I was not born good but
in the likeness of my father.
A man full of ashes
who loved tanks as a boy
and knew life through a dream.
I too was inflicted like a dog
with the disease of dreams
reaching my hand into a fish tank
believing you could talk to the animals.
And as a child I spoke to the fireflies
their bodies broken with radiance
the cracks of my body
full of light until I became a woman.
My flesh with the other flesh
my mouth in this shape
you in a language I can never touch.
If You Were Wondering About the Couple Who Owns the Funeral Home
This isn’t an erotic poem
we are just two erotic people
sitting in the bathtub
washing the dirt off each other’s backs.
It’s a Tuesday and on Tuesdays
we take inventory,
count the bodies in different orders
and make up beautiful pie charts
to stay sane. Violet means these bodies
just got here and haven’t even taken their shoes off,
yellow means we just need to get them
up and around put a little Miles Davis on,
green means we are feeling young and
you’re dancing like a dandelion again,
blue means the blood hasn’t left the body
yet and you’re a duchess in a room fit for a duchess
the throne of formaldehyde. We spray perfume
on the bodies, we call that rose. Red is the hardest
color of all, it is the day we think of fire. Gray is
the morning after. We sweep it into porcelain jugs.
People say that the void is indescribable but I tell you
it is brown and lacquer sitting on your mantle beneath
the portrait of your aunt Libby holding her tiny black dog.
As intricate as a thousand women
doing needlework, lace made
entirely of eyelashes.
What seem to be words
wrapping around each other
between us and the coffee.
This is where I thought
you were going to say
you loved me but instead
we watched the language
fold in and around itself.
The pants of god
made from cricket legs.
Hear the chirping when he sits down.
What is True for Birds
To get from Europe to the southernmost tip of Africa
you have to lose a part of your brain.
You are an apple in the sky
take a bite out of your abdomen
lose a quarter of your intestines.
What do we really need of the body?
Just enough to fly,
I can shave off all of my hair,
I can pluck out these feathers,
I can lose a kidney or a pancreas.
The ancient Egyptians put the organs
of their lovers into jars.
If you break sarcophagus down
it means flesh eating stone.
And there you are
standing in your kitchen.
Throw away your dead irises
and put in what is left of this
goldfinch into your beautiful mouth.
Rumi in the Mouth of the Snake
Your grandparents were wild rats,
dancing between the walls
of the kitchen, feasting on cheeses
and cognac, bathing in the filth
behind Madame Bovary’s Bistro,
vacationing in garbage dumps,
making love the way rats do,
in rat positions with their rat tails
tingling like radio antennas,
as messages from god pour
directly into their souls.
The rat soul so quiet and hungry
as were the first angels.
You think of them now,
staring into the eyes of the snake.
You think of your sister
no bigger than a tulip bulb,
reciting Rumi in the moment
before they pulled your body
out of the tank and into the darkness
you mustn’t be afraid of death
you’re deathless soul you
can’t be kept in a dark grave.
You think of rat heaven,
streets lined with cake crumbs,
the clouds porous, the sun
just a giant wheel of cheese.
The first rats in Eden welcoming
you with apple cores.
The mother you never knew
silver haired and weeping,
speaking in a broken tongue,
God has decreed life for you
And he will give another
And another and another,
you are my ninetieth son
come join me with your eighty-nine
brothers, and sisters, and brothers.