elegy in which the world is visible / invisible / or immanent inside a body

your father, greying now and shrinking,
swings the leaf blower out before him

and hurls the red tree’s leaves back into the garden
while your mother pulls weeds like failed lines

from a poem she will never finish. i want to ask her,
what is the name for grief when it is no longer grief?

did your parents plant the red tree the year you died?
or the year we cut down all the palms

that lined the street and cracked the concrete
as they fell. why do things like this persist?

when a mind has died what is the name
for the breaking of the world inside it?

my daughter – now five – runs by me,
all language (by which i mean the world)

is immanent inside her. if you had lived,
what would you have said to her

as she curled herself against your ribs?
when i explain the world and what it was

before she was born,  she goes quiet
and disappears into her own gaze

as though watching her own ghost
walking through a room,

as though she sees a world
that never was.

to my dumb left lung

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at this poem’s beginning pneumonia
is the first word suggested
by predictive text. then marathon.
then thank you.

dear shadow-patched and broken lung,
did you know i haven’t written anything
that matters for months?
did you welcome the barbarians
because you knew that at least
would make for some kind of story?
do you understand narrative structure?
tension? velocity?
was it you who replaced language
with these frequencies of silence?

did you – you strange and strangled flower,
you broken bagpipe – did you intend
a reason to actually slow?
to walk like a bad heart, grateful
for each thump and staggered footfall?
to understand how altitude
trades for oxygen and arrives at blue?
to find the poetry in being swallowed?
to know the earth and how it kisses
with its whole mouth? to swallow saltwater?
to open wide and swallow sea?

to wake up in the morning drowning
in it, bobbing eyes to sky,
swallowing the blue,
kissing with your whole mouth, wheezing pneumonia, marathon,

thank you.

the birth of rome

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1.

imagine god is a wolf
at the banks of the Tiber.
in its jaws wolf-god
holds a baby by the scruff,
another child lodged somewhere
in its throat.

2.

imagine wolf-god drops the baby
in the reeds at river’s edge.
lets it roll into the shallows.
the baby, fresh and filmed
with blood, can’t tell howl
from lung from water,
can’t tell bone from sky
from fur.

3.

imagine now that wolf-god
starts to tremble, drops its head
and starts to wretch.
watch as wolf-god rasps its throat
and wracks itself in spasms.
watch as wolf-god wretches up
the other- child who can’t tell blood
from blood
from blood.

4.

imagine though that other-child
knows just how the story goes,
knows he’ll grow to kill his brother,
found a city full of weeping wives,
and watch the city tumour into empire.

imagine other-child wants to speed-up
history.

imagine that before the wolf-god
births the other-child, other-child digs
his little hands past wolfy throat, tears
through wolfy lungs, finds the wolfy heart
and eats it.

and watch as other-child
drags itself from wolf-god’s carcass,
mouth all full of wolf-heart,
watch it sets its eyes upon its brother,
watch him take the brother in his little hands
and drown it.

5.

see that this is how the world is sung –
waterlogged and blue,
twitching in the hands of boy,
as boy looks down at what he’s made,
boy with dead-god dripping
from his mouth,
boy with yellow-eyes and yawning,
boy whose jawline breaks and swings
as lips pull into a smile,
boy who spits the gristle of a dead-god 
off a soft pink tongue
and shows the swell of gums

o, this is how the world is sung-
o, little howl hurled up to sky,
o, swallower of hearts.

(oh lord, hercules is drunk again, face down in the water, trying to swallow the sea)

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water always finds a
level. squid will always
rise to a flourescent light
at night. you can hook
them easy then. tangle
their little legs on steel.
at night the fishing boats
untangle themselves
from the dock. press
out into the waiting black.
drop their silver garland lines
and wait. some nights
I am so afraid to sleep.
some nights – a waiting sea.
most days we remind
ourselves of the world.
one day
we don’t wake up.

Slow growth

O PAINTING

It will have been months since you’ve written
anything that matters, on a day you’ll think yourself
to be a fat and slowing story, or another sinking stone.
You’ll wake and read someone else’s poem
about angels and bombs and how, on detonation,
a thing will weigh precisely nothing. You’ll think
of how a flame, viewed correctly, can appear
to be a flower birthed from air. And you, your hands
all full of mud, will think your bones have turned
to hardwood, will think of white ants in your blood,
will think your joints could crack and bleed out sap –
all this until your daughter, who woke an hour before you,
holds a flower out to you and says she wants to dance.
And as you haul your dogwood bones up off the floor
you’ll wonder if you’ve somehow caught alight,
if you’re both a kind of slow explosion,
as you and she, both dancing now,
don’t seem to weigh a thing.

Asahi Draught

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What a strange inversion
of your plans –
to have come so far
in search of language
and to find so little speech

But to find instead an ocean
opened up inside you –
to call that ocean love
and feel a loneliness
to part the sea

To feel this otherness
only as an ache
for the holy
of the returning flight

And you, self-referential to the end,
no urge to shed a van Gogh ear,
no need to force a poem,
resolve to sit,
to nurse a beer in Takayama
and convince your heart
of something small

That this loneliness might yet be
a song pecking out the shell of you –
that this slow returning urge to write
might be held, and fanned to flame

The way a home might be a vessel
cradling, giving voice to quiet

Gate 7

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for m & o

How all this paranoid velocity
requires such a weight of waiting,
stacks seven stones in the throat,
finds seven ways of waving goodbye,
seven ways of saying perhaps I’ll stay,
seven ways of turning and going
and stacks so much glass
between there
and there
and there

A mathematics of language
would be needed now
to render how a body,
caught between two planes,
finds itself to be nowhere,
and how nowhere might be anywhere or everywhere
where revelation winks
in the holy of the list,
the blinking of an LCD screen

now departing,
now departing,
now departing,
                          
how I wish that you were here
to still this winking heart’s delay