I Don't Say Goodbye, I Only Say Ciao—

What bloody lense holds firm between this mystery & us? Two shiny crows 
tapping intelligently on the glass of a dream.

              Please! Do not make me do the human things—

I must tend to my many plankton realities, 
                          must be off with my better self:
                                                                            One million faces lined 
                          along a mirrored tunnel & in each that same tricky knot begging.

You couldn’t know how long I suffered over it, my long waiting at the end of the maze.

I can only guess what you think I’m after,             stretching in the mirror 
while you rattle on about sabotage,

                                                       an old tension springing in the body.

Related Poems

A fourteen-line poem on healing

1. I cannot freeze sound
2. or collapse phantom scaffolding
3. I open one contradiction
4. after another. They call this “erotic intelligence”
5. or emptiness
6. They abuse the powdery line
7. at once blessed and beautiful
8. and blank
9. as benign limbs
10. Where have you gone in your red dress?
11. You have done nothing wrong and you are not condemned
12. Naked as a word
13. the body’s modifications, no matter how infinitesimal
14. are all that is given

Imperatives for Carrying On in the Aftermath

Do not hang your head or clench your fists
when even your friend, after hearing the story,
says: My mother would never put up with that.

Fight the urge to rattle off statistics: that,
more often, a woman who chooses to leave
is then murdered. The hundredth time

your father says, But she hated violence,
why would she marry a guy like that?—
don’t waste your breath explaining, again,

how abusers wait, are patient, that they
don’t beat you on the first date, sometimes
not even the first few years of a marriage.

Keep an impassive face whenever you hear
Stand by Your Man, and let go your rage
when you recall those words were advice

given your mother. Try to forget the first
trial, before she was dead, when the charge
was only attempted murder; don’t belabor

the thinking or the sentence that allowed
her ex-husband’s release a year later, or
the juror who said, It’s a domestic issue—

they should work it out themselves. Just
breathe when, after you read your poems
about grief, a woman asks: Do you think

your mother was weak for men? Learn
to ignore subtext. Imagine a thought-
cloud above your head, dark and heavy

with the words you cannot say; let silence
rain down. Remember you were told
by your famous professor, that you should

write about something else, unburden
yourself of the death of your mother and
just pour your heart out in the poems.

Ask yourself what’s in your heart, that
reliquary—blood locket and seed-bed—and
contend with what it means, the folk-saying

you learned from a Korean poet in Seoul:
that one does not bury the mother’s body
in the ground but in the chest, or—like you—

you carry her corpse on your back.

Travelling Against

Give me the common or the rare, as they roll

We are mistaken in what we survive,
in what we must eliminate.

The ladies at the plate glass persist,
reviving their brutal martyrdoms,
worn thin by the abuse of soap,
the contour of teacups in unison

against smallpox, cosmetic agriculture,
and wartime rape. And a woman

they believe unrecognizable
as such.

She is given to volatility around faith.
Faith in where the unlivable gathers

like thistle,
like wild yeast's affinity for chance

where sexual impatience bursts from the sudden rise
like malady. And it is knee-deep

in mustard, in scattered hybrids
of deliberate imperfection.

Slice through against chronicle. Slip your thumb
under the seam where the signal tugs
forward. Pain,

where you grasp it,
is not what you don't want
any more

than an uncontaminated vat remains sterile,
and cannot

Be treated better,
Or promoted across palate.

Be perverse in your indifference to recommend
a local history. Keep the virus for study,
keep this loss of mime. I know

so little,

my arts are often mistaken
in their assemblies, their lambic filiations
among grain and tool. But

it is such hands
as mutate all along the breed,

And travelling against,
And loud.