In a sallow square, five by five faces project a mood
toward a sharp-nosed dog with felt ears.
We’re a mess of lapel, wallpaper, denim,
and I’m in a dress of apples.
That boy above me in the checkered jacket,
he’ll grow up to kiss me on a porch
then pollute me in a pool house—a tacky
set piece, as these things go. I counted the
tile edging the water, and when I lost tally
I began again, my face pressed cruelly
into wicker, my eyes peering through
the breaks in its twist.
And then a gift, when I still believed in all that.
It rained in August, droplets
snapping from the overlay
like blown glass breaking blue, magnificent.
There was sand in my hourglass and gold on the beach
blown through the spray,
through the shiny suit among a grove
Sometimes a hand would unfold on nuggets of foil
from a box of cigars.
This when I was very small
and through to another state’s recreational
where I dug greedily for prizes. It’s not visible
for the grainy murk clung to the lens, for the hair
whipping my face, but I was smiling.
I was dozens of girls back then, and some of them
happy. Miles after, there is the Rogue River
recklessly collecting tributaries, the seagulls
splitting their time between residences.
The water there is furious enough for daredevils,
but I had no use for it.
Suddenly I liked avocados, California’s own plan
to fatten me up, to ripen itself
under my grip before rotting the fruit
as a metaphor for time.
I was rotations away from an ability to fathom.
That was the year my instamatic broke,
the end to fuzzy four-sides of goings-on,
of me topless in so many stairwells I’d bore
even my biographer, wheezing at the top
Months left me where I couldn’t laugh.
I knew a kid with a balcony edging his bedroom
overlooking the busiest intersection
I’d spent instances overlooking. He had to jump
and I took home that obstinate plant
urged from a wide-mouthed jar.
Around an L-shaped table she couldn’t suppose
that I’m an L, formal in a month
of pedestrian secrets, dumb to the pretty teeth
whittling themselves to fangs.
She anchored the pileup of people I wore out,
persuading from one trouble to
to demonstrate a kind of shade, even as nineteen
eighty-nine was my warmest year on record.
Like a rat sated on slop, my place on the food chain
had yet to be
And in all the goodbyes, I only caught her
sideways, where she fancied me
well enough to tell me what I’d become. Too remote,
that kind of chaos, when I’d already
Someone lost an elbow out the window of a bus,
clipped by a six-ton truck.
How does the body reset itself
when the time for downy regeneration has long
sunk into relentless decay?
It doesn’t, of course, but I think the lesson
is to keep trying, and to keep
your limbs to yourself.
Days later, a man with nine fingers
charmed me over a fence to listen
to the loons exulting a lake in the winter range
because there is no winter here.
I shot a self portrait and it caught my white belly
and behind it
the red light of leaving.
Now we must also leave me, tramping
in a modern radiation, blooming home.
I took anyone who’d come with me to pose
at the orange-lit rows
of dire wolf heads, maybe hundreds of them
as even the ruthless will.
The flash never got it,
turned the background yellow
as if in a bright kitchen
a pack sat down to a meal
and stayed on for centuries.
We’ve all had that happen.
The redundancy of death
left me rapt against the scratch
of the back wall. I thought a lot about tar
not realizing the pits I stuck in
were a mire of effervescent
obsession. I wrongly predicted
what feasted on me would be less easily
pleased, less patient as I sank.
Should I have been terrified
when flat surfaces
became uphill, reddening
my cheeks? They called it
infection but I knew it was
allergy, a reaction to
all the gravel and under-
brush and moss. I was
desperate for pavement,
something solid to crack
me open, something porous
to absorb the stain.
I would have been any person
who would house me.
In one image I’m in brown
hiking boots, fumbling
with matches in the thicket.
Afterwards, I bought shoes
nothing could accommodate,
patent lime green with
extra-large buckles and a trick
to the heel. These I
photographed from above,
with the toes pointed
westward, because I thought
I would never escape.