This City

could use more seraphs.
Anything with wings, really—

a falcon, a swallowtail.
Ravenous for marvels, I slit open
a chrysalis. Inside,
no caterpillar mid-morph.
Only its ghost in a horror of cells.
I pinch the luminous mash
of imaginal discs
and shudder, imagining
the mechanics of disintegration.
The wormy larva—whole,
then whorled. A wonder
it did not die. Even now,
smeared against my skin, it beams

like the angel in the tomb
prepared to proclaim a rising.

Elegy Composed in the New York Botanical Garden

Catmint—tubular, lavender, an ointment
to blur the scar, bloom the skin. My mouth has begun
the hunt for words that heal.

In the garden, I am startled by a cluster
of sun-colored petals marked, Radiation.
Piles of radiation. Orange radiation, huddled together

like families bound by a hospital-bright morning.
And behind them: a force of yuccas
called Golden Swords. A bush or mound

of sheath-like leaves sprouting from a proud center.
And isn’t that the plot?
First the radiation, then the golden sword.

I remember, incurably,
your mother. The laughter that flowered
from her lips. I’m sorry I have no good words

to honor her war. It crumbled me to watch you
overwhelmed by her face
in the daffodils outside your childhood home.


My baby brandishes a wooden knife
meant to halve a wooden shallot

as he hollers his newest word. Knife.
Look at my son, flashing

his dagger, jamming it into plush
animals. Knife, knife. Look at him,

oblivious to the weapons
littering his lineage or, God forbid,

possessed by them. Can the babies
planted in the dirt of our bodies

absorb the torments buried there?
My gentle, watchful child

wants all the knives. But some days,
everywhere, blue. The bear, blue.

The bells, blue, the car, the cup,
the light. I marvel at my son,

who marvels at the sky—blue, blue
no matter how gray the bully of clouds.

And this is all I want.
Look at my son laughing at the rain.

Look how he prods the window
with his knife, insisting

we cut up the storm, demanding 
the blue back into view.

Related Poems

Ars Poetica (cocoons)

Six monarch butterfly cocoons
      clinging to the back of your throat—

      you could feel their gold wings trembling.

You were alarmed. You felt infested.
In the downstairs bathroom of the family home,
      gagging to spit them out—
            and a voice saying Don’t, don’t—