The Sunset and the Purple-Flowered Tree

I talk to a screen who assures me everything is fine.

I am not broken. I am not depressed. I am simply

in touch with the material conditions of my life. It is

the end of the world, and it’s fine. People laugh

about this, self-soothing engines sputtering

through a nosedive. Not me. I’ve gone and lost my

sense of humor when I need it most. This is why I

speak smoke into a scene. I dance against language

and abandon verse halfway through, like a broken-

throated singer. I wander around the front yard,

pathless as a little ant at the tip of a curled-up

cactus. Birds flit in and out of shining branches.

A garden blooms large in my throat. Color and life

conspire against my idea of the world. I have to

laugh until I am crying, make an ocean to land

upon in this sea of flames. Here I am.  

Another late-winter afternoon,

            the sunset and the purple-flowered tree

trying their best to keep me alive.

This Is What Makes Us Worlds

Like light but
in reverse we billow.

We turn a corner
and make the hills
disappear.

You rearrange
my parts until no
more hurting.

No more skin-sunk
nighttime fear.

No more blameless death.

My hair loses its atoms.
My body glows
in the dark.

Planets are smashed
into oblivion,
stripped of their power
to name things.

Our love fills the air.

Our love eats
the deadly sounds men
make when they see
how much magic
we have away
from them.


It Is Important To Be Something

This is like a life. This is lifelike.
I climb inside a mistake
and remake myself in the shape
of a better mistake—
a nice pair of glasses
without any lenses,
shoes that don’t quite fit,
a chest that always hurts.
There is a checklist of things
you need to do to be a person.
I don’t want to be a person
but there isn’t a choice,
so I work my way down and
kiss the feet.
I work my way up and lick
the knee.
I give you my skull
to do with whatever you please.
You grow flowers from my head
and trim them too short.
I paint my nails nice and pretty
and who cares. Who gives a shit.
I’m trying not to give a shit
but it doesn’t fit well on me.
I wear my clothes. I wear my body.
I walk out in the grass and turn red
at the sight of everything.

Things Haunt

California is a desert and I am a woman inside it.
The road ahead bends sideways and I lurch within myself.
I’m full of ugly feelings, awful thoughts, bad dreams
of doom, and so much love left unspoken.

Is mercury in retrograde? someone asks.
Someone answers, No, it’s something else
like that though. Something else like that.
That should be my name.

When you ask me am I really a woman, a human being,
a coherent identity, I’ll say No, I’m something else
like that though.

A true citizen of planet earth closes their eyes
and says what they are before the mirror.
A good person gives and asks for nothing in return.
I give and I ask for only one thing—

Hear me. Hear me. Hear me. Hear me. Hear me.
Hear me. Bear the weight of my voice and don’t forget—
things haunt. Things exist long after they are killed.

Related Poems

from “Goodbye”

I get lonelier and lonelier and then I eat all the pink capsules for dinner.
How come I never get any telegrams?
It’s surprisingly easy to be enraged in a ruffled dress.
Look at yourself in the reflection of your flask.
You used to be a hobby of mine.

People in their nightgowns, smoking cigarettes,
they give great speeches.
I like it like upside-down sunsets.
I like it like a mess of emeralds.
I like it when you gesture from your forehead, “So long!”

Six Months After Contemplating Suicide

Admit it—
you wanted the end

with a serpentine
greed. How to negotiate

that strangling
mist, the fibrous

whisper?

To cease to exist
and to die

are two different things entirely.

But you knew this,
didn't you?

Some days you knelt on coins
in those yellow hours.

You lit a flame

to your shadow
and ate

scorpions with your naked fingers.

So touched by the sadness of hair
in a dirty sink.

The malevolent smell
of soap.

When instead of swallowing a fistful
of white pills,

you decided to shower,

the palm trees
nodded in agreement,

a choir
of crickets singing

behind your swollen eyes.

The masked bird
turned to you

with a shred of paper hanging
from its beak.

At dusk,
hair wet and fragrant,

you cupped a goat's face

and kissed
his trembling horns.

The ghost?

It fell prostrate,
passed through you

like a swift
and generous storm.

Become a person

The bee died upon entering the water
What happened to his honey no one knew

I left one fig and one kumquat
In each dish for the host

There were the yellow trunks of trees
The memory of Spain

There was the memory of being
The memory of love

Let the water take you in
So your neck is just a stalk, the head blooms

Let everything go away
You are a person

Be a person
Become a person again

The happiest he ever made me
The table in white

Whereupon we list the white seashore
The White Sea, the white seahorses

They said I loved him better than anyone
The white seashore

No I never knew him
The bees

The bees
They know everything

Be a person
Be a person again