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how history begins (136)

maps do not speak 

as vaguely blurred 

vowels along riverbanks 

where second cousins 

two counties removed 

slur to their mates 

nor sift for finer 

details in pap’s 

bourbon tongue 

(April 26, 2021) 

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palimpsest (132)

tension slips between

skin and flesh

as skillful as a fishmonger’s

blade slices down

the length of an eel

with one stroke

a practiced motion

without thought

like a priest at prayer

each wooden bead rolled

over fingertips in sync

with the slow muttered vowels

one patterned moment

moving toward the next

with endless patience

as the next ritual waits

for the candle to be lit

the words to flow

less with meaning

than as a balm

to still disquiet

(April 14, 2021)

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what’s to be done but misunderstand (129)

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with a thousand toes to step upon

scattered across the ballroom floor

he negotiates with a nonchalance

reserved for sinister seductions

each phrase she said like a rabbit 

testing the air for the slightest sound 

to announce the wolf’s ragged debut

yet the wolf is off in some other forest

tracking that red-caped girl and

the wind carries sounds 

from some other tale as 

everything we once knew

crumbles into sullen ash

(April 2, 2021)

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I am not You (126)

“a border is never neutral”

—Jaques Derrida

on a map it is a line drawn

in color across the landscape


it’s arbitrary except for words

which no longer make sense


when placed abstractly on trees

and through creek beds


no one sees them except 

the ones who kill ones


who speak their vowels

elongated or shortened

(March 11, 2021)

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Each Moment Re-inscribes the Present (123)

like the good china handled

with delicate hands as if

the people pictured could be

shaken from the scene and lost

they are only brought out on holidays

or as we gather to bury the dead

who were the ones who knew them all

these photographs that stepped from context

as soon as the shutter snapped

the aunts uncles cousins friends pictured

within a tangled patchwork of memory

at their own holidays their own funerals

look back at us with our familiar eyes

wanting to know who we are what we’ve become

(February 25, 2021)

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Permissable Topics (108)

we cannot talk about some things

because that causes them to happen


We cannot talk about sex

or death or injustice


because they do not exist


we cannot talk

of our experience


because it contradicts others


we cannot speak to each other

because that could build bonds


we cannot speak of the voices

that await us at school

at home and in our heads


we cannot speak

we cannot talk


we are not allowed

(January 21, 2021)

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which simple metaphor shapes my day (104)

a different time with new shadows

wraps the light in different patterns

more random more abstract less fragile

less likely to crack like a beetle’s

carapace beneath my careless boots


I roam between my vacant days

then disappear easier than I thought

between quick ire and old resentments

like broken branches slip easily

with the river’s froth across smooth rocks


despite all the engrained justifications

despite the comprised and contradictory

narratives despite the feral rage

I am who I am stripped of language

laid down since birth like shrouds

(January 15, 2021)