Logo

Welcome to

Login or Signup to meet new friends, find out what's going on, and connect with others on the site.


Forgot Your Password?

A new password will be e-mailed to you.

Member Login

 
 

Poetry

REMEMBERING
I was not there when your mother bore you.
Surely you came into this world, hungering and wet.
We all do that.

Surely you came like the rest of us
From that dark sea of souls,
That sighing that brings us forth
And calls us back — we all share that.

If this is true, and it is — even for you —
Why are you a broken glass smashed against
The floor? Why not the seas’ grass on
The ocean floor? Why not a smooth stone, a willow
In the wind? Why do you break, not bend, and
Even broken, why not mend? You do know how.

Walk with me to the edge of the city.
Take off your shoes and feel the earth.
It is softer than a woman.
It is safer than your father.
It is water. It is air.
It is where you are returning
With this yearning you can’t name.

Cast off your shame. It is an old coat.
Remember who you are. You are a star,
A mountain, that fountain in the sun.
Your heart is the velvet cave.
Where birds sing.

Are you remembering?




 COME TO ME
Come to me.
There is no darkness in which
I cannot see you.

Come to me.
My green heart holds your ancestors.
They are waiting to hear your dreams.

Speak to them. They know your name.
Do not imagine you are alone.
Do not imagine they have left you.
They are listening,
Waiting for your voice.

Come home. All of us are waiting.
Every bird remembers you.
The lion, in his pride, still knows your name.
The gazelle, the snake, the silver heron
Lifting at the shore— all these and more—
Your family.

Come back to me. 
You do not need to grind your bones to dust,
Rusting your heart.

You are known to us,
Only come home.

MY COUNTRY
In my country music is forbidden
Lest you hear it and start dancing in the streets,
Weeping for your glory.

In my country poetry is not allowed
For fear you will hear your name
And start speaking in tongues.

If you dance in my country,
They will break your bones
And turn you into beggars.

In my country, children are
Taught to march in rows.
Fear is baked in the bread.

I love my country.
There is no heartbreak,
Only misery.
Quiet as a hungry woman weeping.

I love my country.
There is no passion. It holds
Dampened desires, embraces, but no fires.

My country has safety.
My country has rules.
My country has no kings.
My country has no fools.

In my country, you would not be welcome.
Look what you’ve done to my daughter,
The way she combs her hair, humming,
And lives on water.

My son wants to follow you,
But I won’t allow it.
He has no need to see the mountains
And the sea.
And if he does,
He will just forget them.
As I have.

Once I lived in the country you call home.
It is the land of my ancestors
Which I left behind.
What did I need with clouds at my feet,
The moon still there for breakfast?
It was a treacherous country.
Freedom can break your heart.

I remember one night dancing
with a woman who stole my breath.
I was close to death from her kisses
She smelled like mist.
I still smell that woman if I dream.

If I dream, there is singing,
The ringing out of music in my bones.
If I dream, these cities turn to ashes,
The tall grasses sway again,
I laugh with friends.

Oh, you are dangerous to me.
My country can’t survive you—
And your laughter.

YOU DO KNOW ME
You know me.
I have been walking toward you on your breath.
You know me.
I have been waiting in your bones.
If I am unfamiliar, so is air.
I was always there.

When you were young and roaming the green hills
Smelling the sea—
That was me.

Later when you grew older and bolder

Then they knew
I was the street lamp on that wet night.
The Seine told you its secrets and said,
Begin.

You did begin. I was the window
That you saw you in—
I tapped the pane, you turned away.
You thought I was the cat—

And there was truth to that.

I have walked through alleys 
Darkened by your pain.
I have been those valleys
Where you saw again.

You do know me.

PEAR
It is like this.
There is a pear on the table.
Its flank is every woman I have ever known.

There are flowers in a vase by the window.
Peonies, lilacs, anemones, tulips.
Their petals are every woman
I have ever known.

The flesh of the pear.
The scent of the flower.
The soup boiled down from parts.
Our hearts are like this,
The mixture as before—
But one thing more—
You are my water.

JERUSALEM IS WALKING IN THIS WORLD
This is a great happiness.
The air is silk.
There is milk in the looks
That come from strangers. 
I could not be happier
If I were bread and you could eat me.
Joy is dangerous.
It fills me with secrets.
“Yes” hisses in my veins.
The pains I take to hide myself
Are sheer as glass.
Surely this will pass,
The wind like kisses,
The music in the soup,
The group of trees,
Laughing as I say their names.

It is all hosannah.
It is all prayer.
Jerusalem is walking in this world.
Jerusalem is walking in this world.

AFRICA
We are all Africa.
The moist darkness,
The beast moving through the trees.
We are jungle,
Waterfall,
The pitched screaming of a bird
We cannot name.

I am the light on the flank
Of that mountain—
Looming above the plain
Purple as a bruise.

What is there to lose?

I am the okapi
Leaping in the air—
And that, there,
The great and quiet snake,
Larger than a tree limb,
Draped across the path.
We all change shape.

In the morning light,
I am bright in my darkness.
“Panther” is just another word for night.
You’ve got that right.
That is part of me—
But we are all Africa.
And it is not the dark which makes this right.

There, from that still lake—
See the shape I make:
A rosy pink that rises like applause.
I sheath my claws, I feather my furred chest.
This is the best. I wheel like music.
We are all that winged thing.

We are all Africa. If I can say it, so can you.
The rain comes across the plain on legs like mine.
We are all Africa.

THE ELEMENTS
You drink me like water,
Lick me like salt,
Plow me like earth,
I make you grow.

The sun
On the mountain’s face
Burns its cheek.
That mountain is not weak.
And we are not so strong
The elements won’t change us.

There is a great force
Moving through us
Toward connection.

In the quiet wood,
The mountain gathers height.
The climb is high and steep.
The sloping shoulder changes weather.
On the north of trees,
Small plants sink their pylons into bark.

The sky is dark,
Clouds gather above us and below.
Don’t you know? love is an avalanche?
And a mountain,
And this,
The sudden snow.

A FAR COUNTRY
You are a far country.
Wind is the native tongue.
Distance is the custom.
Out of touch is the rule of thumb.
It would take body English
To cross your borders successfully.
The natives all play dumb. 

In my country, there is tea,
Sandwiches, a softly played piano.
Piano, piano, pianissimo.
In your country, there are drums.
The drums through the trees
Sound to my ear like thunder.
Your body shudders with the
Same drawn-out note.

All my niceties, the tastes I’ve acquired,
Get mired down in the thick of
your tricky weather—
Or slide away.
I watch my tea cart skid across the floor.
When I ask you, “More?” I do not mean
Anything we drink from a china cup.
And there is not enough.

In your country,
Dark is more visible than day;
Only fly by night can get it right
Flying blind, over jungle,
With no place to land,
You reach from the open cockpit
To feel rain on your hand.

TRUE NORTH
I.
An attraction creates a geography,
A territory of the heart
With boundaries, weather,
Dangers of the trail.
A need for plots,
Compasses, survival kits.
You are True North.

II.
I want to love you like a map,
With boundaries and possibilities.
I want to love you like a compass,
With intention and direction.
Like a knife, a gun,
An instinct toward protection.
I want to love you like a rope,
As thick and strong as hope.

THIS EARTH
This earth is not made
For our misery.
It does not grow on trees
Like the fruits.
You do not gather it like berries.
It is not a vegetable, a root,
The tall delicious grasses.
It does not swim in our sea or
Roam the prairies.

The earth knows sorrow—
Floods, famines, droughts
That scorch the earth to parchment so
Our names blow away like dust.

The earth knows loss—
Sudden frost, a pestilence,
Insects descending like dark
Buzzing clouds to eat even our thoughts.

The treacherous snow,
The rains that fall too early
Or too late. We can live with these.
The earth is practiced in these griefs.

They are natural, like the child who
Slips away despite our love.
The earth can hold and soften all these sorrows.
Just give her time. Time that turns her fields
From green to brown.
Time that curls the vine
To sweet tendrils,
Like tiny hands.

Our misery makes something else from time.
The ticking is not natural.
Our bodies know the cost.
Feel how they long to lay down amid the grasses.
Hear them sigh for a wind that carries
Cricket song and lark, a wind that sloughs and ripples
Like a river.

Our earth isn’t made from sound like that.
Take off your shoes. Lay your cheek.
To this dark earth who longs to comfort you.

This earth is not made for our misery.
We are made miserable, longing for this earth.

STAG
I saw a stag in the city.
Velvet-horned,
Sweat-soaked,
Reeking musk and manure,
Alone,
At dawn,
He made his way north.
Every cloven hoofprint
A cleft promise in the snow.
Oh.
How I miss your animal breath,
The casual warmth of your body.
I saw a stag in the city.

BODY ENGLISH


We speak in tongues.
My mouth to your ear.
Your ear to my mouth.
We speak in tongues.
Use body English.
Mouth to mouth,
Heart to heart.
Parts of speech.
Each.
Our every slip of the tongue is graceful.
Our best syllables are silent.
We speak in tongues.
Our skins make conversation.
Talk to me.

IT IS A SIMPLE THING
I notice the small things—
The spider creeping beneath the door,
The leaf that takes the air,
The silver hair burning at your temple.
It is a simple thing.
The moments pass and we pass with them.
Tell me why, knowing we all die, 
I cannot bear to hear you catch your breath.

THE QUIET ANIMAL
Oh quiet animal, sleeping,
What dreams lie within your cells?
What ages brought you here
Through coal and ice?
Eye twitch, lip curl—
Blood dreams again.

Blood is always dreaming,
Scheming to move us forward
And take us back,
Dreaming the dark places,
Caves and the backs of stars.

Your ivory bones are the tusks of time
Who eats with all our mouths.
That crescent moon? It’s just a bone
Thrown beyond our reach.
The stars at night were someone’s baby teeth.

The blood remembers
What the mind forgets.
The soul is a quiet animal.
Given less to thought than memory,
More to dreams than plan,
The soul owes more to half-remembered gods
Than waking life as man.

YOU CANNOT NAME ME
You cannot name me.
You do not know my name.
I am not that small and foolish thing
You would have me be.

You cannot name me.
I am an arrow shot through time.
My rhyme is not so narrow as your reason.
Do not doubt.
I will have my season.

You’d make me small.
You’d make me call you “Sir.”
As if I were some cur,
Mewling through the streets,
Whipped and yellow.
I am not that fellow
You would meet.

There’s a blindness in your eyes.
You cannot see my size.

I am larger than your fears,
Deeper than the tears God wept for ocean.
We are meant to do devotion out of love.

The hawk, the dove,
The black bear and her cub,
The oak, the ash,
The willow and the grass—
Each has its song
And you have got mine wrong
To name me as small.

And if I wear your cell,
I’ll burst it like a shell.
I’ll be both large and small.
I’ll name me after all.

The letters you don’t use—
Those are what I choose.

PINK IVORY
I am pink ivory.
Only a king can claim me.
And he— only once a year.
Among my ebony sister,
I am pale as an English rose.
In the heart of their great darkness
I am the light that grows.
The music that I make,
The shape I breathe to breath
Can mean a sudden death
To careless men who fell me
as they please.
I am the queen of trees.
I know my place.
I know the man it takes.
I am pink ivory
Only a king can claim me.
Only a king can name me.
Name me. Never tame me.
I am pink ivory.

AFRICAN KING
I am an African king.
My music flows through your streets
Like dark water amid the trees.

Paler than ivory, my smile
Is a sickle moon.
You own no room that
Is large enough to hold me.

A cat that moves through black,
I am exactly that.
My sound disturbs the ground you think you’ve found.
I am freer than I show.
You do not know me.

I am an African king.
My ancestors slept beneath the moon.
They heard the drumming and the flood
Of their own blood.
That blood’s in me.
I am always free.
A fire might gutter out
But not that moon
And that moon knows my singing.
That moon hears me ringing
Through streets of steel and shadows made from stone.
The shape of tooth and claw,
That moon fills you with awe.
I am an African king.
It sings me home.

WHEN HE FOUND ME
I was wandering in the desert
When he found me.
He was a stranger.
He spoke a foreign tongue. He called my name and
Gave me water.

“You thirst for your true nature,”
He said without speaking.
My heart sang like a plucked string.
I was not imagining this thing.

I am an ordinary man.
My life was simple as bread.
When he turned his head away,
I started weeping.

“You are awake,” he said.
“You have been sleeping.”
This was true,
And so I followed him.

Who knew he could turn water into wine?
Who knew that trick with loaves and fishes?
The garden and the rock, the mother weeping—
Who knew? He knew them all.

If you ask me, he answered as was called.
I would not change a thing he led me to.
Man or God he taught me—
Simply do what you must do.

I was wandering in the desert
When he found me.
He was a stranger.
He spoke a foreign tongue.
He called my name and gave me water.
What is there in this, that I should falter?

LANTERN MOON
There is a lantern moon
Which rides the coast.
It is a moon which causes men
To remember.
You know this moon.
You have seen it from your bedroom window.
It has caught you walking, 
Stalking dreams before the dawn.
This is the moon
That knows your secret heart,
The moon that knows you
Better than a son.
Why are you hiding your dark face?
This moon is expert at that game.
What do you gain by holding back your name?
This moon saw your birth.
This moon knows your worth.
This moon is silver gold
Just like your soul.

COUNTRY OF CONTRADICTIONS
I am a country of contradictions.
I have a mountainous heart,
Full of switchbacks and passes—
Fissures and crevasses—
Where the snow, this late in August,
Is still frozen, so—
I will not make predictions.
There are parts of me that may never thaw— or—
Avalanches, flood,
This love is tricky.
Like my blood.

I am a country of contradictions.
A sable slinks between the trees.
A falcon takes the breeze.
A tiny flower points up like a star.
Below there is a river.
Below there is a flow.
Below there is a verdant green
That grows from my deep snow.

THE DOORWAY
I had been traveling a long time.
Each face looked the same to me.
The mountain and the plain,
The sun and the rain—
They blurred together.
I was my weather
What I owned I carried on my back,
A simple pack, weighty as a stone—
I called that home.
It might have gone on like that forever—
You never know.
In crossing a great desert,
You cannot think about it, so
I lived my life a footstep at a time.
I saw ahead no further than the blind,
And didn’t mind.

The village was small;
The mountains tall;
The air was thin and clear.
I had no way of knowing she was near.
The street was steep;
The snow was deep;
The houses hunched like beggars.
I didn’t look inside—
All of us have hungers.

I heard a high-pitched screaming.
I thought it was the wind.
I heard a high-pitched screaming.
It screamed— and screamed again.

Then I saw the doorway.
Then I saw her face.
I saw, like me, she’d traveled
To every far-off place.

I saw that she was lonely.
I saw she was alone.
I saw her beckon to me.
I saw I’d traveled home.

We tell this story laughing,
We turn it like a stone.
She says she wasn’t screaming—
That was me— alone.

One of us was screaming.
One of us, afraid.
It doesn’t make a difference,
With the difference it’s made.

UNPREPARED
I.
I’m not prepared for this.
I can’t pronounce this bliss.
The way we flow,
The knowing where to go.

This ebb and flow—
Can’t we take it slow?
Where are the walls,
The shadows in the halls?
This light—
Can it be right?
Where does it come from?

I’ve known a different sun,
Walked a different earth
Where air was used for grieving.
I think— we’re leaving.

II.
Before we met
I knew your face
From stars and stones.
I knew your name
From wind and grasses.

Before we met
The red earth held my heart,
The sky cradled my dreams,
The forest floor was my green bed.
These were what I wed
Before we met.

Now that you are here
I am wed to galaxies.
Our sky does not contain me.
Our sun is a candle to what I see.

Sheer as a cliff, the walls drop away.

THERE IS A MUSIC
There is a music.
You hear it in the blood.
Keening like a mother,
Whispering like a lover,
Marching like a brother off to war.

There is a music.
Flowing like a river,
You smell it on the air.

It is a trail for me,
Between those rocks,
Along the cliff edge,
Down the slope.

It is a river that cartographers
Don’t allow.
They’ll never show it.

There is a trail.

I’ll leave notes.

AFTER MAGELLAN
I want to pretend that the earth
Is not round.
I want to pretend I don’t love you.
Loving you has changed everything. ec
I know that walking toward the horizon
Will solve nothing.
There is no final edge,
No step I can take, last,
To reach an end.
The earth curves away from me.
Leaning forward, reaching,
It meets me from behind.
Touched, not touching,
I am your lover.
You encircle me as surely
As this earth I walk away from.

SURVIVAL
I can imagine a life without you.
A sky with no stars.
A time before language.
A primitive age
With values relating to survival.

I can imagine a world without sound,
In which no bells ring,
In which birds wing silent
Across skies muted by lack of sun.

What I cannot imagine is my survival—
Still living, still breathing,
When it is air that I am missing.

I am trying not to miss you.
I am trying not to breathe.

ON A MAP OF AMERICA
On a map of America, I could draw a line between us.
I could hang that line with lanterns.
At the mid-point, the rendezvous,
The lantern could be pink, not blue.
From a distance, it would look like a single heart.

Meet me there.
Meet me at the spot where
We are not what we fear
And never were except in years
When we had no lanterns and no light.

Imagine: in our trust
We stand on the dust
Of ashes and of diamonds.
Imagine: even in this darkness,
I have got that right.

BELIEVING IN KANSAS
At the hospital, they change the bandages
In shifts. Every morning, while the rain drips
Like glucose. Later, while the sun slants
Through the blinds, like bamboo slits.
In the evening, too, when it fits.

They work quickly, tearing off soft strips of gauze.
Snowy white and soft like the downy backs of moths.
In Kansas, at twilight, the moths come down like snow.
It’s different here. Their flight seems bumpy.
I don’t know. I might be jumpy. It was crazy there.

They found me clutching the hand of a small child
They say I killed its mother, or perhaps another.
They found me shoeless. Without a foot.
I’d stepped on a mine that should have killed me.
It was crazy there. I swear
They were all the enemy.

I have asked for a different nurse,
One with healing hands.
One who understands
The miracle of crop growth,
The cycle of dormancy,
The promise of a wind-swept plain.

I have asked for a nurse
Who believes in Kansas,
She must see me walk,
Two-legged and whole,
Striding through fields drowsy with grain.
She must believe, like Kansas,
There is always spring, always rain.

DEEP MUSIC
I am a deeper music
Than your bells,
Hung by their throats
In some high steeple,
Tolling out the muffled notes
Of monks.

I am a music of canyon rock,
Of valley, of city street,
Of alley—
You hear my beat.
You walk it with your feet.

An infant’s cry,
An elder’s sigh—
I am all of these.
A panther in your streets,
I take my ease.

I’m you and all of these.

The red heart of this green earth,
I am molten at the core—
And I am more.

I am a music shaped by ocean.
My depths hold icy fire,
Like distant stars.
My sound is ours.

We are a music chorded by the wind.
Our singing spans this planet
Like silken ropes.
Hear you in me.
We are a unity.

I am your dreams and hopes.
I am your loss, your grieving.
All that you are leaving,
All that’s gone before and falls
Behind. I am that wine
Distilled from what you’ve been.
I am the place that you begin
What you’re becoming.

I am the drumming,
That deep humming,
That summing up of parts
That makes us whole.
I am your soul.

Believe me when I say
I am deep music.
Hear me as I whistle
Through your veins.
Hear me as I lullaby
Your pains.
Hear as I say,
And say again,
I am deep music.

Only choose it and my note
Becomes your own.
We are one.
We are all what we have sung
And are becoming.
Open up your throat
And cast your vote.
We are deep music.

WHY WE WRITE
There are many things which resist naming,
And that is why we write.
We write because language is slippery,
And truth is.
We write because
The light we have to see by
Is always shifting.

Never forget that writers are prophets.
We speak in tongues.
We testify.
We are for each other a believing mirror.
Our words make us visible.
Our listening makes us heard.

Never forget that writers are soldiers.
Our writing is the long march,
The walk into time.
Each word is a drum.
We sound it across great distances,
Reaching one another and ourselves.
Every poem is a day’s march.
A celebration more necessary than water or wine.
Every poem is a drink of blood.

Never forget that writing is an act of courage—
Not on the days when it is simple and we discount it.
Not on the days when it is hard and we write like sand.
Our words are torches.
We pass them hand to hand
And mouth to mouth
Like a burning kiss.

Never forget to say thank you.
Every syllable is a grace.