Collage Poem

Conversations with Mother


You have to enter the forest to meet its characters. The buffalo is about being tamed and untamed. As well as preserving, classifying and displaying. “Can you see the air?”

A peach-infused pink rug, light turquoise brushed up against the walls. Windows shudder, rooms heave as if turned by a broken machine: trying to simulate that which cannot be simulated.

Without guilt or limits or satiety or exhaustion.

One huge eye, no wings, and long, curving legs.  All its feathers sketched in, but with such tiny marks, they look like fur.  This on a set of plates in your cupboard.

She grinds the cigar embers out with the toe of her white sandal.  Three bracelets on each wrist, and even their rattle sounds mournful, mortal.

Her lap: a grid of imperfect white dots against a black background.

Sword = snake. “Thing” to sleep against with a cold sharp grasp.

“Stupid dog”, she calls, “It’s not even supper yet.”

“What kind of animal is this?”  Ashtrays, paper plates. “Do you even know its name?” Just sits and stares blindly, forgetting everything.

One glass jar containing one hair bow, one gem razor, one pair tweezers, and  one set rubber “hillbilly” teeth.

You worry about hurting the bird as you eat, about scraping her skin or beak.

The mouth of the sink speaks slowly, in a voice you almost recognize.

“Give me your hand,” she insists, “I’ll break it down for you.”



(Notes: Some lines taken from Spalding Gray’s It’s a Slippery Slope (1997), PRINT, 66.4 August 2012, Freaks, by Leslie Fiedler (1978), and The Wonderworld of Science, by Warren Knox (1940).

kind of a rewrite

Electric Light Orchestra



You lie on your back, singing,

don’t bring me down.


We’re both on the roof,

but only one of us falling –

it’s that kind of party. 


Pop tarts, cigarettes, grape soda —

a broken razor we use

to cut the bad out,

a pink lighter that almost works.


The scenery passes us

three times in black and white.

Your glasses wobble, rise like stoned butterflies.


I’ve tried various ways to forget:

flowers, drugs, electrocution.


The lawn after,

a mouthful of poison emeralds.


It’s been so long, everything smells

like the back of someone’s van;

even the dog ducks away, refusing to talk.

more girly ghosts

Q & A

Are you serious about this?

Here’s your suspense: the story ends with a puff of smoke.

The past approaches on tiny thread-legs, toddling across my plum-colored pillow, rolling in my perfumed hair.

How can I talk when you’re so far underground?

It’s been so long, everything smells like the back of someone’s van.

You once told me, you can’t keep comparing animals to other animals.

We were both on the roof, the sun coming up, but only one of us was jumping — it was that kind of party.

I’ve tried various ways to forget: flowers, drugs, electrocution.

Then, dawn didn’t break so much as swarm into view. Those green shards hid you for months, even the dog ducking away, refusing to sing.

Remember my purple hands?  Pop tarts and grape soda, a pink lighter that worked half the time.

What were you steering for?

more tiny claws and bites

What Got Loose Inside

And so, after ten each night, the animals in the walls stumbled near the ceiling, spoke in low, broken voices, rustled to and fro. I had no idea things like that could be

ended with traps or poison; I grew up thinking that all walls were gnawed thin, infested: sleeping with a heavy flashlight under my pillow to club whoever got close.

like a YA thriller, the animal gods trample my offerings

Notes Towards an Autobiography


Last night, the moon was a limping fox
whining at my door and trampling my offerings:
blue bowls of newspapers, burnt pencils and curdled milk.

I fear the purple lips of my father after wine.

I miss the breath of my horse, how he would tear at my blonde hair.

I love the unhemmed edges, the broken tooth, the self wallowing
in its own pink jail cell.


In my dreams, I ride my mother’s cow over a cliff and learn to fly.

Most of the time, I am climbing the walls of my tree house.

I fear the wasps drown my voice.

My childhood was a boat unbuilt each night
above a marsh of beer and old blood.

I learned to read by the light of the villagers’ torches,
ignoring the pitchfork tines as they tickled my ribs, my spine.

Prevent Widfires

Only You Can

You’re in the form of a redwood hunched and weeping in the corner. You forgot your lunch pail and none of the other trees will share with you. “Isn’t this a great sunny day?” I whisper to you. You sniff wetly, but I’m hoping you’ll still discuss the weather with me – redwoods are great predictors of rain and I’m planning an outdoor encounter group this weekend.

You teleport to the other side of the river, then stagger and throw up.  Trees do that sometimes when they’re upset; they can’t really control it.  I offer you some newspaper to cover up the mess.

“Are you the literal queen?” you say.  I can’t tell if you’re being sarcastic.  I think of the matches in my pocket, then feel guilty for thinking of matches.

Smokey the bear appears by the river, scooping sand into his pail.  He is shirtless, as usual.

“Mr. Smokey,” I say as I bend next to him, “Are the woods on fire?”

“It’s Smokey,” he growls, “just Smokey.”

my childhood, as directed by David Lynch



Under the mattress

in the guestroom, I couldn’t find the word

for “enough”. The word for


“born animal”.

The what kind, the what kind.  Police whispering, entering

the kitchen, slipping out my bedroom



The crackle of deer picking through bottles in the backyard.

A room rustling with my party


dresses, the hems

undone, dangling: a roomful of staircases, colored like a dog’s

mouth. The weather pulled from my


brother’s ear,

the rain in a soup bowl, in a tureen. The tea kettle always pacing,

turning.  Without warning, a stove,


a hidden panel

full of lettuce, full of sugar packets.  My boots lined up by the door,

their tongues torn. The drawer full of parts,


full of nail

parings and teeth. “Someone touches a part, they control your heart!”

Someone shouting, someone muffling


a shout.

Singing by the fireplace at breakfast, but not after dusk. All

the frosting tastes of furniture polish, all the curtains


taste like tires,

or the bottom of his foot. Trees bowing until they break, the shards

weeping yellow, sharp as the wrong word


for “electricity”,

for “please,” not, “pleases”. Miniature steam rollers made of metal,

used for discipline. Someone



his footing every night around the half-full pool,

no one startled by the splash.

Dodge Dart, 1972, weird shift mechanism

The Dodge

I’m watching my mother drive while she and my father argue. My father tells her, “Don’t think about it, it just makes you sad.” The girl in the backseat pushes herself forward and starts fiddling with the radio. Monster Mash comes on, much too loud. “The procedure’s not as complicated as you think,” my father yells as my mother swerves around a child in a spiderman costume. I’m not feeling anything yet, or maybe just a pinch. More children, dressed like pirates and insects, lurch into view.

The steering wheel has disappeared, and there’s a pumpkin on my mother’s lap. The pumpkin is moldy, collapsing, and she looks as if she doesn’t want to touch it — she holds it with just the tips of her fingers. Children swarm into the car. My father snaps a space helmet over my mother’s head and adjusts the neckpiece.

The girl in the backseat starts crying again, but I remember she was always crying, messy tears the size of acorns, with a sound like a kitten caught in a sewer. “He says we don’t have enough,” my mother tries to say to the children as they open and lift her purse, her skirt, but the words are muffled through her plastic faceplate.