Regarding his work, the artist says:
How the front cover of the paperback curls up in the humidity and how the back cover remains silent, stoic in the face of the last word and all termination and you and I a book falling apart at broken spine, the friable pages, the leaf blown dust and how I was written on mighty worlds of preamble and folk song, pure tremble, pure snow, the black ink dark as night salted with stars and I gave my life to a book until I became one, a book on two legs, a book dedicated to Sister Anne Marie, the only nun I ever knew who couldn’t stop laughing and her rosary falling out all over like Marilyn Monroe’s bossy pearls, beads gone wild with mystical love and overarch of feeling, which was all the religion I would ever need and book though I was and book though I became the word trances changed and I found myself climbing to the roof and wanting to be a wild flower or mossy oak, something green, green and breathing and my book grew wings and was soaring inside my chest made of pulp and sawdust and the migratory need to fly north and keep going, zenith crazed and gaining and so book became a bird became a longing for flight became wide open and soaring air and you can live this way the sky told me if everything else in you dies and as a book I fell back to earth and even my first few pages were torn off by the rushing air and there was no index, no preface or author’s photo though I gave myself to the crickets and cicadas I listened to before dawn for they knew me when I was by myself among the piles of papers and books, looking up every few seconds into the darkness that somehow understood my wastrel life as I listened to my little brothers and sister who seemed to be asking me, almost begging me to come out and play and secure my place among the wild and intractable things glowing secretly with ardor and delight in their tender awareness of all that lives and dies.
In my mind, I am somewhere
Somewhere far away from here
Someplace, anywhere but here
In that place, there is respect
In that place, there is peace
In that place, there is love
In my mind I am somewhere
Somewhere only I know
Someplace I can run to
We took the natural way out, burned the boat, laughed. Our first vision
was a real tunnel. We left the kitchen of sadism and metal tongues, the
late songs of subsistence, and ruination’s entire house, its best knives.
We escaped that commonly unseen life and a purple boy is a man
is an animal is fighting for what we meant when we said love under
another name. This is not just a battle for the thing that a tale’s tragic
hand always throws to a falls, and there must have been a crucial archer
answerable for the lives lost ever since. For who could wound the body
and never heal it until death? List his strengths over night and we will
spend our remaining days trying to forget our weaknesses. Call him
the emperor with blue waves in his chest and an animal gets to drown.
The abundance we have now of water is the promise that limits it.
O beast on bended knees, that’s ill-intentioned and you will die,
we say over and over again. Gravity pulls a family tree down and
all the animals are kept away from us. When dreamless, we hear
arrows stamping an animal down and silence and then our breath.
When there’s a thing about us that has yet to be recognized, a dead
animal is not a man and is not dead and is not telling you are cruel,
yet we know what we have done.
Regarding her work, the artist says:
The taste of matchboxes and
Packets brought me back:
He blew color into my
Lungs, as I pulled blue
Bullfights from his tongue.
His breath brought me back from
Guernica, back from black and
White and gray:
He tasted like music and
He tasted like
Christ, and twisted wire.
of white flies,
their white wings
a cold tissue,
a white stone.
My mouth held
white and innocent,
but you too
the sky coming down,
your cold white hand
on a wild woman,
the ancient earth.
My fingers were swelling,
the hemlock gloved
in ermine caterpillars,
I was wrapping
my heart in white leaves
like a jewel,
it was not
the heart of a doe,
and I do not know
whether there can be
such whiteness again
this is as cold
as I come.
— after Allan Popa / after Brian Teare
Say things about sadness read again. Say some nasty words
are gone. Say for the time being faggots are exhuming
their dead bodies from the mellow chords of want.
I understand the blues, I treat my body with the pity
it deserves. Say pity and listen to the new men I’m with.
Say you want to hear more and compare it to your
secrets squeezed to the core of your collar bone into which
I have buried my face. Say the moan, the secret, and the body
are all one thing. Nudes deliver the most accessible and boring
particularly when the heart is unattended. Say the heart is difference.
Say the paid night may detect it, but you can hold it
like your own ear. Say it and don’t run away. By running
away I’ve once reached a town axis and objects and hammers
of waiting halt together grippingly just like my own room
but it’s not my room. This town graces queerness and death, its people
toothless, no yellowish thorns inside the mouth, no force
to cut stones and resistant flesh. What a blessing to welcome
a monster, they exclaimed and named their town after me.
Say my name and live there. Say there has always been
memory, a hand that suddenly comes out of nowhere, a hand
that snatches a sack of bones that you have become and
leaves it at my door. Say it’s a real door and enter.
I can’t sweep the bird poop off my throat without you
being household, telling birds they are American airplanes
and their bombs, phallic as what my mouth can take,
will never be suffered in our territory. Say phallic
and remember the first thing you planted in your town.
A recent mother of a million twins curses it and kills a hundred
sons when I say it’s mine. Say something like sorry nation.
Say always. Everyday, it is my hungry note to watch
a wide television to which this earth surrenders.
Say television and see me detectable through its dark screen
channeled only as sky. Say the way from here to there
is not me with a knife hidden in the chest of an accused
bird, a living thing whose life is not safe. Say knife and I will
drill again, dig some landscapes that cried war yet something
else was cried louder. In Manila, in Hanoi, in Sulawesi, in Phnom
Penh, in all my photographs of effeminate men and soft boys I had
tried to exhume your lost hands, those transcendent molds
on which my skin had never been something else but
brown as soil, brown as delicateness observed in a simple leaf
emblazoned by its own rawness, its right to fall, to grace
goodbye, to have a scent when burned. Say scent is always
a room. Say this room, this very history tells a passage
of disabled love that finds you amputating your hands, a notable
trace for what must not be found. Say wall. Say stand
behind me and let my back collapse. I have carried a chapel
and a terminal ever since, and now knowing my breath
no longer makes a prayer nor a ride, what for is my back?
A bait table to attract insects? Say wall and stand behind me.
Say behind takes the collapse back and death is a speech
that never stops. Say death means you will come again
for the record. Whatever sadness it is, I have the record.
Even my father, ignited in anger
by the presence of his children,
by their illnesses and deaths,
by the internal pogroms
hunchbacked to his bed,
even he had the kindness to kiss me
goodnight. Even he.
The boy was one of two
who spoke the language
and he made a dictionary
from the phrases the old woman taught
so they could converse,
the two of them, young and old,
loners, of course,
and then she died,
the limit of her tongue,
and though he had an offer
to impart its phonology
at a prominent university,
How could he teach the lingo
she had spoken,
so difficult —
who but him knew the boundaries?
He'd become one of those men
always correcting others.
But he liked to say,
Eyak is not extinct, just dormant,
the way widower might dream
the dead cherry tree
would bloom again
in some mouth or other.
Regarding her work, the artist says:
Not even here, on this
shared commute would they meet.
The man in overalls doesn’t bother
scraping layers of dry paint
from his fingers before biting down
on a nail. Though he wants
a little more room on the train
he will not get close to the three piece suit
hovering above him.
They rock for a couple of stops,
jacket swaying near stiff jean,
but nothing could make
the toes of the construction boot
and the polished wingtips touch.
Death came for Ibne Batuta,
as a bandit first
and in a storm again,
as a palace intrigue.
He escaped each time,
until the last,
when no one really cared if he lived anymore,
not even Death,
nor Ibne Batuta.
We buried memory in the fragrant spices we grew.
What will we do with the aloe, the musk, over which we pray?
Drench ourselves in the fog of their scent, in the smoke of the sweet myrrh,
our body passing through some world we once knew?
The children are shedding their skin.
Do we place them in fields and say cleanse the meadow?
If we do, will they live like a tree split by lightning,
halved and hardly thriving?
They will live as bodies reliant upon our asking,
and seeing what we’ve done, follow, knowing nothing,
the taste of nutmeg on their tongue.
If stretched out to the future, will their seeing eyes, and the cold
melting downriver, suggest they carry on? What of the birds released
into the fields, can they lead the way? If we saw them, will they be
leaving or fleeing in fright? Will the smell of musk
be enough to defend them — the children. The birds ?
Is what we believe in, enough?
She is the shadow of siren stretched across
a gravel road. I stand at her side, legs long
and languid, a flattened effigy craving
the lost desert sky. It is too blue to touch.
Stream of black slices this monolith
of hallowed ground. Boulders and rubble
encase its base. I stand in a valley of echo
listening for your voice.
A chalky leaf sketched by a young warrior
spans wings from its crooked spine. I feel
as if my back is broken. You dig your feet
into the red dirt, kick back your silences.
The rocks lean like driftwood against
each other, kindle for fire. Nothing can
ignite this flame. I am a permanent paw
print on which you walk.
I peek over your shoulder. Looking for what?
I don’t know. You are smiling, eyes set
on a slope of steep rock. I imagine below
flowers float in shaded streams.
An incandescent light lies on shallow
water where cliff and path meet.
No one swims here. If I were to catch
you, I would have to dive deeper.
Breasts of mountains stir our senses.
Rock caresses sky. Its hue so perfect,
it frightens me. Your eyes, black
and deep might as well be blue.
like gunshot wounds pierce the rock.
How did this rock endure the wrath
of winter? I cannot survive when
you open fire in front of me.
A road of rich red dirt called our car to a halt.
Lunch was a meal of cucumber, peanut butter
and chocolate. I spilled cream on our sandwiches.
Why was I not more careful?
The crushed cans of Victoria Beer hung
from barbwire rattling in the wind. The camel
stuck out its snout to eat the grass you offered
from you hand. I, too, wanted to eat from it.
[Inside the Tent]
We sat at the edge of the bed, you in my
bandana, myself in your wool hat.
You put your arm around me; a moment
that felt as natural as the landscape around us.
We gathered around a campfire, a barbecue
of kangaroo, emu, a blend of Australian
red wine. I felt a bit tipsy almost knocking
over my glass. You swiftly moved your cup.
[Lodging, Kings Canyon]
We slept in a canvas cabin, two single beds
and a swag. Your daughter and I took the beds,
you the swag. You covered your head in its
cocoon, convulsed and cried yourself to sleep.
We hiked past honeycombs of rock, your city
girl daughter sitting on warm sandstone, white
cap over her eyes looking up. I wondered
if she thought, who is this friend?
“Here we are in Kings Canyon, the central
part of Northern Australia surrounded
by beehive pagodas, spiky trees, holly
and cane grass. A lovely place, don’t you think?”
[Garden of Eden, Take I]
In this land of fragrant eucalyptus and giant
desert cycads, we eat salami and cheese.
They have asked us not to swim in the water.
Exposed rock allows us to cross its shallow stream.
[Garden of Eden, Take II]
Our fatigued legs lied to us. Paradise was five
more flights of winding wooden stairs. Stepping
down a steep wall of rock we find the true garden.
The presence of Eve is all around me.
[In the Garden]
Here the birds chirp and the wind is static.
The water is gilded with sunlight. It runs
deep and cold, branches of gum trees hang,
making shade, but there is nowhere to hide.
There is an echo in the canyon. I ask her
daughter to sing and her voice becomes
an incantation, a sacred prayer and in a single
note I know love is no longer impossible.
I. The Kibbutznik
She is from where buildings
pinch the seams of hills together—
where wise winds catch hold of skin—
and drying eyes put faith in almond hands.
She is from a desert where white shirts
stained with instant coffee and dirt
hang from open windows.
Her body is a caravan.
She has sand dune hips,
calves like thick Indian rugs.
Eyes that carry dates in their pockets,
thickening as molasses in the sun.
Hands on fire as they harvest—
wicks together, turning, twitching flames.
She is pious for a sunburn,
religious for sweat and lemons
puckered growing buds, beneath trees.
II. For Joseph
He is from Friday afternoons,
curried perfumes dancing
their way through his mom’s kitchen
He is from prayers of exile along green rivers.
He is from eyebrows like charcoal smudges
and travel under sandy moons.
He is now gravel, and grit, and air,
olive pits and opposition
to his family's tangled up beliefs.
No longer in need of his past,
he runs for Tel Aviv now.
III. The Yerushalmi
He is a vendor in the Machaneh Yehuda market
the immigrant's son, a proud lion in a city of gold.
He fries up languages and mixes the air
into an aroma of words and meals,
of rices and salted meat.
He bargains with anyone, but his wife.
He knows what is good, and bad, and fine.
He would speak up if people took prices seriously.
IV. The Lone Soldier
She is an Uzi gun.
Her army uniform a green tree,
she plants her roots under the desert sun,
red cheeks hardening into apples.
Her commander tells her to run.
She plants seeds of bullets.
She is an Uzi gun.
V. For Eliran
He is no stranger to wars, desert fruit—
and that biblical sense of oneself.
The way an American girl
steals Hebrew out of his friends mouths
and he still falls for her accent,
even though it could cut through stone.
Or the way he wonders
if he could ever be a black hatter,
quaking at the wall.
The way his mind flicks around itself
and seems to populate the air with opinions.
Even on his own, he is a small country.
VI. For Alexandra
She has accented Hebrew,
speckled with the sweet
syllables of British cream.
Eyes densely packed with brown
flecks of cinnamon and seasons,
she is warm and unmoving
like the Marzipan Bakeries
scattered between the walls of the old city.
She’s steady in her sandals,
stubborn as Jerusalem stone,
knows this vibrating country
and its people as well
as the walls of Jerusalem
know their quarters.
She moved in when the country
was made of electricity—
of sparkling touch and silver noise.
She knows that the present tense
can always change
and that what’s important is a belief
in the good and the bad of a land
and the careful handling
of both sides of a fence.