Thursday, January 29, 2009

Phone Calls

this was recently published by the fine folks at Mad Poets Society -

Phone Calls

I can’t call because your dead mother and I
have been sharing this couch for years
and parts of her are shifting into me,
making me some kind of half ghost

and if I pick up the phone to talk to you,
her voice will seep out,
and crawl in your ear and keep you up at night too
which sounds too terrifying.

I can’t ask you what you want for your birthday
or if you enjoyed the book I sent at Christmas.
Everything I can give you has to be sent in the mail

which I imagine your father might stuff in a closet or
behind the decorations in the garage.
There is a place in your house that is filled up with
toys I worried over for days.
And I can’t say I blame him.
They are unwanted gifts

from the unwanted sister
of his unwanted wife

except that I’m dying to know
how long your hair is at nine
and who your best friend is
or if you have a crush yet.

Most of all, I guess
I’m dying to know if you know who I am.
And I hope to god you do
because that makes the part of me that is not dead yet
feel a little more like something alive.

Monday, January 26, 2009


This poem was just published on readingground blogazine, a great online magazine managed by Breeding Ground, a collective of independent artists. You can read the whole thing here:


I can hear you typing in the other room,
the determined clack of the keys
and ever once in awhile
you let out little sighs of
satisfaction or dissatisfaction
with the black slashes on the screen.
I can hear your puffs over the violin bleating out of the radio
at my feet
in my little room
on the other side of the apartment.

You sniffle and mutter something to the cats.

And this is what we do.
We write, in the dark mornings
when only a few cars roll down our Brooklyn street.
We write without purpose
and with fear of a lifetime without the payoff.
Without being called to the show.
We write.

We write and we drink
and we drink
and we fuck.

Oh do we fuck,

Like yesterday
half off the bed, you held up my head
and I tilted my hips ever so slightly
and watched your face when you came.
Right beforehand, when I was on top
I bit down hard on the flesh just below your shoulder
and heard your sharp intake of breath.

When I stood up later you told me how thin I looked
and it sent little shivers down my legs.

This marriage.
This pockmarked, tattooed marriage.
This cracked feet, bleeding gums marriage.
This soft-bellied, hard kissing marriage.

I would love to say that I don’t care what anyone else is doing,
thinking, working on, creating, fucking, buying, needing, getting
but I do.
It’s only natural.
But here, we close the wooden blinds, and for just a couple days
we keep to ourselves,
we bite

we bite and we laugh
and we laugh
and we talk

Oh do we talk
about what things will be like,
when we make it.
When we prove everyone else wrong.
We laugh with wide open mouths
and open another bottle of wine.

Friday, January 23, 2009


You were angry when I said his name at dinner
the other night,
after the reading,
when we all braved the spotlight
and the awkward reverb from the mic
and we ordered a feast
and 12 year old scotch
cause why not? This is what we do in the city
when everyone else is behaving themselves
and making money.

We order Petite Sirah
and beers and 12 year old scotch
(didn’t I already mention that?)
and we feast like the kings and queens of ancient lands,
which really,
we are.

And we almost get thrown out of our favorite
old bar all because my husband tried
to illustrate the notion of chaos by climbing up on the bar
and taking the payphone off the hook
and scoffing at the fascist bouncer

and then we get turned out of other bars,
bars that have been around so long Honest Abe
and John Lennon both graced their door
but not us, I guess, not tonight, and besides
we aren’t done yet.

The point is I said his name
And I know I shouldn’t have said it.
I could feel the tiny letters tickling their way
up my throat and I couldn’t wash them away
like the waterfall
couldn’t wash either of us away
like the years won’t change anything for you.

But you cocked an eyebrow
and then brushed it off.
It is part of the lore, and I understand that.
But just this once I wanted to test the waters
of memory and separate the fact from fiction.
I wanted to peel apart the layers of you and I
and a friendship that is older than both of us
that started back at the pop and snap of the universe starting
just to see exactly how we manage to come together
over and over again.

All I’m saying now
is that there are things that need to be said, love
at microphone stands in front of phony artists
and things that need to be whispered to the moon, barely inaudible
and things that need to be shouted from the architecture
as you dance through the night owning this city.

But nothing,
for you
should be unutterable.


My unreliable memory
is waking me up at night,
forcing me to look at the thumbprint bruises
inside my arms
and to think about that moment

right before it went completely dark
when the stream gurgled
and the water started to come apart
until I swear I could see every tiny
atom of hydrogen and oxygen.
Each molecule was separating
with the pop of plucked violin strings
so I didn’t notice that I had gone out too far
that my bare feet were coming out from under me
and that I was falling
or that I was wingless
or that I might not get out of this one alive.

In my head there was just the screeching hiccup
of an old record needle scratching vinyl.
There was a ghost howling.
But nothing more.

I was changed into the girl that drowned.
Drenched, wretched, hung.

Sodden and bloody.

And wholly unsalvageable.

Going back to the falls, years later
led to car accidents
twisted heaps of metal, beads of broken glass.
my mother screaming,
“There are some places you shouldn’t go.”
Places that feed on your fearlessness.
Places that light fires on the water’s edge.
Places that rush with noise in the dark quiet forest.
Places that your unreliable memory won’t let you forget.

Places that might actually try to kill you.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Better than the Last

This poem (and two others) will soon be on Enjoy.

Better than the Last

There was so much I wanted to say last night
while you were making dinner,
cutting the chicken in perfect little squares
about it not being sadness or grief
that took 7 years to get past
but anger.
Raw, perfect, gleaming anger.
The kind of anger that harvests your lungs
so that it takes the breath out of you.
The kind of anger that spreads like the cancer
that killed her, eating each cell like little gumdrops.
Anger like a little cartoon monster that sits in the corner
of my bedroom and feasts on my eyelids keeping me up
at 3 am to think, too much, about motherless girls.

It’s also the kind of anger that when it leaves you,
because you can’t leave it,
you feel it brush past your cheek
a rush of blood,
that makes you dizzy
and then the loss.
It may have only been a ball of furious screaming
but it was yours.
And with it gone, you are lighter.

But last night, when I wanted to tell you,
the words stuck,
like the anger used to
and then the song on the radio switched
and you said it was your favorite and it was mine too
and the moment passed.

Even later when I scribbled a few of these words
on a receipt
and showed it to you, like a child with a prize,
you nodded and smiled. I poured us some more wine for dinner.
And we let that anniversary pass, like so many others should have.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Little Letter

and this poem is also for Jeremy...who wrote a lovely song that looked just like a dark green forest and tasted just like some old poetry he's read.

Little Letter
- for Morgan

It was just a little notecard,
with handwriting that made big loops
and letters that moved up and down
like they were traversing a landscape,

a landscape forged years ago
when all the blood and the bending
the needles, the pain, the twitchy anger
and the hard ties of family
carved a hole so deep
that I thought no one would ever
get back out.

But you made it, Morgan.
At nine and a half years old.

You, with your almond eyes
like your mothers
like mine.
You with the blood of this family in your veins.
You walked right out of that black hole
that dark green forest
like it was nothing.

And I have been waiting for you for years.
As patiently as I could,
tossing Christmas and birthday gifts
and handfuls of wishes that I couldn’t say outloud
down that hole
hoping for an answer.

And here it is. This little letter.
Years after your mother’s death.
Your bold handwriting
the ink bleeding.
Years after I thought it would never be the same.
Years after I took that long walk, alone
to your mother’s tombstone,
the sister I couldn’t have,
because your father couldn’t face it again.

Here you are at nine and half
building a bridge of letters
that covers that distance,
that traverses this landscape
of cancer and death
and lost babies
and the sick cycle I keep waking up in.

This little notecard in my hand.
I have been waiting for it
and my voice is hoarse
from screaming and my ears are strained from listening
and just when I thought it was pointless
and I should leave you and your father alone,
after all, you have already been through so much.
You answered, Morgan.
You answered.

And I’m not going to think about what it will be like
if you come visit me.
And we go to the park, and feed the horses sugar cubes
and I’m not going to compile a list of things I could tell you
about your mother, about a family that was kept secret.
This letter from you, for now, it is enough.
I’m tucking it away in my journal.

This little notecard.
reminding me
of the first letter I got from your mother
when I was only a little older than you are now.

Oh this family, Morgan,
it is a complicated thing.
But you,
you are the brave one,

and with your letter, for just a moment,
the dead got through the void too,
for just a millisecond
and she whispered in my ear
but I don’t know what she said
I just know that with you,
has finally

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


- for Stephanie

It was at dinner,
on Christmas Eve
that you jokingly mentioned the fortune teller
and what she saw when she read your palm.

Our mother placed her head in her hands,
shook it ever so slowly back and forth
begging you not to talk about it.
But the rest of us had had a few glasses of wine
and I for one was curious.

Besides, our mother fears the night sky
and all those open stars staring down at her.

What harm could be done?

You showed us your palm
and where the life line split
like a chasm
and then started again
like some kind of map for reincarnation.
I know the gypsys didn’t see it that way.
But I didn’t say anything at the table.
They believed that a break in the lifeline represented
a turn of events,
a major life change
or a fusing of the heart and the head.

All these little creases,
what could they possibly tell us?
The stitches that sew us all up
body and soul
packets of wires and felt,
rubbery muscles
crooked bones shaped like keys
and others shaped like locks.

And the next night,
we read your horoscope and laughed
over Moon Pie.
But when we said goodbye, I didn’t want to let go.
and I whispered into my own palm,
begging you, as our mother did in her own way
not to wait too long
between now and the next visit home.

Our father’s kidneys are failing
and these bodies we are given are unreliable,
twitching and bruising without reason
dark brown stains reminding us where we have been
but offering nothing about where we are going,
nothing like the crease in your palm
wrapped tightly around the steering wheel
and the years are passing like mile markers as you head
back to your city, your home,
and that is a good thing.

But just remember
we all need you
and if our mother forgets in the tending to of our father,
I for one
will leave a light on.

For Daniel on his 32nd Birthday

It is predawn
Dan, on your thirty second birthday
and I know that you are still sleeping
cocooned in last years thoughts
and today and what it brings can not yet touch you.
but I’m sleeping less and less these days
wondering how
we have survived
so many turns on this groaning planet

and it will be years end before we know it
and we will share another night
walking down Poplar Drive
in the cold mountain air
breathless at the sight of each other,
and the never-ending night sky.

I am still too liquid,
and you are too much fire.
Parts of me are sliding away, mutating, changing me into
something other than a woman.
And you flicker, in the pale light of fall, a bonfire of a man.
We are not solid, not of this earth,
our bones and tissue and muscle just sore illusions.
Beautiful and grotesque,
We are hanging somewhere else in that predawn sky.

Like a Gemini.
My twin.
How have we survived so far?
How has a suicide not romanced either of us?

You asked me once what other options there were
and I promise you, I still have no answer.

So that night in my apartment
after all the Spanish wine,
and your attempts to woo my tabby cat,
understanding and speaking to the wild in her
just as you do with everyone you meet
on that island of madness you live on,
I crowned you an untouchable.
My touchstone,
to which I have no choice but to return.
Zeus and Athena,
I can feel you inside the rattle of my ribcage

And we promise not to break each others hearts
but that is all we have been doing for centuries,
for this life
and the ones before it.
Thirty two in numerology means communication and balance
and in Chinese it means easy and live.

But I wonder how that can be? How can it ever be easy?
I’m throwing rune stones and lining my door with cheroot
cause even I know that this year,
as I raise my glass to you, my dearest friend
this year Daniel,
this thirty second year
will be a fight like all the rest.