After You

The summer slipped away again,
washed away in heavy rain,
turning itself over to a burnt October

The pear trees slowly slumped beneath
the balmy weight of southern sky
and finally they bore their swollen fruit

Now the mild autumn days roll by calmly,
slow as summer thunder.
This house is very quiet.

Outside the world keeps blooming into auburn color,
flooding through the kitchen windows
where I am baking bread or reading novels

Even the bees drift lazily among the fallen pears
fermenting in the sun.  I watch them start to fly
then float back down to the sugar-bruised fruit

Surely nothing is more silent
than steam escaping hot bread broken
alone, than black tea going cold. 

Thrifting

Cloth hangs thick as curtains: floral dresses
and saris with their oriental prints.
Patterns from the tropics.
Fabric from the moon.
My own clothes now
are navy and dull from so many cleanings.
These are the pants I wear to work.
The sweater I wear to meetings,
to my lectures, with no comment
or complaints to my supervisor
or his supervisor.
I know myself well,
it is a lifeless body draped
without vegetable dyes or the soak
of the earth, raw hands to knead
the knots and stitches.  I am clearly not
of this same earth
as I see my face distorted
in the curve of the shining rods
on the racks.
                             These clothes are almost free,
relinquished by those who once owned them, by those
who first imagined them, holding the design
in their mind and finally
made them, stitch by stitch.
There is sadness in such a tender craft.
For now they belong to themselves, aging
in the light as it streams through windowpanes;
they are safely apart from the world,
yet part of the world, made of the world
as it flashes by the bars of my body
and does not peek inside.
Look at me, I’m begging
these bones to open, to open! and yet
I am trapped
in this box of glass:
every speck of dust is illuminated.

Image

Cataclysm

I’m told this is a paradise
of snow and sea and starlight.
The mountains burst out from the loam
then tumble to the charcoal water
like a silent white explosion,
splitting through the citrus sky.
But its sound is swallowed in the vastness
like a whisper or a violent kiss.

I’ve heard there’s beauty in the bareness,
in the sparkling glacial graves.

The sun melts across the hills like nectar,
as dusk starts seeping through the trees.
But something holds me by the water,
underneath the lights in the sky that are stars,
stuck between fearing cataclysm
and wishing for it. Working towards it.

My Father is a Wolf

When wolves first meet up
they have a ritual
of smelling one other’s breath

One wolf will put his nose
to the mouth of another, asking
What have you been hunting?

The second wolf exhales
thick breath, hot with blood and sulfur
to explain, You can still smell the kill

But nothing tells this story quite as well
as a human.  My father took me
hunting every autumn

Crouched down in the forest
beside him, I felt the gravity of this genre,
the deepness of its roots

extending so far beyond men.
It was the sensation of soil
working its way

into the grooves of my skin,
the crunch of detritus underfoot.
It becomes a type of language, like a prayer

In college, I would later learn some theories
which suggest that the human kiss began
as a mouth-to-mouth greeting

like that of the wolf.
I knew this immediately to be true;
my father is a wolf.

Always quick and deliberate; gutting his animal
in perfect technique.  He taught me how
to split open the ribcage and reach inside—

you have to grab the heart and sever the moorings.
But still, there is a right way
and a wrong way
to kill an animal.

Image

Salt

Libraries, for example, are good places
to escape the viciousness of people
when they try to get

inside of you.

Between the shelves
there is plenty of space
to lick your wounds.

This is something I do often.

My first twenty years weren’t easy
I was always busy
with the important occupation

of dismantling myself—an exhausting
and ungrateful enterprise.
I did this so earnestly that I was, in fact,
convinced 

I had invented the vocation.

I just kept carving
and carving.

Did I ever succeed? in scraping clean
the rind.  in turning myself
inside-out.  What is left?
after such a thorough cauterization.

One raw little soul.

I can still taste that grief
in my mouth like champagne, icy
& no hint of sweetness.

I could have stayed inside all day.

Meanwhile on the quad, a pretty girl
walks her small white dog
across the grass & shadows
sprawl across the perfect lawn

with their splotchy memory.
Although memory, I am learning,
always give back much more color
than what was there in the first place.

I look back now, and I want to feel 
that grass 
on my skin.  But all I can remember
is that I hated my life

and I hated my life.

The feeling comes
and goes, but at least I find
a quiet absolution in my landscape:
the restfulness of books
and sunlight in an empty room
that transforms the isolation
into something else entirely.

Panicked Animal

After everything, I couldn’t stand to be alone
in my bedroom, so I started sleeping on the couch.
Then I couldn’t stand the couch
so I slept outside in the grass,
but I couldn’t stand the grass.

So I slept in my body, strung from my ankles and my wrists
like a hammock. When I couldn't stand my body,
I chiseled myself out of it. This use of knives
broke my heart, because it was an act of violence.
My weakness broke my heart, because Julia comes from Jupiter.
The meaning of my name broke my heart because I would rather
be beautiful than strong. My vanity broke my heart
because I am a scholar. My education broke my heart
because universities are mostly lonely places
and knowledge, in the end, is empty.

My emptiness ate me alive; I was starving to be whole.
The thought of wholeness broke my heart
because it is elusive and I could not have it.
So I tried to rationalize wholeness
as the mastery of all interests: I walked into the yard
trying to vomit and pray simultaneously. I fell asleep
while whispering a love song. I was empty empty
empty. I've had enough heartbreak
to fill every inch of this house.  Really,
I was drowning
in a room I couldn't stand.