Poems of the Week


–In the Library of the Fairy Tale,

They would be stupid children who asked why
their parents have left them in the forest, why

their mothers hate them, their fathers haunt
their bedsteads. Here, no one in danger waits

for salvation. Here, what hungers is lovely
cruel, is gore & gorgeous & godless. It knows

spots quickest to goad blood to bruise,
the gasp & spasm & green of smothering.

How good is it, how easy, in the forest,
where you know what waits for you

adores the horror & minutiae: small bones
shattered, the slim rim of the iris in dilation.

How good, too, to know the story will forgive
you should you kill first, as when the child

goads the Witch over the trick lip of hunger
into the furnace of her own voice & is right

to do so—how good!, how easy to act
when you know your actions will be right.

It was your doubt made your brother lucky:
you would have preferred to destroy him.

House in Summer with a Slapped Face in It

Again: he swears he’ll never. Smiles
as if he will. Outside, the tulip tree
fills out its form in triplicate: pink, discreet. Deliberate trickery,

he pins your palm on your favorite
of his shirts, and beneath, his heart,
tiny needle’s eye, conducts its study of an endless thread

of blood: Cross my heart and hope . . .
he says. And winks. Outside, spring wizens
on the stem, slumps its crippled wilts toward summer. And swears

he’d swear even on the cracked back
of his mama’s fat Bible, spine split
by goldleaf, swears he hopes he’d want to. Never (your hand

at the dropped stitch of his pulse),
not again. From where you stand,
never’s not far off: in summer, a closed house grows toward it,

a wilderness: in the bedroom, he strips. You
are like the roses, confuse thorn and bloom,
who is rack and who is screw. . . .After, in the rusty tub, he draws you

a bath amber with sap; he cleans your sleepless
with the usual question: in the kitchen, in the sink,
a ruin of crows rings, black telephones. Who’d answer if you’d leave?

–Of a Sleeping Man,
& a Second Man Awake

(for John Wieners, 1934-2002)

So love unhoused us: sweat
the summer’s continual
hotel, we left skin
through doors of white rime, left

what had been made, unmade—
sheets the bleach of paregoric
behind the eyes.
image: our silver skin filled,

copper from inside out . . .
but could taste the needle—
the pain of sleep
in a cheap room—could taste

the cradle of the vein: unguent
a lullaby for comfort
and phosphorous,
blue hush a flame starving air

of oxygen. Chemistry:
what drew likeness
to our minds . . .
had never made fists like these—

syringe’s sudden jump of blood;
never heard dilations
sheet silence whitely
over everything; the heart—raw
nautilus—seal, receding, each breath
in chambers one
by one closer, taut
to the esophageal knot; love

unhoused us thus: saw: our slapped skin
rise iodine, rose-
gold before the light;
mercuric trembling over the treble

descant of flame; a solution, we thought,
a fix of image
to self, perpetual hotel.
Daguerreotype: of a sleeping man,
and a second awake: I remember him and again
we’re material
for light to write on,
most fragile of mediums—

a breath could wreck it—

*all from The Room Where I Was Born, The University of Wisconsin Press, 2003.

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