Give a Girl Chaos
Chaos arrives screaming—born
under a certain star shifting
every day that follows
is an unplanned dinner party
the neighbors stop by for a drink and never leave
Chaos lives in homes
in bottles stashed in the linen closet
when the lights go out
and families turn upon themselves
Chaos is cancer
rooting our bodies’ richest soil
travels light over packs overstays
another name for a dark heart
back alleys of our world
seas rise maelstroms slash
fires spark spread
O she is hungry these days
this goddess of Chaos this mother
once a girl who dreamed big
a girl who birthed a universe
imagine what she could do now
a girl who harnesses Chaos
can whip winds into a horde
hush hurricanes settle
storms salve spirits
O give a girl a little Chaos
see what she can do
Don’t bother to knock come on in
you are meant to be here
Chaos is the way in.
~after a photo of frozen monarch butterflies taken in Michoacan, Mexico by Jamie Rojo
Once in Santa Cruz
hundreds of monarchs swirled
with eyelashes fingers
then flew to Mexico.
Clutter of paper tigers
spread across a canvas of snow.
Wings fanned in all directions frozen
Sometimes we fail to see the signs—
don’t not now maybe never
drive when you’re tired
walk alone at night
marry that man.
We fly into cold weather
wings of persimmon
Travel Advisory for Turkey
~A suicide bomber killed five including two Americans, and injured 36 others in a busy tourist area in Istanbul, March 19, 2016
I will not snake the Spice Bazaar maze in Istanbul,
past the sacks of psychedelic colored baharat and herbs.
I won’t inhale cumin, sumac, saffron and mint.
I will not bring home tuzlu nuts and Turkish Delight
or know the bolt of Arabica coffee sipped from a demitasse
with a bite of beyaz peynir cheese.
I will not heed the imam call to prayers,
look to the minarets to guide me to the Sultanamhet mosque,
wrap my Pashmina over my head, shoulders, slip off my shoes
find my place among the women,
stand, kneel, touch my head to carpet, stand.
The prayers a requiem for the dead, the dying.
I will not haggle with the rug dealer as he and his cousins
roll open another hand-knotted Anatolian carpet, blood
red, starred with indigo and gold blossoms.
“This one. Ma’am, this one best for you.”
It will not arrive on my doorstep months later
wrapped in burlap, unfurling a scent of shisha smoke.
I will not see girls, braids bouncing as they skip
to the jump rope’s beat, the sing-song song.
Boys dribbling, rising to layup, block an imaginary basket.
The ball tapping from outstretched hand to hand,
skittering off down the dirt alley, mothers pulling
aside curtain doorways to scold.
I will not eat charred sheep kebaps
or drink rati and pick lüfer off the bone by the Bosphorus
imagining Ottoman trading ships navigating its length.
I will not journey to the Hattusas
as the sun illuminates history, stories, what remains
from thieves, Pergamon’s curators, ancient battles
like this war: the remnant of an Imperial tapestry,
a lost province, gaming foreign powers, the Euphrates
knotted near the border, its mouth burned dry.
~Krabi, Thailand 2013
Our bed smells of coconut milk. Outside
the tide washes through splay-fingered
mangrove roots, leaving a lacy stitch
with each wave
as a fisherman heaves
his longboat onto the beach.
An acacia tree shades
the gardenia bush beside
this pink house on stilts,
A boy riding a lemon-colored motorbike,
drops boxes of peppers
at the kitchen door.
Across the road,
the sign stabbed
into the grass warns
Edging the jungle,
a golden girl
nests in the pungent
branches of a mango tree.
She sees beyond
the ocean’s edge,
the earth curving away,
pulling the tide like a blanket.
At first I wanted to keep you
like a sweet yellow plum
I picked on a New Hampshire back road
at the slick start of day
blackberries slipping brambles, tar sticky
as you were at birth
tucking your little wings
against the sweat
and seep of my milky body
I held you till morning
to see you in the light that bled
through the window
when it came time to name you
I scrawled your name
gave you a father
gave myself away
like the bride I wasn’t/was
mother so happy
mother to a boy
plucked from the ashes of a fire
with the thought of you angel
you ribbon-tailed kite
flight flight flight
over fruited lands.
A Girl’s Guide to the Galaxy
I hadn’t seen stars in ages sky tarred with winter’s brush
tonight they turn on one by one as if stirred to life by motion
lighting a path home I could follow it build a house in the galaxy
its milky wonder my milky tea
would I stand on my porch at night look for Earth—
for the girl discovering sea stars in tidal pools
the woman lying in a field in Bourgogne inhaling stars
before hitchhiking on to Florence love waiting counting on stars
to guide her up into a Himalayan night as the moon
summits Everest slips into China.
time backbends stretches
a yogi centering to nothingness
a burning starry universe
from my celestial perch
I see myself raise my son’s finger
to trace the big dipper little dipper
honey onto this
and every night.
A Clean Kitchen
Sometimes I worry that the world’s got a cold heart. Will it ice over like food left too long in my freezer, little crusts of frost growing fungus under the Tupperware lids? My freezer needs to be cleaned & by that I mean the refrigerator must be cleaned, everything pulled out, shelves wiped & by that I mean the kitchen too, oven, range, cabinets & by that I mean the whole fucking house & the raised beds in the garden need to be planted & the house & the garden where I write at my desk with the dog’s dirt & fur curled around my bare toes & the hum of the refrigerator reminding me it wants to be cleaned. I just read a poem from a poet that wants a clean heart, but I want a clean kitchen & a clean poem & frost-free heart.
Ease into the wind
I remember my father’s
Directive—hold a firm tiller
into the wind, sails luffing.
Sail in, come up, catch the wind’s
edge. I know to ride its strong thrust,
anger seething along a straining seam
blowing apart, when to fall
off, let the wind
rage on past. To need
no one, to sail solo.
How It Ends
I think of you. I see our road,
pavement worn, an elephant hide
smudged, yellow line dividing
our coming and going; you,
like the furred grass, shoulders edging
down the sloping hill
to the stone beach. Now I hear the gulls
swooping into the sea.
I’ve walked beneath the moon’s slice
until the jagged glass under
my skin polished sea smooth. You are
my blue washed days.
We untangle our garden
exhale persimmon sun.
the Orcas breach.
In the woods behind our home
a massive hornet’s nest, emptied.
A gossamer paper lantern, we
light a candle, send it burning
into the night. Ah, the hopes of hornets,
you and me. The road ends here.
Give a Girl Chaos