is done.
flowing through the cracks of my heart
From The Dark Time of Angels
Mansfield Press 2003
you take so much.
you take everything.
I have nothing.
it is all gone. look not even a story.
look how the loon, the wild dog and the willow
to be seen, to be heard,
hankering for my emptiness.
so much love, your emptying.
no story, do you want a story?
it is written on my brow.
my features, you write.
they will know of your letters.
here is one called song,
bent, like my stoop.
you could have upturned it like a
what are you going to do for song now
that I listen to everything?
I am cooking sausage at 5 in the morning,
waiting for new music. the stars
come in, they
mix with the dawn.
perhaps it is not new music at all.
you want it all to keep quiet, this
this beauty shoved aside; the fear of you along-
side the love of you, the kiss
of cold creation.
From Dead Men of the Fifties
Mansfield Press 2004
That’s warm—that’s Harry Belafonte…
that’s sentimental—that’s Eddie Fisher…
that’s smooth… that’s Frank Sinatra.
No time for the blues.
There’s gentle… the star of NBC’s hour long Perry Como show.
There’s mellow… the popular Nat King Cole.
That’s sensitive… that’s Johnny Ray.
Inventive? Little Sammy, who looks forward to everything.
You want tender? Go for Bill Hayes.
You want energetic? Go for Frankie Lane.
You want endearing?
Try Sweeney at the Chesapeake Lounge.
I vote for the one I like best. Sweeney in the playin’ field.
My lone flight vocalist, pictured in 1948, on a little honeymoon
Cuz, he avoids thinkin’ about the problems of the day for
the first half hour after he gets up.
Cuz he loves meteorites, cuz they remind him of
his school days.
He loves the dark, because the pathe of the moon
round the earth is not a true one, cuz he’s
never too hard on Santa, in the true Christmas spirit.
He sends flowers, and wants to meet Arlene Austin,
the junior Miss Society editor of the Bell-Flower Herald-American.
Good ol’ Sweeney, with a life that calls for a mature woman,
who books extras, and doesn’t quite recall what he did on his
A Date with Sweeney
There is everythin’, Sweeney says.
Nothin’ to be scared about. Just droppin’ in on
Rudy Vasco and his Latin American quartet,
lookin’ up to date and spiffy, struttin’ his barbecue,
wonderin’ about Maxine DeShon, the year’s “thrill girl” at
He pokes the bell at the front door, takes pains
to polish his shoes. He is one of God’s men, the daydreamer.
The noise of women’s voices makes him think of
New York, which was his home, makes him
fierce like a Chinese boy with lots of advice.
Isn’t she marvelous?
The final decision shows up at the door.
“Never mind ol’ girl” and with a loud cry flings his
arms around her.
It is 1947. Long legged and rangy,
he drops a shoe and buys a bag of popcorn and emits a
Peeping through midnight noises,
they cry together, and tell each other secrets.