Donor (Wind)


The throat is optional,
as is the larynx.
What small object
can you pull
through the pink?
Many things died
here: a nest, an oil
leak, a typewriter
ribbon's language
of bile and thread.
Spread my useless
parts in the city
dump, spleen
fondled by seagulls,
vertebrae plucked
by lonely men.
Tape my useless
parts together again
and I'm your dis
appearing shatter.
Your snowflake
in heat. Now feed
me to the wind
where I belong.



I have come to you

a green

an inward landscape

The force I believe
I have been conversing in

is human


State & Wacker
A man once lived ... who found on the quay of Sligo a package containing
three hundred pounds in notes. It was dropped by a foreign sea captain.
This my man knew, but said nothing. It was money for freight ...
—W. B. Yeats, The Celtic Twilight


Gulls gliding round the lighthouse
that stands far out on a jetty
complain, complain nearby
over the river, sounding like
cats or a boy crying Ow!


In the subtropical nineteen-thirties
my young father and a young friend
buddied up to work as longshoremen
for a few dollars a day and lucky
to get it on the Houston Ship Channel,
till one hot Thursday morning
the friend was crushed by a bale,
five hundred pounds, of cotton
dropped on him for reasons men
believed at the time—loyalty this way,
loyalty that. And believe now.
The very next moment my father walked,
never returning for anything—
lunch, lunch bucket or pay.

Young men owning little, owing little
to anyone else, masters of nothing,
aiming not to be owned.

There was a boxer who could move
a bale of cotton an inch with one punch.

The Ship Channel stank of spilled crude oil,
rotted fruit, diesel fuel, dead fish,
and the one second it takes something
you don't wish to fall, to fail.
That too has a smell worth remembering.


Go north, now, go further back:
For longshoremen, for years,
historical hooves of horses and mules,
sonorous, everyday,
mythical, stopped
clopping on streets and
at the Chicago River drummed
loud on wharf planking.

Work boats—tenders, lighters—
loaded and offloaded barges,
long lines were dipped into deep schooners
wedged close at piers and riverside
docks. Ships converged where
there was freight, hauling lumber,
iron ore, wares, hemispheres;
ships going out carried steel,
grain, gravel, finished goods
and evils, all of this
is finished. Outbound and in
they floated, urged by wind
or with steam power walking
across the deep lake.

Peering into lightless warehouses,
into dank dim hatches, holding
a fistful of pale papers,
men called out, signaled
cranking cranes,
hooked crates and barrels and bales.
Heavy cargo creaked up, dangled down.
Stevedores working, stevedores looking.
Looking out.
Taking a stand. Standing clear.
Taking a break with a smoke.


Out on the lake, stack-plumes
and freighters inch along,
knowing or not knowing
what they reiterate. Or anchored
in harbor flocks, pleasure-sails
and silenced power growlers
rock like big guitars.
Songs for lifting and heaving and having
to labor rise only
in electric clubs at night.
Weightless dollar transactions
cross waters on the backs
of electrons and we too
in our bodies ride, rattling
toward work, cross.
In rain or sun (How good), over
the river bridges (it is),
inside tinny trains in debt
(to be alive). We peer down
through rusted trestles at
the backwards river that
does not remember.


The Fallen Thing

In Memoriam F.P., downed at the edge of the Everglades

Having failed to see the thing in flight, and talk failing,
there being no solace
in knowing details—the clean snap of one wing, the plunge—
I saw instead what was left,
riding at 14 to a crash site, certain
imagination must
be worse than truth. We stood among the smattering
of what remained: splinters
of instrument and frame, a seatbelt clasp, a piece
of helmet; his pilot friends—
all fathers, my father—blanched in the sun, toeing,
toeing the gravel, turning
circles over the blasted earth; the pilgrimage
each made but never talked
about, the funeral not ritual enough;
an absence that wasn't, then was;
a sawgrass-covered hole we couldn't find now with a map.


None of This Could Be Metaphor

The experts tell us dolphins strand themselves
when they become disoriented, injured or sick.
Yet such explanations fail as numbers grow.
Off the coast of Florida more than forty
belly themselves onto flats and sandbars.

As the tide goes out, leaving less than a foot
of the sea, more swim in. If the only stipulation
for beauty is color and form, these corals the sun
casts in rising and falling upon the lengths
of their sides, the lines of their backs, would suggest

a map, directions for a way back to the waters
where none of this could be metaphor, where
dolphins leap, not for some abstract notion
of joy, but because it feels good to lift the body
out of the arms of the sea, even if only

for a matter of seconds, to feel the flesh fall
back toward the current, the tide's movements
tugged by the moon, the taste of salt, the refraction
of light beneath the water's surface.