Wash away

Who shall teach me grief

when my hands are still raw from the dirt?

By whose blessings should I find comfort

at dawn,

nourished by this two-day-old

reheated coffee

and a pretty row of blown glass ashtrays


with half-digested cigarettes

and torn obituary pages.

I will listen to the

hard rain

of a greedy morning

wash away the

radio noise,

wash away the


If you leave a man alone

long enough

he will disappear,

you know,

without an echo of what

you taught or didn’t teach him,

things like grief

things like blessings

or instructions on what to leave behind.

I could stand here all day

and wash the dirt off your marble,

and reminisce, with a coward’s heart,

about your faint deliberations

of fairness and reason,

but neither of us has the patience

or the inclination

to bury things much deeper.

I know you cannot hear me

in spite of the shouting.

If you could see me at all,

you would see

the stone you set in me,

that you tried to preserve,

but with a chisel in hand,

to reform me in your image,

your broken image.

You forgot the grief part,

you know.

How shall I learn it without you

to teach me

so I can wash it away

and wash away

the dark?



The last of the bread

The sun rises in its typical place,
with its usual shape,
brown like an egg, its runny yoke
drips all over us.

We eat the flesh of wild game,
cold on tin plates,
and wipe the grease
with the last of the bread I baked
before the days turned hot.

Under a sagging canopy of brown leaves,
and with soft marrow smeared on our faces,
we smile like strangers,
too frequently alone.

You measure
your words by the inch,
and I by the ounce,
and we fold our hands to the coming day.

The heart is

Have we yet reached that place
where we can say we have seen
inside the chambers of
each other’s heart?

Can we say we have spoken
to each one of our beasts
we claim
as pets
as ghosts
as gods?

Who would love us then
we recite our lives
to each other
without a paused breath

who is left
to listen

or are we equally complicit
bloodied knees, unbalanced in prayer,
our fingers broken and
reaching for
and denying all
of whatever makes us divine
whatever makes us lie
and lie
and lie.

and so
the liquor store wine
is the cheapest blood
that can save us.

No. You stay
Let’s just leave
the bereavement to others
who know how to perform it
or cut it into manageable pieces
or adorn it with
whatever decomposing light
is left.

We have seen into each other’s hearts
and we are

Who would want us now
that are hearts are cut open?



We come from solid work stock, you and I,

and we walk these final miles with tired backs,

towards a paper-plated Friday night.

You search your purse for your keys while I

watch a slim parchment of moon

dissolve across the snow.

There are clues here, I think, to everything.

The accumulation of our wet breaths etches

a communiqué across the front door window,

but you erase it

with the heel of your glove before

it can be jotted down on one of our sagging calendars.

We wear the same boots we wore six years ago,

the same scarves,

through the same tired hallway,

you first,

and I close the door behind us and

the snow melt is already turning brown.

You glance

at the litter of words I scribbled this morning

on the old motel stationery beside the phone.

I forgot what I wrote,

maybe a dentist appointment, maybe a confession,

maybe a dream I wanted to tell you about

before I forgot.

Here in the darkness, we compare our days

with clumsy smiles and cold hands.

We come from solid work stock, you and I,

and the miles have fallen behind us.

The yellow-leafed tree

The veil between dreams

My eyes abide the blighted light
of the yellow-leafed tree.
Please set my stone here
and let us both rest.
But please stop and listen —
I know you can hear it,
the grief in my spirit,

and you see the fraying of my days,
my finite breaths
fading away.

I still lean into old memories,
away from you,
away from who
I wanted to be.

I did not expect to be loved so well.

The hemlocks

Forty years on,

she follows the path of his ghost,

a slender and thorned road

that leads to a ruined ecstasy.

Above the carpeted dirt,

she remembers the boy’s twitching mouth,

so unaccustomed to casual pleasure,

and the slow burn of tobacco between them.

The last of the afternoon light

dripped between the hemlocks

and fell upon bare shoulders.

And she, alone, still wonders

if he ever smelled the gunpowder.