Dark Sky


for Daphne Berdahl

I enter the room,
over and over
I enter it.
File on desk,
pen in hand,
you question me.
Once more I begin.

Your time is short,
my story winding.
Noted and set
it lies flat.
Within these four walls
I am paper.
I am ink lying dry
on the page.

I enter the room
bringing green leaf
and squash blossom,
earth on my roots.
Heaped ground
is my habitat.
There my children
do flourish.

Doctor, fold the file
play with it,
heap the soil,
glue the roof,
make a dwelling place.

May I live
in this garden forever.

for Harriet Kerns

Cold under the sun. Still. A stick.
Their mother, deaf to the wind,
my wife, mute, cold, beach-sick.

Pick it up, the fossil the boy dropped,
ten, twenty years to find another.
Stone after stone after stone,
twenty, thirty years to find a lover.

Once, holding a shell to her ear
she loved her own blood,
another time watched it
dyeing the water red.

Strange, blood from a shell.

Mute now. Huddled, queer.
Stone-cold. Under a spell.


written after seeing an
exhibit of Dale Chihuly's
glass at the Portland
Art Museum,

for cousins my father never knew
and for a ninth-century Hebrew poet 
whose name was written in sand

Walking near wafer-walled sacks
striped like tropical fish,
and milky-green cylinders
lined with clear glass,
I dreaded the force
of my unguarded elbow.

The next morning I woke
from a nightmare:
I was falling
through layers of snow
into the end of a pipe,
a curved room,
its wall blue as snow
by the tip of a ski pole.

Without touching the blue wall,
I knew it was hard--
not the luminous sky.

When I tried to climb,
the floor dropped
away from me--

frenzied I searched
for a blowpipe.
but I needn’t have troubled--

even glass
bright as babyskin
at the end of the pipe
would not melt
the blue cylinder,

those most skillful of breath
could not melt it.


translation from the Spanish

     by Gabymar de Graaf

Here, traveling tombs
of women, tombs that before
their death didn't exist.
Wind-borne sand
covers and uncovers them,
the soft rocking of a cradle.

Here, roving bones
are scattered
in the drain, in the anguish.

Here, slight curving winds
like malignant DNA
drift through the desert
giving birth to
sowing without naming,
pulling the name from the bones.

Here, Mr. Hate-Man
spies from the shadows,
a smile shifts
to an obscene grimace.
Here, Madame Death,
sho touching, transforms without hurting,
who arrives looking for
weak, infirm flesh
to bring peace, is unknown here.

Here in Juarez, reigns perverse death,
aberrant, violent,
a mad dog amusing itself
with the soft, helpless flesh of women.

Here, this evil death,
howling, rancorous death,
in turbid pools
of semen and vile blood.

I asked the poet, who lives in Guanajuato, if
I could translate this powerful poem.

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