I’ve sat here
for an hour
to explain
to you
why I write
only to realize
it’s going to
take a whole lot
more time
just to explain it
to myself.

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I have no reason to be here,
here instead of there, where
I peered through bar windows,
hoping to see, to see but not speak
with one who must be smiling inside,
one who has not spoken once
in the month I waited
when asked for a week.

I can feel the season’s return now,
in an absence and my clicking bones,
when the pen shakes in my hand,
when the streetlights grow dim,
when the town seems somehow
less alive, however lively the night,
when migration is the single thought
that fuels my wheelspinning mind.

I have no reason to be here,
yet here I seem damned to remain
until a new There wins permission
to wake me from my dreams
and open their doors, that I
might step forward and enter,
rather than searching
darkened glass panes
for a disintegrating past.

Will it be Washington, Oregon, Alaska?
Whose rivers will bathe me next?
From whose greener grass will I
next admire the stars and be
reminded of how delightfully
small we all are?

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were storebought spaghetti sauce
ramen noodles saltine crackers
Folger’s coffee corn syrup
honey from a plastic bottle

unsustainable unsustaining easy
and I gorged until you were gone.

I am still hungry – not for you
or the acid void you fed
but for something with weight
that smells of earth and rain
that will leave me sore
drenched in good sweat
from good work
that will linger
like a smile

through my evenings
into another’s mornings.

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That night, I stiffened
every time the gravel crunched
beneath the wheels of cars
I could not help hoping
might come bearing you.

I swear to god
I didn’t mean
to drink too much
or smoke too much
to keep a steady wheel
the whole way home.

You asked me to come
so I came, to see you,
I just didn’t think it
would be to see every
tender lie you told me
burn away like cigarette paper,
as though sorrow were
only meant to last
the length of a single smoke.

At that particular point
in time and space,
all I knew for truth
was that I wanted to leave,
whether in body or in mind
I didn’t care.

I must have
made it back
with both more
or less intact,
because the next morning
I woke, gasping for air,
tangled in my own bed,
in time to hear your
footsteps on the stairs,
climbing to the door
above my own.

I almost feel like
I should thank you.

That gentle death
in the front seats
of the idling car,
the first few flakes of winter
blown across the windshield,
the gray muted waves
on the unnamed lake,

our heavy-laden final kisses
and the subsequent rape
of their memory
were like the Big Bang
for my small, solipsistic

Your lukewarm voice,
laughter intermittent,
filtered through the ceiling,
lands in my brain with
enough force to drive me
out of my paper-strewn home
to seek catharsis in the snow,

and in the snow
I have found some release
and more, I have stood,
stretched, expanded, opened and lived
– and LIVED –
more in these past few weeks
than in the year that came
before you.

Even so,
when I am out
in the frigid night
and no thing exists
But my Self and ice
cracking underneath
this coonhound’s feet,

I think still of the warmer
nights you spent beside me,
soft skin and fingertips
and the words I would whisper
into your damp disheveled hair,
the things I burned to tell you
and didn’t ever dare let you hear;

my own minor dishonesty.

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Gelsina’s in San Diego

in San Diego;
her latest stop,
though I doubt her last.
That gypsy queen has
been running all summer;
whether to or from or
for running’s own pleasure,
I’m not entirely convinced
even she knows for certain.

She’s the
kind of poet that
paints with blood,
pouring herself out
through her thin fingers,
full and sharp and raw
like turbinado soul sugar.
Every line vibrates, echoes,
jagged and synesthetic.

Back in Virginia
she lent me a book
of Bukowski’s work:
“Love is a Dog From Hell.”
Those poems kept me sane,
those poems and her placid face,
while I found out for myself.

I now owe a debt
she may never collect,
and the debt itself is
reason enough to smile,
but maybe one day we’ll
have that glass of arak,
if she ever finds herself
on this side of the Rockies.

I see her pictures
from time to time,
on those beaches
and city streets,
olive skin against
pale blue skies,
always flashing those
perfect white teeth,
catamount eyes ablaze
like aspen leaves.

I hope, where she is,
she can watch them turn
and fall.

Why bother with a title?

Not everything written
is meant to be read.

Some poems are
pure putrid piles of shit,
stripped of all meaning
the instant they hit the page.

Better on paper, though,
than in your gut.

That’s how you get sick.

Having found the well
dry upon return,
the dowser rested a night
before heading south,
witching rod and shovel
in the trunk of the car.

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I always thought of dying
as a sudden sort of affair;
you’re here – you’re gone – you’re done.

But you seem to be taking your time,
straddling the border between
here and whatever comes next.

She told me she caught you
today, just for a moment,
on this side of the door.
She told you she loved you

and you said,
“I love you guys too; I miss you guys,”
as if you were only traveling,
calling home from the hotel phone.

One Day We’ll Get That Tattoo

When we were little
we were like hyenas.
We could have killed each other
over anything; a toy, the remote control,
our father’s attention, our mother’s affection.
How did we grow from that kick in the head,
that shrieking war (our poor mother),
to this spider silk bond, stretching
unbroken across a continent?
Such transitions always seem to
get lost in the folds of my mind,
like roads between heres and theres
weaving back through the foothills,
shrouded in dawn’s waking mist.

Somewhere along the winding paths
you discovered a compass which I,
which most of the rest of us,
must have passed over as a stone
or discarded as rubbish.
That guide has since led you
through countless crucibles,
molded and tempered you,
gilded you with a courage that has
sent you shining across oceans
to places I know only from
stories and photographs.

Though I often walked beside you,
my guide has always only been
my own hair-trigger heart;
you of all people know this is true.
Something inside says go and there I go,
running down another side path,
tumbling headlong into the rapids
to learn again of breath and pain and beauty.

Thus far, my reckless wandering has
led me to one Virginia valley, its cafés
and piss-soaked drinking dens,
and sister, I might dare to think
this is where my journey ends,
had I not witnessed your own.

I used to believe that this road
would eventually curve toward home,
lead me back to our western mountains.
Some days I still do, though they are few lately.

Do you remember visiting Estes Park,
the go-karts and bumper cars,
the too-short burlap sacks
we tried so hard to fit into
to go racing, on Dad’s lap,
down that towering rainbow slide?
I am flooded tonight with nostalgia
for those younger summers,
the trips up to our grandfather’s cabin
before it was made modern.

We drew water from the well back then,
through a bright red hand pump,
and washed our hands for meals
with bar soap in a white basin, beneath
that frightening rough-woven creature –
was it meant to be a deer or an owl?
We thought little of the stones and needles
that bit our small bare feet as we walked,
by moonlight or by mother’s hand,
through the dark to the buzzing outhouse.
I never did finish that fort in the rocks,
mine of the many we and our cousins built
with stones and fallen branches,
proud defenses against assault
by pine cone or super soaker.

I suppose the fog does lift after all,
once in awhile, to let me reminisce.

The forts are all in disrepair now,
the outhouse has been filled in,
the old pump is overgrown and faded pink.
They stand like weathered monuments,
relics from the early days when
the elk still came down in the morning
and we had not yet learned the names
of heartache and death.
It has been years and years,
but I still remember the nights we spent,
we children, outside on the deck,
listening to the thin yips and howls
of coyotes gathered high on the Eagle’s Nest.
I still remember their green eyes glinting,
watching us watching them.

Not everything comes full circle,
sister, and if I ever do return
it will not be to the same place I left,
nor as the same stubborn boy who left it.
Nothing and no one escapes time unchanged.

Every breath we take is
just another leaf floating down the river,
just another sunlit flash of color
gone around the bend as soon as seen.

Breathe deeply, Rachel.
Savor every second.

Black Ink Tree

Today I grew a tree,
a massive tree, all
black and white
on notepaper.

I scribbled the names
of all my little demons
into the lines of its
black ink leaves.

Then I hung a man
from its branches,
not wondering
who he was
or what he had done
until his kicking had ceased
and I had carved a doorway
in the base of the trunk.

Beyond that threshold
I think there will be a stairwell
spiraling down through the soil,
though I cannot seem to decide
to which it will lead;
a womb or a mausoleum.

Only now,
watching the man’s still form
as the tall grass sways in the wind,
do I wish I had asked his name.