Consider the weight of water after rains against fault lines and the weight of our collected lives, how it takes not so many earthquake memories to learn that it is a matter of time until the next one, but this is the land of billboards training the witness into submission to a hunger that drives on to speed out branching interstate miles into state route highways flying toward the next bite, flesh riding the wind of the last win into the next investment cheered by a chorus calling Act Fast, Act Now, Don’t Miss. Out. It’s coming, they told us, the screens our suns in constant revolution around us, projecting new worlds of pleasure and war. Something rumbled and we caught each other’s eyes, looking up. What is that? one of us asked, and the voice of an invisible speaker said Now.
The breadth of our breath.
I suppose something like this–––?
must have carved and sanded the long
lines of my grandmother’s gaze
to the texture of skin, its paper-thin drape
like gift wrapping nearly off,
the long dissonance of ambient noise
resolved in the music of her
On the corner of Broadway and Elm.
[A bus stop. She stands with her arms out.
Her mouth moves. People see it moving
from their cars. Another sight but not a
I did not come here today
to point at you / I came here to
offer resistance to every impulse to
wield speech like sharpened knife ready
for blood I want to swell not drain it
to resist these Peters enough with
your swords already the speech of this
hour is not your righteous proclamation
your self-righteous dedication to your
selves, your group, your flag, this
one is music it is receiving it is
the tongue that moves to open the
body, uncurling fingers first from
fists relaxing at the wrists, out
and out resist the urge to shield
again this heart I have only this
these arms, this wavering voice––
I see you
take a good look but then listen––
do you hear?
In this luminous shade, our tenses melting, we could number the contractions in our skins until we lost count or became distracted. Even the spine’s intention drifts. The once vivid eyes lose precision, and some bright cousin of sorrow shines through. Oh, I am falling apart, you say, not for the first time, and now we can’t stop laughing.
They would appear every year around this time, a few weeks after first frost, when skies turned uncertain, and evening began to flood our afternoons. Some caution enters with the season, attended by its sidekick, mischief, daring to betray all reminders to take care where it’s cold, where it’s dark. To watch out.
They appeared as other seasonal creatures did, the kind that inspire axioms administered to students. As in, watch the squirrel gather acorns for winter, watch the leaves turn and fall, the geese flying south (as they once did with more note, in greater numbers). But no one of the sort inclined toward neat lesson would mention these other creatures, except with some comment about fools. Who catch their death of cold––that or eternal fire, for lack of modesty.
They were always young men at the age of terror and anticipation. A few years, some young women joined, but these were a different sort of spectacle, the sort you had to take care not to see. The ran across the clearing, naked except for boots, laughing with hoots and shrieks, with pumping arms and wild faces. A few wore hats. They appeared suddenly and were gone. After, no one could ever be sure who it was, unless someone bragged about it later. It seemed best not to know. There go the streakers, someone would say. And then it would be quiet again, as the evening continued, and the cold.
After the children had gone to live among the missing, after the pirates searched and left the land of broken light, our ghosts, these former vessels were everywhere.
And now. The screens rotate between sales events. First furniture, then war.
Idle hands, moving gaze. Downhill crossing grid: stucco, asphalt, concrete, sidewalk, yard. Repeat under shadow of freeway, up southern peaks. Back over yard, clotheslines, sheets into the harsh of late morning.
Find water, find ice, find the birds with your ears. Try again. They’ve gone silent. Find freeway on three sides a sudden soft hush and now a child’s laugh. Look and see her.
Barefoot and away, threading steps between oak and sage, eucalyptus, orange. Her pause in the clearing to enact the opening of stem into bud stretching petals to hills spinning. While stray cats watch, a horse looks on,
Bodies in late afternoon.
When the sky bleeds sunset into the back against glass door under rustle of palms near boxes to chill the neck trained against attack and fatigue of keeping this impulse near keeps heads heavy in morning on bodies so long theaters of war under constant command to move and move out, a sudden stillness may sing.
It was time, after all. Of this to admit to waiting space with delicate apprehension of open book not yet read or gone. Something breathing in the boxes we kept and time to look so we opened to see what we were holding, and it was parts of us everywhere in pieces.
Overheard, near the studio.
Here, each feather is stripped into muslin, then draped over discarded wood, then set in an abandoned pocket of stone––And here, look. Someone might have let this go, dismissing it as a mere bicycle tire. Now it is something else.
What is it now?
Exercises in not counting the cost.
One was always hungry. Two offered what she had until the cabinets were empty. When One was still hungry, Two found the last can of mixed nuts in a drawer. One ate them.
Then it was silent, and the silence made One feel a certain kind of way. “Best to say something now,” One thought. Something positive!
“Hey, Two,” One said, “Remember when you used to bake cakes? Why don’t you do that anymore?”
In the silence that followed, Two took a long breath.