Self Portrait as Unfinished Threat

If I ever meet the man—and by man
I mean boy, seventeen, a baby  
beard red as brushfire snaking up  

his jaw, lover of gin, horror 
movies, and my sister, who he wreathed  
in tattoos of black-and-white roses— 

If I ever meet the man—and by man
I mean boy, seventeen, whose thumb
planted radish and squash in the yard,
hose hand sowed lavender, whose fist— 

If I ever meet the man—and by man
I mean the sky above a barn fire— 

I mean boy, seventeen, sobbing,
ho drove to a bridge outside  
the city and called her, swearing 
I would die for you, and hung up—


Song for Anger

O little bird / little wren / of my anger!
O nightly / ritual of brushing / my teeth
when tonight
/ I clear / my sandpaper
throat & cough
/ hock up / a guppy
of snot
/ O goldfish! / as a young man
my father
/ swallowed / became aquarium
of darkened glass
/ O knot / of fire ants
/ through winter / O ladybugs
who wintered
/ in my room / red alphabet 
of arrow & dot
/ O fist / caused the window
to laugh & laugh!
/ O stained / glass hatchet
/ in my hands / O visual snow
drift I shovel
/ to the corners of / my seeing
O seeds
/ asleep in a combed / field dreaming


On Being Asked to Be More Specific About My Guilt

            after Carl Phillips

At first, an alphabet of sparrows 
singing the marsh to alarm, and no wind 
to fasten wings to sky. 

I’m a visitor to the perimeter—
a thicket as tall as a boy 
on horseback; where coltsfoot

and jewelweed thrive.
The boy is freckled, by accident 
or design—frowning copper eyes,

he turns his horse: copper
freckled eyes, as if their ink 
has bled together.

I follow them into the thicket,
carving through the grass. I am 
carved in turn. Through doors 

of alder, the boy disappears 
while a sound rings out as if 
the source of his vanishing,

as if vanishing can be said 
to have a source. Half singing, 
half chirping, the frozen lake 

turns at the center of the thicket—
a song of the surface ice expanding
and contracting. Before I left him 

on his deathbed, my father used to say 
the ice is breathing: this quivering song 
of things once-broken, mending. 

This song of them breaking again.