Saturday, December 18, 2010



The blue line burn ripple down a lucid clump and besmirch
smooth skin, pink and narrow. Spoons. Down the hallway
hardwood slats, her sulk place overlooks the sound. The sea,
the nausea. Her trawler with nets heavy. I within blue line
and lithium haze nuts. Teakettle bone proper.

Knock (acrylic and hair on board)

With My Sewing Machine

Outside the shroud we terse facedown, ham hock
in a broth, the cloud the beer. Speak of the sky lit dead
we fear in entendre. Chew the slap box and past
jug in a sack, wimpled the forth facet, same time
treacle your skinny line upon the brass plate. Lament
for the mute tongue. Drop plug and plant
ass back to the harder pew. Wait. Your silks fill
with embroider most.

Glacial Tide Forecast

Glacial tide forecast as fickle outlook, pale
mud hold response begrudging pearl uncork
and dumb disperse ministration. Bend a molar
over on a turkey leg stiletto. Sudden fall pang
and twinge in the brine sludge trough again. 
I pool drop seed and nuanced grieve, brain 
sponge. Our tongue tessellates and among 
languid thoughtbacks a tonal slide, 
both actual.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Old Man - clay, wool, fur, acrylics, cloth, coffee, balsa

Pink Lolli

Fizz pink lollipop ensemble, ease into the wool
of an extension mantle. Permeate furtive tank
pressure strays, and on light for the plum sheath
of the putty. My scavenged wealth stands hollow
at a call for the linen scrub narrows. Alter plain
braid. Plan and fluff for the breakfast melee
withheld from the pantry sack. Stoic touches. 
Powder. Bread and jam.

Tangled Brain Gym

Tangled brain gym almost never understood
where with wet filament flourish, than analogous
primrose muzzle under a slump hat leave me look
as the corpulent acorn husk ball wrapped in burlap,
humid slope and stipple. Man stand shimmery
below Sami locks, an eye on the fjord door,
a flounder in a fry pan.

Brine Sludge

Brine sludge rising in the sky. Rings.
Tether flap sighs unmoored fathom rudder
slivers. Starlings are beginning their bound inside
your hat plank. Hanging on a brain rung of my own
crystalline tide, I opt up and rather gloop
upon a bird umbrella. We find a branch
no one has named yet.

James and Fang, circa 1993

Pregnant - oil on canvas

Thursday, November 18, 2010


And I felt myself falling,
      not through
the mattress, but rather,
off to the other side.
      Yet my mind was
scrambling for an out, even while
my back seeped down
through dark molasses air;
pot of fear burbling in the gullet.

And the bedpost stood so close,
but my arms, straining against
      the glut of night,
wouldn’t move any faster.
A woman 
in Victorian bodice and skirt
stood at the foot of the bed,
      her hands wrapped,
her spectral head 
cocked slightly askew,
eyes so forlorn.

And I fell through black.

At the Café

the way the biscotti
slides back and forth
across the little plate,
as the breeze blows
just hard enough
to entice the trees
to whisper her name
      as if to me.

Snow Day

Duluth (watercolor on paper)

Brine Sludge: an artistic/poetic mélange

Friday, November 5, 2010

Andaigweos - woodcut by James Autio

Thee Constructed: A Love Poem

1.   I’ve built many a wall.
Out past the pastures
lies a yellow meadow, lush
with bees and buttercups.

I’ve walked where my workboots are
let down with each soft step
by thickly woven shoots.
It is there where you

and I are
mostly intertwined, melded
like brick upon brick,
my mind to your mind.

My body too is a shell,
a husk you’ve planted, furrowed,
hoed as your desires dictate,
clocking time until I’ve returned home.

O, pity your barrow’s wheel
has sprung a sprocket.
I’m pained to watch you
from afar, your basket

filled with lilies,
the weight of which drain
the joy you’ve held
in your belly.

Your neck, you feel, reacts
with each inch
my carriage slips over
the rim of your former world.

But oceans of tears
are the drip that feeds seeds.
Together, we are that quivering sprig
that juts from bunked earth.

2.   I’ve passed mountains and rivers
to build cathedrals, erect nunneries, but
you are every stone I quarry,
every piece I lay.

You’re an edifice,
a massive house of worship
towering over heathans.
Into the sky I build you.

Were I drawn
to distant Orient nations,
I’d raise you once again
to show the cold world my love.

I’d hire an army
to protect you, defend your
holy places
to the bitter end.

Were you assaulted by Visigoths,
I’d raise a wall. Stormed by samurai,
I’d train wooly mittened ninjas
to repel down your glorious buttresses.

3.   As I travel
you lay me to rest at night
and resurrect me with your morning.

I’m withering and turning to ash,
tired of having cut stone
in place of you.

I’m eating curry paste and unleavened bread
instead of dulling my knife
over your crusted sour loaves.

I miss your yeast
you keep by screw jar
in the pantry downstairs.

In gentle places
and dangerous lands filled with pitas,
your lips mouth secrets to me.

Alone, I hold myself
betrothed to my love of you,
while you are home with our farm—

hands kneading, kneading.

Six Foot Rise

I’d like to build a ramp
to make me more accessible
to crippled children in wheelchairs
and the elderly. Rise established,
I’ll extend the run so they’ll come
from far away with an eye on me
as an end prize while they shuffle
or roll, whichever the case may be.
The climb toward me will not be arduous,
but will require a prolonged commitment
(assuming of course that they have the time).
I’ll stand atop the ramp holding a tray
of sweetened treats. I’ll whistle ditties
to encourage the struggling kids
and even catcall the cute old birds.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sunday, October 17, 2010


From Rack and Bastion

she was curly
and parts of her
face crinkled
just cute so.
I’d done my time
on the rack,
leather strap
looped tight
over foot and wrist,
been pulled and yanked,
grown narrow through the trunk.
I’d spent years
laid across
an inquisition tableau
by the teen angel panty-bunch,
each screw twist
sending shivers
of stretch along
my unhinged frame.
I found my
tensile self
I became metal.

When curly came
I had already
been shaped
as a curtain rod,
and she sang
to me and hid
alongside my draped hide
and bastions. She
stripped me down.
I knelt before her
and worshipped her
at the piano bench.
Then we got tabouli
and the daily news,
and read together
about war.

      *      *      *
First published in Drunken Boat.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

James Noir

Sheep with Balls (detail) - Acrylic on Canvas

Oil on Canvas (James and Donna)

Såsom i en Spegel

Såsom i en spegel and in medias res the spider creates
heaven and earth and skirts across the pond’s mirror cloud.
And feet press into velvet moss, and the hill and sky,
the silhouettes of litter-birds as areole the bare limbs of elms, 
and apple blossoms fall like flakes of sun on a stream’s edge.

I’m through the mullion slat, the hazy glass, in an upstairs room.
Adjust to shadow. I’ve seen spiders through slits
of worn wallpaper, beyond the cracked plaster hiding muffled voices
that guide my day like bible verses. Dance. The closet door latch
hangs loose in its untrue jamb, held back by pinch of oak friction.
I reach.

Where have you gone off to now? Stroll the shore while your sheep
bleat their malcontent; hoist your overloaded egg bag
to mount the stile; even splash ankle-deep in the cold clear
to confuse the packhounds. I’ve no mind for this darkness,
nor desire, nor shame, for I’ve heard the crackle of a bush in flames
and quarried stone to lay out a garden path. I’ve pressed seed
into dirt pot, raised window-box sprouts by force of will. Now,
the voices have stopped and I’m alone again.
I’m looking for your clutch of arms, soothing voice. I’m
calling your name to the trees, scanning the sea
for a glimpse of you in the skiff. I’ve even lowered myself
into the clutchhold of that broken boat out past the jetty,
and gone womb-fetal in the dark slant of a shipwright’s dream.
Reach me in the dark.

At dawn, a bird wing flaps in the sun. I sit before toast and juice.
The floor stands in need of sweep, the cobwebs to be dusted. I
wait on the hard wooden bench watching pulp settle
through the glass. Darkly,
shadow spiders wrestle in the cracks and corners
of silvered mirrors. My toast has gone cold, softened with smear
of butter. A helicopter drops anchor out in the yard.
You came to me in that hold and held me through a cold storm,
your skin gnarled and twisted as tree bark. In my dark unsure,
you penetrated me with light and kind. Now,
my mot-valise is packed in the foyer, waiting
on eight eager legs. I’m allowed a last hair-check in the mirror.

Chute Man

A man hung from a tiny parachute
drops into the darkness of an umbrella stand,
and the strange thing is that
this takes place in your foyer near the shoes
and under hatrack. Should one of those toppers
slip from a nub as (let’s face it) hats sometimes do,
the man might be forgotten, entombed
inside an empty death hollow.
Such a man might survive for some time
in the darkness, having no drink or grub, but
at a point the throat tires of the screams, the body
feels depleted and the mind,
once capable of such pretty feats,
succumbs to the heavy black.
And at that very moment, the tv
in the next room is playing reruns
of Ozzie Nelson asking Thorny
that question that seems to stump us all:
            Say you’re driving your car
and you’re supposed to
stop and wait at every red light. What if
you see a lantern?
And that little man who has long-since eaten
every last string and parachute shred
says You think YOU’VE got problems.

First published in Ugly Cousin.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

you and me, babe

by Kim Groninga and James D. Autio
Prickly things find float on breath
and stab at little legs asleep,
knee scabs from sidewalk skip.
You and me, babe, bowl of stew
where stems and shoots will grow
and loop. Reach for our salted lips--
staid and honey under canvas flaps
near the fire pit. I'd rather hedge 
this land, this life, than break bread
or boundaries, or bones of birds--
that which the wrinkle crutch dreads
though, with slight conceal, we're fond
of death. We've seen his eyes. We've found
his hairpin path through calcium and brine
adrift in a pickling jar, alone and sane
to make dance for atone soirée
and still. For this we pay.
Our currency is wire and wound.
Pride for the love we feigned
as twill misers at the edge of wealth.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Goldfinch (acrylic on canvas)

The Peddler on the Road

The device on the trolley is sold as is:
starter cord frayed and a hobo’s filthy lips
to the spigot. Now, the sack of wire
and glass vacuole is yours for a song.
Your former wife, I recall, was the one
who took out a superfluous part
while adjusting the toaster slot.
Hell, have it. It’s yours.

Sunflower image found online:


We are the hollow stems.
We are shades of color.
Our eyes follow the sun.

When rain comes we bow our heads,
cool water trickling down our necks,
seeping through soil
to fill the empty spaces.

And that cold on our toes
is like life from the Earth, itself,
struggling to climb toward the sun.
We are the conduit.

We are the quivering leaves
when night-rats return to claim the field,
but barn owls won’t bother themselves
about our trifling concerns.
They swoop. They snatch.

The crunch in hayloft rafters
leaves us free to be,
to mill about outside.
Our eyes await the dawn.

We are the hollow stems.
We are faces giving praise.

       *      *       *
This poem won first place in the Connecting with Art: Firing the Imagination Writing Contest. 
First published in The Rapids Review: A Literary Magazine, 2004.

To Sharpen Partially Subordinate Furrows

Smiling unicorn, a bucket full of rainbows.
Snout down in the trough.

Lächelndes Einhorn, ein Eimer voll Regenbogen.
Schnauze unten in der Abflussrinne.

Corne une souriant, une auge pleinement arcs-en-ciel.
Lèvre vers le bas dans la gouttière.

Hoorn een dat, een trog ten volle regenbogen glimlacht.
Lip naar beneden in de dakgoot.

Hoorn that, a trough fully rain arcs smile.
Lip down in the gutter.

Hoorn qui, une pluie de cuvette entièrement courbe sourire.
Lèvre vers le bas dans la gouttière.

Hoorn which, a rain of basin entirely curved smile.
Lip downwards in the gutter.


The rain of the washbasin Hoorn which bends smile completely.
In lip lower part of groove.

A chuva do washbasin Hoorn que dobra o sorriso completamente.
Na parte mais inferior do bordo do sulco.

La pluie de la washbasin Hoorn que pli le sourire complètement.
En partie le plus inférieur du bord des sillons.

Η βροχή του washbasin Hoorn παρά πτυχή το χαμόγελο εντελώς.
Εν μέρει πιό κατώτερος του χείλους sillons.

The rain of washbasin Hoorn despite aspect the grin completely.
Partly more inferior verges sillons.

Der Regen des Waschbeckens Hoorn trotz des Aspekts das Grinsen vollständig.
Teils untergeordnetere Kanten sillons.

La pluie du lavabo Hoorn malgré l'aspect le sourire moqueur complètement.
Affiler partiellement subordonné sillons.

Rain of the Hoorn wash-hand basin in spite of the aspect the smile mocker completely.
To sharpen partially subordinate furrows.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


      Pack rabbits hunt by night.
Moonrise poplar lace shimmies,
pearls rapt in foil fall
on dark broth,
and still we return
to lake edge, shirtsticky
boot through sledge tar.

We pawthunk and amble
downbank, become iridescent.
Crystal juiced and waylaid,
shorts on a bush, your
soft shore legs glow so.
We leap (as bunnies),
break black scrim and backfloat.
You cup a fine course; I
allow myself eddies and swerves.

     On shore,
the beasts empty bloodruts
with mournful wails.
For you, love,
I’d jimmycarter rabbits with a canoe paddle.

First published in the now defunct The Fulcrum Online.



Sunday, September 19, 2010

Eagle (acrylic on canvas) by James

Nind Inaabandam / I Dream

     Nind izhinam.

Zhibaii waassaychigan nindinaab agwaching.
Gokookoo’oo migwanag ogidj’ waassaychiganaatig dush mitashkossiw.
Migizi nin waabama mitashkossiw kashkibiday biminakwaan.
     Migizi nibo.
Wanashkid migwan nin manaysin.
DNR gaween oganabaynjigaymin.

     Nind izhinam
nin kashkayndam.

     I’ve had such a vision.

Through the window I look outside.
Owl feathers on the window frame and on the grass.
I see an eagle on the grass; he is tied up in rope.
     Eagle, he is dead.
I want a tail feather.
The DNR, they won’t allow it.

     I’ve had such a vision,
and I am sad.

      *      *      *
I awoke from this very dream feeling troubled. The owl feathers covering the sill had something to do with my mother. The eagle outside, even in the context of the dream, represented the spirit of my Anishinaabe ethnicity, and it was bound. It was dead. I had the intense urge to avail myself of the opportunity to collect the eagle's tail feathers, especially because it was just lying there for the taking, but I hadn't earned the right to possess them and it filled me with a profound sadness. In the dream, I thought of the DNR and sort of put the blame for my inability to hold the eagle feathers on them, on the laws of White people, but I'm both Anishinaabe and Finnish (mostly). I'm Indian and I'm White. The conflict between the paradigms of different people exists within me. 

Now, the language... 
When I awoke, I felt strongly that this poem needed to be written in the Ojibwe language. I don't speak Ojibwemowin (the language), though I know a few isolated phrases. I first wrote down the dream in English, and then translated it into Ojibwemowin with a bilingual dictionary compiled by the "snowshoe priest," Frederic Baraga. As I translated though, I had to alter the original English version to suit phrases and contexts that I could find in the Baraga dictionary. I'm sure my Ojibwe words and syntax are awkward and off. What exists here is really a cross-cultural exchange, most likely far from exact in meaning, but yet an attempt. I hope the basic idea comes across.


She has too many doilies.
She sets flagrant desserts aflame.
She’s both a wisecrack and a wound.

She’s got witchhazel on cottonballs
            in a mason jar.
She boogies, but the imprint
left on the settee turns a little lurid.
She says Sobriety
            is exceptionally hard to implement,
            though she don’t dig the reefer.

She draws badgers
            shooting laser beams, cauterizing wounds.
She defends oncologists.
She points out Losing one’s arms
            wouldn’t diminish the ability
            to master complex mathematics, though
            it might affect one’s ability to hold a pencil.

She yells to the sidewalk gimp
            One hell of a prosthesis!
            and makes his highbeams shine.
She doesn’t blame doctors.
            How could they know?
            How could they possibly know?

She sees barbed wire as slag in the brine.
She has a believe robot.

      *      *      *
In a math class at Anoka Ramsey Community College, I had a quirky red-haired professor. She would often say odd things, though they were (usually) astute and circuitously apropos. Many students felt that she was off-the-wall and simply weird. I liked her. She was fun to watch and to listen to. This poem has almost nothing to do with her. All the italicized quotes in the poem come from my former math teacher, though they've all been moved to a new context, and the "she" is not her. (I do, however, think of her sometimes when I revisit this poem.)

Once I began the repetition of "She..." lines, I stepped out of the way and allowed the character to take shape. Images appeared from disparate places: Anne Shirley's bosom friend, Diana Barry, hoped to get many (one might even say too many) doilies for her wedding, singer extraodinaire: Ani Difranco has a body part "built like a wound that won't heal," my old friend Jody was the witchhazel/cottonball, my ex had a grandfather who lost a leg in World War II and spent the rest of his life bursting the confines of his wheelchair with joie de vivre, and my wife and I have both lost loved ones to cancer. 

The final couplet is pure James, as far as I recall. Oddly enough, my former poetry writing group had many problems accepting this ending to the poem. Some felt that it made no sense (as though it needs to). Some objected to having the pair of lines coupled (coupleted?), and thought that either alone would work better. Some simply objected to "believe" in that context, and suggested that "belief" would make more sense. I've always liked that couplet. I dunno. What do you think?

Do you like robots?

First published in the seemingly defunct The Fulcrum Online, Fall 2004.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Friday, September 17, 2010

Family Forges

1.   Family forges hollow tubes, bizarre illusion as a milieu,
silvered pipes, distorted faces reflected like chrome
ozones capped at the poles, spinning, forces flung from center.
Medieval torture ride of a merry-go-round microcosm.
As a child turns clinging to cold rods, keds braced
to try to hold a place while slipping bits.
Such laughter mocking the enwraptured package
while gummed string under cellophane
layers heavy the sidewall flaps.
Every subsequent nailscritch produces lessened access.
While whirling toward death and doom,
to make even more of that thought.

2.   Like the quease in the queue
when the shadow of muscle mountain
bears down on littler one. Need relief.
And the blackness envelopes,
has him hold place until can pass
the urge, exchange a stage for one
of feigned contrition teetering atop porcelain,
publicly exposed. Still,
from the shadow pit, a smirk
hisses out control tendrils as crackling wires.

3.   On cable tv, a king’s fool sparkled cueball dome
houses carnival wonder to pull rebirth from a dark age.
Lozenge lisp that calls out the dragon’s breath:
anaal nathracht uthvas bethud dothiel dienvay.
Uther strips Igraine, one recalls later
when a nun does such to not knock.
That smile stings harsh.

4.   Childhood humiliation of a lead pipe log
fallen from a passable height onto the glass surface
of a bog hollow with each cutting critique.
But the swamp god is a smithy
making flame roar against the cold of the snuff element,
and forging sharp steel from the collected raw ore
of metal filings scraped off tubes and pipette tips
by the nitpicking teeth of bullheaded razorfish spirits.

5.   I’ve heard little sister’s cry splinter
as I’m near cornered by formica,
worn handle of a kitchen knife
clutched in a protector’s palm.
The intake brandy breath of a hobo.
Like Uther and Igraine, things just never the same.
I hear the hiss of pipes, the whisper of snuff gas.
Back to the range, a pilot warmth
from within fills my hand as guide. And a quill
dipped in black humour enters a kitchen beating.

6.   I am neither the land nor am I the king.
I hold no golden chalice, wield
no sword culled from cold water.
I’m naught but a scribe, a latter day pendragon
moving through thickened fog with tomes clutched tight,
padding forward a forgotten foottrail, all the while
drawing dragon’s breath from the forges of a family stove.
Anaal nathracht uthvas bethud dothiel dienvay.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Village Rain

We stroll, you and I.

        This is the lane
where every home wears a hedgerow;
garden gates hang ajar. A man
thrashes wet shellac against a fence
while neighbor kids cackle in the thicket.

        This is the market square
where venders hawk vegetables.
This is the church where we were
to marry. The steeple still probes the sky.

        This is the tree by the river
where you kissed me first.
Seedlings clutch at dirt as dark clouds sag.

        Here stood the footbridge
where I took your hand.
You pulled it back and went to Prague,
and took that bridge with you.

        This is me, still sighing
to see your linens wriggle on the line,
to call to you, and together
we’d rush to pull the wash.

Instead, you scuttle Czech streets;
        I vodka tonic,
and massive fluffs engulf the grey putty.

*      *      *      *      *      *
This poem was written in January 2004 and it first appeared in print a few months later. Its genesis was a torrid breakup in the early 90s. While I've enjoyed an average number of relationships in life (I'll assume), there have been only a few incendiary loves. 

Now, in my writing there is often an identifiable connection to my life and experiences, but that connection is tertiary to the needs of the individual topic and the requirements of the mechanical aspects of the piece. I grew up in a town of about 30,000 people, a part of a larger metro area of a quarter million people. As an adult I have always lived in a fairly large city. For some reason, recurring imagery in my poems casts me (or the speaker ...whatever) as having lived in the rural Midwest: small town, farm boy and all that. Uh, no. I've never been sure of where that comes from, other than being a construct of my interests and mindset.

Nevertheless we stroll, you and I (shudder). Even back in 2004 when I wrote that line, I was ambivalent about it. In fact, it has come and gone so many times over the years that it has now become transparent. If you hold your computer screen close to your face (you may do so now) you will be able to look through the font of that one line and you'll see into a candlelit bedroom wherein a lonely poet sits penning verse of emotional longing into a book with a padded cover. 

The next stanza starts setting a scene. Most of this poem seems to be setting the scene. I can see in this poem an interest in the phonemic patterns and structures of language which are currently forefront in my writing. Thrashing wet shellac is more about language than about village life, and coupled with kids cackling in the thicket, the images were my attempt to capture a bit of Norman Rockwell Americana undergirded by a darker, quietly festering scaffold. Sylvia Plath wrote a poem in which there is "Viciousness in the kitchen! / The potatoes hiss. / It is all Hollywood, windowless, / The fluorescent light wincing on and off like a terrible migraine." 

I've always loved the image of the seedlings by the river: dark rain clouds are descending, the air is charged with a pre-storm electricity, and the little sprouts clutch into the moist soil to brace themselves for an onslaught. I wouldn't write an image like that now, but for the era from which it comes it was an inspired thought.

The footbridge is an actual place in Minneapolis' Loring Park, though the holding of the hand occurred between two friends, one of whom I had a crush on. I appropriated the image and recast the actors playing the roles. A girlfriend I had loved did in fact dump me to travel around Europe. In a wistful moment, the poet/speaker imagines a life of domesticity under similar atmospheric conditions, BUT... reality intrudes: she's gone, he drinks to forget (or is it to remember?) The large clouds wrap and consume his thoughts.

First published in The Rapids Review: A Literary Magazine, 2004.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Losing Peru

I simply cannot leave Peru
for a single minute.
My mind wanders while armies mass in Brazil.
What demon’s spawn haunts this child?
Takes possession of the pure and wide-eyed
innocence of youth?
He’s already filled the borders
of Argentina beyond carrying capacity,
overloaded, overcrowded
with edgy militants.
I guessed (mistakenly, it seems)
that he’d give chase
as I led my people out of tyranny,
crossing the isthmus of Central America
on our way to freedom
in the United States.
But now, left back
in Peru to mind the store,
my friends stare down the barrels
of countless cannons.
And I can only look back
from my disastrous foray in the North,
and watch while the circling dogs close in,
growling, chewing up Peru,
and South America falls
to fascist rule.

Oh Jesus.
Now Ontario’s on the move
and Iceland’s ass is hanging out.

*       *        *       *       *       *       *       *
This poem goes back quite a few years. My writing has almost always been based on personal experiences and relationships. Only on rare occasion do I write a poem in which there's an overt focus on politics or greater social issues. This is not one of those poems. Let me digress for a moment just to say that I usually hope that I write poems based on my personal experiences in which greater truths, social commentary or commonalities between individuals do in fact exist, even in spite of my intentions and motivations in the writing. Then of course there's a poem like Losing Peru.

This poem first appeared on the now-defunct website The Fulcrum Online, an online companion to Hamline University's print literary journal, The Fulcrum. On the website, registered users were able to leave comments and questions regarding each published literary work and piece of visual art. Overall, the comments on Losing Peru were positive, though most readers assumed that the poem was some sort of commentary on political strife in the Americas. 

In fact, one Christmas morning back when my son was young he received the board game Risk: The Game of Global Domination as a gift. He and I played the game that afternoon. He won. I wrote this poem just after my unconditional surrender.

Previously published at The Fulcrum Online and Snakeskin number 151.

Butling Mrs. Goldberg

I put Sanka on the serving tray,
choose a spoon from the hoard
the hag’s collected in a drawer,
pull a sheet of Bounty and fold in thirds.
I rest my load on her threadbare chair.
Mrs. Goldberg’s kitchen range is limited,
being of its time (c. 1950).
Still, it chugs on like a steam engine,
warming the cold kettle, tics and sighs.

I can certainly wait, I mean, my god,
I’ve been on permanent pause
since she fell in the flower bed,
and cracked her pelvis
as she ended the perennials.

She cried out, and
I said I’m here for you, Miss.
I’m here.

I wipe my eyes with a kerchief,
straighten bowtie and peer at face creases
reflected in toaster sheen
while the teakettle screams.
I creak back up to weary feet
and fill her mug with searing steam.
Hoisting the tray, I shuffle the long hall,
the shining foyer. I climb the endless stair.

Outside her bedroom door,
my knuckles hang in the air.
I brace against the maddening repetitions.
(Ah? Who is it?
Well, who the hell could it be, old woman?)

I clear my throat
…bought smile
…gentle knock.

First published in The Fulcrum Online 2005-2006, ed. 1

Friday, August 13, 2010

Eggs Etc.

I hear her clear her throat
just as I sit down in the restaurant with my daily news and hangover.
I recognize that sound, like a polite ghost in a cartoon
drawing Shaggy from a Scooby-snack and I scan the room.
And there she sits. Looking at me
with wide eyeholes and crooked smile
the same way she did when we kissed a while back
in Dinkytown, between the parked cars on 4th St.
while buses blew force fields to shield us
from the eyes of the fidelity police. Even before
I returned to the house that day
she was already taxiing down the runway, bag under seat
filled with her Dramamine, diaphragm  and Eurail pass.
We said no goodbye on 4th, though it was implied
and only later confirmed from some phone box in London.

Now, here I am with a hankering for coffee and eggs
and greasy beast meat and there’s something
that brought her back to the States and this same nasty diner
where she and I liked to eat after screwing in the sunbulb of dawn.
She’s still like that photo from my brainpan
but crossed with a catcher’s mitt and I know
there’s more to me than there once was,
but all that seems secondary when I find that she and I
are not only in the same country again, but even
within spitting distance. Then,
the waitress is at my table slopping coffee
into a mug and asking What’ll it be, hon?

I think it’s clear that I came here only for the eggs,
but her muffin sure looks good too.
I don’t know what to say.

First published in Thieves Jargon


I’ve a billowed even ill-spent smudgepot
near where the fishes let opaque tresses
loaf in the foxglove pith. Many marionéts,
steeped in caprice, may dance on taut string and given rein
feast on your wife’s dowry, slurp up the last
of your stew while she’s lying in her bath, lip-sippling
her third absinthe with warm water sluice at the fleshiers. 
Even I ease past your foyer swags and with a spongy tissue
lining the rind, tip the clay baby upon its drooling snout.
Unlike a foolish bridegroom eager for his flick of the delicate,
I coax out the maisonette with a swaying chamber pot,
squiggles for stitch in the plumb, while close-eyed,
my lashes slack flan as though under acid wax press
and seeming my freckled blessing skew. I cub the brass
back against the harder pew. Swaddled. My purer self
backslid into layers of woolen clothes while below
the shifting surface your wife’s submerged, naked,
shy, wide-eyed and so ill consider. Lip blue. You, black
of core and perched high over lurched and harried hoofbeat,
I’ll breathe the life back past your wife’s glaucous sores.

First published in Ditch

Lemon Poppyseed

Wiindigo’s on the move, foraging
for roots   berries   meats.
Young Ojibwe children
huddle wideeyed as elders tell
legends of the creature that walks the winter wood.

The mass of manmonster comes from the cold
when Minnesota’s Moon of Crusty Snow is
near halfpast, and Spring is still
being beaten back by biting cold.
Twigs and dryreeds glaze in drizzlefreeze.
And the hairy man comes.

The drum and flute that haunts reservation winters
crescendos early, followed by
the drawnout tinkling of shattered glass
scattering across a frozen lake.
Nourishment for wild creatures grows scarce.

Cold morning, thatched fog, crows steaming upon posts.
Wiindigo tromps from the deep wood,
crosses the meadow and enters the Indian village.

Iced walks are greased glass, and pedestrians
don’t trust their mukluks, should they need to run.
Wiindigo crouches in shadow, tumrumbling.
Sharp smell seeps from a Caribou on every corner,
hissing espresso for the queued crowds.