Just look how we circle, a flock
of gulls, vying for love like a tear of fish.
Arched backs, dreadful necks outstretched,
shrieking our greed cries. When
I look this way, ask me when love has
run out on me. Remind me how it clings
like manna to the soles of my feet, how
love, like a dandelion, blankets my fields.
Love, that keeps knocking me down and
pulling me up, that makes me naked
and poor, and always full. When fear
blazes in my eyes, take my hand, fly me
like a ghost above my life, to the places
love has crumbled battlements and raised
the dead. Be profligate with love, tell me,
and it will astound you. Spend it all.
Dreams and Portents
Sometimes I picture you a boy,
love a mere seedling in your heart, unwary
of storms, drownings, of bitter growth.
Unbent by acquisition and loss.
Did you lie in bed and dream the mornings,
before work roused you with needling
demands, before a rueful sun crested
Michoacan hills and roosters crowed?
Did love sidle up to your warm skin
and steal your breath? It must have been
clear as an opal, that heart, and soft as jet-black
loam, awaiting a romance, a real hermosura,
the day the page would turn to your own
life. I wonder if you ever imagined me—
however unlikely, had a faint premonition
in the x-ray vision of night? Or did you see me
in my hometown where you lived one year—
a stranger? Did you pass me on a California street
I walked two hundred times, meet my eye one
smoldering second and ask, Could that be her?
The Wind Blew So Hard
this New Years Day,
foam tumbled in billows on the beach,
sand clung in small peaks to grass—
sad, last-ditch efforts, barbed
sacraments of intransigence.
Walking home, I thought
of Saint Teresa, flirtatious young
nun, old reformer of orders,
keeper of a woman’s mystic
secret. When time came to quit
la vida vieja,
preening chatter of parlors,
swaying vanity of youth, did
it come as a stroke or a gale?
A whisper or a shout, fierce
and adamant? Did the raven-haired
beauty wake to stillness, or to a man’s firm
hip on her dream-tossed mind,
equatorial pull unyielding? This new
year comes like a winnowing.
Corruption slowly unbraids
from glory before my eyes.
Dead leaves stagger while sea birds play.
Hillsides crash, and still,
the gulls rise.
Attending Yoga at Winter Solstice
Class starts at five and already it’s dark.
Radiant sconces in the Rec-Center yoga room
draw us like men to a dusky bar on a rain-split
night in December. Black locust trees twitch
scarred branches outside the windows, stripped
of their nimble fringe, as we fold bodies
like quilts around suspended hearts, release
our breath, laden with its spores of longing.
Summer solstice, the class will dwindle—but not
in winter, on the coast, where we store light
in the root and go deep. Where we ride out
storms that threaten to drown us. I rest
into Balasana, Child’s Pose, and let it pull
my tears like a drunk man’s whiskey, as I think
how winter has stolen you—each year but this,
and how I clutch my measuring stick as waters rise.
I imagine you a desert flower,
succulent and needle-sharp
on the cracking white earth. The color
of mango, or a woman’s wet lips.
I imagine you a man pinstriped
and proud at his first daughter’s wedding,
eyes shot red with joy
and loss. I see you as lovers drawn deep
beneath the surface, as mortars storm
outside their room, unheard.
I imagine you a boy slipping bread
to a small, ribbed dog, or a woman placing a date
on her husband’s steady tongue. I see you
as old friends—hands entwined—step
by step on a rock-strewn stream.
You are a tall cedar, Iraq, a heart beating
beating in a body wracked with pneumonia.
I will imagine you in your many groves
of love until the time you are free, free
as the night you first learned to dance.