It springs here, now, betwixt and between

the waxing lobes of the sugar maple’s

quivering greens, proverbial blue air

conjuring a scene (you’ve seen it),

an April of youth and plenty in the yard,

horse shoes at the stake, steaks on the grill,

            and the dead, living. 

Spores of moss glitter, spun sugar

over roots by the chain-link gate.

Like a sketch on a paper napkin

you’re dog-eared at its edges.

This plane, that plane—this afternoon

tripping over all the blooming clover.


In a circle

strewn with corn silk 

and suckling maws,

new arrivals call

for Mat’, Mor, Madre, and

Morsa, as in moreso,

and so on, all heirs 

of Mére and Matka,

Moeder and Madar, 

Mater, etc., who know a thing

or two about flint and eros, 

about blessings and loss,

who’ve already mined

the walls of reliquaries

filled with carnelian,

guts and lore.  

Mum’s the word foretells

a waning, a weaning,

a darkening light. 

Mana. Muter. O-

ma. Uma. 


You’ll begin again, anew,

after all is said and done,

the bobbing adam’s apple, swelled breast,

         wrists pulsing arias or don’ts—

supper plates stacked by the sink, drinks left

         bereft of ice or fingertips—

the party will have descended to the sofa

         transfixed by some eclipse,

a wick soaked in paraffin,

         a board game’s icon

                  four squares from finish,

and legs and arms will again fold

         into one another

                  as in prayer—


In that hot wrought-iron bed in Budapest 

each night, afterwards, the labor 

of sculptors and casters and finishers

kept us awake, marveling the ceiling 

crafted with gypsum and lime, sprays of acanthus 

sixteen feet above our damp hips and 

open hands, lilies out of reach, and dentils, 

finials, intricate coffers and cornices, 

medallions adorned with delicate scrolls -- 

all cast and lugged to this address to be

assembled here by those laborers dusted 

white with plaster, gummy with hide glue, 

mounting scaffolds in the starry blue-black night, 

as our eyes began to close, 

fastening the lid on love’s asylum.



Pole dancing on the axis mundi

Clad in air and a veil of hair, 

Kali is any one and everywhere


interrogating history, prophecy,

testimony and will, cracking abstracts--

from pressure of her inquiry,


fissures snake slivers in frozen

now gushing gunmetal waters.

She dips a skull cup and drinks.


She, too, could be a girl at the shoal,

Skipping stones, pressing a coconut cheek

And salty ear to hear woes


wafting from blankets—complaints

about Eros followed by platitudes, dates

for squash or a glass of merlot.


A whirligig in a garden, the goddess

Spins agog, revolutions tempered

by the drag force of prayer.  


Long fingers span the girdle at her hips,

breasts flush with a garland of lolling heads.

She licks her lips and opens three wide eyes,


climbing the vine, evening’s leave-taking,

verdant ladder on whose rungs each dream 

hangs upside down, a tattooed bat.


A witch-mother hurls silver nickels

slicing tires, a snakeskin sedan spirals

tail-down a steep ramp of traffic and fires—


a painter hollers on a study’s

braided rug she kneels and shakes a canvas

upside down, two lemons, an inky black vase—


there’s a cliff, a glacial chase--corridors,

padlocked doors—a churning wave, a cup

of potent tea, a serially sexual fantasy—


Who‘s never flown off the sham in the indigo

hour of hissing cicadas, roused

by the succulence of her own sweat?


So explicit she can’t bear its reoccurrence

the rigor of a zinc white room,

bare as a strained egg.  White walls, sharp shadows,


a linear repetition of straight edges

and fine lines, like notebook paper,

full of hot air, or lead.


Pulled contrapposto by a hound

in the leafy dark night, silent as a

sewn pocket she traces hieroglyphs 


blackened by ink, a brew

of pine smoke’s soot, musk, lamp oil,

gelatin of donkey skin—


She sees one of the bereaved kneeling

in dirt, fashioning the funerary vessel,

a round-bellied pot on stilts, clay


mountain goat perched on its lid, worrying

terra cotta so the base scrolls slope

upwards, a skein of grief and desire.





A girl on the rocks didn’t know

the difference between asparagus and rhubarb

and orders of operation threw her off.


At night minted light sprayed linoleum,

appliances humming dirges

on the pillow her cheek faced west  


as the rose window points to paradise. 

On tables, rockers, by the copper kettle and

Deep blue bottles, a cast worked the dark


drumming her pulse, strident as calvary. 

She lay taut in the middle of the bed, a

thread primed for a needle--the clock’s staccato


hands rattling change on the dresser.

She cut a baker, a totem with lapis nipples,

a shepherd, a siren, a sage--


At once yielding and relentless, a fragile

psychic equilibrium, an unsteady gnomon-- 

a witness ephemeral as a rainbow—


The goddess devours secrets and conceits.

Her tongue protrudes,

She bites it—suffering another woman


spot her lover in line on a concrete plinth,

the sheet that enfolds him

smooth as limestone robes


draped over bodies in the Greek wing.

He gave the gods a run for their money—

alas, the hemispheres of his placid eyes


resigned. She’d played her part,

learned by heart, Either was

the other’s Mine.


She walked by the wormwood

ringing the river with a bucket of water,

pressed petals on her eyelids—


Her nostrils crowded with crude. 

She stepped on the spokes of the medicine wheel,

28 splinters.


Yanking goose grass in the garden til roots

give way, she pictures a shallow bowl

in a museum display, memory’s handiwork


chipped and salved from the brink

of obscurity, excavated

from this same loose dirt—


She has a mind-stall to sweep, bitters and sweets.

She writes in wax with a stick of bone.

She draws with a fistful of swan and crow feathers.


A rusted baking pan filled with rain water.

She rested on a swing of olive wood, a

Carnelian bead warm in her palm.




IIn broad strokes, in the grittiest

cityscape’s grillwork, baked bricks

and hand-painted placards,


a witness shuffles archetypes

like playing cards and loose change.

Folks knead bread, break it,


honor their dead—they tune strings,

count blessings

and minutes—


In the chain-linked schoolyard

Girls and boys ‘ring around the rosy’

til all fall down.


The conduit for now and when

charges in promises kept between lines

scraped by an engraver’s chisel. 


In the history of a moan,

an understanding--and the pedestrian

hankering for a little something salted,


a bite and a spot to linger,

the shade of an oak planted

before the rutted roads were paved.


Balanced in this field of gravity,

resilience and despair,

Kali’s mounting circles,


the shape of perpetuity.

Labors score its cyclic measures:

A cave, a kiss, an epitaph.


The female idol

who lost her head   

to sacrifice, found it


lodged on a slim metal pole,

facing sunrise

and the ossuary.


Each time chance tunes, she hears

a different pitch.  Chords of harmony

or dissonance bleat, dicker


and sway, come hell or high water,

come teasing the marrow

out of hours.


Balanced at the top

rung of the ladder

he fastened

flocked globes

to the ceiling’s scaffold

with lengths of invisible string

as outside that window

she grew up inside

snow swirled on the green’s

three stone churches,

blinking pizzerias.

In the display she sat

cross with equations,

studying pedestrians

on the other side of glass

bluster past in knit caps,

crowns of crystals fluffed,

dollops of whipping cream, 

clutching satchels

in the rush hour

city buses hissed

to stops.

Around the block

the Schubert’s pit orchestra

tuned while here her father,

bent on design scored

triangles in matboard

soon pyramids

filling the floor,

a cubist forest

he trimmed with untold

measures of red- and

gold-flecked stars.


One in four who marry 

here in spring may after 

honor seasons of rabbits 


and buried pets, supper parties, 

piano lessons, bad debt. 

May toss coins, read runes, 


root for trophies and brighter smiles, 

bear sacrifices so hard 

they ferry a garlicky scent.  


Burning wicks, may bolster 

or suffer attachment, hip 

to hip, night by every goddamn day. 


May tear greens and pick 

at the cosmos, dig impatiens 

in the sweet bay magnolia’s shade. 


May parlay time to err, 

ears cocked, cottoning to winks 

on cue leave the table,


mashing grasses 

in a far field, 

flush, another hand—


may later spot the evening 

primrose glimmer, his or her 

tongue tingling with bitters. 


Warblings at Eve, occasional use

of fingers—the pattern under being 

in practical terms seductive 

as a mountain stream, seeking 

consolation, the professor loves

in his way, demonstrating brilliant 

occasional use of fingers, bravura’s

surge of being: crusader booty. 

Hand her the piece—played by one 

who loves in his way the fragrance of 

linden trees no longer applicable—

education, fingers, peculiar 

notes merging, in practical 

terms, a pattern—long, long ago, 

the occasional use of fingers 

made Eve’s body warble.


Russell, the hamster, 

is gone and who knows who

ate him or where

he may have discovered a crevice

wide enough to squeeze

through -- Lulu, mammoth of a lab,

did you nab him?  (I checked

your stool for bones). 

Poor rustling friend 

who roused in darkness tread 

the wheel to dawn’s light 

alone with his thoughts

racing to strike 

the right tempo (albeit creakily) --

to wrestle his groove -- 

I miss the insistence 

of your accompaniment,

the kindred tenor 

of our search.


Whether content or context is theoretical

    or emotional  is the question.

How often we search for words

    like misplaced glasses,  

ream the bottoms of coffee 

    cups, measure the blood-pursuit, 


decipher the edges of matchbooks

    and circulars to make sense

of the crucially 

        nonsensical -- 

    the rabbit and withered rose 

patterns found on the wall once 

    paper, paint, and glue were steamed, 


        puttied away --

a gestalt jolt of the relativity 

    of nouns:

        angels, alchemy, 

            big breasts, small dogs, 

        lottery, adultery, 

            yellow moon, rosary,  

        melancholy iconoclastic 

            perspective of the expatriate 

        peripatetic soul, 

            periodicals, pool halls, 

        one perfect arabesque,

             Elvis, Ellis Island, 

        Delacroix, coping saw,

            red velvet cake,         

         solfege, testosterone,

            phrenology, potpourri,

        anatomy, matinee, tall tale, 

            email, Atlantis, french kiss,

                  sonogram, newsprint, 

            whirligig, rainmaker, 

        rodeo, maiden name, 

             April, tune-up, vertigo,

        zodiac, snowflake, matrix,

             cadenza, chianti, bare 

        feet, swing low, sweet


                    cheap thrills --   


We ran at the shallow edge 

    of that black lake we sang

all the lullabies we could 

    remember we stayed up

    all night --

this is how sentience tenders

    the nerves whirring a network 

    of response. 


The work embodies circumstance,   

     clock time plus a little romp 

        with other 




Admit  it, we can’t truly say 

    why we do what 

we do, and accept the fact:

    We need to.


after "The Gift" by Louisiana painter Edward Pramuk


The painter holds a pitcher in the doorway,

a way-big Vermeer in pie-shaped sunlight,

he tilts the pale vermilion jug

to fill a mug, and swallows.


Still, he watched it long

before he juiced it—


He sits in the studio in a striped chair

and stares at the enormous melon

still-life balanced on a rectangle

of pinkish-red wool.

It's hot.

He thinks the fine etched lines in its hide

could be seams of a door for a little plane,

that he might fly

for a spell.

The fruit skin sweats under the clamp light,

beads pearling down the belly,

darkening the cloth beneath.

It's too hot

to remember anything but heat.


He gulps the last of the pulp

and jostles his brush in fresh water.


Stellar as "Café de la Nuit" in the after-dinner hour

in Arles, party of yellow light and amber glasses

on a deep azure square, or acres

of sunflowers bowing sun-ward

in a Provençal midday,

Pramuk's watermelon reigns—

a minty dirigible aloft in a hot-tempered sky,

a juicy Buddha with a promise of cool,

poised to carve a gift from the vermilion

hell of a deep south July.

We recognize deliverance as an arc of sour rind

and wet red meat with plenty of seeds

to spew at the humid dirt.


To paint a watermelon well, one

must bloody one's hands in its flesh,

grind it, rind and all,

and drink.


The girl Edythe née (no way) Ida

wished to change her name when a neighbor named

her own baby girl Edythe and then-Ida

raged from the roof of the chicken coop

call me Edythe, Edythe with a y

and threatened I’ll never come down --


so at a mere seven years,  Ida became Edythe


and later, when Abraham loved her, 

simply E


She finds you in the alphabet,

U for ukulele the turtle plays,

and points to a mouse-held violin.

The cello's with you in Santiago,

but still strings flourish here,

and so does facial hair, as

for example, the moustached moose

in a picture book: "Dada!"

And out of the house

any man we see, it seems, could do. Dada?

Cars passing, bicyclists, trees,

cashiers, a mannequin wrapped in silk

sarong, all Dada, dada, dada—how

she longs for you, our little thrush,

rushing you home again.


The man in the tangerine cloak pulls on his beard

and it lengthens, considerably. His hands, Reba scrawls

on a cocktail napkin, slipping it under my glass 

so the ink goes bloody. “What?” This time she whispers,

and I look: 2 cardinals where fingers would be,

one flexing its carmine wings, the other pecking the head

of a burning butt dead in an amber glass ashtray.

“Imagine,” coos Reba, “those wings around you!”

I say, “you’re so assailable when you’re drunk.”


In a small white room

undisturbed on scuffed oak boards

sits a basketball

whose marmalade skin is froggishly-

textured, curved lines pointing

downwards, accentuating its stillness

here, where there is no hoop.

A small boy bends to lift the ball,

which is, in fact, a real ball,

not cast, not brushed with paint, 

unaltered in any way --

when out of a side door

the flying curator rages:

“Don’t touch the art!”

To which the boy replies, 

“it’s a ball.”

The court is quiet.

A hoop appears,

the loop in faith required

to score this game.

When the gallery door closes,

the curator goes swish.


 The guy in the confederate bandana’s crouched on the tip of stripped pine

 forty feet up in the air and hollering for his comrades to swing the rope his way

 while at her kitchen window the old woman waits for the scent

 of pine to cross the street, her doorjamb, and floor her as it once did

 when she was once too young to feel any which way but the one she felt

 for a man he resembles, minus the cloth, sort of swarthy and sweaty,

 lean, clearly carnal, likable, really, on pine straw, especially, likable

 and she nearly forgets herself, her stunned foot, the knots that warp her

 knuckles and spine, her chins, her bottom flat as a pressed flower

 as she calls out, thankfully, only to the storm window glass, 

 after pouring some tea for him to drink, and the shards of ice

 disappear in the bottom of the glass that’s got a tiny blue ring of   

 forget-me-nots painted around its rim forever, or at least til an estate sale 

 when some young couple may buy it to stay delicate buds from their garden 

 and some time later, should they finally conceive, that boy or girl

 perhaps one afternoon, pulling crayons across paper, may knock it

 quite by accident, as it will be clear to all who enter the home, even the little one,

 it is a special vase, and the pieces will be lifted away, the mother will swoop down

 with a soft cloth to pick the hard edges as the crane pinches the limbs

 of cut pine stacked by the street now, the sprays of their needles

 startled as goosebumps, that fragrant herd scratching her cheeks.


The site is hard dirt and raw wood,

two-by-fours stark on blue air -- a ladder

divides the first and second floors.

I’m twelve, your daughter, and

I can walk through walls.  

You check angles, cradle vistas, 

assign placement of electrical outlets.   

In the master bath the basin of 

a porcelain vanity’s filled 

with sawdust and leaves.  

Below the unpaned window,

men with mud-caked jeans and boots

sit on truck bumpers sipping sweetened coffee.

Their names are Jimmy, Dick, Scott, Jimmy Jr.


At the site on Saturdays through the fall,

I clamber over scaffolds, toss sweaters or 

hats on nonexistent chairs, opening doors

not yet hinged, or there -- 

the air smells like donuts and pine.

You unroll plans on a saw-horse table,

sip easily from a steaming paper cup,

review elevations -- sheet after sheet

exposes rooms closer to the breadth of sky.

I want to know where everyone will sleep.




Once I woke as you were painting

a woman with  brown hair and 

almond-shaped eyes, larger than life, 

she paled on the deep coral canvas.

The arc of her lips, pacific, 

serene as your own 

the afternoon you died.

It was odd you didn’t paint a nose

yet it was clear that next morning

when she was still wet, 

she could breathe.


A carnival of spirits, pale straws afloat in ginger boots,

men in stripes of plaid, women unraveling

acres of tulle and organza.  Where are the children?

So long! the goose cried, ruffling its back 

feathers moving like water, there’s simply no time

at this hour to mourn losses like responsibility.


One woman declared the water smelled 

like an udder.  Another said, yes, 


she tasted a mauve nipple 

swirled with coarse white hairs. 


A third confessed she couldn’t tell a thing--

but a walk in the woods after heavy rain?


Scent of wet dog, hands down. 

Who could argue? B-b-b- benny 


and the Jets rattled the speakers, overhead 

a fan whirred, tired insistence, a mother 


on rewind, minding... All at once tall drinks 

of water, the children had evaporated 


like tear drops.  In the lazy eye 

of an August night, circling a vine of chalk flowers, 


chartreuse, scarlet, minty with desire 

the women held their cups aloft to cheer--


it was another birthday, after all, and 

they laughed about the water til they dried.


April, of birth and death, showers 

and labors, newborn greens asserting     

renewal along hedgerows and forsythia 

(“poor cynthia”) by the interstate --

April, one hand on the starched pillow,

a nosegay of sausages, swollen, plum-violet,

and aching, aching, April: the purest 

taste of bittersweet, a batter of mourning 

and desire rising in a close oven,

sorrow’s toothpick testing its center

and coming up raw.


A word for now harbors bass vowels 

    and double -you’s, moving syllables

with the spirited interference of fricatives,

    aspirants pushing ahead, 

the liquids taking time, lolling along, 

    nasals, as if teetering in loose heels, unsure, 

and stops, of course, proclamatory --


A word for now describes

    a landscape where children ran to swing --

before pear trees split and crepe myrtles and magnolias 

    bent all the way over like women crying in their hair,

before wind sucked up the root balls of oaks,

    cracked their trunks like chicken bones,

marrow in lake water, white wood torn,

    a frenzy of slivers and strands, piles of pulled meat 

flung over rooftops, strewn in the street --


A word for now first appeared

    as a glow in the dark star 

left pressed to a plank of cedarwood 

    above space where a crib once stood.


Tonight the sky is cloudy,

a blackboard’s lessons erased