My hen Kiev has it in for dirt.

She craters the backyard with soft pumice pits,

digging an acre of ashy basins;


she scatters mulch

with backward-scratching feet,

scraping bare the trunks of crotons and ginger plants;

she slurps night-crawlers from the ground

and severs roots, but not the detested

greenbriar and potato vine—

those she leaves growing from the grey hollows

like a last cackle;


she conspires with the raccoons

to broadcast compost,

spreading clumps, unintegrated, across the grass:

coffee grounds and fetid beans,

newspaper strips and onion skins,

blue lemons and pulpy litter

all resurface in places laid out for clean feet;

she polarizes debris that’s meant to meld together into rich loam

(brown-bag bits now crinkle stiffly between my flower beds,

while lonely cabbage cores dry in fence corners).


I’m thinking of buying a battalion of worms

to blend sand and trash

and return humus to my post-apocalyptic garden

but what would be the point? Kiev would just eat them.


Metal and Drab

I had my fill of metal and drab,

at a desk in a room, in a suite, in a concrete block,

with florescent lights and plastic blinds drawn

against the tropical brightness.


I trudged the concrete stairs to the second floor

each day, I heaved open a heavy door

underlined with stubs and cigarette ash,

closed my eyes and called upon torrent,

frond, and passion-fruit vine

“deliver me from this job,”

before stepping over the threshold

into the grey corridor,

into a box in the calendar.


I stacked the data in drop-down squares,

each name on a line, in a crease, in a sliding drawer;

my mind arranged its own inventory

(“gob-smacked,” “saffron,” “tiramisu”)

to crowd out the ordinal meanness.


After work, outside beside the fragrant gardenias,

I rewrote the day,

the way I keep reworking this poem

to include all that was absent and filed-away:

body, beauty, nuance, compassion,

the way sometimes in the sickening gleam

I tore the thick pith of a backyard citrus

and inhaled the bitter smell of the sun.



At a crossroad on a quiet day

she does a double-take through rolled-up glass,

a startled glance and slight pull-back

that only I notice;

the older man in the blue sedan

doesn’t see more than the dull crawl

of her nondescript car as it passes through the shadows

of the laurel oaks,

but I take in her black hair, pulled back and morning-tidy,

the mouth curved confusedly on her taupe face,

the dough of impending middle age

softening her forearms into ovals,

the whole effect so regular it begs a story:

Why has she looked twice at this guy?

Is it the polished olive-brown of his cheeks,

the breeziness of his t-shirt,

the careful hold of one hand on the wheel?

Does he evoke a patriarch making a toast

at a long table by a cliff by the sparkling sea,

with bowls of tomatoes and penne and ciabatta

and even the children with wine glasses half-filled?

Does the sight of him make the clinging heat

feel like a dry mediterranean afternoon

sweetened with tipsiness and garlic?

Or maybe I watch too many Italian films;

maybe he’s really her next-door neighbor

who just came from the barber with his beard newly shaved

and she almost didn’t recognize him;

maybe the reason I think I sense a quick spark of desire

piercing her window and then his

and then her subtle fluster and regrouping

is because I myself have now stopped running

and stand at the crossroad, eyes fixed

on the white hair and glossy, sunny skin

as he drives away.

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