I Was Called Back

I was called back into the dark during an early morning flyover     onto a rusty mauve plain     fields overrun with a low river of tar     the smell of burning grass carried from the east     flowing upward through neon bright signs of pharmaceuticals and snow     a bronze liquid of promise        a fleeting and always-ending sleep     the remains of chipped concrete eating away the foundations of every building     tables of salt rising over the whole country     I was called onto a platform in the north     a miles- wide outpost     where I sat     waiting to hear what new harm my sisters had conjured     they reached me by phone     through a star or their dreams     a breaking request from our father that had traveled through a long and oily channel     I could understand its beauty     the rainbow-thick shimmer of pigment and poison     a seeping fissure of love     before  the apocalypse     the ruin     or just the overhanging clouds     yesterday a maker of brine and sauerkraut told me the world would end by corrosion and decay     I’m not so sure     I hear the  eruption between refusal and insistence     or maybe just a truck   driving through 

I hear a dog who is always in my death

How is it you bring me back to the cliffs   the bright heads of eagles   the vessels of grief in the soil?   I dig for you with a gentle bit of lighter fluid and three miniature rakes   burning only a single speck of dirt to touch a twig as tiny as a neuron   or even smaller   one magic synapse inside the terminus limbs of your breath

The fighter jets fly over the house every hour   no sound but inside our hands   I hear a far chime and I am cold    a north wind and the grit of night   first the murmur then the corpse   first the paddling then the banquet   first the muzzle then the hanging   the plea   first the break then the tap the tap   I hear your skin   the reach of your arms   the slick along your thighs   more floorboard than step   first the flannel then the gag   first the bells   then the exhale

I hear a dog who is always in my death   the breath of a mother who holds a gun   a pillow in the shape of a heart   first the planes then the criminal ponds   first the ghost boats then the trains   first the gates then the bargain   a child formed from my fingertip and the eye of my grandmother’s mother   a child born at 90   the rise and rush of air   a child who walks from the gas

Related Poems

The Brilliant Fragments

To kneel by the cochineal
head of the dead.

Fragments—grammar
broken along the way.

I tell you the birds
dropped at my feet,

            eleven of them, sucked
            out of the sky, whole.

I return home.
I report the details.

The men who attempt
to control animals

tell me to bag each one,
though I am afraid

to touch their bright
stillness—

            the blank eyes
            in their blank heads.

            It is all wrong,

as are the chemical clouds
drifting from the fields

where the cows make
us milk and meat.

The sunsets beautifully hued:
oozy pink, infected apricot.

            Day after day of wrong color.

And then farm trucks encircle
the town and spray

a silver-white fog
to neutralize the air.

Twinkling stitched
to the sky

            like ghosts
            beading the wind.

This City

could use more seraphs.
Anything with wings, really—

a falcon, a swallowtail.
Ravenous for marvels, I slit open
a chrysalis. Inside,
no caterpillar mid-morph.
Only its ghost in a horror of cells.
I pinch the luminous mash
of imaginal discs
and shudder, imagining
the mechanics of disintegration.
The wormy larva—whole,
then whorled. A wonder
it did not die. Even now,
smeared against my skin, it beams

like the angel in the tomb
prepared to proclaim a rising.

Celestial

When everything was accounted for
you rummaged through my bag to find
something offensive: a revolver,
a notebook of misinterpreted text.

I'm God's professor.
His eyes two open ovens.
He has a physical body
and it hiccups and blesses.

Tell me a story before the mudslide,
tell it fast before the house falls,
before it withers in the frost, before
it dozes off next to the television.

I couldn't tell if it was that screen
or the sky spitting dust and light.