*from the CutBank Big Fish Prose Poem/Flash Fiction Prize
an excerpt from "THE BOOK OF BOOKS"
(book one : exegesis)
The forty-seventh word in the Book of Books is red, referring to a light-slant, the room in which through dust the day is falling. In turn, because the speaker isn’t right, we, the audience, imagine being fucked with. I for one am empty of the ability to shine. Then, the walls collapse. A door of glass slides back revealing girls. The light engages them in places inappropriate for children under seven. It was like the movies, like a stranger with his hands inside his pockets repeating beneath his breath the names of rivers, like acid at a gun show. I swear to you, their jaws went slack in awe and so did mine. Audience, surrender. Is it important, the men in the background balding, having stitched, at some point prior to the first word, the letter “I” in silver thread across their foreheads? It would be wise, I think, to consider before continuing, the history of salt, Mesopotamia, the tallest man on earth, circa 1956. Eventually the girls all turn to pillars. Eventually the sky. What strikes me when I read aloud at night is night. The way the stars look underwater if I extend, at arm’s length, the book, and squint my eyes exactly thin, the words go dark around me, turning and turning over, widening the sea.
*from the Dorothy Sargent Poetry Awards
With winter near and having come this far together
already from a great and ruined distance
through into a orchard
overrun, in the seeding state we watched
the apples breaking
off the branches, the sunlight catching separately
their mottled colors blazoned
although alone upon the barely blemished surface
of the skin — and what was left of us
in aftermath we knew
was caused, because we saw
and heard at once that surface
glaring fiercely, to press a different sentence
past the outline of that light.
But when the wind in blind indifference
took both our hands and bound them,
our sight and sound completely
starved, we turned around and carried
on our backs that fruit in leather bags.
Years found us — and through the fog that was
the water turning slowly
into air we crossed a silver river
with the vagrant voices of the others there
behind us ringing hungry
visions in our heads — and so it was
in a named and savage land we settled having found
our bodies gathered terribly
around a fire, the unfinished edges of that light
a limit, although we knew
by then and suffered fair to say it for ourselves,
of death, in a white dress dancing,
she dances slow — and the air-locked emptiness fixed love
to rage within our minds, offered empty into snow.
Earlier this morning, the morning
was a pollinated wind, dusting yellow
through the pine trees, the deep
and measured thump of fence posts
entering the ground. Putting down
my hammer, I thought of you,
not far from here, but too far, attempting
in your tiny room to speak correctly
of the weather. How can I explain to you
there’s no way out for us. We’re stuck
up until our knees, our eyelids.
I don’t have an explanation.
When it rains there are no excuses
and still the water falls on every surface
evenly. It covers everything
I’ve planted. It sinks in thoroughly,
like a cloud shadow, like rain.
When I place the water in my mouth
it’s not to call it closer, or to name it safely
after my name. What is there to say
that you and I have not imagined
growing past us in the upper dark?
I do not count upon arrivals.
At least for now the afternoon is clearing.
The fence I’m building
will keep the foxes out, the wind
that either is or isn’t in us,
and failing utterance, reminds us we are here.