The Last Day of June

I want to be like the cat whose every step
contains the whole heft of her mass
so that all twelve pounds of her
concentrate into a single
square inch of paw pressure

like the bird that builds a nest
inside the buzzy first O
of the Food Mart’s lighted sign

like the man who stands by the bin
thumping the watermelons one by one
till he finds the one whose tone
sounds most red and ripe

like the two linked train engines
running parallel to my car on the back road
for half a mile: bereft of freight – bereft
even of empty cars – glinting darkly,
thunderously unburdened

like the kudzu that is quietly
eating the whole South

like the dappled shade of four o’clock
which is never the same thing twice

Rue and Wonder

The bell chimes and she’s there on the front stoop
gold cuffs glinting, eyes like ice chips
and she says, You know why I’m here

and I do. I’ve been resting, laying low,
I tell her, but no excuse will fly. She glances
at my baggy dress, twee plates on the wall

and says nothing, but I know full well
what she’s thinking. The thing is, I’ve never
been so large before. Oddly that’s the part

that makes her both glad and sad,
since all those years I stayed so small,
getting by on as little as I could, a wonder

this woman I am now survived at all.
Why aren’t you out there in the fray? she doesn’t ask,
but I hear the question anyway. Then she spins

and her street clothes reappear, glasses in place
to dull the lancet gaze that could spear
and kill any mere mortal. Yet I still stand here

unscathed, watching her stride across the lawn
off to wherever she’s going next, circling
my own wrist with my fingers, rubbing

the new hardness I find there with rue and wonder.

A Mean Bone

In my body, there are many bones.
If it were not so, I tell you, I would
not have done what I did:

I lived with the witch so long
in her candy house, I learned well
how to be wicked. Wicked enough

to wield the bone I poked
through the prison’s grill to feign
I was still too thin for her to eat.

The witch is wily, but blind.
Thank her for her lessons,
then shove her in and shut the oven door.

Never trust the gingerbread,
the sugared treat. Never trust a friend
who claims to have no mean bone.

That bone aches when the weather
turns, it complains, it demands
relief. My dear, this syrup

will rot your teeth, will take from you
your bite, what in you is crisp and sharp –
the grit and clench and shake,

the yen to seize your prey
and break its neck. Regard it
as a mercy, this mouth of teeth,

these small mean bones. Offer them
their proper due of meat for feed,
not sweets

Writing in Pencil

I’m writing this poem in pencil
though I usually don’t –
fear of erasure sending me
to the thickest possible swath of ink.

Now I think: if I am not sure,
if I change my mind, I want
the written record of that,
strikethroughs and all.

So I am telling you plainly, decisively:
I am unsure, see how the timid
gray shows my hesitation

I am thinking about purchasing a gray pen

No, no: a pencil will do.
A pencil proves
that things could always,
any minute, every minute,


it coils like a roly-poly
like a sleeping kitten

like a snake
or a tight fist

let me at you, I think

one finger on shift
and the other on two

then punch in the coordinates
highlight the target

a new kind of war

in which we launch
at each other

drive-by style
symbols shaped like grenades

infinity shrinks but
never disappears

we veer towards the line
yet approach forever

the impossible point
where we might meet

Spite House

A spite house is a building constructed or substantially modified to irritate neighbors or any party with land stakes. Spite houses may create obstructions, such as blocking out light or blocking access to neighboring buildings, or can be flagrant symbols of defiance. Because long-term occupation is at best a secondary consideration, spite houses frequently sport strange and impractical structures. (Wikipedia)

I stole Kurtz’s fence posts and made them my own,
waiting for you to walk past. You never did.
At night, the joists began to sigh and groan
under the heft of hexes piled high in my bed.
The silver was the gaudiest I could find, ornate
beyond taste or decency. I let it tarnish, lose
its luster. Two full summers’ worth of moldered hate
lay leaking in a colander, filling the sink with juice.
Dust and dog hair clung to the HVAC grill
until the air went sour, smelled like old game.
I left the smoke detector to send its shrill
chirp through a house full of unquenchable flame
that could never be sated or extinguished.
By then, what’s mine or yours could no more be distinguished.