After the rain

When sourgrass bends sweet and heavy
over the path and even the sumac fawns at my feet,
when little streams run large and muddy

under the light of poison oak,
and when tongues of bark hang sodden
from the paling sheen of eucalyptus—

then, then is there moisture enough in my throat
for praise, if only the tiny frogs would return
to bass the bottom of our song.

What your neighbor will never say

I’m a wasp. You know, the off-white anglo
quite-saxon kind, who’s protestant too, what’s worse
a male. I talk in rhymes.
Take your darts and throw. I’m
perfect at this target thing,
so large and slow.

Look close. My teeth are false. I drive a Ford.
At church, I sing “Just as I Am” and think
it could be true. Success
for me comes with HD
TV, which I keep tuned to celebrities,

but sometimes—at night when no one sees—I diagram
my secret fears like shadowed branches on
a wall, and I recall
a scrap of poetry
about some huge, huge hill
where truth stands.

Asleep, I climb with broken feet and empty hands.


The challenge was easy then:
dive off the boat at high tide,
swim down, down till you touch
the white sand, then translate
the messages signaled from above.

I remember sitting on the bottom,
watching the greenish sun wobble
or trade one shape for another
until the sky became a watercolor map
that only my cousin and I could decipher.

Each wave made the thin paint
shimmer, another wash of light
rippling across the canvas.
Nothing looked the way it should,
and sounds—like poorly aimed arrows—

deflected off the surface.
Yet when she leaned over the side
of the boat, arms waving like seaweed,
I knew what she meant. Stay there.
Go this way. I’m the queen.

We didn’t need words, not when
an invisible chain ran from boat to sand,
a family secret that flowed through
our veins, an ancient script tattooed
on our fingers, long before we were born.

Soon enough my lungs would burn
and I’d kick toward the surface,
reclaiming the world of sound.

Salt never stung, as I recall,
until I broke through the swells.
The sky is mine. I own the sun.
Hold your breath, hold it.
We understood metaphor then.

The forsythia bush

One morning this summer I was basking in the sun
With the brother closest to me in age. We had been
Brought up almost as twins but then took disparate
Roads, as twins do. He was sobbing and I was near
Tears and the ocean was muttering. I heard a heron.
We had been having the most naked open talk we’d
Had in many years. I wanted to tell him how deeply
I loved him but words are just so weak and shallow.
So I talked about the forsythia bush we used to hide
Under together. It was the safest place on the planet.
The light was always amazing in there and it wasn’t
Ever muddy somehow and you were draped in gold.
It was a hut a huddle a tent a canopy a cave a refuge.
Sometimes you have to use a thing to say something
Else. We do this all the time. We talk sideways, yes?
But sidelong is often the only road that gets to where
You know you need to go. So much means lots more
Than it seems like it could mean. Tears, for example.

And rise

to circle the fourplex
hawks on a February
day. Or shims of hawks,
as v-ed as a second
grader’s drawing
on a periwinkle
rectangle of sky,
a scallop of sun.