All posts by tara

  • Feast of Seven Fishes: Duluth, Minnesota

    —for G.

    The Old Copper people lived here, at the Sixth Stopping Place.
    We cherished seven—the number of perfection.

    We looked away to the eastern sky, beyond Monoceros
    and into the Cone Nebula, seven light-years long,

    a place much like where our sun was born.
    Our vigil lasted well into the darkness.

    I was sated. I thought of Mary,
    pondering the strangeness of her belly,

    stroking the place where it swelled.

  • Airborne

    For Arthur Benjamin, on TWA flight 800, June 1996

    The newspaper tells me you dropped like a stone
    when that extraordinary silver bird
    split suddenly in two –
    plummeted like one of those stubborn mussels
    the seagulls drop upon the rocks.

    “Technically most of them died by drowning,
    although some may have lost consciousness
    before they hit the water.”
    The magazine tells me there was time
    between the blast, the fall, the landing.

    I work hard to erase that time,
    eliminate any seconds for terror
    after the takeoff, when routine cares
    were left behind with gravity,
    and you turned to your wife and shared a smile
    neither had seen in many months.
    Paris! A week of art, cafes—in Paris!

    Both heads turned to the window, watching
    the silver edge of the ocean
    as the splendid towers of Manhattan became small
    and slid away across the water…
    Oblivion came then, without a moment
    beyond the flash of a thousand gold fireworks.

    They tell me you dropped like a stone, fell
    like a soft curled mussel heading for the rocks,
    but in my mind I see you
    still spreading swiftly in all directions
    across the vast prairie of the sky.

  • Congregation

    After Church, in Sunday clothes, my country neighbors
    gather at Obrigado and Mineral Restaurant for brunch.
    They ask about children, sick parents, a lame horse
    or missing hunting dog. They josh and joke, eat
    country ham, fried eggs, grits, muffins. No disputes

    about sermons, doctrine, or creed. The men, at their
    own end of the table, speak about the national debt
    and blame the president. No criticism of billions
    spent on bombers, drones, so-called intelligence.
    I came here longing for community, to be part

    of potlucks, writing and women’s groups, where
    appearance counts less than character, where people
    speak their truth. Instead of talk of face lifts, fashion,
    they marvel at how wet or dry the season, why
    this year’s tomatoes are few and squash won’t flower.

    My face is familiar in town. Bank tellers don’t ask
    for ID. With no religion, no faith in the supernatural,
    neither Isis nor Jesus speaks to me. I will not join
    a church or temple, cannot abide another’s dogma
    delivered with authority. I slip in and out of quilting

    groups though my pieces do not fit. No husband
    to complain about, no inside gossip, no children
    with problems at school. Where is my community?
    The fabric of my life repels certainty, can’t mend
    gaps in connection. I’m still looking for my tribe.

  • I’ve Left You

    I’ve left you the house, the bed
    all to yourself, the closet
    spacious with the breath of absence—
    all my hanging pants, moth-eaten
    sweater vests and socks, the rest,
    down the stairs in boxes, carted
    off in the van. I’ve left you

    the garden, weeds and irises.
    And our daughter’s dance
    across the kitchen, morning’s
    incandescence on her cheeks—I miss
    this most. So much slips
    under the cascade-white surface
    of attachment’s tumbling

    history—I’ve walked away
    and left you in that blur of bright
    fast lines. Time will tell us
    less and less. The loneliness
    that had grown dense, exquisite in
    our closeness, now blows loose
    and surges down the cold streets,

    whistles in the alcoves, hisses
    like a horde of ghosts cavorting
    in the branches. I’ve left you
    all the space you need inside
    the household’s quiet, and entered
    the emptiness that is the world
    of real possibilities—

    they explode, like all the raindrops
    on the road, translucent
    blooms bursting inside out
    with the most undignified
    delight. What comes next?
    the clouded night sky seems to ask—
    headlights, taillights, sweeping past.

  • In Space

    (a nod to Billy Collins’ The Breather)

    You frame it as a gift,
    this Trojan horse,
    giving me “space”.
    I am intended, I know,
    to spin this shit into gold,
    become a wiser,
    more palatable version
    of myself.

    But space is an empty fridge,
    the unfinished grocery list
    on a crumpled napkin
    at my placemat.
    It’s the sun shot through
    a magnifying glass
    at some poor ant
    whose only crime
    was being in the wrong place
    at the wrong time.

    And I’m Sigourney in that alien movie.

    Alone, trying to be safe.
    Never realizing the danger
    was inside me all the time.

    “In space, no one can hear you scream.”

  • Magnolia

    abloom before bees existed    who named
    you beauty    why do I stand on your brown
    petals    splayed open on my ancestral

    earth    ancient ivory breed    tree/flower
    who designated you my knee-jerk servant/
    symbol    married you to a nonnative

    landscape    genus lost beneath
    the horizon where ambitious men captured
    the youngest stars

    chained them to wooden wings
    forced backs and arms to break
    ripple and flow

    whose handkerchief did you fall forth
    from    how did your seed stow away
    on the slave ship and live

    a compass whirled inside its tiny cage

    arrows trimmed in gold decoded
    an ocean of measurements
    spun a siren’s song

    of sunshine contracts remedies visions
    fairer than the silk and gossip
    of any homeland

    my tribe lives where the wind flung you

    your creamy faces
    float above our velvet funeral dresses
    sway beyond the reach of our cement angel

    guardian of my grandfather’s bloodless body
    his mahogany box with brass handles
    his confederate flag

    magnolias in full bloom straddle the last of us
    their thick-skinned leaves scrape
    against each other    clocks being wound

    I hold my grandfather’s pocket watch
    magnolia blossoms adorn the cover
    a knot of silver in my palm

  • Michigan Icebreaker

    So there he stands,
    old Frank on the ice, naked,
    his face a broken mask
    of glee, raising his ax
    and bringing it down
    on the frozen surface
    with the force of a man
    in his twenties. The metallic

    ring of ax on ice
    echoes over the lake
    like a rustic violin
    causing neighbors to rustle
    last night’s ashes
    and bring their embers
    aglow—nature’s neon lights bright
    along this vast circumference.

    We all know he’s crazy
    and love him for it.
    Eighty-six years of Frank
    in fighting shape, someone
    to whom a nice widow lady
    would serve eggs
    from her finest designer
    chickens and wouldn’t turn down
    should he ask for a blanket
    and a body to warm his
    cold and muscled mass.

  • The Resonance Around Us

    As we walk through this field, coarse grasses
    vibrate around our ankles. Listen, we are already
    in the sky, its rising glissando trembling in the
    hollows of our bones—our bones that might be
    wind chimes hanging from the trees, clattering
    like a hard rain.

    Tonight it will snow, each crystal a tuning fork
    for the other, each of our upturned faces echoing
    the quiet ticking flakes that home on us.

    Even those things we deem silent—dead weeds
    nodding by the barn, the piles the horses drop
    as they drift through the pasture, steam rising
    from each before it cools—even these
    are singing in their spheres.

    Listen, and you might hear the choir of atoms,
    those unseen constellations that make flesh,
    flickering on and off as they resonate with
    the dead who float beside us, their substance
    oscillating faster than we apprehend.

    Just now some bird that knows the notes
    of twilight opened its beak to offer a brief
    harmony, and as the dark descends in solemn
    chords, a chorus of plum clouds begins to hum
    on Earth’s horizon.