Poetry | September 01, 1997


for there is no place that does not see you. 





extends a hand in greeting.

Like your hand, it’s scarred.

When you shake it, you know:

someone with small teeth

has been trying to get out.




beats time against the wall:


She needs you to see past

her wet, dark gums, past her tongue

to the place where these hot,

scented storms are brewing.

Your eyes aren’t windows after all.

No matter how close she pants,

they don’t steam up.




filled with seashells sits in a corner.

Sand dusts the inside of the jar,

but who can say whether sand is becoming glass

or glass becoming sand? Past

the sand are shells, each perfect and

the same: polished, slit cylinders speckled

black and brown. When you uncork the jar,

the sound of waves doesn’t drown the house,

but fireflies dim beside your bed.




doesn’t shatter the window,

but takes its form, tunneling through

the room to cut a brilliant patch

of carpet. Ten billion particles

of dust, of skin

inhabit the light, yet this far end

of the sun, cast before

your feet, burns unspeckled.




is too rough for this couch.

Woolen strands arch out from

its stitch and finger through

your shirt. You’d need

a camel’s back, a mule’s indifference,

to lie against this bag in

peace. You’d have to fill it instead

with rice or wheat, then open

this room into a mountainy

desert. The only water

would be the small well inside you.




A circle divided in half, like a flat

world with a single river.

This is winter: the river is frozen,

the wood is covered in ice

and there is nothing to eat.

Dust has collected inside the sun,

which hangs from the sky by a cord.

A long time ago, the moon rolled

off the far edge of the world.




This much you can bear: each thing

has its duration. Each second

strikes at the sky. Each hour

unwinds the last. What’s harder

is to know that at six-fifteen

your teeth will loosen. If it is ever

ten o’clock, your family won’t come home.

At midnight, the darkness will speak.




Because nostrils can only flare

so wide, small worms

have bored gaping pores

across his cheeks and nose. They take

everything in. His brow

furrows, funneling whatever approaches

into his eyes. What does he see

which reddens his face? He can’t

say, for his jaw’s been broken.

It drops straight down,

drawing its tongue to hang, to lap,

to thicken with dust.




line three of the room’s five walls;

the others are doors. This is the quietest room,

for the shelves with their books

form another layer of wall and the doors are shut.

This is where you wait. Dante waits too,

inside a glass case. Legs straight, his arms in line

with those of the chair, he could wait forever.

Inside the shelves, books are packed

densely together, their mouths clamped shut.




shuts, and color escapes

from the jackets and shirts which hang

along the rack. Like people

who’ve lost the thing that lets them see,

they stand very still and listen.

When they hear you move,

their awkward arms grope over you,

cotton and wool. Ignore them.

Inside the closet is another closet:

that’s the darkest chapel there is.




speaks to the cat in French.

The cat, drugged with sun, her face like a flower,

listens. If you had slept in the sun,

if your face were a flower, would you

understand? If your eyes

were that large, hair that black, skin so dark,

would you say the same things?




is too white: only a pearl diver would believe it,

or the oyster herself. And smooth,

as though that rough pearl had been passed

from nervous child to nervous child to nurse.

In a perfect world, where rivers are milk,

all canyons would deepen like this.

But the world isn’t perfect, so the bathtub remains

an animal: one tusk crusted by lime,

a grated nostril, a chained rubber tongue.




must be opened. In this sealed box,

a bulb reveals how fabric, books, animals and chairs

decay to dust, how dust evolves to air.

You don’t want to breathe it. There’s too much inside


already. The slanted ceiling is ribbed

with wooden boards. The wooden boards are studded

with black nails. Around each nail, wood splinters

the way light does around each star—no

cracked dome of heaven, but one that’s been hammered


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