Wearing Down Centuries of Sediment

Geoforming in virtual abstract

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As I’m sure most of you know, a trans woman was attacked in a McDonald’s bathroom last week, and the attack was recorded and put up on YouTube (here’s a link to Lisa Harney/Questioning Transphobia’s very smart news round-up about the story). The whole situation is awful, disgusting, depressing, and I don’t have much to say about it beyond that — except that Rachel turned me on to this excellent video response/commentary from laidbaqq, and I appreciate it, and thought I’d share. (Thanks for putting this on my radar, Bella.)

Thanks for the post Gina, and thanks to laidbaqq for speaking up

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I keep waiting for the moment to unmake itself
because a man who now lives in that house by the river I lived in when the skylight was shattered by a diving hawk, panicked and fleeing in a thunderstorm, has perfected the art of stacking sets of large stones in unlikely patterns of size and shape, sturdy enough to withstand a strong wind and weak earth tremors
because we’ve taken to smoking cheap tobacco to curb our hunger, food money spent on alcohol like we’re in some cheesy, overdone slum narrative
because grass now grows over the root scar left when men unearthed the blackened tree stump after it was stuck for the second time by lightning
because I keep looking at the lines in my hands that belong to someone older than me
because life follows a pattern, and no I wasn’t surprised    or maybe part of me was
that part that finds new things to hope for, nothing like god, but still opening windows after I’ve bolted the front door shut
so I’ll keep waiting, and I don’t think it’ll be long
Fog collects and condenses on the pine needle’s point, a drop of water to fall cold on my naked neck
And yeah, I’ll know what to do then

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Between her knit eyebrows, the crease is a detail missed. My mother stares at the glass sliding door across the kitchen counter into a winter garden. Her elbows pressed to her floating ribs, hands dripping over the casserole dish, red to the wrist with the sauce she dipped corn tortillas into. She does not see on my face the look of inquiry- eyebrows raised- I move towards her, shoulder touching shoulder, my hands as red as hers. I kiss the place on her temple where gray roots appear between dye jobs. She closes her eyes and for a moment leans heavy against me, our four hands hovering like a last bell peal or back-winging robins, red-breasted. Then it is back to work and the deepening crease.

That same crease on my brother’s face is a remembered indignity, on mine, a thought escaping. My sister’s crease for her nihilistic neutrality. My father has a different crease- seen less often. Predicting, like a heavy cloud horizon.

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Dear Barbara

I’ve been spending too much time dancing on cliffs edge

spinning in place, hands outstretched

and splayed 

like leaves to catch what’s falling.


I’ve stopped smoking cigarettes

and mint julips are hard to come by at this altitude

so the days no longer bleed together like first-washed laundry.


My skin glows red where it was last touched

and my moving leaves neon streaks

in the pale of proximate ozone:


Singularly willful in my defiance of your proposed end.

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List poem

I. After hearing the third love song in a row on my sister’s car radio, I turn the volume down and press on the thumbnail of my left hand until the flesh underneath turns from pink to white.

II. The falling rain sounds like your breath escaping through clenched teeth.

III. The fact of the matter is: writing poetry is nothing like the sweeping up of sawdust and other debris.

 IV. Some rainy Thursday night-some nameless boy: our eyes met on BART and I followed him home. The look (was it hope?) on his face as our sweat and flesh commingled disturbed me so that I was compelled to flip him over and press his face into the pillow, which he didn’t seem to mind.

V. You sell flowers in your father’s shop. It is on the pretext of flowers that I sometimes visit.

VI. The fact of the matter is: writing poetry is nothing like the nibbling of rats on electrical circuits under the hood.

VII. While walking down Valencia we pass a Tapas restaurant where the antique furniture shop that had those chairs shaped like giraffes that I loved used to be. I say out loud “the desert never changes.” You do not understand and pretend you did not hear.

VIII. The fact of the matter is: writing poetry is nothing like the angry sex we sometimes have.

IX. I take the coffee offered by my father on the porch of his small cabin with the view. We do not talk about our lives but instead pretend to agree on simple statements. That things are getting better, gradually. That people truly want to understand one another.

X. Song oxidizes- decays on our exhalations. In a vacuum, sound waves cannot travel.

XI. One damp Sunday, you were working; I went to the house of a man with five cars. As he moved inside me, I ran my fingers through his hair and discovered the seam where his toupee was woven onto his head. I knew then that he would pay for my expensive dinner.

XII. The fact of the matter is: writing poetry is nothing like wringing the necks of pigeons wounded on the wing by rounds of buckshot.  

XIII. I will lay my head in the muddy grass and see how long the day takes to pass if I do not think of you.

XIV. My young brother is in love, and speaks of love with fervor that is not usually in his character. I marvel at rhetoric’s weight.

IV. Three-fifty-two a.m. gleams blue from your bedside alarm clock as I move in close to kiss your sleeping shoulder in secret. Your skin tastes the way my tongue does after I’ve licked the head of a nine volt battery. Your skin smells like…

XVI. I don’t know what your skin smells like.

XVII. When I visit my mother, we will spend the day smoking pot and drinking white wine with ice cubes and cooking for my siblings. She will undoubtedly ask me if I am seeing anyone.

XVIII The fact of the matter is: writing poetry is only a little like the look I give you when you purse your lips and shrug your shoulders and tell me nothing.

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The subarctic tundra. But only if I had some large, magical snow-beast to ride around on.

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Lion Skin

Back when my palms were sand dollars and fingers less like spider’s legs

I would lay face down on the floor of an upstairs room in my grandmother’s house

gripping the grate that looked

down through the rafters

to the kitchen where my family laughed and smoked cigarettes

                        I would pull my face to the grate and breath in the heat

                          of woodstove and roasting venison, tobacco and mint

                          cindering to powder         red wine exhalations

         brassy voices drifting up through oak beam supports where copper pots

                                               hung on hooks

                                                                            outside rifle rounds got fired

                                                                                 from a creaking deck

                                                                           the blasts affronted the silence

                                                                        the mountains sent them back

             some painstaking days I loosened the screws with too-long nails and   

   opened the grate to peer through

         below me the open mouth

          of a taxidermied cougar pinned to the wall

       its pelt flayed and stretched out like a baseball diamond

                                      tail trailing down

days I would reach

down through the hole

fingers small pink starfish

stretched to catch my grandmother’s attention

hoping to bring her gaze upward from her leather skin on the stirring spoon

        or failing that

            reach down to touch the brush bristle lion’s fur

            which felt like no living thing

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I felt you stumble
        vibrations in the floor
            creaking of backwards windmilling limbs (I had been dancing)               intake of breath
            inhalations you forced out
                   watch out
                            skin of the knee splitting open
        the way pomegranates do when they ripen
            yellow pain behind my eyes   my hand on the edge
    of the thick cut sold oak
                    with spilled nectar crushed from
red seed’s flesh staining dark stained wood
            a table
 one of the few pieces we loaded into your truck we took to our new apartment         covered by living lines     an irregular hole in its center     
weathered in while the tree still stood
    and lived
 we dreamt on its former inhabitants             owls were my favorite

somedays I would reach through its center    limbs would sometimes get stuck
    your eyes like hubcaps
            perfectly round
an owls look of neutrality  really
different on my face

tenants change     so too do the eaving spaces

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Your message machine
calls out in clipped syllables, whistle-
tones pitched to the shriek of twisting metal.

The light blinks red:
red the color of wagging tongues, of licking flame.

You move about at a shuffle, leaving trails
of empty floorspace in the prevalence of domestic debris.
You sense a siren more than hear it.
Flashing lights red the color of a blood signature, of valentine’s
day gift cards.

In glossy screens and steamy
window panes you search your reflection for something dissimilar.
Shatter. Cut fingers on the shards of yourself. Bleed red.
Red the color of mourning.

Soot in your hair. Tear in your shirt.