Lovely Needles

My love is a needle

attaching us at the vein with twine.

                        It hurt, sewed relentlessly,

                                    blood passing between us like we were saving each other

from loneliness, from stagnancy,


                        from bleeding out through our pores–

Not the first time I saw you,

            nor the eighth,

                        but somewhere around the thousandth,

                        after years of acquaintance

                        and familiarity,

                                    it dragged me over by the crease of the elbow

                                    so it could dive below the waves of your skin

                                                until we stood close, just so.


Now chest to chest,

red stars fall into nebulae at our feet,

dripping off warm laundry

stretched between our ribs;

more like stalactites hanging off clothes lines

            in a cave with two walls,

                        framing our little hallway of the universe.

Sentient and afraid of heights,

they’re always reaching for the galaxy

            nestled in the tiny faults in the tile,

their forked tongues brushing the ground

            to lick up a star so another

                        hot-blooded young thing

                                    can slide off their scales

and live for a millennia in their long shadow.

Before I lost feeling in my limbs,

I used to pluck at the lines like a pick

so they sang for us,

but you always stilled my hand.

The song hurt your ears,

the twine grated against the soft meat of your lungs

even as I tasted the scratch of it echo in my back.

But now we are utterly still, a pillar breathing

                        through open windows a constant stream of humid air.

Before I lost the strength to see, I saw you watching

the curve of my brow,

stiffened fingers twitching up from our sides

            toward the needle stitching away at our throat.


When Oxygen Went Extinct

A blue fish with white scales

His eye, the sun.  Its scales

rippling, eye staring,

mouth gulping in all

the oxygen of the world.

            Its deep breaths pulled the ocean up,

            relentless as extinction:

            clouds of whales

            zephyrs of hydroids

             rains of plankton

            twisters of eels,

            stirring in weather patterns

            from ground to the edge of the troposphere.

                        Carbon dioxide fell into rivers, filled the Grand canyon,

                        swimming pools, the Pacific ocean– replacing

                        what was taken as the sky was shaped to the thing’s liking.

                                    We live as a race of scuba divers now, mining air where we can find it,

                                    hunting the wetter skies, scavenging animals that fall into lakes and bodies

                                    of invisible tides, keeping sharks and roaches as pets. We send the former out

                                    on hunting missions. The latter digs tunnels, little lungs relentlessly

                                    scouting the freshest air for our filters to harvest. Oxygen is the new platinum;

                                                                                                                        Vermin, the new gods.

Imitation Poem (Kind of)

During the class I took I really got into Tracy K. Smith, and for one of our imitation assignments I chose to imitate her poem, “Don’t You Wonder, Sometimes?” section 3, from her brilliant collection Life on Mars. The first poem below will be hers, and the following will be my imitation (however after several revisions, it doesn’t resemble Smith’s poem so much). The last line in both poems is supposed to be drop lined, but I’m having trouble formatting it.

Bowie is among us. Right here
In New York City. In a baseball cap
And expensive jeans. Ducking into
A deli. Flashing all those white teeth
At the doorman on his way back up.
Or he’s hailing a taxi on Lafayette
As the sky clouds over at dusk.
He’s in no rush. Doesn’t feel
The way you’d think he feels.
Doesn’t strut or gloat. Tells jokes.

I’ve lived here all these years
And never seen him. Like not knowing
A comet from a shooting star.
But I’ll bet he burns bright,
Dragging a tail of white-hot matter
The way some of us track tissue
Back from the toilet stall. He’s got
The whole world under his foot,
And we are small alongside,
Though there are occasions

When a man his size can meet
Your eyes for just a blip of time
And send a thought like SHINE
Straight to your mind. Bowie,
I want to believe you. Want to feel
Your will like the wind before rain.
The kind everything simply obeys,
Swept up in that hypnotic dance
As if something with the power to do so
Had looked its way and said:
                                         Go ahead.
-Tracy K. Smith, “Don’t You Wonder, Sometimes?”, Life on Mars

My imitation:

The man is a cowboy. Every day
By the same narrow street. Black
Messenger bag, black shoes, black belt,
Flashing his shiny black eyes straight
Ahead. He hides his frown in his hat
And flips the bird in his pockets at people
Sitting on benches. He never uses public
Transportation. Doesn’t like recycled air.

I said hello to him once. Near
Enough to see the darting fish
Behind his shades, we passed through
each other like soapy water through new jeans.
Bubbles stiffened the hair at his nape,
And my legs stained a soft blue, having bathed
In the sunrise on a world by Sirius. But
Adults don’t get lonely, we hold hands
Selectively, and raise our money like children,
So when he didn’t respond I wasn’t offended,

Though I flinched when he towered past me
And his back whispered SHUT UP
In a voice a whisper through space
That shook my blue legs, where I am the vacuum
and am alone in hearing him. I’ve been told
That cowboys can’t sit in front of others, trees
Unable to move because they’re caught
In a forest, always standing until I stretch
Out my fingers, a letter for every digit,
And knock them over. Maybe next time
I’ll use more words. My two hands curling,
Bending his knees like a book with six people–
You have my permission to sit.

Hellis’ Eye

We were ten miles from the city’s edge
when Hellis’ Eye rose from the North.
You’re supposed to freeze, let him watch
you and your small, human ways, pity
you if he can. So we pulled to the side
of the road, unpacked the canned food
and sleeping bags set aside for such occasions,
learned the names of the family two truck-lengths
down from us. Half-lidded and unblinking,
the Eye watched us as he made his slow trek
to the south, larger than the sun, crowding against
the moon and blocking stars as we gossiped
the colors we saw in his iris (green and red
for me, like Christmas). On the second day
we were already planning where we would get our tattoos,
the number two inked onto forearms, between shoulder
blades, over hipbones (orange and cream for my sister,
just above her left elbow), not a thought spared
to the possibility of a Third Day except in fervent
prayer, in salt and fir branches burned with melted crayons,
the smoke scattered with a Spanish fan in the direction
of home. Like it’s said in every textbook, repeated
by the few survivors, we all woke on the Third Day
as one, each of us sitting up, acknowledging the strangeness
of waking up the same moment as someone else
before we all raised our eyes and met his gaze. Dilated wide
enough to swallow the earth, his pupil swept first damningly
over the city then around to us all, an imploring glance like a fist
clutching at our clothes, hauling us up by the spine. Everything
more than a foot away from the car was left behind. I drove,
by human laws in the wrong direction but there was no other road.
The family behind us either ran out of gas or popped a tire;
I saw them tumble from the car and sprint before I lost
them to distance. Ten minutes later we were twenty miles
away, a flock of other cars spiriting with us when the earthquake
hit the city, errant waves rippling gently but firmly beneath
us like a handshake from a confident man. We all jerked,
braked hard in reverence of it. I hit a tree, killed a squirrel.