The backward gaze is not about the past,
the photograph not a record of who we were.
We look at grainy replicas of moments,
mirrorless reflections of what was,
and discover who we are now, how far we have changed.
We see the ghosts of identity,
clinging to life on crumbling paper,
and understand not what was,
but how that is not what we are now.
And those faces stare forward, fixed
in moments already lost before light fell across film,
unable to see who they will become,
not knowing the critical scrutiny they will use
upon themselves later. They will stare forever
at a present that faded long before,
their faces held by aging chemicals,
the mirror only ever allowing a one way gaze.


Asleep with skin under cloth, fabric laid
atop us like cadavers on the examination table,
we exhale our pasts into the night, thick breath
carrying who we were into the dark.
You hold your body against mine, even now
becoming someone you have not been, endlessly
moving away. And I touch you, my body reaching
from its now toward who you are no longer, hoping
to keep you as you were, trying to stall the change.
We lay, covered by sheets, each moment a funeral,
each exhale a tiny death, and we yearn
for what was as we shiver against the cold.



This is not mine, this quiltwork of parts
animated by the lightning of thoughts,
moving at my command.

Before the accident,
before the shattering of light,
there was more to me than this scar tissue.

Certainly I live, the doctor has ensured that,
but this face is not the one I know from memory,
nor is this the world that moved around me before darkness.

There used to the brittle scent of fallen leaves,
the untamed color of flames,
the blanketing heat of summer.

No longer is there the flush of blood from imagining
naked flesh touched, nor the delight of tasting fruit
freshly plucked from the vine.

All that is left for me now is shame at alien limbs,
and the scent of electric ozone, filling every breath
since the doctor awoke me again.

The world is colored with the pale shades
of iron and steel, and all I feel
is little more than the chill of the grave.

Flash Blind


The sky, like fire, fades from blood orange into thin
smoke clouds stretched along the atmosphere. In the pyre
of daylight, the bulk of things lose themselves to halflight.
I can still see my breath, steam twisting away into
nothingness, the ghost of life fading in the cold. The light
burned my shadow long across the grass, stretching it
until it lost its edges. You were there too, dusk covering
your left side so that you were only partly there, partly
already smoke. You turned away, into the low angle of
light, and walked slowly until you were lost in the glare.
When I looked for you, the light was gone; the cinder
stars all that remained.


Here is a piece fresh from the (virtual) presses.


The universe expands 1.3 miles per second,
like the body of a child growing day by day,
a baby, still learning what it is to be alive,
unaware of the ways his body works.
He does not think to wonder about the nucleolus sun
or the planets inside each plasma heliosphere.
He doesn’t know about the bacterium
swarming over his organelles,
reproducing even as his immune system struggles
with their pollution. Even when he stumbles,
skinning his knee the first time he walks,
he will not mourn the loss of countless solar systems,
but instead cry at the injustice of being small
and bound by the rules of such an immense
and ever expanding universe.

Not my best, but something

Silence is not absence of sound, an empty glass
waiting to be filled, a shrunken tenon inside the mortis,
dry wood where green wood once fit snug.
It is not a child resisting sleep, eyes half shut,
afraid of missing what might happen next.
Instead, it is a station at midday,
one train departed, another yet to arrive.
It is sap in the bud, before the flower,
that waits to call the bees.
Silence is the pitcher, filled
in the cool shade of the house,
placed on the counter so that
anyone who is thirsty
can fill a glass,
and drink.

Personal Mythology 2

This is the second piece in a series about family lore and personal mythology that I am writing (part one is here). My grandfather was a Woodson, and there are two sides of that family; the potato Woodsons and the tub Woodsons. The distinction between the lines of the family come from two brothers who were hidden during an attack on their home. The boys were hidden in the potato cellar and under a wash tub.

Tub Woodson

I remember lines, tall grass
of light, a field of spaces
between barrel slats, horizon
of shadow at the banding.
Squat light snared on floor joints,
geometric edges converse of shadow,
and faint on each plank, like a world
lost, the irregular outline of grain;
snakes moving from shade
into sun, a river seen from afar,
etching the land.
Later, only the arrow,
straight as a sapling cut down,
its taproot in my father’s chest,
returned light to the moon.
He lay across ridges and furrows,
felled at the margin between wilderness and farm,
marking the divide.

Poetry month (day twenty-eight)

One Girl
by Sappho
(translated By Dante Gabriel Rossetti)

Like the sweet apple which reddens upon the topmost bough,
Atop on the topmost twig, — which the pluckers forgot, somehow, —
Forget it not, nay; but got it not, for none could get it till now.

Like the wild hyacinth flower which on the hills is found,
Which the passing feet of the shepherds for ever tear and wound,
Until the purple blossom is trodden in the ground.

Poetry month (day twenty-seven)


Man Dancing with a Baby
By Susan Stewart

Before balance, before counting, before
The record glistens and the needle slides,
Grating, into the overture, there is the end
Of weight, the leaning into nothing and then

A caught breath, the record listens, the needle slides
Over slowly, and all at once around us a woman’s voice
Stretches weightless, leaning into nothing.
Like a clothesline, the taut chorus: oh, hilarious

Oh baby, all around us, over slowly, a woman’s voice
Gathers above the pick me up, pick me up
And the desperate put, put me down. First the tightrope,
Then the light foot, and the taunting chorus

Pick me up, pick me up. Oh, oh baby.
The slippery floor shimmers and spins like a record while
The light is swinging footloose on its rope
Out of time. The shadows

Slip, shimmering black, and spin across the floor,
Then turn back and pick up again. Oh seedpod stuck for just
One moment on the cattail, out of time, out of shadows,
Downy cheek against a beard: oh scratches

On the record, oh baby, oh measure
Oh strange balance that grips us
On this side of the world.

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