familiar terrain

Here I know the names of trees. The magnolias / bloom like babies faces opening / and I only dare touch the petals / already fallen. The eastern hemlock / its white lines running down each needle belly / the one safe hemlock / tastes like bad spearmint or tea / too steepled. I keep sprigs under  / my tongue and feel I am defying / something. In general don’t eat / wild red plants but see the teaberry / looks like Christmas and tastes / like shit but sure, you can eat it. / it’s good to be able to name things / you love or maybe I love what I can name / either way this forest or field or growth / in between two highways looks like home. / I am nostalgic about nearly everything / if you haven’t tried it / don’t. it’s exhausting and unfair to everyone / else. I’m depressed by the familiarity. / the dog-hobble grabs my ankles and holds.


bear in the national forest

when it gets dark
we remember
the bear: body so big
both of us could sleep
inside him, the lumbering
we know is all choice.
his mouth an oversized
version of our little black
dog, full of teeth kept sharp
by branch and bone.
nylon is the only barrier
between us and him. it isn’t
enough, but we pretend
it might be. we hear
the bear in everything.
we don’t know how to handle
this wild silence. we busy
ourselves with our hands,
lips as distraction but
nothing happens. the fear
is bigger than whatever
we mash between us. we are soft
naked and our nakedness
makes us feel more prey.
it’s easy to forget ourselves
as flesh, as something to eat
uncooked and wet in the night.
in the morning we find bear
scat outside our tent. in the bright
bird sounds of dawn we feel
untouchable again.

(2: unfinished)

the snake: in pieces / obachan: all one / her ankles spattered with dirt / or blood i imagined / would be some other color / more worthy of her fear / i have never been afraid / like this before, a fresh / soft horror: scales and flesh / thin tongue lolling / round head no venom no danger / to anything bigger than a fist



obachan standing, bloody
hoe in hand, eyes wide and wet
with fear or victory, four foot
black rat snake, no danger
to anything human,
cut to pieces at her feet.

first time i am scared
of this woman who loves me,
glad the garden tools sleep
outside. i touch the snake’s
lonely head and obachan
snaps in a voice from a different
throat. this moment she is
a mother again, gone the smoothed
corners of age.

she realizes
her ridiculousness: this
unreasonable violence.
the death around her feet
like the start of a garden.


it is feeling my heart like a rattlesnake
on and off again somewhere i can’t
touch or quite understand. was that too
long off or too long on i’m unsure. i am
too afraid of my own body, of it’s ability
to fail. just one wrong piece at the top
of the row of dominos. the waterfall.
i turn on everything: the television,
the computer, phone. every light in this
little room. it is so bright but still not
enough. sitting in myself hurts. sitting
hurts. i try to climb anywhere but inside
and can’t.

going out with gusto

seven year old me said when i die
i want to go by tornado. scooped
up and whirled and whirled until
probably some fatal airborne collision
or the wind tired of me, dumped me
onto something sharp or hard or
just too far down. this was the best
i could imagine: some kind of glory,
gusto, pizzaz. maybe there’d be
a body maybe there wouldn’t.
the mystery felt good out loud.

i have considered other ways.
for a while it was getting smaller
until i winked out. one minute
we’re talking and maybe you
can see through me a little but
i am definitely there and the next:
air. surely it can’t be this lovely
but the imaginings were sweet.
this time it might have been closer
than the tornado but not much.

i spent a few months thinking
of keeping a tally on my hands
and a few days doing it. of what
it didn’t matter: maybe the cups
of coffee i drank or the number
of dogs i saw and then the number
of times i wanted to see a whole pack
of dogs all at once. that wishing
was the same as wishing for help
but i wouldn’t have believed it.

now mostly i’m boring. i try to forget
to fasten my seatbelt (though never
on the highway because somehow
that feels like too much). i chew
my fingers to bleeding and play
the overconfident pedestrian. i blink
comically slowly. it’s a silly charade
because it’s not. when i dream i dream
of tornadoes.


this city is a quilt
of places i know.
it’s unavoidable: contact
with the familiar. each house
i’ve been is a reason
to leave. an ache. first
it’s Little Blue on Johnson
where my friends live
without me. i’ve eaten jam
and warmed biscuits here.
a stack of my bread baskets
sits on one counter and
they look like part of a stage
set. i go inside and can’t sit down.
i pass a house jack could have lived
but didn’t. i want to imagine
him inside but not expecting
me. sometimes it’s good
enough to know someone
is there. still playing
the guitar or slicing mushrooms
or smoking a cigarette or
next, it’s where i came,
once, after a date to let
a boy rub himself on my
legs or stomach or wherever
even though i didn’t really
want to. he grabbed
at the softness snuggled
around my waist and said
something about liking curvy
girls and then i liked him
even less. then, the place
a friend of a friend doesn’t live
anymore. people i love drank wine
on the porch and were happy.
it rained so we raced, bared bloody
feet through parking ramp
puddles screaming names
of those running screaming
my own name and not knowing
who it belonged to