Motives for Writing

Motives for Writing

for Irene

Weight and water; light, lithium; tempo, terror, time:

I see the morning darken to a late eclipse.

I plunge into a sea of octopi at Nonquit Pond,

I calm the railings of a homebound, pallid aunt.

I part the hair of a corpse by the river Po,

I seek the silent epicenter of a Baltic storm.

I feather a farmhouse kitchen trim with gold,

but I don’t spare Salem girls from eating tainted corn.

I feel an Arctic blast along the Swansea creeks.

I console my dog, who’s afraid of table grapes.

I dig up trillions of trilobites in blue chalkstone.

I walk on dunes with the agitated face of Thoth.


Out of the mouth of Pantagruel, one shrill cry:

my miner's shallow breathing inside an iron cauldron.

Down a Ute switchback, canaries feed off yucca.

Tree trunks moan in a cataract of the Bois de Boulogne.

A nuclear submarine from Groton or New London looms.

Blood cells rake through my undertaker veins like slush.

I hold the pumpkin head of a Flemish headless horseman,

on the Connecticut, where civets grasp at spoors of light.

I sip my chicken beer until the campfire settles into ash,

near where my brother skins a fresh-killed Guernsey calf.

Deep in his eyes, you can still make out the bearded lady:

from the dark, a screech owl flies off towards Foxwoods.

Gray's Anatomy

I press hard upon your breasts until you sigh like Bjork did.

I put a penny on the eyelids of my sleeping sister.

I undo the algebra of Poe's late Celtic poems.

I poke a thumb at the endless, urban beltway.

I name an atoll after the Land of No Philosophy.

I anoint Iraqi soldiers with boughs of grit.

I wait for “ get thee to a nunnery.”

I look at you twice to see the tunics of your eyes.

I smell the lemon grass of Annamese coffee shops.

I hock rose bouquets at noon off Avenue C.

I search for your inner ear, your arm’s labyrinths.

I am lifting silkworms with the palms of your hand.


The tree of language is a spiny, poisonous mung bean.

I hear the single word groundlings in the din of a gymnasium.

Cake, you cry, before the anteroom goes silent.

My girl sketches oak galls--her chaos theory.

Our sun burns along peat bogs and dry pasture lands.

The town’s gray is lost to shitty day jobs.

Thunderheads crack; the steppes are rocked by sonic booms.

Forsythia blossoms under a pale June sky.

The thud of a gun across the iced Potomac.

Miles from heaven, test-tube psilocybin riots.

Beneath the waves, mussels festoon Cardigan Bay.

A balloonist looks down to pumpkin fields on fire.

The Human Stain

Thoughts press in on the forgotten art of walking.

All the interstates are bleached by a coat of scum.

The taste of pineapple will linger on her tongue.

Thick, bronchial wheezing upsets an acrobat.

Chinese boys sit in a Cadillac on Broadway:

an ambulance lurches past a grown-in dike path.

Juneau, Saskatchewan: too frozen not to love.

Cholera spreads on the skull of the Dakotas.

Oranges, eggplants--food for a trip to childhood.

A Browning Automatic Rifle, lost to dust.

Lisbon ships sail upon a sea of gluttony.

Terra incognito: it’s the quicksand of the gods.


Here's an alpine meadow of burdock, as yet uncut.

Here are the armies of clay men as yet unearthed.

Here is a bride at her wedding, as yet undressed.

Here are the fishermen's topsails, as yet unfurled.

Here is the sticky, newborn foal, as yet unlicked.

Here are the fields of damp plantain, as yet unplowed.

Here is the shroud of Atlantis, as yet unwound.

Here is the high-wire artist, as yet untested.

Here's the cage of your body, as yet untouched.

Here's the torso of Belvedere, as yet unsung.

Here's the mystery of mull wine, as yet unraveled.

Here is a word on the tongue, as yet unbidden.


We walk the Brooklyn Bridge the night the lights go out:

we are the 11,000 virgins of St. Ursula.

Bassoon-notes float across red symphonies of space:

stairs down to catacombs are covered with lichen.

This northern hurricane spirals counterclockwise:

three cousins scribble out a baluchithere fast.

Urinous ponds of fat are seeping sewage out:

what's happened is that Mata Hari's disappeared.

One writes backwards in the Priory of Zion:

my Mount of Olives is rife with rhododendron.

Judah's son, a thinker, spilled semen like flaxseed:

twins were born, one with a crimson thread in his hands.

Disassociative Fugue

I remember the law that told of forgetting.

I remember the hungry maiden of the lake.

I remember beehives the midnight I was born.

I remember the earth's curve on a train ride West.

I remember the slaked throat of the milk drinker.

I remember the waves that brought the missing barque.

I remember not knowing why hills were so high.

I remember white seed pods at the door of an inn.

I remember running back, in search of cities.

I remember the dead, skating on winter ponds.

I remember cuts on the ear of the sailor.

I remember a lark song in the hidden tree.

Early Burial

In Belarus, storks invade the lowland marshes.

East of Andorra, cowbirds nest in a belfry.

Chopping, mincing, slicing up a head of lettuce.

Ear imagery: hearing flugelhorns in traffic.

Odor of burnt sugar permeates the lakefront.

Cain's jawbone dug up at a young girl's funeral.

Cold rises up from a Pima excavation site.

Looking beneath the waves to see the sea's surface.

At the dock, pockets of cassava planter's talk.

Child-slave ships steam out of Ivory Coast for Chad.

Plutarch's Lives, a crow’s ten lives, or Days of our Lives.

Water tunnels connect the Catskills to the Bronx.


I thought of last night, the flames about a body bag.

I thought about crossing the mortared plains of Tikrit.

I thought of endlessly floating in the Dead Sea.

I thought of Dad's grim calculus of silence.

I thought of the puckish humor of the English.

I thought about what you would do if I were gone.

I thought about the disappeared girls of Chu Lai.

I thought about the forty years I've blinked too hard.

I thought of the ruddy, pock-nosed beak of Bardolph.

I thought of a tunnel, under the Berlin Wall.

I thought about fireboats, tugs, and the QE II.

I thought to open my eyes to the world of sleep.


Hiding in fog, stars streak across the red dawn.

Lines on her forehead are my Caucasian mountains.

Spun at high speed, the needle pricks a pianist:

Bela Bartok, mad basilisk of Budapest.

Baal fingers money like it was the Eucharist.

The repeated pounding of a jackhammer soothes.

Jacques Callot can't help but etch the pitching gallows.

Can you feel black cow pox as it incubates?

Mud worshippers bathe in the Ganges, laughing, stunned.

African grammarians subdivide the globe.

The circle of life, seen in a cop's duck-walk home.

Rain, spit, blood, bone and marrow: an occluded mass.


A cracked water glass from the Lourdes basilica.

A Celtic legend of a briar rose and ghosts.

A TV re-run of the Battle of Hastings.

A cross in the hand of a man with no eyebrows.

An ostrich, enraged, running north to Nairobi.

A bloom of narcissus, fit to be kissed, but why?

A snakeskin hung from a barn door like Spanish moss.

A night on cold fjords, crenellated snowflakes.

A ring of Saturn: moon Titan’s grasp on feeling.

A sphinx moth, plaid-patterned along a windowsill.

A rain, falling on hills of the Pokanoket.

A writer and the Red Sea mirrored in the glass.