You're on an elevator with God and afraid
to ask which floor They want – for surely
God's pronoun is They - because deep down
you know God is already on every floor and
how long is this going to take? God says,
I never get tired of The Girl from Ipanema.
You smile and agree, though only now
do you notice the music. You start pushing
buttons in no sequence, feel the earth fall
away. Is this what it’s like to be a prayer,
or rather, what it’s like when one arrives?
... like a samba that swings so cool
and sways so gentle …
You remember something you read about
the first elevators, how they were powered
by animals and, later, water. And children,
They say, don’t forget children.
At every stop God gets on again, but you
don’t notice, you’re too into the song now.
Surely joy and apprehension shall follow you
all of your days.
Never Have I Ever
1 point for each
Faked a cataclysm
Cheered for a mountain
Got dressed up for an animal
Followed a sleepwalker outside
Forgiven a compliment
Seen the oxen doze in their red yoke
Judged a funeral
Stopped thinking about a particular cloud in 1975
Made out with a statue
Heard back from Jeremy
Misplaced a chariot
Shown you the door
Drank from cupped feet
Watched my own birth video on continuous replay
Flooded the airwaves
Wanted a different word for Zebra
Curled at the edges
Sparkled like a cave
This poem first appeared in the Red Eft Review, Summer 2021
Where Do You Get Your Ideas
There's a little shop
at the end of each sentence
where I buy the next one.
In a glossy catalogue
delivered every month
My ideas come from a cave
my father found in my mother.
It was warm, he said, a fire
already going. On the walls
were paintings of more mothers.
From fire, the word itself, from
everything that could burn us
in the moment of saying it.
Ask me again. Now ask me why
I asked you to ask me.
Really, they just barge in
whenever they feel like it.
I haven't finished a dream
The first ones came by ship.
Stowaways, they nearly starved.
Then someone found a sack
of almonds and everyone
lived. When they reached port,
they could see in the dark.
From chumps who aren't using them.
From a vending machine
outside the crime museum.
From you. Right now,
you're giving me ideas.
One of them is worth millions.
Another is a small harp
playing in your coat. Still
another is a balcony view
of the parade. There were
supposed to be dancers
in flaming hats. You will
have to imagine them.
From knowing when to stop.
It was a few stanzas ago.
At night, I form a church
with my hands. Inside are
the faces of people I’ve hurt.
If I want to sleep, I must
look each one in the eye.
I don't make the rules.
This poem first appeared in the Journal ‘Tin House,’ March 2019
A book just told me that ‘bird’ used to be ‘bridd.’
At some point in the 16th century, a sleepy monk
copied it wrong and here we are, unable to hear
the bridds, even with the windows open.
That’s how it feels, anyway, like the whole creature
is gone. Maybe it’s only a loss in the life of poetry.
I mean, a poet is, above all, cursed with knowing
there’s no such thing as a synonym.
House and home? Nope.
Bloom and flower? Not even close.
Love and devotion? Don’t get me started.
When my mother got pregnant, there was no way
to tell the sex of a fetus. Back then, the doctor checked
your heartbeat and guessed. For me he got it wrong
and said, “Girl.”
Mom says she knew better, could feel a boy,
but she played along and kept a girl’s name handy:
Nora. I don’t know when she told me, but I was still
young, young enough to be astonished
my parents had ever lived without me. In my mind,
I could see Nora, my age, my size, but a different face,
one unlike my parents. Somewhere, in a world
aslant from this one —
one which I saw as always just above my head
and a little to the right—Nora sat on a set of swings,
swaying lazily, making patterns in sand with her shoe.
She wore a dress with ruffles, she wore boredom,
sadness. She heard everything I said and could say it
better. I’m not sure where I lost track of her, maybe
puberty. It wasn’t until I read about the bridds
that I glimpsed her again.
They’ve taken the swings down. The park has been
updated. Nora has a wheelchair because she hardly
used her legs. I don’t know who gave her the sweater,
who helps her into it or brings her here,
to watch the other wrong children play in half-light,
in the long-lost music of the trees.
Sometimes the Stork Eats the Baby
It doesn’t happen as often as you’d think,
once you start to think about it. That is,
the stork is typically patient with
a human infant, even an unpleasant one,
so it’s rarely a question of rapport. And
babies don’t go down that easy, not
like fish or money. But sometimes.
Sometimes the sea is wide. Sometimes
a powerline will look like it needs
your signature above it. Then the stork
may pause in its flight, might harbor
a doubt. Even then, they’re pretty
forgiving, of themselves and the sun.
They usually go on. But sometimes.
Sometimes there’s too much night, or not
enough jungle. Sometimes there’s only
you. Then you might do anything to
get back a little innocence, a little
What Happens Now. And sometimes.
The baby is sleeping. The baby is awake.
The baby holds your toe with its whole hand.
In darkness, the stork folds the blanket,
leaves it on a beach — leaves the blood
if any, on its beak — and flies back
to get another baby. It’s not sinister,
it’s not what you’re thinking. The next
baby makes it home. The stork, renewed
in its purpose, seldom eats another.