Sleeping in the Art Gallery

We were laying under a collage

of a mansion in the woods,

guarded by krishna

sitting in a hotrod shooting 

reflective flames -

Two mattresses pushed together like life rafts 

on a hardwood sea, my body flat and spread

like a starfish, yours straight and pensive 

like a pillar candle, waxy, melted 

and re-solidified over and over.

I reach for your hand and you pull away,

"This probably isn’t a good idea"

Isn’t necessarily what I had 

hoped to hear,

but it was what I needed.

If I was skin on bone,

you were bandaid needed,

but torn away quickly.

UFOs dancing in the rafters,

I fell asleep with my arm across 

you, because my thoughts 

had aligned two stars

at the wrong time.

Krishna laughing from the wall 

could not have guided me.

Flight Attendant

Being a tourist because of a funeral

can leave you seeing mountains

and sunrises

while your mind is full of piles of dirt

and sunsets.

Can a camera hang around your neck

under the palms in California

while thoughts of rosaries hanging from necks,

their beads like black condensation

and rain drops that always fall 

during funerals

move through your head?

Flight attendants bringing 

refreshments and neck pillows

as you fly over farms and cities,

like the boat of charon above the living -

The thought of a black hole forming

in the plane and sucking everyone 

out, ascending them into the heavens

as if their souls are to be freed 

from their bodies.

Rainfall taps on the metal wings.

Variations In the Earth’s Orbit

Sometimes what we remember 

is not the same as what we see on photographs

piled in blue suitcases kept in attics - 

Men smile and show their teeth

like wolves disguised as sheep -

        Grandpa with his sweet smile

        as he hugs grandma in 1973.

        “Grand Canyon Vacation!”

        We do not see the bruises

        from when he drank too 

        much tequila and she 

        burnt dinner.

Clinging On

When I was twelve years old,

my dusty yellow labrador found a femur bone in the woods behind my house,

a bone with a little bit of flesh still clinging on,

but dried for the most part.

And I didn’t think anything of it,

when I thought he must have found the leg

of a deer that had died a while ago. 

Until two men came to my door wearing suits and holsters,

held up a photograph 

and said “Have you seen this person?”

I told them I had not,

and noticed how dry my mouth felt,

like cotton mushed against the roof of my mouth

and against the back and tops of my teeth.

Wedging my foot in the door was not enough

to keep them out,

they would make their way inside,

and they would not find a deer.

Fifty-Nine

There was a cross country runner from Eastern Oregon University,

he wore a gold and black uniform,

the number fifty-nine on the front

that bounces up and down as he steps over branches and leaves. 

October 1985 - 

He’s running and passes number seventy-four

Whose hair is dried out from the heat,

and lack of moisture,

looking like a tumbleweed

worn as a wig.

Two days before the race, 

Space Shuttle Atlantis left Earth for the first time.

Number fifty-nine’s feet lift from the ground 

as if they will join Atlantis.

Fifty-nine wins the race.

Getting Things Out

The Baltic sea spits a bottle out onto the shore

as if it were bitter food.

The musty vessel

picked up by a fisherman,

his hands rough like brown leather.

A postcard inside

with some scribbling - 

May 19, 1914

followed by a single line - 

"Well, I’m glad that isn’t bottled up anymore"

The fisherman begins to cry.

Hollow

Are your bones hollow like a bird?

Have your way,

fly today.

There’s a Saint for Everything

My catholic uncle joked:

"There’s a saint for everything."

Laughing, I imagined

the patron saint of

shoes that hang 

from power lines

for reasons known

only to some.

The patron saint

of kissing your

lover goodbye

for the last 

time, as your

lips meet. 

The patron saint

of stadium seating,

the patron saint

of rainfall and sleet,

bundled coats 

and scarves wrapped

around necks.

The patron saint 

of moments

where you walk

through the door

and forget

what you were in the room for.

The patron saint

of laying on

blankets in

the grass with

your best friend

and seeing

shapes in clouds,

those rabbit clouds

have patron saints

as well,

that blanket

does too,

the chances you have had

to declare all love for her,

the woman with her eyes

golden and green like olives

in their own oils,

there is a saint for them,

there’s a saint for everything. 

That Thing Dad Always Said

Llano Estacado lay three miles ahead,

rust colored plateaus,

meeting the Earth like bricks against an old wrinkled tarp. 

I notice the slight rise on the bridge of your nose, and think,

 of the way that it was a feature shared by our father,

and again of the Stalked Plain where we had spent Summers.

my lips curve and catch tears;

I taste their salt

and wipe them into my sleeve,

laughing, faced pressed against forearm.

I speak lines my father had often said when we were sad:

"The world will always keep turning.

She’s just a big woman dancing

who doesn’t know that she should have got tired a long time ago.”

And then we are both laughing,

our laughter an echo of our father

who would have sat with us

and spoke wisdoms,

his beard spindly and hair wild as the passing yucca plants.

His last luggage tag in the form of a plaque

pressed on a gilded urn:

"Beloved father, brother, and husband, and friend".

In my yellow Ford Fiesta kissed by the tangerine sun

we are a taxi for the dead. 

Open Books

Your eyes closed like curtains drawn in the evening time, 

as you drifted off to sleep while reading poetry aloud.

Your voice as soft and as bright as your cheeks,

pink salmon flesh against sun faded terra-cotta.

I was not looking while you drifted, 

instead, head-down, as if in prayer,

I sat gluing photographs onto a collage with an ever changing meaning,

smiling to myself as we faced two roads diverged,

fearfully symmetrical.