Love Poem with Bighead

the dignity I’ve actually earned could fit 
in a pigeon’s eye, holy and not merely so, 
jupiter holy, gravity-making holy 
jerking me around like a horse dragging
his cowboy through the mud, no ghoulish cruelty though,
no genius, just our cat leering out the window 
like a French marquise, sprinkling drugs into our 
drugs like it’s 2009, Jehovah, the aridness 
of prayer, the aridness of public hygiene, holy too 
that babies recognize logos at six months, generous 
to be given detectable villains, birdgrass 
growing up to the pink striped fruit you’ll leave 
for the squirrels, ya Ali, the part of you that weeps
at dead fish in the market, how to extract that, 
inject it straight into my hippocampus, mine 
and everyone’s, fix all the unsolvable problems
in countries that don’t exist on a map, origami 
god, boiled fox, how the new translation left out my 
crimes, and how much better I liked it that way, 
my carrion crown finally slackening a bit

The Perfect Poem

In god’s gleaming empire, herds of triceratops
lunge up on their hind legs to somersault
around the plains. The angels lie in the sun
using straight pins to eat hollyhocks. Mostly
they just rub their bellies and hum quietly

to themselves, but the few sentences
they do utter come out as perfect poems.
Here on earth we blather constantly, and
all we say is divided between combat
and seduction. Combat: I understand you perfectly. 
Seduction: Next time don’t say so out loud.
Here the perfect poem eats its siblings

in the womb like a sand shark or a star turning
black hole, then saunters into the world
daring us to stay mad. We know most of our
universe is missing. The perfect poem knows
where it went. The perfect poem is no bigger
than a bear. Its birthday hat comes with
a black veil which prattles on and on about

comet ash and the ten thousand buds of
the tongue. Like people and crows, the
perfect poem can remember faces and hold
grudges. It keeps its promises. The perfect
poem is not gold or lead or a garden gate
locked shut or a sail slapping in a storm.
The perfect poem is its own favorite toy.

It is not a state of mind or a kind of doubt
or a good or bad habit or a flower of any
color. It will not be available to answer
questions. The perfect poem is light as dust
on a bat’s wing, lonely as a single flea.

Ways to Harm a Thing

Throw scissors at it. 
Fill it with straw 
and set it on fire, or set it 
off for the colonies with only 
some books and dinner-
plates and a stuffed bear 
named Friend Bear for me 
to lose in New Jersey. 
Did I say me? Things 
have been getting
less and less hypothetical 
since I unhitched myself 
from your bedpost. Everyone 
I love is too modern 
to be caught
grieving. In order 
to be consumed 
first you need to be consumable, 
but there is not a single 
part of you I could fit 
in my mouth. In a dream
I pull back your foreskin
and reveal a fat vase 
stuffed with crow 
feathers. This seems a faithful
translation of the real thing. Another 
way to harm something is to 
melt its fusebox, 
make it learn to live
in the dark. I still want
to suck the bones out 
from your hands,
plant them like the seeds
we found in an antique 
textbook, though those 
never sprouted and may not 
have even been seeds. 
When I was a sailor I found 
a sunken ziggurat, spent 
weeks diving through room 
after room discovering
this or that sacred 
shroud. One way to bury
something is to bury it 
forever. When I was water
you poured me out
over the dirt.  

What Seems Like Joy

how much history is enough history     before we can agree
to flee our daycares      to wash everything away and start over
leaving laptops to be lost in the wet along with housecats and Christ’s
own mother      even a lobster climbs away from its shell a few
times a life      but every time I open my eyes I find
I am still inside myself     each epiphany dull and familiar
oh now I am barefoot       oh now I am lighting the wrong end
of a cigarette     I just want to be shaken new like a flag whipping
away its dust     want to pull out each of my teeth
and replace them with jewels     I’m told what seems like joy
is often joy     that the soul lives in the throat plinking
like a copper bell       I’ve been so young for so many years
it’s all starting to jumble together     joy jeweling copper   
its plink      a throat    sometimes I feel beautiful and near dying
like a feather on an arrow shot through a neck     other times
I feel tasked only with my own soreness      like a scab on the roof
of a mouth      my father believed in gardens      delighting
at burying each thing in its potential for growth     some years
the soil was so hard the water seeped down slower than the green
seeped up     still he’d say if you’re not happy in your own yard
you won’t be happy anywhere      I’ve never had a yard but I’ve had apartments
where water pipes burst above my head      where I’ve scrubbed
a lover’s blood from the kitchen tile       such cleaning
takes so much time you expect there to be confetti at the end    
what we’ll need in the next life      toothpaste      party hats
and animal bones      every day people charge out of this world    
squealing       good-bye human behavior!      so long acres
of germless chrome!      it seems gaudy for them to be so cavalier
with their bliss      while I’m still here lurching into my labor
hanging by my hair from the roof of a chapel      churchlight thickening
around me     or wandering into the woods to pull apart eggshells     emptying
them in the dirt      then sewing them back together to dry in the sun

Related Poems

Praise poem

The dog through the window walks unashamed,
moving to consume the love nearest by.
Pushing their head infinitely to the stranger,
not fearing the talking sun. A flea walks up
to my cup and floats as if on ice
hovering above, on, above. I push it away,
and it flickers into the air. Just yesterday, I saw
a woman give a visitor a handful of fruit.
Going into her kitchen, there were persimmons
and tangerines on the counter, lemons tarrying on the floor,
nothing living in the rightful container.
Their hands were so heavy they had to push them together
to hold it all. The window dog is much like
the Tinder dogs is much like a screen playing fire.
I know the men are good because they are near
the dogs. I know the fire is good
because I’ve felt alone without.
The day I moved to LA I saved the plane ticket from home.
It’s sentimental to imagine another monochromatic lifetime.
Still, I have memory to place her foothold in meaning.
Moten says the settler is not someone who goes to someplace
that’s not their own the settler is someone who goes someplace
and tries to make it their own. If ownership, then reconstructive
surgery. The store I’m in, or this world, keeps asking
if I want my receipt. A prescient child’s hand
holding an acorn. I have no need for innocence.
It’s becoming less hard to imagine the dignity
of standing up and leaving a seat empty for someone new.

From a Park Bench

Under the green domes of maples
light spangles the abundant slabs of moss.
Grass won’t grow here, but something else has taken
over. When I went into the drugstore yesterday
the clerk who moved away had been replaced

by a girl who looked so much like her
I thought for a moment she’d come back to town
with her hair cut. And in the second grade,
when Bobby Markley died, a new boy from Ohio
promptly sat beside me at his desk.

Out here, in the city park,
people are almost always interchangeable,
though the summer I’ll hate to lose
supplants itself with a wan and amber sun
that isn’t quite the same, reminding me

of larger griefs not easily consoled.
“Life is the saddest thing there is,
next to death,” Edith Wharton wrote,
she who walked so often in the park
listening to the old, remembered voices.

She must have sat under trees not unlike this one,
heavy with sorrows she couldn’t speak aloud.
She mourned her friends, and one friend like no other,
while the late sunlight passed across the grasses,
and now she too is gone.

A Most Imperfect Start

Forever the mighty maze inflicts unchangement
a sly wander from the course unchosen.
If once this could have been what reflected continue
what exposed go, what gave most high staring
its relentless give, which all we wish, was a stay of let.
If once this breath-bomb staggered
to show its true stance; then we, collected breathlessly
by time's stammer, would have found reason for change.

The sportsman aligns himself under the object of his catch
his muscles remember the most accurate procedure
The sportsman has a child, a home, a wife he loves but not for long,
a drug addiction behind him, a relapse before him, a diamond ring
waiting to be picked up with the initials of his favorite pet
cast in gold across a wealth of gems. He puts all this
out of his mind, his brain blocks this information as it has been
trained to do when his body reacts to the object, 100 feet in the air.

The object was once a cow hit by a tree unspun by machinery,
a breeze through its branches before twine once decided its future.
The tree meets the diamond ring, the breeze unlocked in the sun
meets the house, the wife catches the object, the child runs the field,
the drugs find the twine, the college scholarship makes contact
with the forest, the sportsman uncaught remains staggered
under the object of his catch.

One day a worm approached a caterpillar, lost on the ground
beneath his tree. That conversation became a butterfly
born of misguided hierarchy. There once was a rainstorm of
repetition showering the trees with apprehension. That raindrop
became an ocean for a country of smaller oceans. Once upon
a time there fell an enormous child who tried to brace himself
on whatever he could catch, he would throw something and
lean against it before it would land.

We each have our function-machines set for body salvation
or emotion-bearers, each of us, in what is laid
for most imperfect starts, most unpounceable hearts.
We are each in the guise of body when least aware of body.
I am continually at wander with the reach of everyone around me.
This motion will cut most unexpected matters
and when most unexpected, what survives will be laid bare.