Towering over the house like a
this is not some landlord’s
The roots twist in magic rivers.
The birds’ nests, the bark
to love or ignore.
We waited so long.
I am sitting under the branches
learning to count.
My daughter is convinced
a cow lives in our mud room.
Every day she wakes
and points to the room with such
She must be carried there—
we search for the soulful brown
the heavy udders, the sweet slowness
of cow, but...
nothing. At 18 months old, she
tilts back her head,
extends the small circle of her
and shouts cooooooooow.
This small face
opens like a book and an endless plain,
a window and
At six months old
it holds storm clouds, archways, glimmering pools.
This face is a palimpsest and a clanging
telling the long history of your life.
This baby's face rises like a magic carpet,
towers like a tsunami. It
to exotic places free of charge.
Darling, you make me sick—
so much power
for such a little bit
of flesh and blood.
You pull me to a door
I must open—
its hinges gliding
You take me to a place
Your face is a prediction—
so what will you look like?
has become a train
I don't know how to drive—
it chugs along, it barrels down.
You sneaky kid, how
you try to make
You whisper don't worry,
time to sit back
and let nature do its thing.
You chant trust me,
just trust me, sounding like the clatter
of that train, and I
my eyes in doubt.
You kick me in the ribs, then turn
your delicate head down, finally ready
to descend. Look, Ma,
releasing the wheel—
Science Fiction Mama
If being with child is such a special time,
why do I keep thinking about
Ripley from the Alien movies?
In that final scene in the third installment
she realizes the alien queen mother is
gestating inside her
and decides to sacrifice herself, to kill the monster
by jumping into a fiery pit. She is one
But not the best role model for a mother-to-be.
Here are the parallels: I wake up one day
this creature inside me, feeding on my flesh and blood,
growing. What are its motives? To rule my life, to
This has to be science fiction,
I say to myself. I am not going to talk to my abdomen. I will
not knit booties. I
don't want to eat for two. Then,
one day, after months of cohabitation, something happens—
I start to believe.
The creature seduces me
using hormones and secret chemicals, until I embrace
the alien inside. It's no longer ugly;
it's beautiful. That's
when I know for sure there is no other way out. That's when,
despite all my fighting instincts,
my steely warrior resolve,
I stand at the edge of the fiery pit, sporting pastels
and swollen feet, remembering Ripley,
and do not jump in.
The Good Science Experiment
I see doubles everywhere now.
Host and parasite, like me and you.
is science fiction.
I try not to think about it:
you don't look human yet.
You are cells and sacks and fluids,
from another planet,
or from the ocean depths.
I hope you will be lovely, but this
is strange. To be yourself and
else doesn't seem right.
What feeds one feeds both. We are
overlapping, shifting, moving in and out
of each other.
I want you to stick,
like a good science experiment.
Until one day, my little alien,
you arrive on earth fully formed,
fully you, face and eyes and hands
complete, as if fallen just now
from the sky into our arms.
You're no bigger than a fist
but you slip ghost arms around me,
make sweet promises
for perfect eyes and hands and skin.
From inside, you hold me together,
multiply my blood,
working to fill
that warm darkness. How
you keep growing: unstoppable,
intricate, strong—it's beyond me.
they say, you will be
our moon and stars and sun.
They will be taken to the secret location
then taught to listen.
will open themselves
far enough to know
new landscapes of fear,
how a battered woman
hides in the valley of her
between beatings big as mountains.
The listeners will not turn away,
but will enter the territory of hard
to detect truth in the rhythm
of a caller's breath, surrender
in her tone. They will hear her blood,
it wants to keep pumping.
The listeners will learn to feel
another justification forming
the back of a ragged throat,
and denial in a vibration.
A swallow could mean
she is finally leaving.
The listening is a room
callers need to enter,
with no TVs or screaming
no vague apologies or threats,
only the stranger's presence,
and possibility insistent as the sea.
Though their art is almost forgotten,
the listeners continue to listen
and stroll quietly out of their skins,
reaching for anyone who might believe
hope travels at the speed of sound.
Remember when we hiked into razor sharp sunlight?
I noticed your eyelashes
long and thick as a child's,
perfectly curved like the bay. There, at what
must be the edge of the world, we saw
conch shell jutting out, huge and
whole from the sand. Holding it
in our hands, we went dizzy
in the salted wind,
struggle against falling
into spiral upon
At the Waterfront, After 9/11
They used to roar in every minute or so,
low along the Potomac, enormous
seeming impossible. We liked to watch from the dock
water rippling, reflecting on the underside of wings.
Now the skies are deathly quiet, travelers forced
to stay home. So we pretend they've migrated,
that they'll be
back some warmer season, following
instinct, knowing the way. We imagine them
zooming in just above us, everything
Last night I dreamt about Godzilla
and tsunamis. There I was,
the crest of a fifty-foot wave,
this close to drowning.
I saw impossible monsters
that turned out to be real.
I ran on leaden legs
lit by a fear so strong
it was almost erotic.
When this morning I woke beside you,
was sweaty and short of breath,
shocked by the sunlight,
but glad to be alive. Miraculously,
you didn't laugh,
but comforted me.
Now, all day long, I've wanted to cry
like a rescued movie heroine.
"On June 20, 2001, Houston housewife Andrea Yates drowned her five children
in the bathtub in her home." —CourtTV.com
The bathtub's ordinary white
will wash the breath out of them
their lungs filled her chest,
were her own. No more breathing, no
more love in it heavy forms.
And so she takes them one by one
as if she can reverse growth itself,
insistence, shove them back
into the void. No more more
love in its heavy forms.
And the father at work, trusting
in science and psychiatric treatments,
motherly bonds, doesn't feel the pulling
of a mind, the grabbing hands, love
perverted, stronger than the sun.
Too many little hands and the dying
father all cared for by her
she was an angel of mercy, angel
on haldol, tending to other fields, always
other, never her own, gone dark now.
Psychosis like a lullaby
is singing them to sleep—is nonsense
our ears. Depression like a squeezebox
leaves no way out. Mothers sway
to the tune.
Christmas Poem for You
It's like this: one year I wanted
to take all the kids—my eight
brothers and sisters—for a drive to the mall
and got in the car to go and couldn't
do it, face the
road, keep them safe,
because driving gives me terrible
panic attacks, and so they learned
that their big sister
is not perfect,
but is a weirdo who cannot drive.
I wanted to take them to see Santa,
feed them holiday candy, let them
funny presents with their allowance.
Instead, I sat in the attic and cried
because I couldn't escape them,
sweet faces, even if I flew
to the moon and never came back.
There were so many of them and only one
of me. They
were always hungry
and had developed razor sharp teeth.
No wonder my parents seemed tired,
their bodies dotted
with tiny bite marks,
and their house slowly closing, like a trap.
Then you showed up from a future
I couldn't have imagined. You were
willing. I took you home
and it was like I'd been born
a double, like I'd never been alone. You
let me wear you
like armor. Together
we cut a path away from the past.
This is the story of how I became
more than ringmaster, more than freak,
more than older sister—finally you
pulling me down from the attic,
straightening up my spine, dusting off
my skin, holding me to the light carefully
like a long-forgotten ornament, surprisingly
From the Eleventh Floor
We wished it were
a Japanese monster movie:
with one quick inhalation,
the sun-etched day
We watched it at the office,
stopping work to stare
at the TV, watched
in front of the balcony's glass doors
on the eleventh floor
before a perfect September sky.
We saw the
were witnesses, suddenly feeling
the world's smallness, our smallness.
Washington to New York, New
to Washington—this distance
hardly seemed a block.
They went down
like they had always consisted
of dust, like they did not hold
a small city's worth of humans.
They were free-falling,
graceless and graceful.
wondered if anyone we knew
was running down down
those long stairs. We would be
running after them
rest of our lives.
Then someone in that room
pointed out the glass doors
to a plume of smoke
just across the
above the five-sided building
we knew was there,
but thought nothing of.
We could smell something
stranger than fiction.
It almost made us crouch for cover
from the planes that might still be
in the air heading
Months later, we long
to turn the TV off,
to turn off the dead.
We're jumpy every day,
by the metro,
waiting for the smallest kindness.
—after the movie AI
I'll be a dummy for the sunlight,
my clear glass chest refracting.
want to learn how to swim
in liquid glass. I'm a dummy
mannequin, face stuck on smile
standing standing over your
I look at your eyes, glass sky,
deep dark wells, something soft
there, something mossy that makes
to stay and play. I am
a dummy with a clear glass chest
hiding nothing, reflecting you
in the sun, swimming.
Just when we're ready
to make a baby, things
get weird: the big apple
attacked, the economy
bottoms out, you lose your job.
It seems the moon
So which is it?
A crazy quilt of city streets
pizza grease and coffee,
flowers, curry, newsprint, exhaust—
all the familiar expectations,
in its place.
Metal detectors, guns,
suspicion like a lazy eye roving.
Check points and bomb-sniffing
Neat lawns hiding
the terrorist your neighbor.
A bungee jumper in the dark,
tied to the known, hurtling
the new: a leap of faith
only a kid could make us
imagine or create.