In winter, we find her invisible
against the furrows
of cottonwood bark. Her swivel
and lean follow us until
we sit on the old polished log
we call creature. She blinks,
swells her feathers out, shakes and settles.

It’s a good day when I see an owl.
We watch until she drops—a fall
opening to swoop and glide. What is it
with lesbians and owls? Someone
asked. I’ll leave the question
there. There’s a world

the old trees make of water
and air. I like to feel the day
undress its cool oblivion, currents
moving the one mind of leaves,
shadows deeper with the breath
of owls. Just the chance she might
be there watching makes me
love—no—makes me loved.

She Told Me the Earth Loves Us

She said it softly, without a need 
for conviction or romance.
After everything? I asked, ashamed. 

That's not the kind of love she meant.
She walked through a field of gray 
beetle-pored pine, snags branching

like polished bone. I forget sometimes
how trees look at me with the generosity 
of water. I forget all the other 

breath I'm breathing in. 
Today I learned that trees can't sleep
with our lights on. That they knit 

a forest in their language, their feelings. 
This is not a metaphor. 
Like seeing a face across a crowd, 

we are learning all the old things, 
newly shined and numbered. 
I'm always looking 

for a place to lie down
and cry. Green, mossed, shaded. 
Or rock-quiet, empty. Somewhere

to hush and start over. 
I put on my antlers in the sun. 
I walk through the dark gates of the trees. 

Grief waters my footsteps, leaving 
a trail that glistens. 

Related Poems

If the Owl Calls Again

at dusk from the island in the river, and it’s not too cold, I’ll wait for the moon to rise, then take wing and glide to meet him. We will not speak, but hooded against the frost soar above the alder flats, searching with tawny eyes. And then we’ll sit in the shadowy spruce and pick the bones of careless mice, while the long moon drifts toward Asia and the river mutters in its icy bed. And when the morning climbs the limbs we’ll part without a sound, fulfilled, floating homeward as the cold world awakens.


We move within the snow-chromed world: Like-animal. Like-deer. An alphabet. Along a street white as lamplight into the winter, walking—: like language, a new text. I touch her with the eyes of my skin.

The way I read any beloved—: from the ramus of the left jaw down to the cuneiform of the right foot. She isn’t so much what she is—: and becomes herself only when added to the space where she isn’t. What is touch—: not the touch not the hand but the white heat it floats through.

I count her my desires, mark her—: hoofprints across the frozen page. Four strokes of dusk. Carbon black, Lamp black, Bone black, Hide glue—: I am the alchemist of ink. She answers me, Quicksilver,

and the noise of her boots upon the snow is the weight of a night bird bending the meteor-blue branch fruiting white flames of cotton. Each of her steps, an allograph—: bird, flexed limb, perfect line of vertebrae, the glyph of my pelvis.

When I put my teeth to her wrist, the world goes everywhere white. Not sound but the dizzying nautilus of what is both the palm and the ear. I invented her hand in this texture—: a grapheme.

In me, a feeling—: white blossom with a red-sided icosahedron inside the velveteen car of a gold train vibrating the violet tunnel of my throat on its way to a dimmed station in my chest—: twenty seats of desire, and I am sitting in each one.

I burn on the silver sparks of her breath moving out of her body. The miracle. No. The power and the glory glory glory of her—: she breathes. Out—: Out—: twenty red seats of desire, I break every one. A series of waves against hammer anvil stirrup—: a vibration of light I can hold with my mouth.


Once there was an opening, an operation: out of which oared the ocean, then oyster and oystercatcher, opal and opal-crowned tanager. From ornateness came the ornate flycatcher and ornate fruit dove. From oil, the oilbird. O is for opus, the Orphean warbler’s octaves, the oratorio of orioles. O for the osprey’s ostentation, the owl and its collection of ossicles. In October’s ochre, the orchard is overgrown with orange and olive, oleander and oxlip. Ovals of dew on the oatgrass. O for obsidian, onyx, ore, for boreholes like inverted obelisks. O for the onion’s concentric O’s, observable only when cut, for the opium oozing from the poppy’s globe only when scored. O for our organs, for the os of the cervix, the double O’s of the ovaries plotted on the body’s plane to mark the origin. O is the orbit that cradles the eye. The oculus opens an O to the sky, where the starry outlines of men float like air bubbles between us and oblivion. Once there were oarfish, opaleyes, olive flounders. Once the oxbows were not overrun with nitrogen. O for the mussels opening in the ocean’s oven. O for the rising ozone, the dropping oxygen, for algae overblooming like an omen or an oracle. O Earth, out-gunned and out-manned. O who holds the void inside itself. O who has made orphans of our hands.