~ after "The Slaughtered Ox," Rembrandt (1655)

    Katay is   the name for it   Meaning flayed
Tufted open   Inside          out After the fire
singes the hair off              flesh and the knife
makes its rapid                 zigzag through 
    the body's tent                     It is important          
to know what plunged                        into that humid
pit    The entire forearm                 scoured the depths 
  for every gift               the animal could surrender 
  The lungs' heaving bellows    Islands of spleen   The liver
pooling in a green      lagoon        With what should we anoint 
   the pearled clots in the viscera           A ladder
      of bones revealed     as the hand  flies up
to the mouth      More startled than     clumps of leaf
 pulling away                 from touch    From
    the anonymous     bodies dumped there
          night after night after night


Aria: Beginning

A winter wren warbles his song beside the spring-
       house--- meaning things have decided to open again,  
meaning those re-enactments of young and fragile.
       The sun is fitful, coming through openings of cloud. 
Or there are curtains of fog, heavy in the morning;
       milk and salt you can almost taste in the air.
But when white petals cover the trees, 
       it can also mean grief welling up alongside 
the new: sorrow of the unbearable, bringing
       you to your knees each time. Melody that starts
and breaks, that calls and calls with the body until
       it's bent from hurling itself into the open.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Tikbalang Haibun

I've said Please may I each time I've passed, strewn bits of bread and sugar
at the foot of the tree, careful not to touch the bristling bark. I've worn
my shirt inside out, tucking the gleam of buttons away from light. Shouldn't
the journey be over by now? Shouldn't it get easier? Shouldn't I have found
my way years ago? But here I am again, returned to the same familiar ground:
every stone slippered in moss, the fences peeling, the shed falling down.
My pockets are nearly empty of coin, my lashes stenciled in salt and dust.
Every roof has a chimney and all of them smoke; and yet you look for me
in each house.

Shafts of light comb 
through leaves on the trees.
Their heads remain unruly.

Postcard to myself in a bad marriage

Walls were made for stopping fists
and paychecks were for squandering.
Shirts dried stiff on the line 
after bleaching. You left, you
always left, slamming every door
on the way out. The bed slid across
the floor and the child sitting on it
clutched at the blankets. I couldn't 
hear the voice in my head for all
the noise. I couldn't see the moon
following me on the road as I searched
for something I'd lost long before.
An owl called out in the dark. Or
perhaps it was me, asking.

In the hills, my heart breaks

Imagine a lake fringed with weeping 
willows, a string of rowboats
floating on brown water.

A windless day,
pine trees not yet torn
from the hillsides.

Imagine the open
faces of sunflowers, not yet
in the manner of omens.

One salted cracker,
one boiled egg on the plate.
The mouth creaking open like a door.

In the tin-roofed houses, widows
lighting the stove, forgetting
the water when it boils.

Give thanks for the whorls
in wood shaped like watchful eyes,
the whistle that comes as if

out of nowhere--- meaning 
it is time to eat or pray or bathe
or surrender again to silence.


When I looked into the window's 
yellow well from an upper floor

When on the phone I heard
her say I cannot talk anymore

When they opened his chest to coax
the heart muscles open

When the corridor wound itself
tighter than a tourniquet

When the winds came through the floor-
boards as delicate sharp whips


Time isn’t real:

a mural I saw at a museum exhibit, 
the words scripted across a lake 

of cloudy color against white. 
Except we had only twenty minutes 
before the doors would close 

and the guards ushered us back out 
into the rain. At the train

station, all the people turning
toward monitors, watching for arrivals 
and departures: each face cupped
like a flower toward the dropping
light. When I was a child, I liked

to spin in the playground--- 
my eyes fixed on the highest 
point of a rooftop,  

arms spread out like wings; 
the world a drum in a zoetrope. 


[ Zoetrope: Gr., ζωή zoe, "life" and τρόπος tropos, "turning" ]

Haibun for the Disappeared


My brothers were silenced when they spoke against the ones who came 
into our villages, searching for anyone they could blame for the dictator's
latest obsessions. Every cul-de-sac grew tufts of blood-stained grass, asterisks
of coiled wire, moats where we could see the last shape their bodies held,
seizing and exhaling stars. Night after feverish night I push needle and thread
through pieces of linen, cutting holes for sleeves and openings for the neck
and head. I dream about how each will wear these shirts at the next
threshing festival and dance in the square with a girl. But my fingers
tear out the seams, start over again, despairing of getting it right. 
Everyone hides in their huts at sundown. Rifles march in the streets.

The moon rises and the sound
of wings fills the window--- my voice
a shroud I throw into the sky.


Manifest Destiny (Infinite Loop)

~ erasure poem based on The First Voyage Round the World
Antonio Pigafetta, 1874

      one of them with a great sword      gave him a great blow on the left
leg, which brought the captain down on his face

they deprived of life our mirror, light, comfort,           true guide

He died; 

                    Most versed in nautical charts, he knew

                               how to attempt the circuit of the
globe, which he         almost completed


Manifest Destiny (Infinite Loop)


~ erasure poem based on The First Voyage Round the World
Antonio Pigafetta, 1874

                     another chief named
Silapulapu     would not in any way obey the King of Spain

                we then leaped into the water up to our thighs
and we

the islanders fifteen hundred in number      they came down upon
us with terrible shouts

      throwing arrows, javelins, spears hardened in fire 

                                          our men set

fire to their houses 

                                    The rest came down
upon us with greater fury