Selected Poetry


Not, like Venus, come ashore
on a shell, but out of my own body,

you arrived. First one
and then the other.

Son, then daughter,
as if time—those years

between your births—were folded
and the two births became

one double-emergence:
you, and you, and none other.

The clouds part,
and Helios rides the golden Sun,

glowing, across the sky again.
But not forever.

Counted are even the blades of grass,
the blades of wheat.

And among them, two,
born human: you!

And I, the carriage and horse
who brought you here,

the unextraordinary,
an unmemorable woman

giving birth to this

As if I were the chariot
of the whole world’s becoming:

what happens

What is not infinite.
What does not stay.

–first published in On the Seawall

I Think It Is Such a Beautiful


                            and my mind,

which wants to hold things

as they are, cannot hold

this morning,

           first of April,      spring too early

this year by three weeks,

                      the daffodils

of my city spurred forward

by the warmth —


cannot hold Brett,


Patrizia, gone —

          not the marching clouds,

          not the sky that is perched, unaltering,

                                                  above the clouds,

          not the methane leaks,

          not the whales

                                 suffering the piercing

sounds of boats:


I reach out my hands: one

and then the other,

              spread my fingers as the light


falls through them.

–first published in On the Seawall

Today Like Yesterday

and the day before: it’s happening.
It’s so simple, I hardly need any language.
Right there, through the window.

And in the trees, hardly visible, the birds
are back and going about their own business. 

Do they remember their long journey, the tall glass buildings, 
the telephone poles, the wires?

Are they singing for the ones who are absent?

Are they, like me, singing to welcome in the dawn?

While everyone else in my family is sleeping,
the city is taken over by their song.

–first published in Curator Magazine

Love Song

The world that is alone in its beauty

with no consolation–

the black walnut tree
the double-oleander

the goats, always-hungry–

Who hasn’t been seduced?

Who is the wonderful me of happiness?

Of forgetfulness,
of horror,
that must be a part.

As if “all”
were a word in another language.

No one speaks

 –first published in Lyric 

The End

The end occurs not at the end, but when I’m still
at the edge of the middle of things.

Toys and plastic chairs lie scattered across the lawn,
the picnic table’s spread under an arching beech,

but these human signs can’t speak
of the necessary shift, and even the cloud

that cuts the monotonous sky with a brilliant pink
has nothing to do with this change.

The particular, the compelling object, breaks
And alone, in place, remains

not the common master, waving long flamboyant arms,
but a self subtler and altogether more dangerous.

Out beyond courage and vanity,
I am complete, cut off,

like the silver-bowled lake
or the deep, impervious dark.

–first published in The New Yorker


In the photo the woman looks out.
Someone is taking her photograph:
Her face is white, a dark face covered in the white
of plaster as it falls.

You cannot do this
in a poem. You cannot take someone else’s suffering.
What poetry of
witness? Is there a child still living? Does the lover
remain inside the ruins of the house? And her mother,
where is she? Mother,
where are your arms?

In the photograph
the woman’s eyes scream. Can she be
her own witness? The whole building fallen down
on her torso. Her waist, her legs, her sex
buried underneath.

And her chest and arms, her face
sticking out:

Someone is watching
in the dark, covered by light,
covered by the idea of light,

Be the eyes. Be the weight
of what happens. Be the place
you cannot say.


–published in
published in Good River Review

Sleep, like a golden rain, fall through me. Hard earth, that resists the shovel’s metal blade, yield.

published in the On Being Blog

And suddenly I could not stop: God, I said. What good is language? part of me wondered, but I did not stop

published in Cura Magazine

In the Wantu language, which was spoken in North California for thousands of years, there is no word for the right or left side of the body.

Published in Midway Journal

How can you know you’ve survived? The hands still move, the feet, the heart though the mouth is frozen shut. I am taking the groceries out from the bag. I am putting the dishes Into the sink.

Every kiss that was ever kissed—

     every smile, every baby’s delight,

a first step, a face that hides

      and comes back, a belly laugh—

Saw the barn door at a distance
          that appeared then complete.
Lay down in the offering earth,
          I incumbent, wishing for,

published on Flying Object

The girl with the open face, she is feeding her brother from her bowl of soup.


Imagine laundry on a laundry line.

Attached at two points, a white sheet hangs easily in air.

It makes the sky a mirror of itself.

Because it is laundry day, the white sky looks clean, not threatening rain.

This is one scenario: the sheet dominates, undoing the meaning of sky, full of its own
clean hope, its own clean necessity.

In another scenario, the sheet on the line slaps furiously as a white sail on a sinking boat at sea.

Now the sheet is secondary.

Nothingness, because it believes itself the source of meaning, wants us to think into the scene some metaphoric meaning with itself at center.

Nothingness wants us to think that the wind, because we cannot see it, symbolizeserasure.

The sky holds back.

It takes on the look of the dead sailor, of the submersion of hope in the certainty of dark water.

Out in the backyard, the sheet becomes a shroud.


On laundry day, things cancel themselves out.

See how what can’t be seen takes the objects of this world and hurls them about  themselves?

The sheet sags, comes back, dancing in the colorless light.

Every inch of its surface touched by the colorless light.

What is it?

We sit by the window.

Something’s about to disappear.

Something’s about to take form.

– first published in American Poetry Review


In my poem of freedom I’m a tree.

I don’t care if I’m original;

I don’t care if I’m everybody’s image.

I grow out of stone.

I stand in a wide field.

And when they hang the rope from me

I’m the same tree. And the girl

who never weeps does not weep.

That, too, is okay. When I look up

my branches will be my tears,

my leaves will be my comfort,

and I will be the same tree. Even cut down.

Even flaming on the fire.

– first published in Midway Journal

published in Conjunctions

In the box there was no beginning and no end, but an openness stopped on all sides by the edges. We built it with wood and painted it. And all along there was the future.

published in RealPoetik

I don’t know what made me do it. It was like getting up late at night and going out to find the moon, hung full, at the end of the block. Framed, between the low row of houses.


published in APR and Verse Daily

I will not be scared, I said,
take of me, take of me—begin:
And like a tree. And like a tree

published in slate

A lake flickers after snow,
and I enter the refraction,
like playing the piano–
fingers moving under hand

published in Boston Review

Having read them all or not, 
we soon conclude everything’s a front 
covering up centuries of inexperience: 
the leaves outside don’t care 
about last year’s foliage, 

What Is Left

published in Agni

The nineteenth of May, year one thousand five hundred thirty-six,
where there, in the particular, the clouds lie low
as a cloying ambergris throng at the horizon

What Takes Place Takes Place Upon It

I went to the world and the world was there–
not waiting, not stretching out its hands,
and I said, old earth, I would like to grow like you
that I may learn to lose my want. And I sat down.

In winter my clothes blew around me,
loosened in the singing, frangible wind.
In spring the cowbirds and bluejays
pulled the strings from my shirt.

And in summer, when it rained, the rain
rained upon me. And the sun, when it shone,
dried my skin like the laughter of boys

in the opposite field who never once stopped their playing,
not even when the dog lay down in the dust
beneath the plane tree and didn’t again get up.

–first published in Harvard Review


All winter long, we walked on the fallen sky,

walked on clouds until we fell, thigh deep, to earth.

Now the clouds are melting, running down the side of the mountain

in small hidden rivers.

What is it in you that needs melting? What is it that you are scared of?

What do you do with your anger and your hope?

All night long, down the side of the mountain,

the water runs together where you cannot see.

The earth, underneath, is awakening.

And once more the tips of the bare tree branches put out new buds

that clasp their small hands together in prayer.

first published in Appalachia

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