How to Pick Up the Pieces
When you are left exposed
like a seedless dandelion
after an anarchic shitstorm,
don’t bend down & yank
your roots from the ground.
Don’t dream of licking the dirt
from your fingernails. Don’t
vibrate on the breeze of blame.
Don’t dress yourself in the darkness
of victimhood or suffocate yourself
with shame. This loss is not death.
Imagine a blaze of breath spilling
from a pair of thick lips stained with
your wine. Think of yourself a necklace
lolling on a lover’s neck still wet with
kiss. Sever your perception from
truth by popping your head off.
Shove every sad song into the hollow
of your stem & spread the milk
on your skin like salve. Learn
by heart that you can’t predict
the weather only prepare for it.
You will outgrow this. You are lion’s
teeth. You are medicine tongue.
Your roots are resilience. When
you have your heart under a
magnifying glass the only thing
left to do is sing for the sun &
light yourself on fire. Be ready
for the next good gust but
remember that you are not
a candle. You are not a match.
You are a goddamn wildfire.
Thank you, fluttering-slips.
The Small Birds
They ask us to understand our grief
by simply leaping out, trusting the air
which is far more complex than sorrow, to follow
all we’ve ever done with a pure heart and change us
completely, but never for long.
Someday, you say, you’ll be glass in a window
that looks across a landscape of wilderness and snow
which will melt when you go out there and walk, because
you love a good man or woman. But whom
do you love, after all? For now, you open
that window and lean out. For now you just watch things:
vivid rugs on hardwood floors, closets full of clothes
that would never fit you, where another person’s smell
lingers for years. And then it vanishes.
The Thing Is
to love life, to love it even
when you have no stomach for it
and everything you’ve held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
your throat filled with the silt of it.
When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
thickening the air, heavy as water
more fit for gills than lungs;
when grief weights you like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief,
you think, How can a body withstand this?
Then you hold life like a face
between your palms, a plain face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes, I will take you
I will love you, again.
For My Dog/God, I Write
The dog, who does not know
the word, knows the world,
its body wise to the alphabet
of scents, the perfumed babble
of flowers, the daily broadcast
of rain. Its eye
is the locus of trust, a body
driven by discovery & satisfaction.
Feet stumbling on dirt & pebbles,
nose perpetually in the under
growth, the wayward heart
searches for some evidence of
music, in the unfurling
of vine & daylight, in the
crisscrossing of ants & a dark
If I sit still long enough
it overtakes me—
a rush of green spring,
Clara Changxin Fang
Thank you fluttering-slips!
Bird in Mouth
I woke one morning to find your heart
between my lips, moving like a little
creature that knows it is caught. Imagine
my horror to wake up with your heart in my mouth,
its beat like the smallest firework.
I woke up so impossibly tangled with your legs,
unable to move under the tent they made.
I woke up under logs with a bird in my mouth,
fluttering. I must have hunted it all night,
as I slept, and caught it as the forest fell.
I woke up, and found that I do not want this
so close to my teeth. It makes me not breathe.
There are many forms
coins sheep sons
anything can be lost
can be grieved
even the missing
habit numbed since by waning
squeezes an eyeful of pitch
for each ringed year
Now whites and purples dapple the ground,
rhododendron the deer feasted on all winter reclaiming turf,
sending five lavender frills
to meet the rain,
proving resurrection can happen anywhere
in the yard, in your life, mine,
this year of licking wounds, of salted time.
My Life With a Gardener
The screen door firecrackers closed.
I find her at the sundry drawer
prowling for twine. I’m nothing
she sees. There’s a tornado
in her hair, her face is streaked
with dirt like markings applied
before the rituals of drums.
I’ve watched her shadow break free
and tend the next row of corn.
I understand this eagerness
as fully as I can speak for the ocean.
I say water is behind everything,
a blue dictator, say waves
are obsessed with their one word
but have no idea what that word is.
Her hands enter soil like needles
making the promise of a dress
from cloth. In December she begins
smelling lilacs, by February
she sees the holes
peppers burn through snow. I see her,
she’s the last green thing I need.
When finally she’s pushed inside
by the rude hands of dusk,
I set down my life for her skin,
taught all day how to smell
like the sun, and the hundred
directions of her hair, and eyes
that look through me to flowers
that only open their mouths
to speak with the moon.
Trees stripped of summer’s store
and fall’s giveaway reveal the bones
of what stays. The river frozen
to the shore’s lip speaks less,
keeps to itself what belongs to itself.
The bear in his den, the bat suspended
in his cave, know when to sleep
and when to wake. No longer
hitched to the world’s rhythms,
no longer ruled by appetite, they wait
for an inner pull to rouse them.
And what is more instructional
than snowfall, its knack for making
the familiar new. Or night, arriving early,
flooding its borders at both ends.
To Be Elsewhere
We met in a coastal village
spent a lovely night without leaving an address
going separate ways. Three years later
we meet again by coincidence.
three years spun a novel
They fail to recognize themselves
as though meeting in another story
for an encounter.
One asks: Who are you, so cold and weary
The other says: I only know a thread is loose on my sweater
The more you pull it, the more it lengthens
until I completely vanish.
I Wanted More Than I Could Steal
Instead the opening, the end, the tunnel
through which the breath passes alone.
Animals shoulder the glossy, pubescent
light. There, between the stacked pages
& the clean press of our jeans, the future
is a passage closing in pornsong. There
you dig, you cover the space under moss.
You anticipate your meals like a spider.
Arrival is not the great seizure of hands,
devoted pure, & we could not always save
the pages from rain. The morning just so,
our smiles start on lovers, the simple,
the scenery as we descend the new valley.
Are we asleep or has this world expired,
exits without structure? Worldly a week,
we browsed magazines: this explains
the absence of our skin, a softness so great
we please the day steaming south. Nothing
of our eyes, which continue as a corridor
continues. We’re sleeping, we’re asleep,
we mouth our wet trampoline, white legs,
white thighs, the plea of white cotton there.
You, who could be so cruel & not simply
in our dreams. For this we look as if looking
to our god. We were worldly, we were weak.
Pornography explains the unhappy paging
of our hands, our smiles now boats drifting
from the harbor. From the harbor our train
leaves to sidle the coast. & our bodies,
they know nothing of tides nor the surge.
& you in the early light, not at the station,
not flowers when our train does not arrive.