Four Slateku

What is the point of travel
For a DeafBlind person
Other than the food the people the shops
And all that

Part one young
Question mother father
Know right name
Work some day


The mutant four-fingered carrot
Is in the pot and growing
Sweeter as it relaxes
Its grip


When we say good morning
In Japanese Sign Language
We pull down a string
To greet each other in a new light

At the Holiday Gas Station

Near the Naked Juices I passed
A man my fingers walking
Across his back he turned and held up
A box said what
Might this be I said oh
You’re tactile too what’s your name
He said William Amos Miller I said
I thought you were born in 1872 he said so
You know who I am yes you’re the man
Who journeyed to the center of Earth
In your mind he smiled on my arm said do
You know that the Earth also journeyed
To the center of my mind I said
I never thought of that he asked
Again about the box I shook it sniffed
Said Mike and Ike is it fruit
He inquired not exactly well
I think I shall have an apple wait
You haven’t paid oh
My money nowadays is no money he pushed
Outside we walked across the ice
To the intersection he made to go across
Wait you can’t go across we have to wait
For help oh help he said crouching
Until our hands touched the cold ground
He said I said we said we see
With our hands I jumped up and said you’re the man

The Mansion

It all changed
when the daughters of  men
began giving birth to us.

We had no hair.

Our mothers held us
against their thick hair.

It tickled our throats
as we suckled.

There were more and more and more
of us.

The hairy said,
“We want your smooth.”

We said,
“We want your hairy.”

We all wept
because no one
had what they wanted.

We escaped more and more
to the beach.

The hairy hated water
but it was different for us.

Our hips swiveled
as we climbed
deeper and deeper.

We held our breath.

We told our hairy families
that we belonged in the water.

They clutched at us.

One day
one of us
found it.

Our first pearl.

So smooth.

So strong.

So perfect.

We raked our fingers
through the sea bottom.

We stuffed coral with pearls
and molded it.

Among the seaweed and shells
our mansion rose.

One day
one of us
went back to the shore.

She showed
a pearl to them.

They said,
“We will give you
five bags of hair.”

Some of  us became traders
while the rest built.

The more magnificent our mansion became
the more pearls they wanted.

They said to our traders,
“We will give you
ten bags of hair for each pearl.”

Our traders brought back
bags and bags of hair.

We raced
through our winding passageways
to deposit the bags.

We loved rubbing along
our smooth bumpy walls.

Food grew on our walls
and we suckled the pearls.

We kissed.

Some of our bellies grew
into enormous pearls.

Some of  our babies
were hairy yet so slick!

Then we found
fewer and fewer pearls.

We raked the sea bottom
farther and farther away.

The traders pressed for more.

They pressed and pressed and pressed.

We convened
and said no.

Some of our traders said,
“But we have to have hair!”

We laughed and said,
“For what?”

Then we found
a hollowed-out wall.

Another wall swayed loose.

And in our storage cavern
hair began seeping
out of the bags.

Hair crawled
all over our walls.

Suckling the pearls,
hair got into our mouths.

hair got in between our lips.

We awoke
with strands around our necks.

We tore them off.

We gathered hair off
our precious walls.

We told the thieves,
“Stop bringing back hair!”

But they could not help it.

They stole more pearls
and returned with more bags.

They said,
“We must do it.”

They said,
“The world demands it.”

They said,
“Hair is the only way.”

We convened
and decided.

Thirty-two thousand years later
bubbles of our laughter
still rise.

A few
still sell pearls
and wonder where we are.

Related Poems


The tug on my arm but soon spread
Perhaps now they could prove me there.

I've been watching the sky closely & for some time,
My hands in it, making crude, beautiful doves.

Sometimes a sprinkler spits
An arc of silver water over me,

Hissing, bisecting. Half of a thing
As much of a thing as ever can be.

If they have to water it, it's not a real field.
It's a yard, connected to a white building.

Once, I was inside a building.
Tooth, your shadow the color of the hour.


There was a smell of some spice,
I don't know what it was called.
I wanted to take a bath, change my gravity;
Feel my skin loose & leave a ring.
The man said they only had shower stalls. 
Those were the days everyone lived
In fear of a fierce spouse,
Paddling through the steam,
Something in her hand:
Hair-dryer, toaster, leaf-blower,
Plugged-in & zinging.
And you there, stewing in your own 
Sauce, whistling an oldie.


Deaf by dawn & if dawn comes
Day may break--bellowing
Below thing, be low, sing,
Slinging blows, blowing slang
Songs, bowing. Bring out the big
Amp, vinyl torn, plywood exposed,
I think the tubes are ready, sir,
The dew I flicked on them leapt & left


Steelsleet, the weather from the recycle tower
Less yellow as it lowers, a film of its tinting
The buildings, tinning the yards with first light.

I've seen the hours of train from above on the bridge,
Each car brimmed with rusty blades, broken bayonets,
Naked bent frames of things. . . .I can't tell. . . . 

Can you smell the crimson? And the cars behind me,
Metal mixed at the proper ratio, careen dying to be there,
Gasoline hemorrhaging, pistons punching themselves out.

The barge gravid with metal took its miles to pass as I stood
On the bank not saluting, thinking now, now what am I going to do.

The first blast of the opening ore-oven decays all decay.
The scraps shine. The smelting starts seamless, top down, bottom up.
Hollowing. Hello, thing. Hell, lathing. Howlingly singing holes.


So what are you going to be?
--A ghost.
I stole a white sheet from a line.
Leaves were stuck to it, I'll 
Punch some holes in it, I'll
Jump from the balconies
Of bleached buildings