Rocket Fantastic [excerpt]

It's ridiculous what fame
can buy you. Not the beast
but the tiny, frightened
man who brings him
in a cage from Alhambra,
who stands in the doorway
as the three girls finish,
get off the bed and walk down
to the pool, giggling as they pass.
The Bandleader borrowed
a tiger because we saw it
in a reel the studio sent over,
some movie about a prince
that played against the wall
of the upstairs bedroom.
Sometimes a girl would jump
into the pool and the waves
shimmered up. In the movie
the prince brings the tiger
to the castle and it rules
alongside him, "That's not
believable," the Bandleader
said and then, "Don't stop."
And then, "Ah. Right there."
The prince would place his hand
on the tiger's head and grab
his hair in his fist and move
it around. I liked to watch
him start to want things, a wetness
forming in his mind. There were
three girls squealing in the pool
and the waves came up to us
as ripples of light that I passed
my fingers through, "You're blue
with gold stripes," the Bandleader
said, looking up at me
but imagining the tiger beside him
already, before he even
reached for the phone.

A Word From the Fat Lady

It isn't how we look up close
so much as in dreams.

Our giant is not so tall,
our lizard boy merely flaunts

crusty skin- not his fault 
they keep him in a crate

and bathe him maybe once a week.
When folks scream or clutch their hair

and poke at us and glare and speak
of how we slithered up from Hell,

it is themselves they see:
the preacher with the farmer's girls

(his bulging eyes, their chicken legs)
or the mother lurching towards the sink,

a baby quivering in her gnarled 
hands. Horror is the company

you keep when shades are drawn.
Evil does not reside in cages.

Graves We Filled Before the Fire

Some lose children in lonelier ways:
tetanus, hard falls, stubborn fevers

that soak the bedclothes five nights running.
Our two boys went out to skate, broke

through the ice like battleships, came back
to us in canvas bags: curled

fossils held fast in ancient stone,
four hands reaching. Then two

sad beds wide enough for planting
wheat or summer-squash but filled

with boys, a barren crop. Our lives
stripped clean as oxen bones.

Rocket Fantastic [excerpt]

He's really beautiful. When he's standing in the trees like that and thinks nobody sees him. He's like a stag. Which sounds silly but he is. The way the light shines on him. The way it bounces off his hair like spray from the sprinkler. And he doesn't know it right then. Because he's looking somewhere else. Maybe up at a bird. I was standing a few feet away and turned back because I heard him whistling when he thought I wasn't listening. He wasn't thinking of me. He was looking at a bird who was sitting in the tree and looking back at him. If his shirt was off he'd have been dappled golden in the sun coming through the leaves. He didn't notice me watching him without his shirt on. He was standing in the forest and the sun was coming through the trees and covering him so he glowed. I knew he'd be warm if I walked up and touched him. And probably not mad. He's like something in a movie or like a book we'd read in summer by the pool. He didn't see me looking because he was so peaceful staring at the bird.

Related Poems

A Moth in the Projectorlight [excerpt]


Even if only in photographs—
a laundry truck, seconds after.
Phone in the apartment ringing
above the accident & a coroner
careful enough to stay speechless
until the wind picks up
& the passersby can smell simply
the blood, like fresh wood or
cut metal.


A boy of six cups his hands
around a wet moth
as he stands up
in the bathtub
releasing it to the mirrorlight.
Beige wingdust on his palm.


Yellow. The room is orange
& black also. Water
a whistle, draining in his mother’s tub.

This is the part of the story where
you leave
          & where I come in.
around the corner for the signal:
the greenfinch
your twin sisters will
free from the balcony.


Came around
smelling of rye.
Aluminum dust under his


Memory opens a little door:
the dark & you listen
with your eyes
& write things in my letter
you’ll pretend later
to forget.


A kid at the mailbox sings that
your brothers are deader than doorlocks,
that your mother lives
in their teeth.


                    City of
no center, broke-lit
from the team of horses
asleep standing
under the great lamps.


A curse of split melon
on the kitchen counter

draws me out into the snowdrift.
White heat from the boy’s breath
& the toy house’s tiny doorbell
chimes somehow in the empty room
startling the cat.


You took your apricot dress to the drycleaners
& left it forever.


Haystink, humming street ruckus, moonlit
Each evening I peek into that mailbox
for what my father’s unable to tell me
on the edge of my own bed
feeling that
morning will scorch
into the sockets of his arms
& that he is
drinking           sorry again
Anna           sleep
sorry again.