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My daughter was an instrument of mercy wound
tight by songs better left alone. I trust you to make
your own meaning
was what she alleged by her birth,
then danced a child’s paces with me when she was
three, spelled better than I ever did when I was ten, and left
me before I was already beyond thinking. Her lover
carved her name in a rock beneath the seaward
tower. No one goes there now. She’d warned me
about sin, the young herald of fever, and woke
blind as the summer sun.


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One night I came to the room of a boy in the ICU
while they were trying to revive the child
who happened to be dying by death’s lonely hand.

I knew nothing more
at the time and took my turn to keep the heart moving
blood to all his vital organs.

And was coached by the night senior resident—
push harder so his blood pressure stays up!

For me it was another beginning of a sleepless night.
Children often died there without warning or permission.
Sometimes we couldn’t explain it at all.

Later

Tim the doctor in charge walked in with his blue
scrubs, a neatly trimmed beard and the soft voice
that I looked up to and wanted to believe in.

It seemed we had done everything we could.
He told me to stop.
Just then I realized I didn’t want to be the last one.

The one to let him go.

I didn’t want that for him or for myself.
I still don’t know anything about that little boy.

But I do remember that I removed my hands
and left all his secrets safe within him.

 

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                        Sonatine



I could put my whole life in a notebook thinking
that a date would settle me in my own home, and
to forget all the other lovers who refused to see and did
not understand how socially inappropriate Ravel had
been borrowing wagers from the future against
more harmonies no one else wanted.

But I’m a poem’s own single nightmare.

And words gather round my pen looking
for redemption in how stupidly I garner countless herds of them,
combing for a grain of platinum in the land of silver–
something that will not tarnish.

The jungle strips one’s manhood in a single scream.

Is it a howler monkey or a seductive wish? Now even
sounds unnerve me and I think I want to know more
and more about little and less. For example why there’s
always never enough for Western Man—a species
of naming forever in search of Platonisms

and Superbowls. Why not hold

a child in my arms, her smell against my neck,
a rush of summer

on the infant’s new voice.


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dig me a deeper grave just
like the next day of the week
because i tried to ignore you
walking your straighter line
as hell’s own fair witness kicked
me under the table a strangler
in my sleep was she

more to the good

to understand what i say
imagine your own child
alone in a hospital bed newly
paralyzed you gazing down
at the babe you birthed her life
suddenly gone without
even a word


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He wrote a poem for you that was
the sun and stars. But ever since my father
died the very possibility of love has faded
like an intermittent signal from a friend
on the dark side of the galaxy
gone silent.


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to those who have survived a betrayal of any kind, to those who have survived exclusion, disability and illness, cruelty, hatred, apathy and the popularity of ignorance: you are my inspiration. you know who you are.


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Today I recalled how once I explained the concept of a confound
to a family friend at a party held in honor of my sister (10 years
younger than me) and her husband to be. The original
question was something I don’t know, something
superficial yet intriguing at parties that often are. Not
really my activity. Sometimes I hope they might be, like
a gateway to myself, a hint of such a path— but not very often. Later
I remember him telling me how proud he was of me, that
I remembered something he often taught his students. That he’d hoped
he’d taught me.

I’m glad I could make my father proud of me before he died.
I’m glad I can remember it still.


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sometimes i wonder, after i write the poem:do
i have the courage? of

those words.


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ask yourself
a question: did you teach
me something? are you my
teacher? if you did. if you are.
then, i am grateful. and
i love you.


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i mean yes of course i do. want to be published.
who doesn’t? maybe some real buddhist lama.
but sure, i think you always do want it. even
just secretely. big ego trip. and also
no i don’t. want to be shaped
exactly

that way.


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