The Witch Reads Me My Birthchart

she says the planets & stars show that I’m too good at being alone
I have unresolved traumas from past lives it is true
there were difficulties during my delivery even in the womb
I had a bad feeling cord around my throat as I tried
to make passage forced into this world or rather out of another
by extraction the witch asks if I often feel guilty
asks if I try to heal those around me despite finding it difficult
to bond with anyone other than myself
she wants to know about my childhood memories
if I’m alone in them
& I admit I stop listening though I can still hear
the untroubled tone in her voice vowels elongated
mouth full of sounds like spandex bursting at the seams
I want to go back to the stars we’ve strayed so far from the planets
she says there’s much to learn about my sources of pain
the gaping wound I will try to alleviate for the rest of my life
I want to touch her long hair as if it were my hair
I want to convince her I believe in everything she believes
but I demand too much of faith
like apples in the market I inspect the curves & creases
put them back at the slightest sign of bruising

Round 3

            after Tyehimba Jess 

Freedom is what you can buy 
with a left jab & a right cross. 

You’ve got the uppercut of a champ.
On a sweaty August night, you watch 

Ramos v Ramos from the Olympic
on TV. You turn off the blaring AC, 

want to hear the fighters’ tssiiuu tssiiuu, exhaling
as they attempt to break each other’s skin. 

You’re light on your feet like Mando, 
got Sugar’s hand speed. Freedom 

is your girl by your side telling you to fight. 
She brings your boxing license 

in a lunch bag while you labor 
at Lockheed, roots for you in Rocky 

Lane’s garage on a Sunday 
as you spar any man who dares.
She wipes your burning face 
with a cool towel, the sinewed shape 

of your body surfacing quick 
after you trade in Budweiser for a jump
rope. Freedom is the rattle in your jaw 
the first time you take a hook 

to the gut, the way a glove slides 
across your nose slick with Vaseline 

as you size up the weary contender, 
know that look in his eyes that whispers 

across the canvas between rounds. Finish me 
already, body shriveling in the corner, you’ve won.

The Money

after Bobby Chacon

I don’t care about the title
I’m in this for the money

I care about the title
I care about the money

I’m in this for the title
I don’t care about the money

I’m for the money I don’t care
I don’t care I’m for the title

the title don’t care about I
the money don’t care about the title

I’m about the money
I’m about the title

I’m the money I care about in this

Related Poems

I Have Been a Fortune Teller

translated by Tess O’Dwyer

I have been a fortune-teller. Ages ago, I told the fortune of buffoons and
madmen. You remember. I had a small voice like a grain of sand and
enormous hands. Madmen walked over my hands. I told them the truth. I
could never lie to them. And now I am sorry. Ages ago, a drunkard filled
with dreams asked me to dance. I used my cards to tell his fortune when
his drinks became blows. My banging on the door killed the sea. Memories
finished us. Madmen and buffoons count the grains of sand and have never
destroyed night’s dreams. They draw up the night and rise filled with
middays. Magicians were and always will be my companions. Without
guessing their tricks I started fire in their throats. But none explode. Maybe
one. And with the fish another chimera rises.


In one version, the witch wins.
What lesson in that, besides we get
what we do not deserve? Cast out
to follow a distant curl of smoke,
we leave our past behind
and find our way, or don’t.
That smoke might come not from
a chimney but the forest on fire—
trees exploding, a column
of flame two hundred feet high.
Take off your leather coat,
brother, and let me put my hands
against your chest. Even if we stop
in the middle of the story
and set out alone over these acres
of scorched earth filling up
with more water than the sky can hold—
still beyond us that curl of smoke
that who’d blame us
if we mistook for home?

Virginia Street

February on another coast is April
here. Astrology is months:
you are February, or are you
June, and who is
December? Who is books
read in spring, wingspan
between midnight
and mourning

Another starry tree, coastal
counterpoint where magnolia is
a brighter season
peach and pear
are grafted onto the same tree
fear and fat stick
to the same sprained bone
For this adolescent reprise
recycle everything trivial
but this time bring
the eye into sight:
make sight superior
to what is seen

A decade is to look at June
and see April
to look at April
and see February
Relief of repetition
seasons mean again,
one flowering branch suspended
in the half-light of spring
We sat on steps
beneath a tree
No: I walked by
The tree bloomed
and I looked up