Category: Poems

observations on a spider in a side room at Jim Houghton’s theater on west 42nd street

today in your theater a spider 
interrupted my pushup
tan silver tall slow
just beneath my nose

something stopped
me squishing it

a summer ago 
before you died
we asked entranced
“how can you stand
to stay so brave and kind
while your own insides 
eat you alive? 
don’t you get tired?”

you nibbled your bland cancer snack 
and said 
“besides kin,
my mission fuels my life” 

your mission 
a web of collision and love
the word and access
a lobby

“you all really oughta write 
personal mission statements”
you said, haloed in purpose
spoon full of mashed potatoes

so once he died i did it
stated my personal mission
it gave me height but did not stick

we have this teacher 
her name’s René
i don't know if she means it to 
every tape she shows gets me 
thinking “what would i die for?” 
(she means it to)

Harvey Milk shot
Nelson Mandela jailed
we watch Joan of Arc melt
wild-eyed bold and stone true
even the eyes of hatechurch Shirley
glisten with the peace of a martyr’s certainty
and now looking at you, i see

a mission isn’t the statement it’s the question
not the means but the end 
now how i will live but
what would i burn for? 

those people in new hampshire  
have it figured out 
if you mark the license plates 
live free or die
but under the Concord dome, Mary 
the docent said the rest of the quote was 
for death 
is not the greatest of evils 

and it's not 
it’s promised

what's bone but 
a moment of atoms
what’s skin but a vessel for a life’s thesis

whether that’s bisexual pride
couch potato
or freed feet on bare earth 
if i stitch my soul to an idea i’d die for 
i’ll live forever

what stopped me squishing that 
spider was knowing that you could
die for a lobby
and for every creature
in it

the short way's the wrong frame
may my game be the long game 
my home, noplace but the earth 
noplace vague and opaque as  
the shapes states take 

so that when they take me to the stake
i’ll be 
(that’s their mistake)
i’ll grin serene
and sure
and burn,  

Photo: big, old trees grow in a row on a fallen nurse log in Lake Quinault, Washington

croquet on the muskeg

croquet on the muskeg

we        boardwalk up mountainside
beeline past        dark treeline to eldritch earth 
watch yourself        among bog-blueberries
that teal and tart dart        bog-orchids marshmarigolds
violets fragile and nearly nothing        the moonlight above
below Taku winds scrape the town and churn the Channel

when        you play croquet on the
muskeg        slip the wickets in slow 
springy ground        peat and moss and twig
blandest crowberries        fronds of the western bracken stab
green-black sponge        our mallets rest on cedar silhouettes
ancient gnarled whorls stunted in the pitch mountain air
muskeg        it's tundra's insult it's 
helldeep         pothole ponds that sunk our balls
it's where you knew        i wouldn't be back for years
it's where moose trip        drown trapped in the permafrost
it's a verse from Mark or Matthew        a prophet beloved
everywhere except his skunk-cabbage hometown

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