On Not Having Children

The gemlike liquids in the liquor cabinet
quiver when we make love – sometimes buzzed
or in the morning or the middle of the day.
We upset the cat, who removes himself in a huff
to the other room to nap. He ambles back in late
in the evening and resettles himself on our feet.
We run four miles in the dusk and then sit naked
talking at the table. We eat dinner at ten o’clock.
We make spicy Indian food. We shower with the door
ajar. We take a nine-day vacation to Spain and sit
all day reading on the beach. Each night before I fall
asleep, I listen to the rhythm of your heart under my ear.
I memorize its one-two, one-two, one-two, one-two,
finding that pitter-patter every day more deeply dear
because it is the only heart of ours I’ll ever hear.

The Secret That We Always Are To Others

Sometimes, when I have morning breath,
I cover my mouth with the sheet like a niqab.
And then the scent of your underarms when you
pull me close to your chest and fold me in –
it is a mystery for which I have no word.

These are whiffs of time elapsed, and thus
of death – mysteries of the body. When I
have no words, oddly I start to make too many.
I thrust them into the column of this poem,
each line ending in the same place each time,

the stern border forming, like glass surrounding
pickles in a jar, each thing separate, but steeped
in the same brisk brine. As we are. When we kiss,
our outside coverings pressing together, our souls,
striving to burst through faces, press closer still.

It does not work. Still, we try. This is why our teeth
clack – why, even as I read the length of your column,
its meaning escapes me, why your voice becomes
another voice in that other place. When I come to,
the sun has moved, its shadows subtly shifted, too.

Run the Tape

Run the tape and
fetch the chains
we stay in place
our yards don’t stretch

the slack it droops
between their hands
we see it sag
“it didn’t make”

they say with rue
regret belied
by smiling lips
but when it’s time

to chart their run
the chains are taut
“first down,” they cry
the crowd goes wild

who stays up there
inside that box
where tapes are viewed
behind the glass

whose glare is mute
and blinds us all
with Midas’s curse
with bread and show

and forty acres
and birth and mirth
and house and hearse

An Unsuitable Candidate for Tenure-Track Assistant Professor

I’ll sneak in the texts that I really want to teach.
That will change, no matter what I tell you today
my passions are. You’ll check my syllabi against

departmental norms and think I’m toeing the line.
You’ll think. You’ll read my occasional poems
incidentally, from links you happen across, and

wonder if this poet is actually the woman you work with.
You’ll say with a meaningful look, “But she’s so quiet.”
You will try to ask me to lunch again and again, show up

at my office door at eleven, noon, and one, find it opaque
and mute, while I breathe so quietly behind it, my sandwich
paper stilled in my hand, that you won’t know I’m even there.

I won’t pretend I’ve read a book I haven’t, as a matter
of principle. Students will like me because I sympathize.
Because I’m easy. Because I make it interesting. You’ll

despair. Don’t hire me. Send me out as a buoy,
warning the others. I’ll bob, dodge, float, my size,
color, and bell tolling my shallows

Refresh

I see the (1) and
click the arrow
that spins a counter-
clockwise circle

I need to feel again
that thrill of seeing
it appear, another’s
response to me

reactivating my
value, reiterating
my place in the world,
refreshing me

I do it again
I do it again

Kudzu

Kudzu spreads by vegetative reproduction via stolons (runners) that root at the nodes to form new plants and by rhizomes. (Wikipedia)

It radiates out from underground crowns,
stolons stealing along the asphalt at night
spreading at a rate of up to a foot per day.
I once loved the way it drapes over disused trestles,
climbs the raw dirt banks downtown by streetlight,
the way the day’s heat diffuses in whispers
from its spaces. It smothers other living things,
shades them out of the sunlight, though they
never wholly disappear: you can still
see their size, and perhaps better than before,
now leaved, enwreathed in soft green batting. To kill
the plant you must kill its coronets: the nodes, like
stars, send their rhizomes searching for purchase
even in soil whose nutrients would not recommend it.
Little kings, they’ll start new shoots elsewhere
if left in dirt when trucked out on trucks that chuck
them out far in the country. Beware. They’ll live. They’ll
thrive. Light and burn the diadems one by one. Or
else accept they’ll robe the world in one color, trail
their tendrils along the road, till the way itself disappears.