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Two Poems
at Blackbird




You never thought you’d be back here again:
            the pink, powder-primp throb
of giggly blondes and bass, of seventeen,
            all strut and swagger in this strobe-

lit throng you barely peer into to check.
            It’s curious to watch
now from the side: you’re wearing modest black,
            lurch clumsily to catch

a football player’s arm, as he’s bound for the door
            out to the parking lot
where late night’s bottled and sloshing on the floor
            of someone’s pickup.

Pulses race and stop, your stomach tight under
            your date’s damp touch,
remember curfews ducked, broken on thunder-
            stricken roads that couched

your alibi: power lines down, his tire
            flat, you lied while picturing
Tim Pritchard’s back yard, your bustle snagging briars
            in one rushed kiss. The click

of inexperienced heels pacing the hall
            returns you here: no flowers
now, your corsage pinned and crumbling to a wall,
            you watch them chase the hours

on steel-rimmed trucks, your fingers crossed
            they make it home in time
to stop the hallway clock—grinding what’s lost
            with each relentless chime.

(Originally published in 32 Poems)


The Illustrated Organism

         for W.H.


Two disciplines today will span the room
of hipsters, science geeks and goths in coats
and hats, hunching above their fishy specimens
to draw. Already they’ve dissected the lean
and part-cured bodies for their key: air bladder, gill
or adipose—but mind the heart, whose bloom
of blackish pigment bleeds and floats
beneath the pupil’s crude, incessant lens.
Posing as whole, the loosened skin’s green
envelope balloons, waiting its fill.


To draw the dead, the masters said to use
the palette of the living, only to choose
a paler shade to wash the brow. It’s colder
now inside this attic room; the model folds
her long white fingers on her chest
to slow her breath—that frail, tenuous guest.
It’s harder than he thought—to make her torso
slump into the chaise, wrist graze the floor.
Sifting dust, light pools scarcely beyond
the subject’s toes. The artist lifts his wand.


The finished sketches line his office walls:
day lily, monarch, dove. Guilty as Audubon,
Professor studies these flat artifacts
for flaws, but finds none. Cataloguers claim
them all, and having archived every last
passed over limb and part, remember tracks
crisscrossing in the snow, no two the same.
The rush of history blows coldly past.
As soon as we translate what it recalls,
the day is still, the breath of every body gone.

(Originally published in Measure)