The Gods

They haven't stopped running
             their hands through the grass,

springing the doors and windows 
             open, pinning feathers and bird-

talons to the rafters like bunting. This too,
             we've been told, is the language

of their love. In the midst of fevered sleep, 
             I hear them discuss the geometry

of natural disasters, how we who don't 
             claim immortality can only see 

the blade edge of a storm as it bears down,
            and not the remote majesty of its eye

whirling in darkness. They haven't stopped
           beguiling me with the stippled language

of light on water, the bronze backs of oxen 
           bowing beneath the unbearable 

softness of sunsets. I can't always tell
           whether they've thrown me into 

the maw of a magnificent desolation,  
           or a quicksand of joy which I fear 

will drown me before I can churn 
           its currents into a talisman. before

I fulfill another impossible task to make me
           good again, free of debt, in their sight.

Like a Wake

Like a wake, but no one has come 
to sing karaoke, play pusoy dos or 
mah jong, drink rum and warm 

coke. No flowers with funerary 
smells in the living room, no 
curling satin ribbons, names 

inked in permanent marker—they 
are not the only things that bleed. 
There are no votives or pictures 

in frames on a mantel strewn 
with White Rabbit candies, shiny 
tangerines, saucers of food offerings. 

But there are things that, when they go
from your life, feel like a death, a mourning.
Long road of grieving, no headstone in sight.

Ode to the Serviceberry

Late spring, bordering on summer. 
Bunnies at twilight come to eat the clover.
They have no fear as long as we are
behind glass, though the blinds are open.
Down the road, people are walking
their dogs and children run ahead in that
way that leaves their voices behind.
We pluck the darkest red berries
from the tree in the schoolyard: saskatoon, 
shadbush, wild-plum, shadblow; otherwise 
known as serviceberry—herald announcing 
when shad swam up coastal rivers in spring. 
And in an older tongue, blow could mean 
in a state of blossoming, also during that 
time of year when the soil had softened 
enough after a hard winter so bodies 
could be laid in the ground. Traveling 
preachers held a service under the trees, 
while birds filled themselves with sugar.

Revolving Door

The child struggling to name big
feelings has been heard to cry

when he is sad, Make me happy.
What makes him sad? A small

turn in some expectation, or a more 
momentous change: moving houses,

his school closing for the summer,  
familiar routines supplanted by new. 

We all want to feel we've not been 
abandoned—that the one we love

has merely stepped into another room
to brush her teeth or take a shower,

put the breakfast plates into the dish-
washer. How does one learn to forgive

happiness like a paper airplane, crisply 
folded, that lofts but holds only seconds 

in the air? How is even just a momentary 
sadness a revolving door? Stuck 

in the middle, we panic at the thought 
of glass panels closing in, while 

everyone else who's passed through  
goes on with the rest of the day.

Alpha and Omega

Like the English A, alpha is the first
letter in the Greek alphabet; and omega,
the last. When I was ten, under a blanket
and armed with a flashlight, I devoured 
those baroque prophecies of apocalypse
in the Book of Revelation. They were 
so cinematic; somehow un-Biblical, dense 
with special effects and angels blasting 
trumpets that rained down fire upon 
the earth, thunder, lightning, earthquakes. 
A star falls into an abyss, loosing a tribe 
of locusts with human faces and lions'
teeth. Wars and dragons, the old
heaven and earth and multitudes
scorched by fire or pestilence. 
What remains at the end is the infinite
that always was, and always will be—
forbidding vision of a future inscrutable 
as fate, terrifying as nightmare.


           were never one to believe
that anything marked 

            The End is truly an ending

— always, something interrupts
           a line or repairs the breaks

Waterbirds tap
           the surface of the lake        
and a lattice of echoes

reorganizes the sunlight

Becoming Subatomic

When flying, it's possible to carry
the cremated remains of a loved one 
in a TSA-approved urn that can be x-rayed.

Usually it can't be checked in with the rest 
of your luggage.  Some companies advertise
that you can send them miniscule amounts 

of the cremains, which they'll turn into
cloudy lockets tinted like amethyst or
polished like pearl. You can simply 

put them into a pouch with the rest
of your jewelry—more precious now 
than any resin or silver statement 

necklace. Why not just keep 
snippets of hair like the Victorians did, 
my husband asks— to the end,  wary 

of rules, penalties, the red tape of forms. Or
consider a record company which will press, 
for a fee, your ashes into a vinyl album. Moving 

over those places in the grooves, sometimes 
the needle will jump and make static, crackling 
sounds: your voice from the beyond, or simply

the sound of matter (your own), poured
into a sheet of PVC which could take 
a thousand years or more to decompose.


I think it was the teething— molars
erupting through the gum that wracked
the first two of my daughters with such 
new pain, they refused food or milk or water.  
After the seizures, the doctor concurred: likely, 
dehydration, followed by momentary chemical 
imbalance. Then the transient, excessive firing 
of neurons in the brain. Months of fearful testing,
every little twitch and blanket-kick in the crib 
constricting my throat and sealing my tongue 
in the tomb of my mouth. Decades later,  considering 
the wonder of them from this space, I recall the first 
tremors and my helplessness; and light pouring in 
the windows, charged with its own electricity.


When I looked into your eyes
after you arrived, I saw galaxies.
I saw the eternity of indigo waters
through which we were all somehow
pulled in our own time; through which 
we all magnetically traveled, pushed
or pushing toward that wound of a door.
I saw that timelessness which doesn't
keep to one name, its old-young face
wrinkled and wizened as if already 
spackled with a biography of years.
We held out our arms to receive
you. We trembled from the joy
and terror of what we pledged.


We drop it into every pot of stew, 
scatter it like a fine mist on a mound 
of rice  as it fries. Its chrism touches
our foreheads and grazes our lips, 
before our mothers run out the church
doors to secure our berths in that cloudy
kingdom beyond this one. When we cry,
its crystals trace a path down our cheeks.
Whoever comes to love us will taste
that flavor on our shoulders, in the sweat
bronzing the hidden clefts, the flame
warming the pulse at each wrist. 
Meat or fish roasted in the fire keeps 
whole beneath a packed, hard crust. 
Break it with your fingers to remember
rivers, to find what's been made tender.