Passion


1. One Thousand Places to See Before You Die
2. Commitment and Puget Sound
3. Nightlong
4. Where Your Heart Is
5. The Amber Necklace
6. The Professor’s Nap
7. Lake Almanor
8. Smile For Me, Moon
9. Breakfast
10. Your Coffee Flavored Kiss
11. Twilight
12. Another Way of Missing You
13. Anza Borrego
14. Call Interrupted
15. Albuquerque
16. The City of Faith
17. Dreamcatcher
18. Far View
19. Telephone
20. Picture You
21. Press Conference
22. Memory of Desire
23. Inside Your Shirt
24. The Bath
25. The Volcano Walker
26. Reading Milton Together
27. The Accidental Metaphor
28. Naked Philosophy
29. The Votive Candle

 

 

 


1. One Thousand Places to See Before You Die

The back of my neck as you bend your head,
my hair against your face.  The spaces
between my toes, laced into your fingers.
My knees as they loop up over
your shoulders.  All four of our hands
putting clean sheets on the bed.  The skin
inside the crook of my arm opening
toward you in a night no longer secret.
The eyes of all your family setting you
free of their barbarous expectations.
The bedroom windowsill in dawn-slanted
light of our thousandth day together.
The same thing on our ten-thousandth
day.  I think I’ve lost count.  You’re
better at math than I am.  Come,
help me out.

Published in South Carolina Review
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2. Commitment and Puget Sound

Morning in the city of espresso,
we sit with our paper cups
on the ferry deck, a bellyful of cars
beneath us, Bainbridge Island ahead,
my mind full of metaphors, yours
with plain facts. No, I forgot
the polarizing filter, but I can see,
through the navigational haze,
mountains there for the climbing.
If I take this photo they won’t show up.
This is a matter
of knowing what’s real,
of having the means to reach it,
smooth water, solid steel,
and a very ordinary amount of courage
when the engine starts.

Published in Cloudbank
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3. Nightlong

Like spoons, we scoop each other’s curves
out of lonely night into delicious
sleep, feeding each other dreams,
skins of steel graced with silver
as moonlight leaks in at the window,
the sky rearranging darkness
into pale colors of morning,
like spoons we spill each other’s light
into each other’s laps.

Published in Lilliput
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4. Where Your Heart Is

In the right place, you said,
as you wrapped your arms
all the way around me,
your gifted hands
in their right places, too.
Then your mouth was
in the right place, then your
whole body was, and
while there was flesh between us
the moth of the heart on one side
and the moon of the heart on the other
beat constantly against it
with their familiar rhythm:
connect; connect; connect.

Published in Briar Cliff Review
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5. The Amber Necklace

So many steps were needed.
There had to be forests, there
had to be insects biting, making the trees bleed,
there had to be rising sea-water
to tow it all under, brace out the air.
There had to be heat, and pressure, and time,
making some things harden
and others, volatile, depart.
Then what remained could tumble
through the tides of the Baltic,
come to rest on sand,
be gathered and smoothed and rubbed
and pierced into beads, graded by color,
every one its own story, the tiny hurts and bubbles,
the fragments of intercepted lives,
a long loop, your gift to me
warm at my neck, a strand like drops of honey,
winding around us both.

Published in Lake Effect

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6. The Professor’s Nap

You lean back in my blue chair,
stirring now and then to say
you’re not asleep, snoring in between.
It is late in the day, it is late in the year,
it is late in our lives.
The shirt pulled tight across your belly
fills me with regret
for all the years I was not there
while you accumulated weight.
You mean to be thinking
about the weight of the universe,
how some parts gather, pool, and sink,
and how to teach this to the young,
but you keep slipping into dreams
that catch in your throat.
Chrysanthemums sag in a vase
on the coffee table where you’ve propped your feet,
the cups and papers pinned
in their struggle toward the center
of the earth. My life slides into your lap.
You open your eyes.

Published in Briar Cliff

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7. Lake Almanor

The moon fresh out of Michigan
hauls up at last in the Sierras
shining backwards across
the Great Lakes to you
and forward across the Lesser Lake
to me, blue eyed man
blue eyed night
blue eyed lake in the
blue mountains.
One white arm to eastward
and one white arm to the west
offer an embrace you hadn’t
counted on:
to be fallen in love with like that,
it doesn’t seem sane.

Lady of the Lake, I lift
the magic sword,
the sword that was broken.
Blue steel plunged in this water
comes out whole again,
steaming in moonlight.
Is your heart the anvil?
Is your heart the forge?
Blue eyed singer
deepen my blue dreams
until I have drowned and risen
and freed you from your search
for the treasure of long ago.

Published in South Carolina Review
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8. Smile For Me, Moon

On your way west, a white
letter D in the afternoon sky,
a grin of merriment
halfway to the meridian,
smile for me, moon,
a message of days
getting fuller and riper,
more beautiful with time,
whose smile could that be
that I am reminded of?
every night better and brighter
than the last, and when you must wane
I want to go with you
deep, down deep, into morning.

Published in Timber Creek
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9. Breakfast

These are the stone paths
of an early morning.
I walk up steps, through courtyards
and camellias; all are wet
and have a cool smell.
On their other side,
I will open a door,
climb the stairs,
open another door.
You sleep behind it.
When I turn the lock,
or when I settle
on that narrow bed,
the first vibration of your voice
will cleave me like a split pear.
The taste of you will be
the first thing
to pass my lips.

 

Published in Yankee


 

 

10. Your Coffee Flavored Kiss

You know, people pay all kinds of money
to have their special coffees to their taste.
I really think their preferences are funny:
tall, short, steamed or bubbled, drunk in haste,
or dawdled over as the morning passes,
a ring subsiding slowly down the cup,
the student just arriving for his classes,
the Chairman drawing all his budgets up.
You said this was a good one. I asked whether
you thought it good enough for me to try.
Sometimes the morning means we come together.
Sometimes the morning means we say goodbye.
I kiss you either way, but understand
I only get my coffee second-hand.

 

Published in SPSM&H


 

 

11. Twilight

The flesh of the landscape
sinks into blue shadowed blankets,
shoulders, hips, knees turn away
from the sun’s red petition
down a slow hour
into a passage of broken lights
at questionable distances,
the moon not full nor crescent,
hung at marginal height,
evening more than a rumor
and less than truth.

 

Published in Blue Unicorn


 

 

12. Another Way of Missing You

I have gone and come back
like water, like winter, like spring,
held my hands out
for whatever seeds and flowers
the birds and goats and burros
left behind, and counted
enough emptiness
in the dry arroyos
and the floodwatch hours
to parse the speech of the desert,
nouns sharp and rude
on the surface,
its verbs all underground.

 

Published in Amelia


 

 

13. Anza Borrego

The season is early, the rain is late,
the flowers are only
a scattering of red chuparosa and
a few sweeps of yellow brittlebush.
The ocotillo wave like open hands
on the horizon, beckoning the sky,
whose clouds say, be patient,
in a silence large enough that I
can hear your heart speak its
two syllables, love-doubt, love-doubt,
your head on winter’s pillow,
yearning to go but not to abandon her,
afraid the purple spring may be
more than you deserve.

 

Published in Atlanta Review


 
14. Call Interrupted

So long, he said. So: long.
Yes I will. So long, yes,
it has been. It often is.
So one day follows another
and in between there are these
long nights in which
the earth winds backward
away from sunlight for
so long it comes around again.
So many nights like that
and I have to stop
and unwind them,
the skein of them
tangles like the
long cord of a telephone,
so many knots in the
length of it, and
while I’m talking to him
and untying,
someone walks in and
he disconnects,
so I never get to say how my
long story ends. Just
so. That’s how it is.
I’m in this for the
long run,
so I say goodbye
and I understand
and I cradle the phone
and another
long night prepares itself,
all the things I wish
I could have said sparkling
in it like the static of the stars.

 

Published in Diner


 
15. Albuquerque

In airport lobbies, I think of you,
my man of arrivals and departures:
your natural habitat.
Everyone here is busy waiting
for the same thing over and over,
to sit down in one place,
to stand up somewhere else,
to walk through a concourse –
where but an airport do you find a concourse? –
where some like me will find dreams
and some like you will be dreams
and all of us will be here today
and gone tomorrow.

 

Published in Exit 13


 
16. The City of Faith

A drought is not the same thing as clear skies.
Half the mornings and every afternoon
moody clouds shift the sunlight under them
across the parching ground.
I have been here before. I recognize my thirst.
On the plaza, tourists, mystics, artists, converge
with displaced natives selling silver things
from blankets at the end of the trail,
to displaced natives looking for
something beautiful.
This is the city named Holy Faith,
where they keep the inns and tables
of travelers’ sunny dreams,
but the natives dream of rain.
I walk with my passion for you,
even in the Chapel of the Miraculous Staircase,
even in the Oldest House in the Hemisphere,
even in the Inn of Those Who
Have Gone Before. How would your eyes
match this promising sky?
I see us one morning out in the Indian ruins
climbing the ancient places,
footholds in the stone,
handholds in the cliffs,
momentum taking us forward and upward
though all the weight of the world pulls
the other way. I balance hopes
against my expectations,
my thirst against the chance of any rain.

In the City of Faith, the word espero means
I hope, and means, I wait.

 

Published in Exit 13


 

 

17. Dreamcatcher

In my desert sleep I dream
your green farms where the summer air
stays warm all night, moon
in the cornfield urging
green shafts upward, tassels
silk billowing stroking the sky,
inside the deep layered sheath
the kernels, milky, swell,
expanding into hungry space,
a thousand miles, two thousand miles,
to reach me in my deepest sleep,
I take them in my hands,
I eat. I eat.

 

Published in Midwest Quarterly


 

 

18. Far View

The skies over Mesa Verde,
full of stars and airplanes,
carry many wishes from point to point:
to be elsewhere,
to be met with open arms,
in a land where the corn
stands tall and wet
and drought is a distant memory.

 

Published in Timber Creek


 

 

19. Telephone

This instrument
unravels your voice
and feeds it, wire thin,
from particle to particle of air,
bouncing inside a wreath of insulation.
Miles away, it is knit up again,
and lies, like your blue sweater,
against my ear.
You have little to say.
The pauses crackle.
Another conversation
fades in and out,
a woman’s voice says
“I don’t care.” I say, “I do.”
The cause of her indifference
filters off into another line
somewhere in the Arizona desert.
Small blue sparks, our words
rub against each other,
tumble their slow dreams
across the scrub-brush,
over the heads of Indians
spinning yarn, gathering grasses
in the middle morning.

 

Published in Yankee


 

 

20. Picture You

Sitting alone in a hotel room,
your jacket and shirt over the backs of chairs,
on the bed, barefoot, and on the phone,
you speak to me. The television
natters in the background till you turn it off.
Alone in another hotel room,
on the phone, I speak to you.
I describe the solitary garment that I wear,
how easy it would be to lift this
bit of silky fabric over my head.
Your voice softens to it. Soon, you say,
a word that shapes your mouth
into the expectation of a kiss,
this flesh so ready to meet it,
distance drawing a frame around the moment,
ankles and bedspreads, sheets and hands,
our naked voices whirling through the cords
that bring connection, superimposing
memory and future,
your once and always face
saying, so long.

 

Published in Diner


 

 

21. Press Conference

Lift your arm toward me, close your eyes,
open your mouth a little. Now you look
just like that photograph, but at full size.
Let me have the liberties I took,
to run my hand across those parted lips
until it seems you close your eyes for me,
and run my fingers where your jacket slips
away from you a little, gracefully,
and stand inside that gesturing arm, that curves
in empty space as though against my skin,
so that this effigy can only serve
to propagate my wanting you again.
But everything, it seems, leads me to you,
though messages be many or be few.

 

Published in SPSM&H


 

 

22. Memory of Desire

This is a woman I don’t mind
hearing about: you a small boy
filled with incomprehensible
yearning for your Sunday School teacher,
her lithe hourglass torso as
she bent to turn the pages of Genesis,
her perfume, spice,
your first memory of desire,
and she somebody
you could learn something from.
Did you regard her with those
blue eyes, smart and sassy,
wondering what to ask?
Child is father to the man,
they say. Sweet sensualist,
it’s really fine with me
if you recall those scented shapes
and close your eyes and
run your hands around
my waist, my hips,
and yearn again.

 

Published in Amelia


 

 

23. Inside Your Shirt

Your heart beat under this white oxford cloth
and women’s hands moved over it. A tie
around the collar touched perhaps by both
you and the lovers you were straightened by.
And when you found the collar grown too tight
you gently folded it, and gave to me
this gift of second skin and second sight,
shirt off your back. I put it on to see
how it would button, and we laughed to find
how big it was, how airy, when I wore
my expectations of a different kind
than I had been accustomed to before,
my heart expanding into so much space,
now I can’t breathe in any other place.

 

Published in Edge City Review


 

 

24. The Bath

First I will fill the tub,
and while that’s happening,
I will untie your shoes,
unbutton your buttons,
lift away the leathers and fabrics
with their scent of airplanes,
foreign smoke, and being
confined too long in one small space.
In your delicious skin you will
half sink, half float
into water scented with bergamot,
I will tip your chin and
anoint your head, I will
lather shampoo through
your fine grey hair
and rinse it away, your eyes closed,
as with some other pleasures.
Then I will take my hands and the soap
and rub every inch, every half-inch
of your perfect body
that I never tire of,
the years it carries, the places
it has taken you, the trouble
it’s gotten you into, including this:
me, my hands, this hotel room,
the thick towels waiting
for the final act.

 

Published in Wild Goose Poetry Review


 

 

25. The Volcano Walker

You walk the new crust where
the trail is marked,
but it’s the lava bubbling underneath
that makes the trip worthwhile.
Few people know how passionate you are,
and here I am, a lover of the heat,
but I’m a lover of spaces, too, of depth,
of what needs to be filled, but must
sometimes be empty. I learned not to cling
when I learned how to balance.
Have I misrepresented myself to you?
It’s true I have a hunger for your skin
but you have a soul as private and your own
as I do, and it is that separateness
that makes love possible: sealing the surface
from what, at closer quarters,
we could not touch.

 

Published in Poetry Harbor


 

 

26. Reading Milton Together

Grateful Evening Mild

Clouds like tangled clothes
spread over the horizon.
The sun on its knees
paints the too-susceptible sky
with deep satisfaction.
I tell you my few secrets;
you show me twenty years of scars,
mostly healed. I place the fruit
of gradual love
where you can reach it,
and let go.
It was a rational choice,
I say. I’m happy with it.

Night…the Gems of Heav’n Her Starry Train

My sleep full of your speech
as the night is of silence,
I wake to watch your breath
stir the darkness
as though with words.
Sidereal time notches the sky
until the slightest moon comes up,
a slice of white among
the blue and red stars
advancing, departing,
your kiss at my shoulder
the only diamond I ask for.

Morn, Her Rising Sweet

Once more the sun floods the sky,
and then you’re off
to other worlds you keep.
I could be sorry about this,
but choose instead
from a long list of words
you spoke like Adam
naming things in Eden:
call, come, comfort;
lightning, luscious; not enough.

 

Published in English Journal


 

 

27. The Accidental Metaphor

I am taking apart this necktie
that your ex-wife never liked,
putting the pieces into my collection
of bits of silk you’ve sloughed off
over the years. This one, from when
you and she kept parrots, is scarlet,
blazoned with those birds, irrepressible,
cheerful, but provoking scorn from
the woman who already thought of
leaving you, a knot around your
tropical, yearning heart, as she looked
past you with Antarctic eyes.
But back to the necktie. I unpin
the birds’ wings, remove
the cautionary tags. Now it can be
something else. Now it can be anything.
I cut all the threads.

 

Published in Wild Goose Poetry Review


 

 

28. Naked Philosophy

Shed the pieces as we cross the floor:
the carapace with pockets full of keys,
the knitted tales we’ve taken off before,
the silky clinging inconsistencies,
and let them mingle anywhere they fall,
a silent barrier that will remain
between us and the world that they recall,
and let us not go back for them again.
Imperfectly inhabiting our flesh,
its hunger never very far to seek,
however well our bodies meet and mesh
the greater satisfaction is to speak
until our thoughts, exhausted, sink as one
into the silence, as our flesh has done.

 

Published in Edge City Review


 

 

29. The Votive Candle

On a long December night
I woke up many times
for the pleasure of falling
asleep with you again.
You kissed my shoulder,
a warm indelible tattoo
that I still wear,
a moment perfect of its kind,
dawn burning through it
like love-letters up in smoke,
words that rise and rise
and then rain down again.
Your voice carries me across
heartbroken seas,
and sets me down with joy and
gratitude enough
to laugh at the journey,
and want to go again.

Broad and warm against my heart,
your body soothes and gathers
all my stories.
You rise like the sun
into vacant night
and kindle dawn,
then move on into the large
but circular world, where
light moves out
of the hearts of some stars,
into the hearts of others.
I gather myself back into myself,
life like the connection
so ready to flesh,
but made of words,
salt and sweet and rich
against the tongue,
I roll them in my mouth,
tasting for traces of you.

Hope and faith run loose
and talk like virgins,
when your touch, your smile,
your promise ought to be enough.
Wanting more, I strike a match:
wax allegory, desire
consuming itself,
flame tending upward.
Heaven might listen to this.

 

Published in Amelia


 

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