five poems





What poets say is accurate enough. In the whirlpool I lost my earthly sense and my things went one by one. But I am not the Tarot card I have become, an emblem red as a wound on white skin, found under some nameless sheaf by a neck-tied shuffler of blank pages at a desk, startle slipped into an inventory list. I lost that grace you love like money.
But I did not die and live to prick
your stagnant fear of death,
making you pace the marble floor of the bank smooth as water you could walk upon, and hide yourself in numbers. I hurtle through the eons like an astronaut, but that’s my own business.
I didn’t do it to remind you
of what you already knew,
nor settle as an image in your poem.
No, a thousand times: my death was my own.



Rain slicks the street to a mirror of our moods.
Sweeney Agonistes looks on sadly
at the blood-kisses exchanged by women
for whom men are little more than passing shadows in the fog.

The penis is a split personality. Sometimes I’m in favor of a world that’s less safe,
it’s unpopular and what’s the point? Long hour of soft skin
in eye-glasses, loving a secret cult again. There the fury
sits drinking shot after shot, visions nearly out of order,
but she can’t afford to blunder, skirt undone and gorgeous-tattooed.
I couldn’t help them with their apocalypse-hoax,
wandering like the sea from one big nothing to the next.
Sweeney nurses stray thoughts of suicide
through the tattered holes in my will. I harden myself
to bend for the missile. What burns up for nothing?
I wouldn’t presume to say for sure.


The woman does sit-ups,
the man does push-ups,
and nine months later
the baby comes.
Happy little monster.

The Berber walks all the way across Africa,
fathering children
to the four corners of the wind.
Good Papa Berber.

Big witness to the 60-40 split,
you try and try to make the world believe you.
But no one talks to the world anymore.
Lonely lonely world, left to its own devices.


--Ulrike Rosenbach’s Entwicklung mit Julia (1972), a performance
on video where the artist bound her daughter’s body to her own
with long white bandages

I remember when Mutti bound me to her:
the two rounds of warmth of her breasts against my shoulders,
the feel of her arm wrapped around me.
Her breath on my neck was heavy with movement
and the watchful camera, while I held mine in,
afraid the taut swathes would hurt my ribs
if I didn’t make extra room. In the end I floated
against her, held in place, and could not fall
out of my gauzy prison. A ritual
that ought to be practiced in our tribe. No
thought stays longer than the thought of
touch, no memory is harder to summon up,
or to forget. With the ease and comfort
of stocking feet or a palm-full of water,
we run on a loop in a Berlin museum. Our
double gaze defies the passers-by who yearn to be
the flesh of someone’s flesh. . . Is it true
they sold their children’s names, long ago?
Is it true the only phone lines exist in our memories?


strutting tier on tier
all peacock eyes and glitter. Sideways she steers

a Marie Antoinette wedding cake, every
heart flutters to the metronome of her hourglass

where life picks me up and hurls me down
like a felt doll. Take it from me: even if she

puffs, poof! from the dry-ice mist and tears
away her mask, to show us how it’s done,

singing I’m boneless meat, blown
motes of face powder. . . the flesh could be

willing, but I’ll still never go-
go to Heaven in that falling birdcage, no

I’ll never be that Ziegfeld girl.














Copyright � 2005