The Day I Learn Her Diagnosis

I walk to clear my head.
There are no angels living under
the freeway overpass, no colors

where you are from, your brain
a jumble of neurons,
stretched and hiccupping.

Soon snow will come, fill
the negative space of your body’s
landing, erase all evidence

that once you painted a blank
canvas with your fear
unbuttoned. I have carried you

like a stone inside hope-emptied
pockets, like shame, like a word
I could not say out loud.

Now a voice, less heard than felt,
hallows my deepest parts,
opens me like a Bible.

Oh, Mama, can you picture it?
Me on my knees, the moon
in a mad orange flare.

Bethal Ridge Cemetary

On the edge that time thins, I stood
with aching arms, in a wrinkled dress.
Among the stones a holier-than-thou,
dark-robed and flailing,
recited psalms by the shovelful.

It’s the body that feels pain,
but the brain delivers it.
To this day, sometimes driving
I see black wings flapping between
bare branches and overreact.

Someone once told me we make
everyone in our dreams into another
version of ourselves, that rage isn’t rage
but sorrow turned back on itself,
the shape made of regret.

There must have been birds,
the noon-time smell of grass.
I can’t say. Feathered arias
and earthy balms are not meant for
a woman with a fist in each pocket.

The Weeds In This Garden

Long ago, I built a self outside myself.
I ate what my family ate, answered

to my name, but when they said let us pray,
I kept my eyes open. There is a price

to be paid for resistance. Whatever
you call me, I have called myself

worse, invented words made up
of letters from my own name.

Now the backs of my hands, all bone
and strain, I think cannot be mine.

Who hasn’t killed herself at least once,
only to grow into someone needier?

Who hasn’t bent with her wounds
to a mutinous patch, weeds

shooting up like false rhubarb,
every wisp, stem, and sodden pith

a testament? Who hasn’t scratched
at the question of what it means to be here?

I Come From A Place So Deep Inside America It Can't Be Seen

White oaks thrash, moonlight drifts
the ceiling, as if I'm under water.
Propane coils, warms my bones.

Gone are the magics and songs,
all the things our grandmothers buried—
piles of feathers and angel bones,

inscribed by all who came before.
When I was twelve, my cousins
called me ugly, enough to make it last.

Tonight a celebrity on Oprah
imagines a future where features
can be removed and replaced

on a whim. A moth presses wings
thin as paper against my window,
more beautiful than I could ever be.

Ryegrass raise seedy heads
beyond the bull thistle and preen.
Everything alive aches for more.