Refund Requested

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
You think the package is a gift
           but it encloses a violence, a rupture
that took place even before your awareness

          of it. A carelessness, tossed from one
overseer to another; which then delivers bits of broken 
          glass to puncture the flesh on the tip of your finger— 

That's all it takes to set the blood loose: your own
         undoing, they'll say, as you open the box to see
if you can finally claim what it was you thought 

        you purchased. You wince at the momentary pain 
before pressing a dish towel or bandage strip across
       the wound— No matter how familiar to the tired

of disappointment, disappointment keeps 
      showing up like a history that keeps repeating itself.

The Poem Underneath the Poem

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
Don't apologize, said the dark-haired poet
who is no longer in this world.  She meant

the rooms are not too small or cramped;
the roof doesn't leak right now. There's 

something to offer the unexpected guest: 
a hot meal, a spare room, a pillow for her head 

before she goes back on the road. You remember 
her words at the most unexpected times.

Light passes through the narrow necks
of glass jars on the kitchen sill. You choose  

from the drawer a knife that will slice a tomato 
into even wheels and cut a sandwich into neat 

triangles. At night, you slide a prayer with your 
finger down the long, graceful bone crossing 

from one shoulder to the other of your 
beloved before you both fall asleep.


holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
You know how to pretend
you have no heart.  

It's dangerous to wear it, bright
red and soft yellow, out in the furrowed
plots of your green flesh. 

Sometimes the one who cuts you open 
twists each half of you in opposite directions, 
then strikes a knife into that woody globe, 

trying to lift it out clean. But you 
never want to be so easily taken, to be
scooped up, rind scoured, put whole

into the mouth. You hold out sometimes.
Long enough to spurn the blade 
so it twitches, lodges in 
another's skin.

Poem with Lottery Tickets and a Quick Shoe-shine

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
There's always still a row of shoe-
shine boys next to the lottery ticket counter 
at the market, which your classmate Mario's 
father used to own. Mario drowned 

in a swimming accident. Perhaps 
he's buried in an ocean region where yellow 
boxfish are holding a secret Yayoi Kusama 
exhibit, since the afterlife is only another room 

in a largely unexplored museum. Perhaps 
his fortune is to look at the moon behind a blue 
veil of water without being charged the standard 
entry fee, while we spend all our lonely coins 

on the dream of a future without chains or jails or for-
profit insurance. The shoe-shine boys sit you on a high 
wooden stool and hand you a copy of the day's newspaper, 
but you fall asleep. They'll slick the tops of your boots 

with wax and brush them to a glossy shine while humming 
salidummay. When you open your eyes, all the windows 
along the avenue are lit as if with fire. Don't worry, it's only 
the ancestors brandishing their torches at the apocalypse.

Terra Firma

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
It took years to acknowledge I didn't want
to stay. But not in the way you think 

you understand. To do that 
took all of the last gifts I'd been given.

Now my world is the constant re-assemblage
of before and after. What's left over:

a kind of moss I use to pad
the bottom of this terrarium. 

Everything I've ever had to prove
of worth, gnawed through to the core

by river rats that came into the house
at night until they became familiar.

Histories of Conquest

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
"No geology is neutral." - Kathryn Yusoff

Divide, they said. And they divided
valleys into troughs, separated water 

from its native names, our people
from each other.  Collectors flapped 

their arms under the canopy, marveling
at the ruffled crest of the umbrella 

cockatoo while thinking up possible
carnival routines. The tiny footprints 

of chevrotain disappeared in dense 
carpets  of moss. Domesticate meant: 

make a hole large enough for a body 
to occupy, so the work of expansion 

continues from inside. Mountains 
hollowed for silver and gold, for copper 

vein. The opening in the land a skylight 
for all the dark bodies dropped into it,

made to extract their most sacred
elements. In time, the land publishes

every incursion— Open any rock face to read 
the overlapping tables.  Make a pin map 

of every place where matter was atomized 
for some kind of conquest or consumption.


Self Portrait, with Memory of Lost Child

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
There was the one lost shortly after being discovered; 
it was the year a man smashed his SUV into the front 
of a St. Paul Planned Parenthood office, on the 36th 

anniversary of Roe vs. Wade. Not there, but in Virginia 
later that spring, she found herself waiting to be examined. 
The doctor remarked on how all the women that morning 

seemed "of a certain age,"in that time when the body starts 
playing tricks on you. She was sent home to wait another week; 
too early. Then that weekend, in the shower, a dark red memento

slipped with hardly a spasm from between her thighs onto wet 
tile. Perhaps her body was no longer a structure with strong 
beams or working viaducts. Perhaps a wound

is better left alone. Perhaps another body orbiting in space
blinked faintly before deciding to go its own inscrutable way.

The Difficult Lesson

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
No matter how much you want to,
you cannot do the work for others.

Where did they go, those cool
pine-scented nights that breathed
so quietly you believed
no harm could come to those
you loved?

Boats melt into the bluegreen
dapple of evening; a fountain
turns itself on somewhere.
The water as tender 
as a new wound—

How long
and hard you've prayed 
for some kind of angel to scatter 
the dark birds that keep 
coming to rest in your children's hair. 

Parable, with Oscar-Nominated Film

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
A sign at the Asian grocery: 
               White Coconuts $2.95.
As if to reassure you 
buy the sweet white flesh 
there, intact
               beneath the green exocarp, 
the dense middle, the hard 
woody layer
enclosing the seed—   

In that scene from Minari,
there are no actual coconuts  
where Jacob persuades the greengrocer 
               to buy produce from him.
There are most likely packets
of dry noodles, bottles of gochujang
sauce, barley tea, foil-wrapped 
snacks. Bok choy 
and daikon. 

Back on the farm 
grandmother walking 
                sets the shed on fire. 

There is no rind or layer
to the hungry flames that lick  
at all the fruit stacked 
                lovingly in crates.  

In the morning, 
                white ashes on the ground
under which the water,
so difficult to woo in this land,
winds its selfish way.



A coconut, and all drupes, have three layers: the exocarp (outer layer), the mesocarp (fleshy middle layer), and the endocarp (hard, woody layer that surrounds the seed).

The Unresolved

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
So many stories of unfinished
business— A deadline or curfew 
always looms at midnight. 
The young gallants must return 
their dance partners to the dock 
before they're discovered missing, 
before their boats sink or dissolve 
in sunlight. To break a spell, the girl's 
flashing fingers must fling the woven 
garments on the flock as it rushes
into the air at dusk. Don't ask why one 
has an arm that drags like a broken wing 
though the rest of his limbs are whole. 
Don't ask why the sole of the shoe 
wears thin night after night and why
no leather can withstand the chafing
of desire. Ask instead why no one
opened the door to let the orphan in,
instead of allowing her to crouch 
outside in the cold; she struck match
after match against a flimsy book
until not one stick remained, not
one red flame making promises.