personal question

from the other side of the fire he says,
can i ask you a really personal question?
i nod like shaking a can of soup.

he asks about my mother’s dead babies, why
she kept giving birth to bits of bone and ear
and whether my insides could glue together
something whole.

he defends himself against my unspeaking:
maybe I shouldn’t care about this but
maybe I just want to know what I am
getting myself into.

I want to reach up, pull out a handful
of uterus: is this what you are getting
yourself into?

next time I suck on his fingers I think
of my mother heavy with child full of holes.
next time I am bleeding, I imagine the
beginning of bodies in every clot
suspended in toilet water.

he says: I didn’t mean to upset you.
I kiss him like a watermelon hitting pavement:
wet red flesh on concrete.



James madison park on a saturday

april warmth settles on the lake like an oil spill,
finger-clouds like two small hands covering
six p.m. sun, a game of peekaboo.

the round calved legs of children
making rings in the water –
the world smoothed down to two blocks of lakefront.

either a child’s plaything – a football, maybe –
or a dead duck – body hard against the water’s little licks –
floating an unretrievable distance from shore


you were taught to love with your arms
by your sides.
very few acts of affection can be performed
without the hands.
Think of love-making: two bodies,
Nothing good can be made like this
But that does not stop the body from making.

If there is a chid, you will first see the ways
in which it is lacking through the holes in yourself.
If will grow into the failures you have provided,
as children grow into all hand-me-downs.
The gaps in it will form this way. The same
as cloth tears when pulled too tight.

If there is no child, you will try again.
Arms by your sides, hands clasped
behind your back, as if inspecting something behind glass.


The woman with delicate fingers stops ten paces from the street
corner. Her knitted scarf looks hand done, perhaps by
a granddaughter. There is a chestnut leather purse over one
shoulder, the weight setting her skeleton off balance. She
sets the bag down gently on the sidewalk, and her arms disappear
inside it’s mouth. She looks to be scrubbing at its molars, searching.
It is hard to tell whether or not she has found what she is looking for.
Her mouth widens side to side, a thirsty bullfrog. At first I think she is singing. She is not.

She is wailing. The heavily lidded eyes gather moisture in the fissures
beneath sockets, she screams in Japanese. The only word
I understand is Kodomo. Child. She looks again into the bag. Perhaps she
placed its tiny frame amongst her perfumes and kleenex, its
fingers wrapped around her house key. Ten paces from the street
corner its body has grown stiff in her distraction.