Poems from Flood Song

I strike a wet match on his wooden mind,
stash my invitation behind his waterless eyes,
and pencil in the first unmarked box:

Dark matter in the blue scarf,
            crumpled map, smashed compass,
                              back there—I can feel the faces of wolves.



Flicking off the light switch.
Lichen buds the curved creases of a mind
pondering the mesquite tree’s dull ache
            as it gathers its leaves around clouds of spotted doves—
                        calling them in rows of twelve back from their winter sleep.

Doves’ eyes black as nightfall
shiver on the foam coast of an arctic dream
           where whale ribs
                      clasp and fasten you to a language of shifting ice.

Seeing into those eyes
you uncoil their telephone wires,
gather their inaudible lions with plastic forks,
tongue their salty ribbons,
            and untie their weedy stems from your prickly fingers.

You stop to wonder what like sounds like
when held under glacier water,
how Ná ho kos feels
under the weight of all that loss.



They inherit a packet of earth
hear its coins clank in a tin box

push them aside
reap thick strands of night from thinning black hair.

They climb the staircase clenching branches of pens filled with ducks’ blood

and follow the butcher’s bed into this room—
            goose feathers thorning out of their eyes.

They promise to never look down again
down is just a speck of globe dust

                                              just coins clanking in the tin box.


Breath, steam,
            who could tell the difference.  

An ax in his hand,
he heard a crow digging wren eggs
from beaks tied with eyelash hair
and asked the summer,
“What happened in the ellipses?
What happened when gunfire blew into
     their speech
and left one language hanging by a nail
at the entrance of mouths
flooded with such things as the down
     of drowned herons
and the mud-covered hooves of drought
kicking at the rain-stained earth
devoured by minutes and seconds
sticking to their shoes like sap,
their onions peeled back,
bees dangling like half moths out of their eyes?”



I bite my eyes shut between these songs.

They are the sounds of blackened insect husks
                                            folded over elk teeth in a tin can,

they are gull wings fattening on cold air
                       flapping in a paper sack on the chlorine-stained floor.

They curl in corners, spiked and black-thatched,
stomp across the living-room ceiling,
pull our hair one strand at a time from electric sockets
and paint our stems with sand in the kitchen sink.

They speak a double helix,
zigzag a tree trunk,
bark the tips of its leaves with cracked amber—

         they plant whispers where shouts incinerate into hisses.