As a Father of Daughters

As a fathom of waters 
As a keeper of otters 
As a fan of the Dodgers 
As a foremost scholar 
As a leaver of mothers 
As a giver of quarters 
As a failure of rathers 
As a faithful supporter 
As we gather together 
As a fear of disorder 
As a phantom of operas 
As defender of borders 
As a frayer of wires 
As a friend of the doctor’s 
As an author of gospels 
As a field after slaughter

Related Poems

René Descartes and the Clockwork Girl

In man, it was written, are found the elements
and their characteristics, for he passes
from cold to hot, moisture to dryness.
He comes into being and passes out of being
like the minerals, nourishes and reproduces
like the plants, has feeling and life
like animals. His figure resembles the terebinth;
his hair, grass; veins, arteries; rivers, canals;
and his bones, the mountains.

Then the vascular system was discovered.
Pump and pulley replaced wind and mill
sweeping blood down those dusty roads.
And Descartes, the first to admit
he supposed a body to be nothing
but a machine made of earth. Mere clockwork.
He found this a comfort because
you can always wind a machine back up.

The Chimera was a clock in the form of a leviathan,
Memento Mori was the shape of skull.
Spheres and pendants, water droplets and pears.
Milkmaids tugging udders on the hour.
Some kept time using Berthold’s new equation,
some invented the second hand. The Silver Swan
sits in a stream of glass ripples and gilded leaves,
swallowing silver-plated fish as music plays.

After Descartes’ daughter died,
he took to the sea. They say he went
so mad with grief he remade her
as automaton. A wind-up cog and lever
elegy hidden in the cargo hold.

He said the body is a machine
and he may well be right about that.
But when she was so hot with fever
she could not breathe, and then so suddenly cold,
he held his fingers on her wrist and felt
only his own heart pumping. All the wind
and water of a daughter became a vast meadow
that has no design and no function
and there is no way beyond that stretch of grass.

Grief, the sailors said, is a hex
and contagion and it will draw the wind
down from the sails. It will stopper
in the glass jar sitting like a heart
in the chamber of a mechanical girl
with mechanical glass eyes. On a ship beleaguered
by storm, they ripped open the box
with a crowbar to find the automaton
Descartes called Francine because he missed
saying her name. They threw her into the wake
and his face became a moon in the black
deep, each wave lapping it under.

He supposed that if you thought hard enough
you should be able to understand,
for example, how a stick would refract
in water even if you had never seen a stick
or water or the light of day. By this means,
he said, your mind will be delivered.

If you think hard enough, you can light a fire
in the hearth. Your child can press herself
against your knee and snug her shoulder into yours
as you wind the clock of a girl like and unlike her,
who can walk three remarkable skips and blink
and curtsy politely before ticking down.

It may be there is no wind blowing
blood through the body, but, arm around her,
you feel how she flushes with fiery amazement
as she puts her little hand over her own
cuckooing heart, because this is what we do
when Papa has taken our breath away.

Single Kings of the Valley

Our father becomes one. Barrel-Chested
with Longboard seeks Mate. King Father
is dating. Long live the King. He asks out

colleagues, neighbors, strangers he meets
at Spazzio’s Jazz Night, Zuma Beach.
He dates the moonlight, his reflection,

the long-ago that got away. The King says
Why the hell shouldn’t I get what I’ve longed for?
Nip waist, taut tum. Where is she? His exile

from the good stuff. You girls can’t imagine
the pain you’ll cause men. Nope, we don’t
& we can’t yet but we do know the King

cannot consider us worthy. How could he?
As women, we fail him daily. Love, I’m learning,
is peeling your mind from your body, throwing

one or both sad sacks of self out to sea. Love
is blood & our father. I give no inch. I judge
the world from the margins of diaries. Men

are the problem with everything. King Father
slices lemons from our lemon trees. Citrus grows
in the grove beneath my bed. Mom lived

in our guesthouse for three years before leaving.
She peeled herself slowly off his heart like a scab.
What is the point of such maiming? Now the King

isn’t careful when he walks by the branches.
He barges through trees & their thorns.
King Single can’t remember his heart soft

& rindless. The new women are beautiful,
or not, or enough to get by. I watch him
take a lover. She is insane. The king peels

a lemon, lays each slice on her plate.
She requests lime. He hands us
whole fruits when we eat at the table.

He takes his longboard to the ocean,
                                  kicks flat water into waves.

From the language of ash

The translator undresses. Tries on the shape of the work she translates. Stuffs her new belly with his engorged sex. Tries not to re-write his words tries to give her self over to his syntax. In the end, she wears her same nakedness.

volcano spews ash
thick clouds that touch the heavens
cover her body

transient—passing by or away from one place to another.

her thick fingers
trees damaged by a hard storm
downed power lines

rendering something written or spoken in different but equivalent form or state to a different place, office, or sphere by which information in messenger RNA directs the sequence

from the language of ash: the women in her family are beautiful and alone.

yellow park flower
its petals its leaves