Clouds and Trees

"Nothing ever goes away enough or arrives enough,/ and I want to cry when I think of my heart,/ muscle pounding in muscle, greedy always for joy." – 'A Warning', Eric Anderson

Month: June, 2010


A fisherman tries to sing the fish to the surface
He swims with his legs wrapped up in nets
Finally he lets his lungs fill with water
and spits out a sea

He walks along the bottom
combs the oceangrass with his toes
He finds a hole in the sand deep enough to hold him
and rests there for a night
He picks seaweed and pulls snails from cracks in the coral
He tells himself it’s only until
he can learn to breathe air again
He keeps one eye half-focused on the places where the light
slowly seeps into deep blue

When the hook comes he almost expects it
lets it puncture his lip
The surprise is in how his eyes follow the droplets
that form the bloodline behind him

The water is gone
and he is left gasping unfamiliar air
with a woman’s mouth pumping breath into his
and he accepts it

He lets his memory fall away
like the nets that cling to his skin
and leave scales imprinted deep within him
And he dreams of swimming breathless
into the lightless places
inside a sea sung out of his lungs
when they lusted for the taste
of water steeped in salt



I could show you the right way to grow up
but friends aren’t supposed to drown each other
Like we used to say
You provide the bath
and I’ll provide the birds bathing

Maybe I could learn a thing or two
about flying with my wings wet

I can feel the emptiness in my bones
the stringiness of muscles
the wind cupped within my palms
I can see my house from here
the color of skin stretched thin in the sun

I dream of seeing the sky beneath me
of feather-thin clouds and the dot-tips of mountains
I still dream of falling asleep

In these I see a boy in a stream
he asks me three questions
What does water look like?
What is the feel of one grain of sand?
Whose hands are these
to write the answers to things
that cannot be seen?

Some nights I understand
what it means to be a shoreless sea
and I think waking from a dream
must be like seeing the surface from beneath
wondering at its meaning
and trying to remember
what it feels like to breathe


Lightning strikes everywhere eventually
sand will always turn to glass
all coal condenses into diamond
given the time between now and the end
the pressure and heat of an expanding star
or a collapsing planet

The death of a person
serves to remind us
that the hourglass is a metaphor
for the way the contained
inevitably becomes the container

The Art of the Short Story

If I could still see meaning
in the colors exhaled by your lungs
in the last moments before sleep
I’m sure I’d still read too deeply into them
I see magenta and violet
where there is only red

If I could still write poetry
about the way your lips curve
about the twists in your skin
where your hair meets your scalp
the words would probably come too easily
I would question them
the way I question anything that happens naturally

If you could feel love
the way I imagine you do or
the way that I used to
maybe the wings that have folded across your back
and come to rest cross-stitched about your breasts
would flutter a bit at the feathertips
The breeze would wake you up
breath become interrupted
wings flex and merge with blankets instead of skin
Almost immediately you remember me
try to paint something for payment
I write some lines about it being meaningless
and fold the paper before throwing it away
“It’s okay,” you tell me,

“If I could remember how to think
I would imagine you and
I knowing what it means to love something
but here we can only pause momentarily
catch our breaths beside each other.

“Maybe when you get back to your own bed
try to write a sonnet about sleeping
or anything really
I’ll use paint to encapsulate myself
in a cocoon of mute colors
which to you look like scarlets and fuchsias

“Later when I’m unwrapped from myself
I’ll try to remember you
and won’t
Meeting you again for the first time
will be sweet and empty
the way anything is
when it ends indefinitely