February 2011

Bruised Breath


Still I’m not used to these days where the sun can’t even lift

her head above the blanket of clouds

’cause where I come from

storms don’t last long

even tornadoes are come and gone quick

like a hit and run fleeing the scene before

the red light’s even turned green

leaving the wreckage behind

like the bruised purple green and gold

on her face after he leaves, the black eye

she got by accident–or so she

told the story


It was no accident,

what happened there, no natural disaster;

we’d been warned what would happen after

the big one hit and the water rose

they did nothing, though

and the storm passed

and the eye of the hurricane looked down and saw

people perching like pigeons on rooftops or

waving white sheets like wings to carry them up

to the helicopters—if only

Icarus hadn’t died in the water

if only we had wings here, instead of in the hereafter

and long after the winds had faded and rain dried

on skin, the shadow of death

loomed over the valley of that city

a bruise too big to hide, still tender

after the rest of the body

had forgot

about the terror


I’m still not used to this ache

between my shoulders

where my wings once sprouted, I’m not

used to eyes clouded

by cataracts of hate

like waterfalls spilling from the sky’s

black eye to the pavement

flooding attics as if

they was basements

I’m not used to asking for help

prefer cursing to praying for charity, grace, mercy

like the names folks used to give girls

back when they were likely to die

in childbirth or fever, or before their first kiss—see

I know too much history, it weighs me down

sinks me to the bottom

the way Icarus’s wings drowned him

and all I can see looking up

is clouds brooding overhead

bruising the sun’s face and cutting

her gold light to shreds—maybe if I wave my white feathers

they’ll come down and beat me up



Maybe if I keep quiet

won’t nobody hear my heart pounding

with dread

thump—see the lightning flash

thump—count the seconds passed

thump—between light and thunder

thump—between alive and going under

thump—then divide by your breath, what’s left of it

one mississippi

two mississippi

three mississippi



can you hear it

the wind is rising again


Every time you exhale

a tree grows another leaf

The minerals in your bones

came from oceans that long ago

washed upon distant shores

There is a dinosaur inside

of every bird, even

the scruffiest pigeon pecking

bus station crumbs

And when a fern unfurls

its revelation of a green spiral head, so

unwinds a million years of living

history, encoded in the only language

this whole planet shares, in bonds

that break and reform

like waves break upon the beach

pulling back only to ready

for another leap

like your shoulder-blades pulling back

as you draw in a deep breath

let it go

and spread out your wings

vestigial or real

for that next jump