e i g h t p o e m s k a r e n k e v o r k i a n
Not a language of grief
the well rehearsed green chorus
bends to one side. A sleek blackbird erupts.
a chainsaw. Somewhere
a leaf blower. Somewhere
a clock ticks in a room
where doves query one-two
and three hah hah over there
a pear go comb
your hair go say
a prayer oh don’t
be scared opulent
pink flames at the window
western sky graying
shadow wants the streets
still body on the bed. Dove lusters
Go now. Go.
Oh oh oh from the trees.
The day before snow hills crest subatomic, dyed turquoise
of the Indian tourist bracelet, reactor pool
chaos. Wind rattles
coin colored cottonwood
coin of stories told to children not memory’s alloy
coin of light on still water
or when a stranger takes your arm asks tonight where you’ll sleep.
Coin of rejection coin of the quick response
holding onto the coin of silence coin of the empty room
coin of the red wine in the glass.
Country dark is not the well understood city dark
its neon and taillight. Country dark is pitch
never mind the star-gabbling sky.
You can’t buy your way out of it.
Wind ruffles black fur
as if beauty helped. Art is long buddies.
Glossy black cows give full attention
heifers with calves pulling at their tits.
A combine rakes a new mown field for the last time
scrapes a final bale or two from leavings.
Now the calves are gone.
The cows holler all night.
Country flares on the radio. I need a good man. Oh yeah.
Tell it to the highway.
Run your hand across the hillside
a pale brown nap against the palm. Soft furred
neck of a toothless horse
gumming a carrot. Not so cold today the wind dying down
small leaves of the blue alfalfa
pushing one way and another
a crowd scene by Eisenstein, the pheasant
as it ran ducking its body low and flat
a wake of ripple through the blue
anyone could track.
Yellow cottonwood leaves fall to earth, wealth
to kick through on a green lawn in the arid West
thick as snow falling silvery
on bronco bucking cowboys in plastic domes stacked by the checkout
of the Sheridan Wal-Mart. In the blue field
not from a pillow
soft brown or slightly copper where filaments
thin near the tips
and on the road the gold brown heap
greenish black head neck twisted.
Two scared up in the same place today
dun female and gaudy male. Clumsily
he ran from the field then was airborne so heavily
anyone could bring him down.
Yawning, she did not look closely at the skin
on the backs of her well shaped hands and wrists, that network
of concentric grooves and parallelograms
like crisscrossings on clay soil when a dry spell
follows rain. Rubbing her hands, she began to consider
time, though not yet death. He was in her dream,
turning to look at her, with eyes that looked black but she knew
their true shade, a dark, almost reddish, brown. She put
a single finger to his eyebrow, his eyelid, each corner
of his mouth, as though to indicate a choice
of what was rarest among so much beauty. She considered
the outward form, pleasure warming
her breasts and her arms and her body’s inward parts, no voice
naming foul, not yet a thynge soyled
a mayde deflouered, the convolvulus furling
its tissue bell. She touched her lips to it
she shook her head. Remaining absolutely still she held her breath
like someone listening, then broke away,
rose and sighed, putting hand to unruffled hair. He was
prudish and half naked,
she whitely dressed by the glare of noon. Color flamed in her cheeks.
She did not yet not love herself .
White bodied woman at the window
of the brick house that rouges
a white morning. Come back to bed
from the unwound sheets. Only what’s observed
the black crow caw
not a dog’s bark
black diagonal echo
seeking pith every morning
gray squirrel shooting down a wet limb
every morning the slide down
an arm raised against
eyelids’ red scald
the empty, very empty, great empty, and all empty
Highest Yoga Tantra
Lowspread the live oak leaves rattle
money in a cup. Fat whitewing doves
teeter on the power line. Soft music
having severed any relationship with
the body, she does not think
a fingernail ringing, four times,
a crystal rim,
a hesitation between
the first two calls and the last
a middle place
lasting seven days but these days
are very long
millions of years
Grapelike sparrows in the eaves
soft racheting wings. Sweet fuss.
Usually no one in the room.
The emaciated woman
hairless gaunt woman
lift of shoulderblades wings’ absence
and after death a hungry ghost exits
from the mouth. If it is to be born
a god of desire,
Bruised (needle scars) flesh puckers
breeze quivering over smooth water
She raises a skinny arm to feel fog-hovering new hair
pats her head carefully
a god of magic
Knees give way. One hand steadies on the wall.
the other feeling what must be hair. A white mist
like wet dark limbs around them green haze collects.
a human exits from the eye
Are the leaves solid black?
No the sky’s grimed gauze
tunnels into the room where TV bodies
lie oddly angled in blooming loud fire
deafness within deafness
in the dark
she does not know
what to call them
she cannot understand
what is rough what is smooth
Silken reassurance this tangle
the final diving into deep water
very clear emptiness
mind of the clear light
black and silklike sweet
Nothing moving even skin and bones
bamboo holding breath above that euphemism
grass. Then a wavering lazily
like paper streaming. This there this not there
a body live and then a flutter
and a body still. Like burnt matches
smell of fennel comes into a room
where he readies for the tunnel with its blindness.
He lies in dark and waits for roiling orbs of light. Sometimes
a silver flutter like a manta ray.
Sometimes a woman.
Are you afraid?
Not even at the trembling bed
though someone seemed to sit down
someone seemed to lie beside him. Soon
dark again and soon the bed was still. So much coming going
the opening mouth its barking squeak. Then another.
Everything is over now I can assure you.
There is no breath.
As if twitching bedclothes
she curved the legs and then the creature seemed to merely
sleep. This there this not there you can’t follow.
Lightning zippers the dark while the house riffs
night’s threadbare song.
A green lizard hesitates on the doorframe,
one two one two shaking its
thumbnail wedge head
grass labyrinths, wings descending.
from her chair, walk her to the bed. White sheets feel good.
Rain-scattered bird eggs on the driveway in the morning,
needle-holed, membranes pierced. Drenched
cannas loll toward the house
red tongues blabbing.
the base of some leaves cupped like the bowls of spoons
the milkweed seed’s fine tuft of silk hair
the wind takes
the pulpy tissue of cholla
the touched stamens of the prickly pear flower
that curl and twist inward
the longflowered four o’clock that only lives at dusk
when the pure white flowers unfold
long purple filaments and orange antlers
the hawkmoths with extremely long tongues
madrone gingko magnolia the sacred datura also pure white
but the margins tinged lavender
the hawkmoths stumbling
from one flower to the next
stiff and succulent and armed with sturdy spines at the tip
the century plants that live much less than one hundred years
bats and hummingbirds visit
the bats’ bright yellow pollen stained heads
she calls it
silvery foliage and magenta flowers of locoweed
the listlessness the staggers the blindness the death
large and clumsy
the shrieking jay appears at the door
diving from the coin sized leaves of the oak
a hand to protect her eyes and on the path
the still warm
she lifts it
its weight less than air
at the base of the tree a bed of blue vinca growing
she parts the fingertip leaves
and closes them over the small body
in her palm almost nothing
and only then is the bird overhead silent
though not too far away a black dog barks
maybe it wants water
male and female the skin so warm like velvet on the bone
claiming dominion over everything that moves
in the cool of the day they hid
damp leaves sliding around her body
now the serpent more subtil
and the small lithe lizard pauses
under his chin a red bubble inflates
a sparrow lands on a limb and then another sparrow
lands on the first sparrow and there is a sound
like bells clinking
who told you you were naked
it will hurt to bear children
your husband will rule you
the land will bear thistles and thorns
her flame gutters and in her eyes ash
his shadow falls over her he was still
bringing her food
she turns her face toward him
oh not that face he cries
you will eat your sweat with your bread until you
return to dust
she looks at her fingers
nails rippled like sand
needlelike curlicues of skin flinging themselves
away from the bed of the nail
little skin flags
everyday the leaves rust
pale tan spatters and wrinkled pink
louverings of bone
am I going to die now if so I would just like to
get it over with
you know I
sunset’s confusing shock and then the
shale limestone dolomite chert
shallow marine origin of sandstone
supporting post oaks acacias cacti
the Edwards plateau and the Riogrande plain
a hidden salt bed
moving and dissolving
the small green lizard
pausing on a rock near spiky aloe
each day hot and then wet
the soaked earth exhaling
the cool the dank the small the biting the rasp the hard
the absence that is night
don’t make me cry
she is detaching now you must let her go
as if the black shapes named leaves
force themselves through the gauze
between her and it
whatever the it is
the air green the unstoppable grass and green water
lapping at the door where up the wall
gray snails labor
smells like damp sheets that lie
molding in a pile
at the last rough dispersal
the rankling grass of the yards whose wax smelling trees
something long hidden in all this
the too many voices the too much
rain talk bird talk car tires
shushing a wet street
then a collision
her dream of lizards heat birds and bristling grass
her what if
there will never be another dream
each blade at sharp angle fierce tickle
was I happy
what was pleasure
“Nothing Moving” and “Soft
Music” appear in the anthology the land of wandering,
published by Printmakers Left in 2005
and distributed by University of Virginia Press.
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