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Previous Poetry Books

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In Lands Imagination Favors: 

Holy Days

The priest leads the village 

up one windswept 

ridge and down another, all stopping 


at a spring to smoke 

and laugh because I stepped 

in donkey shit (the stranger, 


the one who tags along, 

who doesn’t know  

but to follow). The men 


hoist the icons of the Virgin 

back up on their shoulders 

so the priest can continue, 


one fold to the next,

blessing lambs, goats, the sea

churning below,


waving his scepter 

through bleached-wood gates, 

chanting some Byzantine litany 


meant to replace a pagan rite; he even 

blessed me, 

then the lamb 


that would follow Kyria Eleni

back to the village. Later, Vasso, 

her daughter, will swing that skinned lamb 


in a yellow bucket along the sea, 

its pink legs swaying 

in sunlight—how many 


blessings do I need?

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Before Kodachrome:

First Journey Alone

For an hour and twenty minutes

he's been watching a couple

lifting and setting down a suitcase,

two sailors flirting with passers-by,

a woman with crying baby in one arm,

daughter with half-eaten sandwich

in the other. For a moment he thought

how they're family, all in this 

together. Then indifference set in.

He's nothing to them and they're nothing

to him, just faces sliding across glass 

when the big doors open.


The whole depot slides with them:

tall racks of magazines

in the gift shop, dusty shelves 

of model Greyhounds and dolls

with outstretched arms,

bright pinball machines, a spinning wheel 

that tells fortunes and stamps pennies 

with The Lord's Prayer, even the drivers

in the diner's corner booth, their hushed talk 

of a Porsche that hit the Tahoe Express

head-on—all dissolves

when the dispatcher announces from the rafters

San this, El that.




He steps up into the cool dark

of a Scenicruiser, finds a seat

in the back, watches the last passengers board.

When a stranger sits beside him,

squeezes his arm and asks his name,

the boy looks down 

at workers tossing luggage like lost souls

into the Greyhound's underbelly. Leaving the city,


it's the symmetry of orchards he glares at,

smudgepot flames dancing on the cool

tinted glass. Rows of oil rigs

pump out the slowly 

descending night—and now this man's

pressing his thigh, 

asking where he's from, 

where he's headed.




The dead were laid out 

along the side of the road

in drifts of snow. He saw them

as the drivers kept telling and retelling

their story. Indifference wavered

as he placed a napkin over his fork and spoon,

stroked the bodies lying there,

imagined the bus he's now on

plummeting the full length of a slope,

passengers falling into each other’s arms—


But this is his story, 

so the boy, alone,

clings to a fistful of stamped pennies

and never forgives those who trespass against him.

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Approximately Paradise:

The Physics of Parting

A moment ago I heard the fine

spatter of rain in the field behind me, 

water rising, ready to sweep me away. Aristotle


taught wet and dry are absolute

opposites, each on its way

to its natural place. So why


do I see a row of poplars along a wall

when I turn, wind prying dry leaves

up and down the golden trunks,


and still the hiss of rain in my ears? I think of the spider

weaving that last night it was our bedroom,

rising and falling in moonlight,


not like us but Socrates,

who kept standing and sitting those last nights

in his cell, curious about his presence there—


due only to bones and joints

and flexible muscles? the words he uttered

explained just by laws of sound and hearing? I ask


what law for parting lovers,

one wet, one dry? Our wholeness

was never a burden—then it suddenly hardened 


in opposite directions. The web snapped in my face 

when I finally rose and left, descending 

into chaos, but for the mind,


pure and alone, weaving depths

to heights, mind so pure it makes

wings of thick gossamer and lost


love: rise, now rise.

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The Flow of Wonder:

Border Crossing

Jolted awake. Darkness. Train not moving.

Dirty windows. Dirty metal sheds.


Soldiers escort us and all our luggage

into the farthest building. Sound of stamps.

Sound of power in multiplicate.


Stepping forward, I answer every question—

where staying, how long, who with, what to declare.... 


And if my answers or the way they’re put

cause doubt, they’ll take me to an inner room,

strip me down to just my voice repeating


a single phrase, my name perhaps, some well

constructed lie, or a simple truth this country


won’t let in. But if they like my words,

more forms to fill, and then they’ll stamp me through.

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Of Dust:

Howling Man and His Young

From an Eskimo sculpture

Howling Man no longer roams frozen fields,

at night no longer measures mouth

against black expanse, for Howling Man

no longer has mouth, teeth, snout.

His young bulge from his cheeks

wet, stiff-lipped, green like clay

or fresh grass. They sleep

curled amid she-wolves and lap dogs,

serpents crackling in the fire.




A man of quiet concerns,

I go through the day, hands

behind my back, fill the spaces

left by others. My young

are still inside me

lodged between my legs.

Sometimes I hold them in my hands,

feel their flesh wrinkle,

the grating of hairs,

the shuffling of bodies.




Nights, a new moon rolls in my sleep,

yellow galleons course through my chest,

black hairs stroke the liquid night

like upturned legs. There’s a breathing

inside my breathing, a listening

beneath my listening. I awake

and hear a howl rising to my green tongue—

the voice of my young

shattering the night.

The voice of my young, like blank bullets

at a black mirror.

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Kindled Terraces:

Two Baths

(by Michael Waters)





Lovelier than Susannah

who set the elders’ hearts groaning at twice their faithful

stride, so that each grandfather

clutched his breast to remember the beauty of the nude

female body, you tilted

the pail to plash well water over stepped terraces

of flame-red hair, rivulets

snaking down breasts, God-thumbed birth-stain, vulval thatch and thighs.

And I lavished the shampoo

as you knelt in the rue anemone, spiraea’s

windfall stippling burnished skin,

lather foaming through my fingers, foaming shut your eyes

as you took me in your mouth,

the sun bearing witness to our blind, intuitive

coupling, till I tipped the pail

to rinse our fallen flesh, let our imperfections glisten.




Light roused us from the depths of our separate longings

and while I balanced buckets

you laced black sneakers for your morning run on the cliff,

wrapped the red ribbon of shirt

around your forehead, stretched stiff calf muscles, then ran off.

I could see you jog the beach

as I arranged notebooks, pens, on the marble table,

then begin the zigzagging

goat path toward the crag overlooking our stone cottage,

your red rag still visible

against the rough, anaemic marble of the mountain.

Remember the undressing,

how I slipped off your Nikes, peeled each slick of cotton,

then unknotted the sweatband

and dipped that tatter into the icy water, sponge

pressed between your breasts, your legs,

the tenderness between us before the sex turned sour?—

before your six miles became

a more-than-tacit withdrawal, like sleep, or headphoned jazz,

so I’d watch you crest the hill

as I worked at the marble table, wrenching lines, syllables,

the diminishing

sweatband a raw wound in the distance, as I revised

draft after draft, prodding you

past the horizon, writing you out of existence.

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