Posts in Poetry
to all the men I've loved before (or, for Shervin, who never let me quit) ///

Moszkowski moves from the record player across the floorboards. We sigh in almost perfect unison. Outside, snow and gathering snow. You refuse to speak to me when I refuse to write. A lost voice and no lozenges. A severed tongue like red wool socks peeking out of boots. I take the shovel from the hall closet and head out into the yard to dig a hole in the frozen earth. It is impossible work. The shovel finds only stones, permafrost, more stones. Years ago flighty birds left feathers to signal where I should migrate next. Now there are none. I fall to my knees and am sick, burying it in the hole. Looking up, I see you standing in the open doorframe, backlit by bully fluorescent lighting. I plead for you to open the piano, play me a yellow bird who builds himself a window. You turn back inside, and do.

reverie

I know no beautiful things
To get there even
     across temples, cheeks
light falls, see
beneath, this shouting grass lies
waterlogged bodies with lungs full of earth
a boy, a blade of grass in his mouth singing
when Johnny comes marching home.

I place my ear to the ground and listen.
I'm lonesome since I crossed the hill
You hold my like a flank
but I know
the laurel wreath is ready now.
Place it upon my head
kiss me while we still think we are free
until morning when
the dead boy plays reveille.

Letter to a Palestinian Poet

I lie my head upon your belly and listen to the sounds of war. Babies are crying, fathers wailing. This flesh is a map and I follow it through generations. Across back brushed valleys. Graffitied streetways. Lemons litter courtyards where they fall from pregnant trees. Lemons fall like infants from their mothers wombs at checkpoints. Behind a picket fence of ribs your horse hoof heart beats faster faster. Great swirls of dust rise from the stomping of hooves, heels, boots. They crucified your father Mahmoud on the back of a prickly pear tree. They held you for seventy two hours at Allenby while your brothers rot in 1391 prisons that do not exist.

And here in Washington, tucked in by the beltway, you shake and sweat through the dream of a promised forever. Here in Washington we still refuse to let you die like other people. My own brother who harvests figs and will fall down in his field at eighty three. My own father in his own Jeep he will turn too hard to the left on some back road. Lay still, love, on cotton sheets and do not wonder why it is you cannot sleep.

audible.

I search for my voice among old papers, eraserless pencils, bobby pins, shark's teeth, pennies, business cards from failed first dates, receipts for lattes, receipts for vodkas. My voice is over rocks and underwater.

Smooth like a shell and pink pink, plucked from the beach on a Sunday then tossed into the back of a drawer, I pull it out. It takes a liquid shape and moves easily over me. My voice is a man at two am.

Husky and full of prose. Honeyed gravel.  On my knees I wait for him, seductively wet and soft as a lamb. And he comes for me like the Lord for all first born sons.

My voice is a door that is marked but unlocked.

audible.

I search for my voice among old papers, eraserless pencils, bobby pins, shark's teeth, pennies, business cards from failed first dates, receipts for lattes, receipts for vodkas. My voice is over rocks and underwater.

Smooth like a shell and pink pink, plucked from the beach on a Sunday then tossed into the back of a drawer, I pull it out. It takes a liquid shape and moves easily over me. My voice is a man at two am.

Husky and full of prose. Honeyed gravel.  On my knees I wait for him, seductively wet and soft as a lamb. And he comes for me like the Lord for all first born sons.

My voice is a door that is marked but unlocked.

chickpea pasta and other small truths

When I write you poems it is always type delete type delete. Is there anything left to say? We know nothing gold stays. What I felt for you was childhood, pure and then left out in the rain. Playing cards and porcelain dolls. The ones you aren't allowed to touch because they look like art. Mother said so. In high school I left a book under Nate Donmoyer's window and he found it under two feet of snow nine months later. "I was too late getting to this," he said. Years later I would go to his first show and find pages from my old sketch pad framed around the stage. "I found these in a DC garbage three years ago," he would explain. "I wonder whose they are." Time is an ocean of snow and she always retreats enough to show us what has been hidden beneath her wide body.

I loved you like that book. It was called "The Stranger."

you look around and every street, every boulevard, is its own special art form

We planned to meet in person on the corner of Dundas during the 2012 Toronto Film Festival. You, the man who emailed to say I looked like the kind of girl who liked Woody Allen movies, approached from the left. And I, the kind of girl who would not learn for many years that you already knew her better than she knew herself, watched from an alleyway like a vintage shop made of windows no one ever looked in. I bit my knuckles as you dialed my number over and over again. I liked your shoulders and decided I couldn't meet you that day, maybe never. I turned, and left. Had I crossed that street we might've laughed a little bit and touched one another's flesh the way strangers do before they become strangers again.

It has been four years and when I write poems now they remind me of the present, which is to say they are unsatisfying. You call me drunk from Dubai at least three nights a week to confess your various sins. I whisper "meet me at midnight in Beirut" and mean that I'd cross two oceans to hear you list every vile thing you've ever done just so I could tell you that I love to walk in the rain, too.

the labours

I would've taken you to all the places I love best. Long wooded trails where the earth sweats streams from between boulders. You'd stretch long limbed out on the bank while I would weave you tales like headbands, baskets, webs. Feed you raspberries from my fingertips like a lovesick Amelie. The gods threw these rocks here from the heavens. The gods threw these rocks here just for you. The strength of Hercules only conquered the foes of the god he served, never his own. This is why I daydream about dipping you into the river. I'd grasp your ankle like Thetis with Achilles and let the water give you power. I could hold a man with but one weakness.

"there's rue for you, and here's some for me..."

He asked me to tell the truth about you in the same way you asked about the others. "I need you to tell me. After all this, I know you can."
And I could've. Let cats out of bags, black cats with long shadows. Shadows like night like nights when you'd serenade sway me across the kitchen, yell under jealousy's yellow light, pull me in as a tide, push me out again. Your stray cats could roam a boardwalk beach, your stray cats would've sent you out to sea.
So I did. Tell about soft mornings and how I ached to move your own periods about. The ones with all the hurt would come before me and change the sentences around. "I need you." "Tell me." "I know you." "After all this, we."
We Neverlanded and I never landed quite squarely on my feet after you spun me around, and I fell. "Yes, I fell, I said. "And it wasn't into the sea, but a river where I drowned. And it was I who looked so at home with my woes in that water."
He nodded as if he understood what I was trying to say. That there is no such thing as a lie. There is the truth you tell and the truth you keep.

and Erin and Aisha and Esther, too

I am facing the fence that encloses the dog park, my hands wrapped around the wrought iron bars. Next to me stands a woman in an immaculate red dress. A slight breeze rumples her hair and jingles the tags on her dog's keys. I look down at him. He is white and plump and his eyes look soft but you never can tell, can you. His tail thumps softly but I do not reach down to pet him. He notices my disinterest and leans the weight of his entire body into my leg.

"Christ, they're all beggars, aren't they?" says the woman in the red dress.  I laugh.

"Oh, mine are the same, trust me."

I point to the other end of the field where my dogs are running. For as long as I've lived with them I never can tell if they're playing or fighting with one another.
Now that he wears a suit to work every day Jack has picked up the habit of coming home late stinking of bitches. And Brad, poor lamb, rarely bothers to come come home at all unless he thinks he will get to sleep in my bed. He will have to be put down soon. Steve is good. Such a good boy, yes. I am always surprised by this and often worry I accidentally punish him for the transgressions of the others. The woman in the red dress catches me smiling softly at them and clears her throat.

"Was every one a rescue?" she asks. "Oh, yes." I say. "Aren't they all?"

poem for a Palestinian insomniac

I lie my head upon your belly and listen to the sounds of war. Babies are crying, fathers wailing. This flesh is a map and I follow it through generations. Across brush backed valleys. Graffitied streetways. Lemons litter courtyards where they fall from pregnant trees. Behind a picket fence of ribs your horse hoof heart beats faster faster. Great swirls of dust rise from the stomping of hooves, heels, boots. They cruicifed you on the back of a prickly pear* and yet when the harvest comes you will sip nectar only from the fruit of patience.

Why is it that you wonder why you cannot sleep?

unsent texts

I want to drop you like a china plate
send deep cracks through your artfully
drawn centre story
that cause everything that binds you to
chip away
bottom out
shatter
and after
I dispose of you, careful
not to cut myself on your broken bits
I will think of you only as a missing
piece of a larger collection
a thing I might have placed something
hot and untouchable upon
and now
do not.

for sama (before I told you)

The night your mother tried to marry you off I wanted to ring your neck with my arms and pull you in like a tide. Instead I tugged my scarf tighter around my face and rinsed dishes while giggling with your brother at your humiliation. I threw you under the bus that night. I was a true little sister.

The village girl never meant to be your wife spoke English with a German accent. She was delicate and soft in all the ways I wish I could've been for your brother. Our hands brushed against one another in the soapy sink water and hers were small and smooth. Could they   have guided your heaving heavy body onto hers? More importantly, would she have stepped gingerly, one toe at a time, into your depths? None of us have ever been down in there but I wanted to go. I am not afraid of the dark.

You call me now in the middle of the night. Two am. Four fifteen. I know 90s rap is playing in the background though I cannot hear it. I used to cry when you got sad and played it so loudly I could hear it down the block when I went for a run to escape. Now I sing it at karaoke bars with my white girlfriends who I doubt could locate Pakistan on a map. 

We talk about girls you like. I never mention the men I don't. You tell me you miss me and I say that sometimes the others send me messages, too. You say to call. I never will. I want to tell you that home is the smell of cardamom. That whenever I am sad or writing or happy I make biryani even though I have never seen anyone in your house eat it. Tell mom she taught me how to be a woman. I remember your laugh like a bat in the rafters. After all this time it is louder than the words still stuck inside my mouth.

Gdańsk

I belong only and wholly,
no freestanding arches
bell towers
centres for prayer,
To Danzig
with her previous lives buried beneath
great slabs of marble and
dug up
again and again,
Danzig,
redrawn by rifles
of strange and accented men
who run
the native Kaszubians out, again
and again
Danzig, I too
am never German enough never Polish enough
All my heroes are dead.