Frankenstein; or, The Presence Chamber

Among the distant
inequalities of the ice
by some law
in my temperature
I was so guided
with a child’s blindness
like a child
picking up shells
And thus for a time
I was occupied
by exploded systems
till I beheld
a stream of fire issue
from an old
and beautiful oak
by such slight
that even then
hanging in the stars
in his kindling eye
I was now alone
Angel of Destruction
Useless elixir of life
Invisible world
with its instruments
of bringing to light
Derange their mechanisms
that the stars
often disappeared
in the light
of the structure
to the receptacle
of bodies
I was alive
Which brooded over me
White and shining
Giver of oblivion
Take their rise
in the icy wall
of the glacier
overhung me
the silence
of this glorious
presence chamber
I saw felt heard
and smelt
at the same time
between the operation
of my dark
opaque bodies
feeling pain
and a radiant form
rising among the trees
the little winged animals
who often intercepted
broke from me
“Fire” “milk” “bread” “wood”
was Father
although I longed
more deeply
to discover myself
when the heavens
poured forth water
was starlight
of my creation [1]
or creator
I wept
this being
You must create
among the undulations
of the sea of ice
the corpse
the monstrous Image
the disastrous future
and I seek
the everlasting ices
of the North


[1] The people leave a ravaged kingdom behind them: their parking lots are like deserts, or coastal shelves Sun Sep 19 2010 23:33:36 (CDT) via web from Framingham, MA


Published in Meridian, May 2009, Issue 23. [PDF of “Frankenstein, or, The Presence Chamber”]

Occupation: Dreamland

(for Garrett Scott, November 19, 1969 – March 2, 2006)

Occupation Dreamland

Those boys, the ones you filmed in Fallujah,
they were drowning too. That’s why
when they patrol the streets of that desert city
in night vision, in your film, I can’t watch it anymore
not without feeling this pressure
behind my eyes and inside my ears for softly then,
you opened your mouth inside the god,
at the bottom of the deep end, the sunlight
slides in at an angle through the leaded windows
to the rustling of fir needles and here I am
at a writers’ colony, 6 weeks
after I met Lt. Basik at your wake, on crutches
because they had to amputate his foot.
It’s unthinkable: to have filmed, for the very first time,
an I.E.D. exploding, not 60 feet away from your humvee,
only to return to San Diego a year later
and have a heart attack in a swimming pool.
Lie back, turn onto one side,
carry a palm across my chest in a free-style crawl.
The pressure just grows.
When I press my palms to my ears and cry out,
trying to feel each auricle with fluid submerged,
all I can hear is each second curiously undoing the next
but instead of water flooding into your lungs, the light,
God’s syrup, streams through this place, released
from that moment your heart exploded
without a sound (though my eardrums are ringing still),
from that place where you wait at the deep end without a body.
There’s a crucifix on the wall, missing its christ.
I wait here too in an empty bed, a human pudding
the ooze in your golden locks
has been laved into, into a nectar,
scratched by the scamper of a squirrel’s feet on the copper roof,
the sound of those locks being picked. Open up.
The god will still be screaming at his feet, deaf;
this clothed, naked ape
still occupying the bed instead of ash,
chips of bone, preserved in honey in a funeral urn.
And your body sinks so decisively
to the bottom, even though
they’ve already divided up your ashes between them:
one syllable cancels out the next
to the tune of the sidling light, the pearling
of a turtle dove, the weeping horses.
It is blood that is streaming and blood that is spilled.
You can see right through it, like water, or air,
having passed back through my lungs,
and so it has been twice made,
at the exact same weight we shared, 49 kilos,
once for you, once for me,
and the balance of that weight now
is zero. I can feel it, a little tremolo when I talk.
And if somebody has been erased,
replaced by these glittering needles,
then it isn’t hard to imagine
that everything, just this once, has been uncreated,
especially this copper light,
that kneeling inside of it
would be like kneeling underwater,
and to cry out when you did as it withdrew,
leaving behind this alienated substance
in the place of your body, in which I lie,
it’s like touching the copper mask
of my own face, through which I can see
drops of sap burning in the late light,
a sleek honeyeater,
balanced with its tail against the trunk.
There’s a tiny waterfall in the distance, silent and white.
I have come to occupy this body for a while,
where the smeared face of it goes
in human form, on this piece of paper:
“I have many faces, but only one is branded to my skin,”
even as the light completes its favorite trick
of draining away. The occupation begins now,
in a darkened room: I am wakened again
into my fear of touch.

Published in The Briar Cliff Review, 2008, Vol. 20.

Icarus, In Moonlight

Icarus, In Moonlight

It was the weight of the child in her belly
caused those wings to fail Icarus, in moonlight
but then, my heart writhes tonight
in skyfuls of falling bodies luminously cold.

That’s why each splash of hidden light,
in a trick of the eye, comes like a body
falling into the sea.
Why it projects me forward into a single,

deranged—until this dark,
missing light has searched my veins
for an ocean to fall into & moved on, once the sky
is shedding the sky in unimaginable bodies,

turning in a low nocturne of exhausted moonlight
to appear on these pages, then fade. Some nights,
when I write too long,
hunched over the lunar papers, a sharp

aching pain shoots up & down my right arm
from the place in my shoulder blade
where cruel boys might have pulled out an appendage.
Then these exhumed pages must serve as wings,

coming apart in the cold light,
now that I’ve come out here, as I often do,
into the forest, by the lake, by Blood Creek,
to track the disappeared moonlight by its gurgling. But then,

the sky has shed the body
of its luminous daughter through me [1]

at the rate of a missing moon & tonight

the moon does not rise.

The only hint of a maze in that moonlight
was the way sea & sky
continued to reflect one another in her eyes as she fell,
the way it had become entangled in that rope but still

the foetus jumped within her
in a sudden weightlessness that consists of how
right now, the actual moon drifts,
unseen, lost in the dark waters of my eye.

If you could have seen her,
turning in that videotaped footage at the Ministry of Fates,
could have looked through the closed-circuit security camera
as Atropos, the Unturning,

looked through the unscarred face of the New Moon [2],
all those millennia ago & with a single glance,
cut her thread, you’d have seen her black hair
unspooling out behind her like a horse’s drowned mane

as she collapsed against the apex of her flight
& falls once more, released out of the sky.
Maybe you’d have turned away too, as the moon did,
to hide its suddenly pocked face in darkness—

as it has every thirty days since then,
out of pity. New light will bubble up within you instead,
now that you’re reading this, like a body
struggling for air as it rises into the sky,

climbs the snapped branches out into the open
& as you kneel here with me before the lake,
your wrist comes back up coated in silt,
disturbs the rotted leaves just under the surface but then

we can’t see this pale disc after all,
spring of its wept light, not tonight.
You can only hear the splash of a large-mouthed
bass—it must have been a big one too—

breaking free of the surface to jump clear,
then disappearing back into the center
of that widening circle,
the hole that closed around her,

& the waters of the lake heal themselves. [3]
Not on this Thirtieth Night.
It shall remain hidden but then

You carry the gene for falling.

[1] This girl, for example, who stared through the bathroom mirror, was cradling a camera in her arms 1 minute ago via web from Weymouth, MA

[2] Maybe it’s my face, drowned, unrecovered—maybe it’s 50 fadom deep like a lady’s whale-bone comb at sea-bed Wed Sep 22 2010 12:21:59 (CDT) via web

[3] Maybe the girl wears an empty locket round her neck that’d make it easier to look through her star-parted waters Wed Sep 22 2010 12:12:43 (CDT) via web


Published in Pleiades, 2011 Volume 31, #2.

New Moon

New Moon

It just slipped off my wrist & glinted a last time
on its way down, sterling silver disc, cold new moon,
disappeared into the waters when I was nine,
at the beach. & for weeks after,
I could hear my father’s wristwatch ticking,
at night, big as the ocean, as my breathing slowed. . .
That woman for instance has blue eyes
when the sky begins to glow like melted liquid sapphire tonight
& the pond burns off its heavy water at dusk.
That woman opens her blue eyes somewhere out there,
in the desert. Her gravity turns me even now [1]
nights I slip from her wrist out of bed,
then rain down her dry cheeks. Therefore, by the pond,
in the dark, I’m a moonflower. Her face is gone
but it speaks to me in extinct light.
I’m rooted like a waterlily into that disappearance when You,
Black Moon, slide down the tree limbs unseeable,
a majestic liquid being passed from tree to tree
through this portal, tethered to a body, invisible, black,
heavy, fire. Try to think with your skin she said.
Close your eyes, slide down the snapped tree limbs
but it’s too late. That’s how long it takes
to burn a single human heart at full fathom tonight,
as long as it takes the disappeared moonlight
to search the black corridor of a deer’s eye, then move on.
Black bodiless jewel, spill the liquid out of my eye in a single
whisper You leave behind in this flesh, ghostly female,
psychic whisper hollow as a god,
Speak darkly of shedding because, because—
when I remove my socks therefore, my jeans,
it’s like tearing off a bandage but slowly.
You cannot enter the sky by wading into this pond,
though the clouds hang here suspended
like cottonballs in formaldehyde.
In dark light, in liquid fire, it tells me,
You’re trapped in a body by the light of ten thousand sins.
You can’t simply disappear but this damaged self does wade away.
The entrance to the kingdom of heaven is everywhere
like the new moon but you can’t
just because you contain the sky, enter it, not down here,
not when salvation is saving up light you can’t,
not when the disappeared light bathes you in its cold,
Redtail’s cry, swift, invisible, the kind
you only hear when you’re the prey & just before,
when the dark forest in this green eye
consists entirely of rain & the horizons
touch nothing but themselves & melt, & even her blue eye
simply vanishes like a coastal shelf, or a city,
into the sea, with its voices—when sound
escapes these words, then it will happen.
I shall call my pupils Stargazer Lilies until then
because they open in the dark, they look back,
above me, into the shattered starlight, far back into the past.
They feed on this new dark light & after.
They navigate by the starchart gone out
in her drowned eye like a xerox of the ocean.
Speak to me in a distant breathing over the telephone.
Speak to me in the droning of disappeared honeybees,
Stargazer, dark light, desert honey, wild bloom,
blue eye, green eye, in a bedroom, until then:
all the vanished honeybees have surrendered
into an oceanic droning within us.
We shall inherit the Kingdom of Oblivion.
The insects shall inherit the earth.

[1] Across skyfuls of liquid sapphire now with a woman’s form in it, to where the people evade their very own lives Wed Sep 22 2010 10:53:01 (CDT) via web


Published in the Colorado Review, Fall 2011.

Seven Tweets From the Rapture

After they’d stretched my neck a swan floated in questionmark shape, dragging the machinery of its double through brackish polluted clouds

1:18 AM Sep 18th via web

After the dirty bomb went off in the city & the stars disappeared like pages of math

Mon Sep 20 2010 11:03:04 (CDT) via web

The records on the people’s god were not good, which is why their dreams filled with ropes of dark smoke

Wed Sep 22 2010 10:42:26 (CDT) via web

You want proof? All the honeybees began to vanish at once

Sat Sep 18 2010 16:42:09 (CDT) via web from Framingham, MA

What with these death commercials & assessments of future value, no wonder we descend with the citylights slowly dissolving in stomach acid

Mon Sep 20 2010 18:01:50 (CDT) via web from Framingham, MA

May I help you? May I help you in hell?

11:07 PM Sep 21st via web from Framingham, MA

Toxic Assets

Vast forests have already been sacrificed
In the marble halls of the bad bank for this:
Now that portions of the glacial ice have calved to reveal stone
That hasn’t been exposed for thousands of years,
In the secret history of my left eye, (which, incidentally,
Turns, empty & black, like the xeroxed surface of a brook)
Coastal cities simply vanish into the sea.
The planet’s been knocked off its orbit by half a kilometer,
In here, behind this tiny terraqueous globe, under great pressure,
I have stored away the tiny pearl of your face.
If I were the death of ice, I’d calve.
If I were deep waters, the birth of flesh
Would be whispered in overtones of fire.
If I were Corpus Christi, I’d simply vanish into the sea.

This poem was previously published in the Boston Review.