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Excerpt Poems" "Blue Himalayan Poppies," "Lombard Street"

Blue Himalayan Poppies

The stems, in their happiness, wave goodbye,
a dart-pattern of spear grass caught
against the black dog's ankle.
Seeds and their smallness; the way they
ride toward the future always.
Such hope makes unlikely light
from the most distant stars possible.
Later in the day they'll drop
into the warm earth.
I never guessed you
would have crossed some great distance
to settle everywhere
in my arms.

*

How was I to know
this, briefly, like the touch
of smallest fingers, after
a long winter and the
Chinese New Year. End
of the Year of the Dog,
beginning of the Year
of the Pig. Does it matter?
Maybe not, except summer now,
full of your small self on my shoulders
and how the sun
catches in sea-spray,
rocks below and the edge moving
further off.

*

This morning
I read the poems my friend sent:
postmarks from Izmir and Parma.
Sometimes I think this house,
the mortgage--my god there's a
station wagon in the driveway--
even you, sometimes I think, even you.…
I am jealous of languages I don't understand,
mosques with roofs like round fruit.
The seeds of fruit that can't grow
unless a bird digests them,
sprouted like second spines.
The planet revolves under our feet,
around the sun, around
the centre of the centre,
as in the living room
I hold you tight and spin
to the sound of Billie Holiday.

*

Most seeds are lifted by wind.
This afternoon I blew
white dandelions across the yard.
There are days meant for us
when the light is trying to tell us something.
Even the blue Himalayan poppy,
which blooms once perfectly before dying,
is showing off.
I talk in your mouth
and you open bird-like
to swallow words.
This is my pleasure.
You like round ones best:
igloo, overalls, loop, moon, shoe.
There is nothing in this milky world
as small as your breath.

*

Do you know coconuts
migrate by water to new beaches?
They collapse on the dunes after
all that time of waves
passing them hand to hand.
To live in a place like this you must first
imagine it.
Already I am sad for anything
you missed while you were here.
But I walk with you until you sleep.
Somewhere is a beach, a palm
and high in its branches a bird,
red feathers declaring
I am here.


Lombard Street

He says yes to the long drive knowing
there will be fights with the brother,
threats from the father,
the mother's silence and bad navigation
through complex American freeways.

Yes to Alcatraz, trolley cars,
someone he wishes he could be momentarily
skateboarding down a steep incline
toward the low and distant bay,
Chinatown, and Fisherman's Wharf.
Yes to dinner at the Hilton
with its palate-cleansing sorbets between courses.

Yes to Lombard Street, the most
twisted street in the world,
the family car climbing and
this small boy outlined in the rear window,
his balloon an empty word bubble in the frame—
some cartoon character who forgot
what he was about to say.

Yes to the evening drive
across the Golden Gate Bridge,
as the city closes its slow eyes.
Yes to the next day and drive home again,
to the next year when his voice broke,
and to first sex sweet in the attic of the cabin.
Yes to doing it again in the morning,
then to the few women in his life
who taught him what he knows.
Yes to the birth of his child,

to the house and jewelled yard around it.
Yes to the dog.

And now he's well into it,
there's no turning back.
Around another hairpin climbing steadily
beyond the silence surrounding
the dog's inevitable end,
so yes even to the death of his parents and
yes to being there each time.
Yes to all the routes that sent him
corkscrewing forever up like an aria.
Yes to watching his daughter
back the car down the driveway
graduating highschool. Then yes to
old age and to senior's discounts at Sears.
Yes to memory and forgetting,
the decline of his body,
to those who check on him on weekends,
and to the someone who pushes him
out to the park in a wheelchair.
Yes to light and dark and closing,
and Lombard Street's hedges and red bougainvillaea.