He is crying again,
he lifts himself toward me before I reach the stairs,
his body tips like a cup
he holds out to be filled —
before I touch his hair dark with sweat
I am already tired of him
as if he were something I had spilled in a hurry,
stain I had to dull
before its bright colors soaked in
before I could go back to those silences
whose clear, bitter gins I stir —
he will not stop crying,
his cries cling to my sleeves, I try to pick them off,
I seize him, I touch his neck,
I lift him like a bottle I am about to smash


The one who should be,
the one kind as trees clasping their deadweight by the waist

hard blond fathers
shouldering their fathers over flames and floods —

If only our fathers would move back into their names
like unheated rooms

If only there were room in our names
if one could open his name

Like a dream
and let in the one sleeping beside him

If only someone would careen back into my name like a drunk
into the wrong house, the wrong woman’s arms

We drink to our names like ships we had sailed on,
like bars that never close


The one who should be,
the one who will dash back into my name
like a burning house,
that fine man who will finish my life for me
like an old friend who always wanted to marry my wife — 
he will wear my clothes
till he smells of me, he will spit into my hands, lift
and smell them as if they were his
my name will be laundered and laid out
for him to step into, a little awkwardly, leaning back on my bed
pulling it up over his thighs
Spring, Il Duce, Little Papa
In some border town the truce is broken,
seeds wake, flung
like boys from skidding cars.
From remote hills my brothers and I watched
like an old aristocracy
another civil war, another town burning, mother taken again,
madness, that grand confederacy.
I wanted to dash back, be dragged away with her,
a bright-eyed patriot.
The seasons change, stinking of their cheap wines,
vines climbing each other’s shoulders
like crowds in a newsreel
hurrahing il duce, Spring, little papa,
fat dictator on his balcony.
I want to climb a watertower,
draw a bead.
Hate presses his soft boy’s mouth on mine.
Roots soak in their baths.
Foxglove, fever flower, hawkweed, bindweed, loosestrife,
poor robin’s plantain, moth mullen,
pennyroyal, jack in the pulpit, nightshade
lucky lady — secret code
my mother had me learn
as if there were time for nothing else.
She came back, her nylons snagged on barbed wire
we bellied under, we watched for hawks,
we crawled through the tall grass,
without speaking for hours,
waving each other on
like guerrillas — When I was six,
I skinned off shoots of forsythia
and whipped myself, imagining
men making me betray her.
My sons romp below me now like city dogs unleashed,
they bail out of trees,
they fold in my arms like parachutes.
All Spring we watch flowers break surface
like drowning girls.
The Black Box
Tiring of friends, of the old cereal of their dogs
breath, of their rooms, of fish tanks
and dirty clothes on their floors,
of their mothers drinking gin out of bottles in greenhouses,
of their little sisters always watching,
watching, sucking on shirt cuffs,
of long dark wars fought under the furniture,
of crawling in and out of games
changing voices,
games, wrinkled, warm, stale with each other’s
body smells like beds left unmade

he would come home and lie on the floor in everyone’s way
and design dog-exercising machines
with levers and cranes
and caterpillar tracks and wheel gears
whose teeth turned gears that shook bars that dangled bones
always before dogs

there was always a bone
and a long lead
the dog could run to the end of — and treadmills — 
sometimes a car the dog
kept chasing, the road rewinding
under his feet — sometimes a record of thunder
or riflefire
the boy could flick on from his bed,
all night the gun-shy dogs kept running
while the boy slept — sometimes vapors of old cats
or t. bones were blown in —
sometimes there were fans to cool the dog’s legs — or sponges
and brushes and tail-cleaning devices
and mechanical hands shining the dog’s coats

as they ran — sometimes the machine
towed the dog behind it
like a toy on a string, all the parts moving
only when the machine moved —
sometimes the dog was jostled like a toy
with many moveable parts —
often they were guardrails
or guards — sometimes only a metal hand
hovering at the end
of a leash — occasionally mazes and slides
and thick shrubs
for a dog to crawl under and chew real bones,
shoulder bones, leg bones.

the boy would lie on the floor, drawing machines,
his mother stepping over him,
his father walking around him to go down into the basement
to fix the burner, his dog
leaning his weight against his legs, pressing
into the hollows of his knees
he fastened one lever to another
coiling springs
inside metal cocoons, running wire from switch
to switch — whatever machine
the boy built, there was always a black box,
a square he darkened to the side,
a case he built for the controls
he couldn’t be bothered with,
for all the mechanisms
that ran things,
that started them going,
that kept them running.