The Ocean’s Gate
(to the soldier photographed asleep between battles at Khe Sahn, 1968)
Isn’t the fist just a confused star?
flush to the ears of the waterfall?
Bluish layer, elegy notes, blanket
upon blanket of them. Aren’t
those black strokes hailing
the horizon just two arms
making many? Night
floods itself. The world is colossal enough:
blinking through the field of yellow-flowering
flax, his son empties the dog’s ashes
into clouds of thistle and the white
wall of afternoon sunlight...
A Difficult House
My mother loads black garbage bags stuffed with clothes
into the back of the station wagon.
My eyes are bright
as if flooded with mercury.
The lake’s shore is valiant. Each palpitation
a papercut. We stop the car
so that my sister can pee.
Then back into our seats—
outside our windows, chunks of amber wash up,
sold as elephant eyes.
My sister bundles it, looking everywhere for strangers.
In the waves, each buoy stands
nodding like a little flame,
exhaustion-built. Like a hope that is released from our veins.
Dad, tries to push the haunts down behind him,
hips through that bottleneck.
does not mean painless entry.
The titular blue sky he carries
has no purchase here.
This heat is a type of freezing,
a not-letting-go. Each childhood
with its scars. No song
that puts every child to sleep. My fingers
polish the swingset’s chains
like some door
shut against these colloidal storms.
I have learned, with my slight smile, with its crinkle,
twitch at the top of my cheek—I have learned
this way of growing
one’s skin around this paper lantern of a planet.
How stems will snap through the ash.
The hose makes rivers in the yard,
takes patio furniture
left outside by summer residents.
There, in the inauguration of heat
my first dream of flying
is not yours.
Near the shed, a brown recluse in a can of nails.
The walls shimmering.
Our neighbor washes himself in the alley,
drenches his head and drinks.
Shadow of a bird behind the curtain,
then cornflower blue.
Mother should never have lent you
the bees’ appetite for nectar.
Should I remember the taste of honeysuckle for you?
of mussel, sunrise swings down.
Scandent, happy at the smallest memory.
Dancing Around the Sublime
On the outskirts of his village, Adam
is spitting pink tubercular phlegm into his hands.
From the scaffolding, on its shaky wooden stilts, he calls:
Just tell me to get down and I will.
But I don’t tell him anything.
I never talk again
which you doubt
against the possibilities of reading this poem.
He is drunk
and I have disappeared into this, the stillest point I could find—
At least while I am here with him.