was how horses simply give birth to other
horses. Not a baby by any means, not
a creature of liminal spaces, but already
a four-legged beast hellbent on walking,
scrambling after the mother. A horse gives way
to another horse and then suddenly there are
two horses, just like that. That’s how I loved you.
You, off the long train from Red Bank carrying
a coffee as big as your arm, a bag with two
computers swinging in it unwieldily at your
side. I remember we broke into laughter
when we saw each other. What was between
us wasn’t a fragile thing to be coddled, cooed
over. It came out fully formed, ready to run.
You ever think you could cry so hard
that there’d be nothing left in you, like
how the wind shakes a tree in a storm
until every part of it is run through with
wind? I live in the low parts now, most
days a little hazy with fever and waiting
for the water to stop shivering out of the
body. Funny thing about grief, its hold
is so bright and determined like a flame,
like something almost worth living for.
Now, we take the moon
into the middle of our brains
so we look like roadside stray cats
with bright flashlight-white eyes
in our faces, but no real ideas
of when or where to run.
We linger on the field’s green edge
and say, Someday son, none of this
will be yours. Miracles are all around.
We’re not so much homeless
as we are home free, penny-poor,
but plenty lucky for love and leaves
that keep breaking the fall. Here it is:
the new way of living with the world
inside of us so we cannot lose it,
and we cannot be lost. You and me,
are us and them, and it and sky.
It’s hard to believe we didn’t
know that before; it’s hard to believe
we were so hollowed out, so drained,
only so we could shine a little harder
when the light finally came.
We were quick to tell each other what we wanted. I said, I want to be cremated and then I want my ashes to be tossed in the Pacific and the Atlantic. He said I was greedy for wanting both coasts, but he’d do it. I made it specific: Herring Cove in Cape Cod and Salmon Creek on the Sonoma Coast (but also, I was thinking of the Calabazas Creek in Glen Ellen). He said any horse farm will do for him, and then he corrected himself to just any pretty pasture. He said we don’t believe in the afterlife. I stopped him and said, I don’t believe in God, but I do have some very interesting thoughts concerning ghosts. What he was trying to say, if I’d stop talking about ghosts for once, is that it’s important to have a spot to visit: a tree, a rock, any place where you can think of that person. We’ve got her two old cats downstairs now, hiding behind the water heater, the stairs, hissing and purring both. Last night, I dreamt that she didn’t like me, wouldn’t let me in a car that everyone else was getting into. Or rather she took the last seat in the car and everyone drove off without me. But this morning, I kissed the man she used to love and one of her cats crawled in my lap.
Virginia Quarterly Review, Fall 2017
Witness the wet dead snake,
its long hexagonal pattern weaved
around its body like a code for creation,
curled up cold on the newly tarred road.
Let us begin with the snake: the fact
of death, the poverty of place, of skin
and surface. See how the snake is cut
in two–its body divided from its brain.
Imagine now, how it moves still, both
sides, the tail dancing, the head dancing.
Believe it is the mother and the father.
Believe it is the mouth and the words.
Believe it is the sin and the sinner–
the tempting, the taking, the apple, the fall,
every one of us guilty, the story of us all.
But then return to the snake, pitiful dead
thing, forcefully denying the split of its being,
longing for life back as a whole, wanting
you to see it for what it is: something
that loves itself so much it moves across
the boundaries of death to touch itself
once more, to praise both divided sides
equally, as if it was easy.
from Bright Dead Things (2015)
No shoes and a glossy
red helmet, I rode
on the back of my dad’s
Harley at seven years old.
Before the divorce.
Before the new apartment.
Before the new marriage.
Before the apple tree.
Before the ceramics in the garbage.
Before the dog’s chain.
Before the koi were all eaten
by the crane. Before the road
between us, there was the road
beneath us, and I was just
big enough not to let go:
Henno Road, creek just below,
rough wind, chicken legs,
and I never knew survival
was like that. If you live,
you look back and beg
for it again, the hazardous
bliss before you know
what you would miss.
They say the first thing that goes
is the short-term memory. You forget
your keys, you forget your address,
you forget the name of the president.
I like to think it’s just a matter of practice—
we’ve had more time to practice the memory
of our favorite light, our brother’s face, the
creek that runs down the center of our town.
I want to practice. Like the Russian soldier
who had to make up a word to say how
hard he would fight, said he would fight
“fiercefully,” that’s how I will remember you,
that’s how I will practice—“fiercefully.”