WHEN IT RAINS
The slough slogs
tons of water
through secret paths.
The sky swirls
sleep, no light
say goodbyes to saving
for a rainy day
turn back the covers
there’s planting to do.
I'M A WORK IN PROGRESS
I was 16 when my father died
mother kept his work clothes
hanging on a hook in the closet
for exactly one year.
On bad days I’d sneak in
there to hug his pants
and shirt, to inhale his scent
the organic part that still lived.
Auntie’s perfume outlasted
her, so did grandma’s
Damask tablecloths saved
like new in her drawer
as though they were saying,
“I’ll be back, don’t miss me
too much, I’m a work in progress.”
that sleeps in a bed
tries to make sense
of the big me by day.
has led banners of armies
out of the groves of trees, into fields
of young wheat mowed
by bayonets. Of five battles
he bears five wounds, his proud-
flesh badge of courage,
his history written on the backside
of the page
recounting his famous general's
deeds. Does a horse have
any choice? See the brave arch
of his neck, teeth bared to the curb-
bit. His dreams
invent pasture beyond the last
grove of trees.
He'll outlive this war.
Woow-woow! she said curving
her dog-spine up smiling a pirouette come
follow me! woow-woow! up-trail
across the creek on boulders through willows
crawling on hands and knees. How
could I keep up? Woow-woow!—she'd
come back how many times it took
to get me out of thicket
to show me by leaping in the air
what we were looking for, couldn't
I see it? in the dark aiming
my flashlight, silly handler, so slow
to believe. Woow-woow!
What did it mean? Not the wail
of an outbound train; but welcoming;
not lonely at all, welling
from the senses a dog swims in
beyond my depths. Vision in the dark,
a bit of ESP, untranslatable
pure dog joy.
She keeps her dragon-teeth in a drawer.
Those old photos, Tri-X for a German winter's
black & white. What did she know of war
back then, or care? living above
the Siegfried Line without even knowing it,
decades later in a Rhenish fog-for-two.
The temporary pair of them trading languages
across borders. In a gray-tone
stubblefield of Drachenzähne he snapped
her sitting on the tip of a concrete
incisor, dragon-size. What was Siegfried
to her but a Wagner opera, hero
of a Norse saga, part of the curriculum?
At year's end she packed her suitcase,
sailed back home across the ocean. Away
from a land forever changing borders;
thinking she left the dragon's teeth behind.
—Tom Goff, Carmichael
In thrall to the dazing spell cast
by the shadow-woman wedged deep
inside your skin, like Ariel staring out
from the frustration cleft of the white-meat
pine, I compare you to the Sylvia Plath
I find on a web site. You, a poet
like that suicidal lady, you—from a youngling
torn this way and that by family—
still prove that the rending
grip of parents and siblings,
the lethal downchop of marital cleavings,
only simulate the fierce deathlock,
deathgrapple, between self
and self. Online, I see Sylvia
after Sylvia: this year is Anniversary Fifty
of her turning into opus, swallowing
gas in Auschwitz-Birkenau quantity.
Sweet darling, my snowmelt torrent of soft hair,
don’t become her kind of bald woman,
joining the bald pack of mannequin women
nailed to the floors of her poems. You have
a dark, she has a dark. But you are also
seraphic light and starry cloud. Onscreen,
Sivvy’s old snapshots fatten her muscle,
thicken her nose. But only if black and white!
Vacation pictures from the Lilly Library
in color, weightless & transparent here,
have peeled off their emulsions, Polaroid, keloid. Look!
There she is twentyish on the beach,
letting down her bikini straps the better to brown
wholeroastedly. Yet that skin: of sheer naked cream,
clear as a jellyfish, translucent as you, a nude wonder
right up to your caress of an angelfood face.
Come to me ever so Sivvy and bare of an hour.
This time let’s kiss away death.
for a student
I know you are young and to work is to roam,
dear Whole Foods girl. But what weaving home!
—You, driving drunk with sleep from work,
streetlights failing at every road-fork.
You, popping the clutch of a nine-hour shift,
to Folsom from Roseville, mind gone adrift
rescreening your shelving or register toil.
My mind’s fear-images start to roil:
can’t bear to imagine you half-alive,
three stories high, set to platform-dive
into a pool of fresh-ironed sheets
and—what if the bed’s a rumpled street,
your pillow a bloodforsaken car?
My water-shattering baby gar,
if breaking the tension in bright droplets
means bursting the windshield…? Morbid couplets!
Then I remember when, soldierly tall,
you’ve stood an inch taller: you glide close, and call
upon that lightning smile you’ve earned
in girlhood fires through which you’ve burned.
You promise me you’ll stay good and awake,
not drown with your car in Lullaby Lake.
Your smile you wear almost like a skin,
soft, shining, and scarless:
will it armor you, is it to nestle in
when nights turn late, long, and starless?
2) Who’s winning?
3) Isn’t that upside down?