French Toast

ah my mother used to make it
with eggs and milk
and stale white bread

slid onto a plate with
Log Cabin fake maple syrup
and I always wanted more

to disappear what troubled me
the man under the moon
the man in our living room

make enough spitting bacon
to forget the broken gameboards
splintered bat

missing family car
his vanishings and sudden returns
smelling of other rooms

my mother’s tears
over the stove
her catchy milky breath

Harm or Home You Can Only Make One

why did he descend on her
eagle to little brown wren

beneath his vermilion dives
talons pulling prey from the lake

he wanted a sweetness not himself
when he covered her she gasped

if she flew all day
he found her in a moment

the seeds she found not enough
her own young ravished her warm breast

Related Poems

Morning in the Burned House

In the burned house I am eating breakfast.
You understand: there is no house, there is no breakfast,
yet here I am.

The spoon which was melted scrapes against
the bowl which was melted also.
No one else is around.

Where have they gone to, brother and sister,
mother and father? Off along the shore,
perhaps. Their clothes are still on the hangers,

their dishes piled beside the sink,
which is beside the woodstove
with its grate and sooty kettle,

every detail clear,
tin cup and rippled mirror.
The day is bright and songless,

the lake is blue, the forest watchful.
In the east a bank of cloud
rises up silently like dark bread.

I can see the swirls in the oilcloth,
I can see the flaws in the glass,
those flares where the sun hits them.

I can't see my own arms and legs
or know if this is a trap or blessing,
finding myself back here, where everything

in this house has long been over,
kettle and mirror, spoon and bowl,
including my own body,

including the body I had then,
including the body I have now
as I sit at this morning table, alone and happy,

bare child's feet on the scorched floorboards
(I can almost see)
in my burning clothes, the thin green shorts

and grubby yellow T-shirt
holding my cindery, non-existent,
radiant flesh. Incandescent.

Failure

I’m standing at the stove cooking pancakes
when in walks a goat.
The goat is black and white and gives me
a look over the bridge of his nose that I recognize
as a look of sadness.
And so I have a sad goat in my kitchen.
The tornado sirens have stopped.
He’s countertop height.
The cast on my arm under the sleeve
of my sweater isn’t visible to the goat, and I’m
glad for that. I flip the pancakes.
The goat shakes gently his beard, kicks
his left hoof, and stomps. I try to imagine
anything as smooth as a flipped pancake
as I wait for the other side to brown.

Lament

Listen, children:
Your father is dead.
From his old coats
I'll make you little jackets;
I'll make you little trousers
From his old pants.
There'll be in his pockets
Things he used to put there,
Keys and pennies
Covered with tobacco;
Dan shall have the pennies
To save in his bank;
Anne shall have the keys
To make a pretty noise with.
Life must go on,
And the dead be forgotten;
Life must go on,
Though good men die;
Anne, eat your breakfast;
Dan, take your medicine;
Life must go on;
I forget just why.