I have decided that my main problem is lack of touch. Sliding my legs under my blankets makes me shiver. I feel phantom hands on my waist constantly. My neck bows on its own and craves a hand to force it.

Please someone bring me their fingers. Graze me in a crowd. Push me, hit me, kick me--just as long as we touch. At this point I am so starved that any contact would be worth it.


We are not meant to be.

Ships and their victories stay above the water, while if all goes well the pearl stays below. If the pearl and the ship ever meet, it is a victory for the ship and a travesty for the pearl. The ship ravages the pearl; the ship tears it from its home. The ship destroys the pearl. I am the ocean, I am full of shit and my blood is water. I do not believe in loyalty. Ships are to the moon as pearls are to the ocean; ships gather pearls like the moon gathers the tide and upon the whim of both the ship and the moon, the pearl and the water move. If I am the ocean, then you are the moon and I’m constantly moved by the phases of you.

You should have known better than to get involved with a poet or a pearl, because you are going to have to break my heart, which pumps water, and after that the ocean will always taste like me. When my heart breaks I taste the sea. Furthermore most writers are full of shit. When you read this you’re going to think I’m insane (the moon gathers the tide), which is true (and upon the whim of the ship), but mostly I cannot handle the thought of not being with you without having played some small part in it (the pearl moves).


Able (Abel revisited)

Two sons of Eve,
men, with large
hands and blood
like wine, sons
of God, favored
or sinful, martyr
or scamp, sit at
the start of the
world together.
One watches the
other with envy,
knowing that all
his tithes will be
rejected, while
gifts of meat are
received graciously.
Cain is unabel.
Cain resents Able.
Righteous, angry,
Cain kills all ability.
“Boys,” God says,
“if your mother
were here, she’d
be so ashamed.”

Ghazal Redux

We adore fresh words in our mouths,
but news is only new until you know it.

Take, for example, your favorite joke.
Recited until you know it,

it changes over time. When you offer
to tell it, your friends groan. They know it.

Give it time. There are words you’ve never
said, a theme sung only by gods who know it.

It’s said they hear us try to speak,
mimicking their song until we know it

by heart. Our father, it starts, and the spirits
groan. We translate so poorly; reap, sow it.

But I do the things I do inspired; you know it.
I crave you; soon your ears will know it.


Rapacious--aggressively greedy or grasping,
predatory, desperate like my arms for the
curve of your waist, my breasts for the skin
of your back; this greed could be quiet, like
when I slowly pulled myself out of bed so
as not to wake you, and then selfishly kissed
your face and asked you to ask me to stay,
or loud, as when I pulled you onto my lap
and begged you to have me. I greeded you,
or needed you or kneaded you, two cool cats
in heat. Greeded--"Hello, you're mine, stay,"
or maybe something like waking you up
with a kiss. Rapacious, or to be insane
with desire, violent with hunger; your
skin—your breasts--press. Two cats in heat,
who touch, who don't. My stomach grumbles.
I define glut and make a list of what I want to own:
The sun as it glances over your hair. The way
you steal the covers. The ache in my joints from
sleeping strange. More, your lips around my name.
My mouth is raw from saying yours; I kept it.
There is no denying it; o, greed! I am starving.


American Parenthesis: That which we house in bottles would in any other case get thee just as drunk.

He never needed god
because (and who
is god in any case)
he was capable of
great love (and true love
in any case)
without outside assistance
(he never called in any case).
He consumed his
lovers, as though they were
small plastic (or for
consumption, in any case).
He said, "Get thee
to a sweatshop."
His palms felt fat
and hot but who could care?
(You would not in any case.)
His night's fast broke--
his anger broke--
his fever did not break.
(The drugs he took were wrong,
in any case). He said, "Get thee
to a crackhouse." A name, he felt,
was a sort of resignation
(wherefore art thou in any case)
after saying it the first time;
unless signed, it was not
something you could touch,
like god who he did (and who
is god in any case) not need,
and so he never called anyone
(god or you in any case)
by resignation or by name.
A natural grin (teeth in any case)
perched not upon his face.
A natural fever crept hot around this place.
(He perched and crept, in any case.)
He said, "Get thee
to a nunnery." ("Go,"
he did not say but howled.
"Go," he said in any case.)


Okay, then I will buy you this book.
It's a strong book, maybe, or the
cheapest one they had. Who knows
why I chose this one over another?
(I do: the cover reminded me of your skin,
the pages reminded me of your hair,
the poems reminded me of your cunt.)


I do the things I do inspired; you know it.
I love you; soon, your ears will know it.

We adore fresh words in our mouths,
but news is only new until you know it.

Pronomial: as by specifying a person, place,
or thing, so that even in words you might know it.

The artless are jealous of your blue skies,
of the heart and eyes that let you know it.

I know the wind and know the cold. And
I know you and how you're bold; I know it.

Know me from Adam? In my loins, for one,
there is an ache: Thirst. I'm sure you know it.

Drop like flies: there is a collective strength
in our swatters, and they must all know it.

(So, to land a blow, she said, "I give
myself to you; it seems you never know it.")


"Untitled," Muriel Castanis, 1990. Cloth, epoxy.

There is wool over my eyes,
or linen,
or papier-mâché

And though it does not block
the light, I
leave it where it lays.

I am taken outside the limit
of my arms,
of my epoxy skin.

There are no stains, no blemishes
to suggest

As though I had bathed in buttermilk,
poured it over
my head and closed my eyes.

(This was when I still could see,
when I blocked out
sun and water on my own.)

I am flying, one hand outstretched,
the other
laid flat against my side,

as though I were making my way
through water,
through clouds, through deficiency

and deformity, through every freckle I could
have developed.
Not carved in marble--draped over air.

What they don't tell you about me,
about us,
is that our condition is common.

This ache in my back from holding still
is womanly.
The strength in my arm, held out

eternally, is a feminine strength.
The cloth sealed
across my eyes is a maidenly wound.


Jesus, you miss the way a good Virginia strawberry tastes, red and ripe and about ready to burst. This is how you eat a good Virginia strawberry: First, you pick it yourself. This is essential. It has to be exactly the right strawberry, and you'll know because maybe its seeds won't quite cover its flesh. (And boy, does a good Virginia strawberry have just the right amount of flesh.) The right strawberry is blushing and hot in the sun, but since you're hot too, it'll almost feel cool against your lips. Second, put it right up against your mouth. This is the best part; try not to use too much tooth. Pull the meat onto your tongue. When was the last time fruit tasted like this? Groan, if you need to, but don’t let anything drop from your lips. The juice will run down your chin and collect in the hollow of your throat, but you’ll purse your lips against the meat and try to drink it all. (A good Virginia strawberry is juicy first, and sweet second.) You'll want to mouth against it like you've starved for years, flicking your tongue against it like you're speaking Spanish; strawberries are perfectly contoured for our mouths, as though the earth knew that we would want to eat them. (If you eat enough, you'll begin to believe that good Virginia strawberries were what mouths were made for.) Third, throw the stem to the ground and mourn that the moment is over. Lick your fingers in desperation. You will want to seek another strawberry, but, deep in your belly, you'll feel your first and crave it more than anything. It is only in this moment that you'll truly understand what it is to taste.


after, and before

My best friend the stegosaurus
knew that she had been forced
into a before, by the comet
which was living in the after,
burning in the atmosphere
following falling out of its home,
space, which missed it dearly
or maybe not at all, but,
unlike space, I will never recover—
call it survivor’s guilt.
She was gone before I
and the other birds
could say goodbye, and after,
the mammals told stories:

“I was in my burrow when it happened.
Before I felt the tremors,
I was sitting down for supper—
and then,
the earth shook and got hot,
and the giants screamed
and made room for me.
After the fact, the earth smelled,
worse than La Brea does
on a hot day.
Before the smell went away,
not even appetence could make me leave.
After the carcasses turned to bone,
I started going out again.”
They left their burrows
but I could not escape.

I believe in shades of grey,
lighter and lighter
like my best friend’s bones
in the sun, after the scent
of death dissolved,
until the picture disappears
and all you have is an idea of
what it could have been—
what am I looking at?
this all looks the same to me—but
I understand the appeal
of making the distinction
between the antecedent
and the aftermath.


My human skeleton is wet
with my blood, a hearty red hue
oxidized quickly but subtly
and changed from that brilliant blue.

I have cataloged the hairs that
grew from my skin, the ones that brushed
the hair on yours when we leaned in
so close and spoke in voices hushed.

So for the sake of closeness, I
peeled back my skin, pulled muscle from
bone, snapped tendons in half. “I want
you to know me,” spoken and sung.

Underneath the skin was flesh
and fat, which I love and abhor
in equal measure. I threw it,
like my other parts, on the floor.

Isn’t it strange? Below what we
see is the essential; pieces
that filter and function, lending
power, all these unpaid leases.

My stomach was never weak, not
like my useless knees around you.
It goes first. The rest of my guts
follow. My intestines askew,

I move further up, passing my
oscillating lungs and your heart,
to the mouth that knows how to kiss
you; yours, unlike mine, is like art.

That goes; then my eyes, which only
see you. That’s a lie. It feels true.
My ears are holes: All the better
to hear you. Did I overdo

it? Too late, it’s all on the ground.
Moving hands, I fit my thumbs to
my bones, the ones over your heart.
They crack; it’s not hard to break through.

The lungs gather oxygen, give
air to the heart, which pumps blood in
the vain vagrant vague voiceless veins,
makes the brain breath, lets the mouth grin.

As a child, I dreamt that I fell
and scraped my knee, and when I dared
to peel back my skin to clean it
I ripped the whole thing open. There

was pain and curiosity.
The pain was unbearable but
I couldn’t go back to not knowing.
Secrets in my knees, in my gut.

I feel the same way as my lungs
deflate, haggard and dry and spent.
Not knowing would be torturous.
I touch the heart, arteries rent,

And begin to put myself back.
For the knowledge I am better,
faster, stronger. Six million
blood cells reenter me wetter

than before. Now that I know the
shape of my skeleton, I know
how to fit you next to me,
how my hands can hold and let go.


"Our senses note only particulars,"
states the bound lettered manual
which is teaching me this art I know
participatorily if not passably.

"We never see color, we see particular
colors. We never just touch, we touch something."
I have not yet gotten a feel for particulars but I fear
the good book is wrong; I fear that it lies.

Am I an anomaly? I do not remember
if I touched you tonight, if I heard
your voice, if I noted the color of your eyes.
I touched. I heard. I saw. But I lost my senses.



Don Cain told us,
"Boys, this is not up to snuff.
My old man thought his gift
was swell, and at no
time has he liked me
more than that son of a gun. Big wolves don't cry,
so play sheep and use your smarts
and fill his shoes up with the gunk.
Take him to a room with no doors
and plant him like the kind of
weed that grows where the sun don't shine.
Feed him to the fish," Don Cain said,
"and if he is so skilled at tithes
he will be sure to go with no fight."
Don Cain shook his hand,
let ash fall in the tray.
"He's used to the high life,"
Don Cain told us,
(and by us I mean me;
I'm the one the boss trusts)
"so he might miss the sun,
but he'll run out of strength.
I want him dead and gone, hail Lil full of grace.
My own blood sprung my own hate."
I did not ask but I did thought,
"Who are you, who can kill his kin?"
Last week some pigs were called to
the scene of our crime and
fired their guns and shot mine to death
and I am still a bit torn up.
I looked at Don Cain and said,
"I know just the thing, boss.
You want I should--" and
was met with a nod, and in short I
heaved a rock and kept Eve's line pur sang.

tall tale

she told me to





I told her to





it's not hard to






Something Missing

A figure of authority said,
"Speak to a lack,
a crack in the future;
what might happen when the essential
becomes somehow expendable,"
(and of course I'm paraphrasing;
one cannot expect honesty from a known liar--)
and all I could think of was:

Fruit never bursts
beneath my teeth as satisfyingly as
the poison berries that
sprung!--from the ground near your house,
exploded under my fingers when I sat there, right there.
I plucked them from the grass and
pushed until they broke and
the whole time I thought of you.

As I write this I am thinking of you.
How quickly we became
essential to one another and
how quickly I became
expendable!—there is no temporal measure.

If there is a future without you I do not want it.
If I knew you then, I would miss:
the shape of your nostrils and
the color of your eyes and
the way your hands touch me.

A world without you is not a world I want.
I am you and
you are me and
we are the same and so
a world without you is not a world which can house me.

I'm not quite playing by the book; I digress.
In a world without her, we would miss:
goodness, light,
her cynicism,
the way her hands move when she talks.

A world without her would move
slowly, like the world now moves
slowly, but as the world turned
slowly it would be aware of the loss,
its load lighter but its heart heavier.


"your blue eyes are greener than mine."
There are times--days
weeks, months--long stretches
of seconds, kind of like
getting goosebumps
and settling
and tensing up all over again.

these times i feel alone
and ignored
and unhappy

and i think they would
be better if you'd
notice me, if i could
bring myself to do it,
to not be the one giving advice,
to be the one asking for it,
and is that the only way
you'll notice me, if I
ask for it?, and
is that the only thing
I can do?, and
have I fallen in love
with you?, and
was it a mistake?, and how
can I
fall out?


she is hunched, maybe
over a piece of paper
it has determined her future

she is not, maybe,
a person,
warm roots in cold soil,
maybe blooming, naked, maybe.

does she, you wonder,
she has good skin,
even as she picks it apart.

I listen, detached,
as you laugh.
does she know you?
she should know you struggle for words.

her eyes are wide,
cute, prob'ly,
though you can't tell:
you can only see all of her

even that's tricky.
'cause you can't look,
not for long, not without flushing.

is she looking?
you get caught.
you're imagining things,
and that's, oh god, embarrassing.

is she looking?
does she see--
does she look at me?
her hands might be rough 'cause she's

rough, physical,
plays in dirt.
lays out in the sun,
probably she even climbs trees.

she sets down her eyes and picks up her pen and gets to work.
you were damp, lonely
in the corners of your mouth
the base of your spine.

i am lonely still
but i know important things
like: you hate coffee

or: sometimes you steal,
and, like me, you ran away.
things like: you got out.

things like: you're special.
and: you think i think you're dumb.
your walk is distinct.

i am so aware
of you that i can see you,
no glasses, from here.

there is loneliness
in the corners of your mouth.
i want to taste it.


I'm passion, impassioned,
rocking against the bed
in my head in my mouth.
I am full
and I am weak and I
lost weeks and weeks to you,
toes tapping like you're gone,
like you are ready to run.
I won't notice everything
and I think that is the key:
That is what makes this different for me.

Sometimes I think
that lifespan is like wingspan
only you can't see it
and it doesn't do shit.

In my heart I have wings,
strange and wide
as long as my life.
I think if I did, you would
like me better.
I would have caught
the light
or your eye
and either way you might
have noticed me.
If I had wings, you would
touch them,
gingerly but enthralled.
If you touched me
I would not feel so small.

You are stupendous,
and I am stupid
because I want to
tell you, say:
you could have been
the best thing here,
you could have been
something special.
You are the cat's pajamas and
the core of my heart and
the sleep in my eyes
and the scars on my thighs
and I will not cover
you up, no; I will send you
all of my love; no, I will
fly to you on chimerical wings
because you deserve only
fantastical things.


When I was fourteen, I was three inches shorter and forty pounds lighter and I didn't feel attractive then and I don't now. I just want to pull off dressing like a dude, because I don't feel comfortable dressing like a girl, too gangly and chubby in the wrong places and not confident enough and when I laugh my whole face bunches up and my cheeks become huge and I've got an impressive range of facial expressions, kind of like a muppet, but looking like a muppet never got me what I wanted and I thought I wanted to be liked by other people but for the most part I have that, I think I just want to be able to like myself and I am so awful in social situations and I just sit there and blush and hold my head in my hands and when I'm forcing myself out of that I add way too much swagger to my steps and laugh too loudly and make really stupid immature jokes and sometimes I just fucking hate myself for it, and sometimes I feel like I want Matt, grabby hands like a baby, but I think I just want him to apologize for being such a shitty person and I want him to stop making me the butt of all his jokes but he wouldn't when we were together and now he hates me because I called him out on how shitty he is to other people and so if I asked him to stop he'd mock me even harder and if I ask his friends, the people I thought were maybe my friends, but definitely, at this point, just his friends, they'd shift uncomfortably and be like, "Uh, hey, man, I didn't realize," and then tell Matt and then they'll all keep making fun of me and I hate feeling picked on, and it happens to me over and over and over again. I am not the confident asshole I try to seem like. I just get picked on over and over and over and it's easier to be louder and cruder and better-liked and smarter than those people than it is to confront them but it's not enough.


Walking by the stacks I idly run my hand across the titles, hoping my finger will catch on some great trove of wisdom, the sort of thing that would enlighten me and deliver me from heartache. In that instant I will know what to buy, no insecurity or second-guessing. You've seen me do this, remember? I don't know if you remember. I remember everything about you.

I once read a book wherein the heroine did the same thing, ran her fingers along the tops of books in the library, and became powerful. It was called So You Want To Be A Wizard. It is chimerical to think I have that same capacity, of course, but I do it again and again.

I chase after you anyway. I do it again and again.
I am an extraordiary
object, rendered useful
in the hands of other men
who are themselves useful,
I suppose, men
whose hands made me sing
and pushed me to you.
And your hands held me--
and I thought, unkindly, "You
are revolting and endearing,
you whose soft hands
cannot hold me without
pain. You are untrained,
and gentle and far too
weak, and I am
heavy and sharp
and useless like you."
You held me still and I thought,
dully, without feeling,
"Some talented god gave me life,
but maybe it can be
taken, turned into something else.
Dully you took it from me."
When you held me, I thought,
"We deserve each
other, I deserve
you, you deserve
me." I forgot
how to think,
only an object made
useful in the hands
of other men.
I resent
you for


what is wrong with me?