Owl Dad Tells a Dragon

no you may not come in

there is still one left

king, he bars the doors


against the night

guards still on either side

keep watch and look


if a moon too appears

see their spears in its light

but shields to cover heart


this you need always

he says in closing

the book, turns lights


out overhead

and down the dark night

dreaming she lay safe


outside pining in the wind

a claw and cold breath

in the branches caught


and choking at what throat

the night has yelling

do not let it in, do not let it in


Alfred Stieglitz Shoots the Clouds

I struck at it for years. Hands raised,


I hollowed out the form,

the photograph, took all


reference away: no tree branch,

no birds frozen

in the scraping stroke of a wing,


nothing to say here or when.

But the tools weren’t right. The empty blue,


emulsified, was too pale, too light

to hold this weight. Clouds

I set into it burst and sank.


Until I felled it, found

the solution that turned the bright day dark.


Emotion without scale or form,

an absence trapped


between paper and glass,

they hang on walls as testament:


I stood alone and looking up

put words into the mouth

of the terrible, of the speechless sky.


When I Say Romance

When I say romance, I do not mean romance, not

at least, as you intend, do not mean

the quilled yellow throats of songbirds,

their fat, banded wings and black eyes, the notes

of their song. When I say love, understand

I mean the word far or along, see

the streets of Venice, its lagoon, the flat stones

over the water making a way.


So we strike and miss: shoot darts whose steel tips

kiss at their soft target. Words

that would promise or presage but cannot hit

their mark, our wit. I listen for you but it is an arrow

dropping to earth, a pipe of bone, the crow’s voice

clicking like cold stones, that I hear.


Terremoto de Valdivia, 1960

I held my mother’s hand as we walked towards the bright

display case, stacked with croissants, tiny cookies,


its tall cakes frilled like Easter dresses, tarts tucked

with dark berries, each facet of the raspberry gleaming.


Cautioned not to touch, I waited. She went to the counter

for my father’s cake, laughed with the shop girl


who folded its cardboard carry-out box.

Red body of it startling under pale frosting, his favorite.


Mine, the light meringue, its egg whites whisked to peaks,

baked at a low heat until dry and sweet, nearly nothing.


Pastel, they sat in ordered rows. I leaned

towards them, my greedy palm printing the glass.


I can still hear the patterned floor as it split,

see the flat shelves, so cared for and so careful, unsettled now and shifting.


How the great case faltered, its four feet unsteady,

the cakes tilting forward, their sugared skins smearing


its clear window with pink roses, birthday wishes.

Thinking first, It is my fault. Then, I am falling.


How to feed them by hand

Begin slowly. Arrive in the early hours when,

in the near light, everything is yet possible.

Let them see you. Then leave.

The next day, near dawn, stand by the feeder,

hold yourself still. Show yourself part

of that scenery and fade. Later and again,

offer only your hand, the striped seeds

in your palm, hot from a wool glove.

They are hungry, will take what

you give. You have wondered, have watched,

heard through the glass, their din-to have them close

and delicate, their pronged feet round

a finger, blunt beaks at your skin:

is it like flight, their rush of blood?

Bright burgundy brushes past, just beyond you.

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