poems
White-Evening-on-Columbia
Lily White

Cloud Pharmacy – from Cloud Pharmacy

Strange Hotel in 103° – from Cloud Pharmacy

The 4 “0” Clock News @ House of Sky – from The Alchemist’s Kitchen

Different Places to Pray – from The Alchemist’s Kitchen

Mohamud at the Mosque – from Cures Include Travel

Wendy – from The Cartographer’s Tongue / Poems of the World

Cloud Pharmacy

How many apothecary drawers
could I fill with these deliberations?

The pharmacist’s paper cone
parsing out a quarter cup

of love’s resistant drug,
spoons measuring new prescriptions

for my uncertainty, hipsway, gesture.
Give me cobalt bottles

leftover from aunt iska’s cures,
albastrons of ointments, resins to resolve

the double-helix of desire inside of me.
Where is the votive, the vessel,

the slide rule calculation—
to know how much good love

alchemically speaking is
good enough?

I want spindrift nights on swimmer’s
thighs. I want an Egyptian

elevator inlaid in camphorwood and ivory;
a West African drumbeat, an eggnog, a god.

I want waves and summer all year long.
I want you. And I want more.

First published in City Arts

Strange Hotel in 103°

Mornings, Sebastian arrives to water
the gravel and then, who knows why,

circles the hose round the driveway –
harmonizing, repeats the task again.

After touching the corner balcony,
the pepper tree looks as if

it might know. Perhaps the branches
communicate with the sea –

or don’t, who can say? If Philipp
photo shops in his boxers,

Benjamin composes the National
Symphony, he reveals, nude.

Dinner is included –
a menu of unmistakably

grey food. Mackerel casserole
or mushroom? Who would say

why the Serbian shaves her head
or if the German is really in love?

Perhaps, this is what purgatory is like –
the taste of ash and of flowers,

the long approach to what we meant to say.

First Published in Pilgrimage

The 4 ‘0’ Clock News @ House of Sky

In the beginning we wanted

to cast ourselves
as opera stars, to break apart

like gorgeous women
palm reading at the piano bar ~

music stinging like salt from the sea.

We were spiraling ridges, dust-darlings
and dangerous.

We were peonies ~ cut
and arranged like astronauts

in flight. We soaked in syllables

not water; rode the Southern
drawl of the wind

over cobalt glass ~
backlit by a disc of sun.

First Published in Diode

Different Places to Pray

Everywhere, everywhere she wrote; something is falling –
a ring of keys slips out of her pocket into the ravine below;

nickels and dimes and to do lists; duck feathers from a gold pillow.
Everywhere someone is losing a favorite sock or a clock stops

circling the day; everywhere she goes she follows the ghost
of her heart; jettisons everything but the shepherd moon, the hopeless cause.

This is the way a life unfolds: decoding messages from profiteroles,
the weight of mature plums in late autumn. She’d prefer a compass

rose, a star chart, text support messages delivered from the net,
even the local pet shop – as long as some god rolls away the gloss

and grime of our gutted days, our global positioning crimes.
Tell me, where do you go to pray – a river valley, a pastry tray?

First Published in the Times Literary Supplement

Mohamud at the Mosque
– for my student, upon his graduation

And some time later in the lingering
blaze of summer, in the first days
after September 11th you phoned –

if I don’t tell anyone my name I’ll
pass for an African American.

And suddenly, this seemed a sensible solution –

the best protection: to be a black man
born in America, more invisible than
Somali, Muslim, asylum seeker –

Others stayed away that first Friday
but your uncle insisted that you pray.
How fortunes change so swiftly

I hear you say. And as you parallel
park across from the Tukwila
mosque, a young woman cries out –

her fears unfurling beside your battered car
Go back where you came from!
You stand, both of you, dazzling there

in the mid-day light, her pavement
facing off along your parking strip.
You tell me she is only trying

to protect her lawn, her trees,
her untended heart – already
alarmed by its directive.

And when the neighborhood
policeman appears, asks
you, asks her, asks all the others –

So what seems to be the problem?
He actually expects an answer,
as if any of us could name it –

as if perhaps your prayers
chanted as this cop stands guard
watching over your windshield

during the entire service
might hold back the world
we did not want to know.

First Published in Poetry International

Wendy

“Wendy, Wendy when you are sleeping in your silly bed
you might be flying about with me saying funny things to the stars.
Wendy,” he said, “how we should all respect you.”

Peter Pan

This time she would know better.
There would be no sewing shadows
mending the boy’s tails, hot afternoons
cooking alligator, skinning
the pirates for stew.
She’d rather walk the plank.
Why would she go with him?
After the storytelling
windows open to the night
she would not be fooled by promises
of fairy dust or tempted with the offer
of mothering lost boys.
No patience with false Romance
she’d go only for the flying —
a movement like magnets to the stars.
Second to the right
and straight on till morning.
Air travel would win her over.
Energized, she’d start a union
for the mermaids
find counseling for Peter
and be off again.
She’d move above volcanoes, investigate
a tangle of clouds.
And then like the pilot resisting
the runway home, she’d hold her breath
and offer up this
pleasure — the telling
of the journey out alone.

First published in The Cartographer’s Tongue / Poems of the World