Friday, October 10, 2014


You with yourself
fingering the worse that makes it better
The prostitute you gave your virginity to
Atheist at the church of you
lurking inside your fragile temple
You inhale your delicious cancer

Taking a stab at yourself
 just so you can lick the wounds
The oppressor that undresses you
The lesser and the mess of you
The deluge that starves you
pulls my stomach out of my chest

Repulsed to be a snake
who must shed its skin
stillness itches
You must slide out from underneath it
though it horrifies you,
your diamonds will glisten

Would that I could
I would take you home
where the rhythm commands dancing

A conversation
where grammar orders truth
and our tongues could untie the knots in our stomachs
I would have with you
But some melodies have no lyrics


In these sleepless hours
you visit me
you lay your head
on night’s black shoulder
and caress the wounds
My open eyes
listen to your tired stories
a mouse running on its wheel

Morning is suspicious
there are no guarantees, after all
The white noise, a siren
In the stillness of this night
you accompany me
as I race to the end of myself
Why do you jump up and down
shouting at me?
You evade my seduction
Light the candle
while I sing you a lullaby
Close your eyes
Your silence is much too loud
as you breathe down my neck

Thursday, October 9, 2014


The sorrow of you
set in like an old friend
an old woman
hanging on her bones
An art
written on brittle, yellowing pages
The woven words loosened
like a falling tooth
as the tongue pushes on it
tasting its blood

Sorrow is like that
petals freshly fallen on the ground
finished things
completing the colossal task
of bud

Words uttered
and silent
from lingering lips
the forgotten weight of a leg
page turned

the memory wrapped me up
like a fish feeling the weight of its scales
for the very first time

not seeing again
your eyes when they break
into laughter

Sorrow is like that


On that particular day
I got off the airplane
absolutely exhausted
my head swimming from
passing the sun

Nothing right
2:00 p.m. should be 6:00 a.m.
The haunted house
of parking lot and elevator
By the door
his name in black magic marker
Connoting something other
than him

I walked into his room
I saw him
I looked through his disfigured face
my father
into his terrible open eyes
They rolled around in his head
He thrashed against his
My presence, irrelevant
I saw what insanity
must look like

He was so very far away
in a place
a broken neck
a broken back
a head injury
a crushed leg
a crushed arm
a head injury
a swollen damaged everything
can put you in

As the respirator
sucked in and spit out perfect time
as my eyes made the news
unreal reality
I fought to breathe
wincing and gasping
the disinfected smell of near-death
No form of hysteria
could unleash it

I needed to touch
what was so much less
than human
Fingernails sunk deep
into that huge swollen bear claw
Moisture seeping out
of that nearly exploding memory
of a hand

I swallowed back the vomit
as my legs
ran for the door
Water flowing
from my eyes and nose
coughing and lurching
I made it to the lawn
and watched the thin green blades
of grass
fall over
with the weight
of my grief

I couldn’t find him
Even the smartest people
didn’t know where he was
His name became
that broken chamber
that discolored misshapen cavity
inside of which echoed
a father teasing his daughter
And I prayed
that death
would set us both free


If I only I could tell you

Take the words from my mouth
Roll them around on your tongue
Let them rest like dew drops on your lips
Lick and wrap around them
suck them gently
tasting them fully
the bitter and the sweet
before you swallow them

I will take them back
as you whisper
and softly kiss them to me
My tongue will reach for them
And I will change them for you
I will chew them
until they break open again
and the juice trickles
down my chin
so that you can again
savor the nectar
from my lips
letting the sweetness of it
take you over

Only then
will you
what I am
trying to say.


The walls were uncomfortable
of the box you put me in
Your exclusive world
on the outside
Just to lift a side
and breathe
Freedom is something to be
Feel it
lung fingers
velvet tissue
Breathe it in
Rub it in
Drink it in
Lose the gasping
and savor it like wine
on just the other side

Fists pounding
I am more than
your square eyes
I am saturated
Thunder sounds in the desert
and inside of veins
constantly arriving
with each deep breath
My exclusive world
wrapped with satin ribbon
to be opened


The only true goodbye is silence
mocking you as you argue with it
Words like gone don’t make noise
The song of the burnt forest
once the fire is completely out
Green tree memory mantra
that never delivers
The was of it
The quieter ever louder and louder
Absence gloating in the present
No act of contrition or expression
can relieve it
No act period.
The meaning of that
only after the final punctuation
A period longing
to drop its mouth open
and become a comma

The brutal past-tense of lost


My moments
are what I offer
wrapped in these words
a snake sliding through its skin
rain sailing through the wind
sun diamonds floating on water
still tea in a green cup

Seek me out
in these places
Seeds lodged in the core of the fruit
your savoring them, their only purpose
The constant nows
that make and break me
The sky wraps her arms around a cloud
dancing through the great room
Every performance, opening night

This is my spectator sport
fish swimming through my lenses
the perfect rhythm of their applauding tailfins
or the sun caressing the moon
leaking their collective shine on night
My legs hold me up
snapped to attention


you hear the language in your head
banging around in there
sticking to the sides
soaking through to the very middle
making noise
noise and meaning
noise and nonsense
the silence, even louder
angst and joy, mere understatements
when words are put together
weaving in and out of up and down
informing us, lying to us, singing and screaming
answering, acknowledging, communicating
excusing, exclaiming, pardoning, parting
they knock around
when you hear the language in your head
static on a radio you can't turn off
they lay around
and where does the nerve come from
to gather them up, arrange them
put them in an order that makes sense?
shreds of paper blow in the wind
once part of something complete
a meaning bigger than its parts
reduced to rolling meaninglessness
flags surrendering to the wind
bars and bars of music
broken and torn to silence


They say
that there are active sentences
and agents
and objects
Intent can be diagrammed
Silent fragments
mean something

With the longest spoon in the world
we stir them up
and spit them out
fruitfully and fruitlessly
we chew and chew
savoring and gagging
struggling to swallow them
over the lumps in our throats
            Sputtering, slavering, and singing
            we spill and stain them
            and sometimes
            set them free
            Meaningless without
            their consummated nourishment
And sickened by
what they lack
Prepositions and propositions
go unanswered
and worse, unasked

Tongue tied with a satin ribbon
That decoration,
curled and dangling,
longs for a tiny grasp
to tug at its end
and release the middle part,
the tangled order,
of its essential knot
(for what is a ribbon
without its knot?)

Knots and nots
are so different
yet exactly the same
There is a place
where all ingredients
mean one
where the parts stack up
only to topple with
expression and nonsense
music and silence
trying to say the same thing
trying to say different things
and sometimes
trying to say
that which is
perfectly and horribly


(Part I)

 Throughout the day
it blindsides you
You flinch with your stomach

You learn which vertebrae C1 and T7 are
and what an embolism is
and why he needs four different million-dollar machines
What you don’t learn
are the implications
(And all this
while she sits rocking on her bed
saying Hail Mary’s and Our Father’s in Spanish
counting the little smooth balls of her plastic rosary
while her Papa is perhaps held together with tape
in a dusty one-room clinica
with four dirt parking spaces
or more likely, dead)

You think about how much you collided
with his stubbornness
And now it saves him
and you

You complained because he walked so damn fast
Your legs trotted to keep up
And now you would give your left leg
if he could take one miniscule step

Broken, broken
Breaking you into pieces
Disconnected, disturbed,
insulted, damaged
Swollen bleeding ripping and crackling
Screaming clawing, resting, dying
Hanging on, fighting, waiting

Holding together
Falling apart
Out on a limb
Out of limbs
Fucked-up nonsense
You flinch with your stomach
and dream that a split second in time
could be picked off like a scab
and made new again

(Part II)

The scars left were ambiguous
because they were so deep
Deep in the middles of bones
In the under under layer of tissue
And in other places
Things even had to be unscrewed
We wanted to be uninterrupted
We liked our former notions
of give and take
Once upon a time
the sadness took more
than we could give
and gave more than
we could take
But the bandages were finally torn off
White flags after the surrender



The flowers threw up
their hands
and rioted
(and these are the ones

I picked for you)


You admire each piece
tiny in its perfection
They tease you with
potential completion
Languid longing

The sky pulls you deeper in
and deeper out
with excruciating tenderness
Blue, so blue

Liquid blue
Each drop of that sky
drinking you whole
leaving nothing behind
but traces of
blue wet

Little tiny pieces
tugging at each other
through their distance
wanting to dissolve into each other
wanting to be one
in blue wet

-- Carolyn Kaltenbach (2001)

Wednesday, October 8, 2014


A foreign language
two Muslim women
deeply engaged in
Nothing but intonation
filling the air
Birds singing and chattering
in the trees above
their wrapped heads
sounds separated into
unknown words
Peaking out from her hijab
the smaller one is emphatic
an added shrill to
the strange sounds
spit out of her lips
Her sad, angry humanity
draping over her
The taller one
Her friend?  Her sister?
Breaking it open with
a gentle empathetic laugh
The shrill passes
the song pauses
and then a quick change
a slower tempo
they ease into an easier topic
rolling off their tongues and teeth
and from their throats
always back to the throat
minor notes
in an Arabian scale