In Reykjavik I sip birch bark tea, eat spotted catfish wrapped in moss.
The wide mind takes it all in. The mouth swallows
black lava salt and parts of creatures that once had scales, hooves, wings.
Will I eat carrot but not cow? Sheep not dog,
pig not horse, pheasant not cormorant? Or puffin, charming thieves
with parrot beaks who don’t hunt their own food
but steal other birds’ prey. Humpbacks take in schooling fish,
and I taste minke whale, disguised in lime sauce on a white plate.
God sees everything I do, being with me, being in, consuming
what I consume. Fish eyes stare up at us,
make a face on the plate. Unnumbered, the eyes of god.
Listen to Edible, Inedible:
“The thing in itself has no abnormality.”—Guo Pu
A small spider spins in the north corner of our bedroom.
In the momentum of our life with words,
you tell me why the eighth king cut the sky rope. We alight
in storm drought aspirations
to be steadfast. Pause in the hard knowledge
of bone protruding on my X-ray.
I know less each day. Crack one egg
in the glass bowl, another distracted
in the kitchen sink. Don’t hope for a better past.
Accumulation of snapped wings catcalls
Cornell’s boxed owls. Becalmed on the postcoital sea,
do you hear my flinch and quiver? See the light
in my fingers spill out my eyes. In the isolation
of his cork-lined room Proust was large enough
to contain kindness. I pause open the door.
Outside as inside we shift and glide.
In my fear I’ll end up bitter as chicory and alone,
alone, wind whipping long grasses in the dunes.
With my fear I’ll end up like the husband I left
in the wake of my faithlessness, both of us wandering
a wilderness of concrete streets, no one to go home to,
no one to talk to in the swaddling dark.
Past my fear I’ll end up bitter as burdock root
like a child beaten with her father’s studded belt,
grown scarred and angry, leaving home afraid of no ghost
more than her father, living alone.
I’m not alone in my fear I’ll end up like my ex,
who fears his next wife will leave him, and she does.
I’ve grown wary of acrid greens. I brew bitter nail tea,
serve kiwi and pepitas as antidotes
to soothe my two grown daughters, thin as reeds
and not alone in their fear they’ll end up
on some windswept coast, scudding along like sea foam
left quivering on damp sand.
— B O D Y
Listen to Bitter House:
We pass in the grocery store, wheeling
our anonymous carts
We pass invisible as a summer breeze, tubes hidden
under loose clothes
We pass marked by scars familiar to our lovers
Like sleepwalkers, our hands graze
the banister on the way downstairs
We pass like thieves, stealing each day we can
Like the guilty cleared of all charges,
like innocents falsely accused
We pass for natives, unremarkable, unscathed
We pass like ghosts of our former selves,
sorrows mingling in the air
Like snow geese overhead, we sweep north
or south in season
We pass like comets trailing our cosmic dust
Listen to We Pass Like Thieves:
I don’t mean to compete
over whose child suffers more,
yours bleeding hope away each month
or mine signed up for her first
shock treatment. The moon’s impassive
over all our children’s dreams.
As a mother I know fear
wraps its hands around the throat.
A phone call can turn the night air to ice.
Today a fire burns in the woodstove
and Garrison Keillor jokes on the radio
about SSRIs. I doubt his son ever took a razor
and sliced line by line into his thigh
to silence voices clamoring inside.
But what do I know of his son,
our daughters? They all must strive
to rise each day and find
two comfortable shoes to slip into.
I’ve grown wary of the tyranny of dreams.
Just now I mean to pad downstairs
for tea and toast that I’ll spread thick
with your wild plum jam.
Listen to Tyranny of Dreams:
Once More with No Feeling
Everyone is talking about the new moon,
blood moon, and another thing. Soon it will be time to go,
so love the slab you stand on. Inside the body a willow
catches fire in this minute, in the next,
in the unreal country of next year. That breath is past.
Inside like outside space expands in the ambient anxiety
of my night watch. After the surgery, I felt relieved
to not have sex. No, I don’t want to talk about it now.
Maybe in the lifespan of an ant, of a mountain range heaved up
from the sea I will find two sticks to rub
together for fire. I slide my fingertips lightly from collarbone
down breastbone to the hollow that separates
what remains of cleavage—soft slope to the right, taut ridge
to the left. I search for the margins of sensation,
for endings and beginnings as feeling appears or disappears,
skin warm to touch but numb as an empty bowl.
My father asks who lives
in that white house
just visible out the kitchen window.
I reply as I did five minutes before—
I don’t know, Dad. He will ask again,
as he will ask how long ago my mother died.
He could not remember, not the day
she died or the days after when he kept weeping
Can I see her again? Have we held the service yet?
His wife is nine weeks gone, and he wonders
where she is, where he is, and
Who lives in that house way up there?
I don’t know what he can see of her face
and hands, of gestures once familiar as his own.
Does he still hear her calling from the next room?
Does he remember her hair as auburn
or white? Her breasts before the surgery or after?
Her image slowly fades to a stranger’s.
And this moment is all he has—just this
within waves of resonance
of his story, of hers.
Listen to After the Bell Stops, the Sound: