Tiny Island

The moon mops up shadows the sun had baked onto the beach.
We watch and we wonder which of us will leave.
A breeze seizes our choices and scatters them out of our reach.
We walk on damp sand to the rock where large moulting birds grieve.
A dragon-eyed cormorant regards us. It raises one wing.
We look where it points. The horizon’s half-hidden in haze
where the world edge drops off. We strain and we see a small thing.
It’s a boat. It’s a yacht. We’ve not seen other people for days.

Finjo que estoy hablando español …

I pretend I’m speaking Spanish. I use the words.
I combine the words in ways that are my own.
If you get my drift we imagine we’re communicating.
This is similar, but more obvious, to how we speak
the language we grew up with. We use words
in ways we’ve shared so long we think they’re laws,
but when talk gets important we invent
our own interpretation of the sounds
we make and we suppress. What we call languages
are but the shadows of the things we feel.

May Fever

A dizain written while ill with pneumonia (in 2001)

I am seeing almost angels here tonight.
As my fever climbs the ladder they applaud
and microscopic fires inside me light
up faces looking something like the Lord
that I draw from mirror images I’ve stored.
I fill their features in and we embrace.
They lift me up and lead me as we trace
remembered dance steps to a flatted tune
they say is normal where we are in space.
I’d rather live a while, at least till June.

Swearing Off Praying

‘My god,’ he began and meant it. This sparked confusion
among the gods on watch beneath the dome
that poets call heaven. He had not meant to shun
any other gods but he had. The space deities roam
contracted to a point that’s everywhere.
The tuning fork of time cracks. Lightning cackles
maniacally on being loosed. The stare
of Zeus goes cross-eyed as Fate itself unshackles
the dogs of ways and means. It’s all much more
than the man expected when he prayed or swore.

TWO NAMES (MAYBE)

Did She Have a Name

I live at infelicitous levels of abstraction.
Instead, for example, of knowing a friend’s last name
I remembers countries such surnames usually come from.
I look down at her and say, ‘You cannot do that
semantically.’ She had said that she was leaning on the floor.
She says, ‘Should I’ve said I’m lying? I say, ‘What?’
We take tin cans connected by a string
long enough to let us go to separate rooms
and phone each other. Did she have a name?
We agree she did. I say, ‘Maybe it expired.’

Did I Have a Name

She lives at infelicitous levels of abstraction.
Instead, for example, of knowing a friend’s last name
she remembers countries such surnames usually come from.
She looks down at me and says, ‘You cannot do that
semantically.’ I’d said that I was leaning on the floor.
I say, ‘Should I’ve said I’m lying? She says, ‘What?’
We take tin cans connected by a string
long enough to let us go to separate rooms
and phone each other. Did I have a name?
We agree I did. She says, ‘Maybe it expired.’