All Rights Reserved
Published by Fowlpox Press
Layout and Design: Paris Paté
“Tableau” appeared in Confluence Vol. 17
“By Hennepin Falls” appeared in Open Minds Quarterly Vol. VIII #III
“Rebirth” appeared in Spare Change May 22-June 4 2008, Evening Street Review #3,
Shenandoah Books Newsletter 2011, and Talking River #31
“Autumnal Hymn” appeared in Illumen Autumn 2007
“Itasca” appeared in Obsessed With Pipework #48
THE DAISY ROOTS UNDER
3 The First of Many
4 The Whisper of Salvation
6 By Hennepin Falls
8 Autumnal Hymn
9 The Long Winter
10 Whispered to a Mason Jar
11 Snow Day
13 The Home I Could Give A Tree
15 The Stick
16 The Place of Future Thoughts
17 Trip to the Zoo
18 Adapting to the Change
19 Sunday Afternoon at the Pond
20 The Second Plate of the Muscles
21 Until There is No Reason
22 All the Days After
23 The Nest
24 Hands Fall Like Dying Butterflies
Do not be surprised
if you put a litter of kitten in a basket of bulrushes
and float them down the river towards some uncertain doom
that they won’t come back to haunt you in some way
that you won’t find yourself looking wonderingly
in the eyes of some old stray tomcat, years later, its gaze
full of reproach, unwilling to come closer
to the daughter you thought you’d never have,
her tiny hand outstretched with want.
in my dreams, we love like snails, expel
our internal organs and wrap completely around
one another, switch skins, dig holes
finish as wet skeletons, brains unraveled like tentacles
conjoined as if in thought. I would let you
wear me like an overcoat, climb completely inside me
push out my eyes to let in sunlight
bury me completely in you.
The First of Many
The tiny eggs open and larvae unfurl
cluster at the edges of the birdbath as though
already dreaming of breaking free.
I try to explain to the assembled that I, too
am like one of those little black squiggles
a midge waiting to pupate and molt
spread wings and fly away, and that they are to ignore
the crumpled husk I leave behind.
The Whisper of Salvation
The June bug knocks at the window again and again as though
inviting me out to play, to open the window
and fly away with it. I know it’s only there
because it sees the light on in my bedroom
and it thinks that the window is that source of light
and it wants to bury itself in the glory of that light
the same way I want to crawl beneath the dead leaves out back
and hide with the earthworms and the grubs curled up in the dark.
The little June bug knocks again and again at the glass
and it sounds like tiny hands scrabbling at my second-floor window
some phantom trying to get in, with phantom promises
of escape from this tired body, from the hairbrush that never does any good
from the clothes that don’t look like they’re supposed to when I wear them
from the shoes that never take me anywhere interesting. I reach over
and turn the light off, see the flutter of golden wings against the glass briefly
just before it flies away.
When I was six, I saw
the stray cat that lived under our house
give birth and kill her kittens
short spare minutes separating
the two acts. She cried the whole time.
Now I sit in a waiting room
reading pamphlets about fetal
development, adoption options,
and welfare programs. I know
how that cat felt and wish
I’d stayed to comfort her
instead of running away.
By Hennepin Falls
When I’m with him, summers last just as long as it did
When I was a child, hand in hand on early morning walks
Chasing tiny frogs and pointing out new buds and tiny birds
The ghost swarms of fish fry in the shallows of rocky streams
Summers last just as long for me now as they did
When I was the child.
I am so afraid of the day when he outgrows all this
And thoughts of concrete and city lights appeal more than these
Wildflower excursions, catch-and-release grasshopper hunts
These days that stretch and stretch and end
In complete exhaustion and denial
Of everything sad and boring
When the world ends, I hope
I’m in my car, with a good song on the radio
and just enough coffee left in my cup
to last until the very
last second. I don’t care
how it ends, so long as I
don’t know it’s coming
or what caused it to happen.
I don’t want to live through
global starvation, a prolonged war
unending weeks of television shows
featuring children dying
somewhere else. I just want
the end to be something
impossible to prepare for
ridiculous to dread
a big shock to everyone, but especially
I want to end up
just like those mammoths
with food still in their mouths, caught
in mid-chew, mid-thought, completely
I bury their tiny heads in peat and think
Of the day when the sun warms the soil
And my children’s bodies sprout leaves and sing flowers
Into the sunshine. Raise those tiny fists high
Rejoice in the world. I don’t pray often.
Snow falls outside my window and I think
About the tiny bodies outside, the small unpeople
Obscured by dunes of white crystal
They’re only sleeping, I think
And dream of the day when roots
Climb through their bones, branches like fingers grow
Until they touch the sky.
The Long Winter
We explore the old laundry chute first
pull up old boards hammered into place
hoping to find boxes of jewels, secret love letters
find nothing but the mummified bodies of tiny mice
old birds’ nests.
We pace carefully over the wooden floorboards next
listen for changes in tone in the creaks in cracks
drop marbles in strategic spots and listen
for the hollow echoes that never come. There could be
handkerchiefs stuffed with coins, forgotten family heirlooms,
a lone, faded photograph of someone’s lost love
taped to the underside of a loose floorboard
we just have to find it.
Last of all, we pry open the old incinerator door
rusted tight after the central heating was installed
pull the tiny door open, vacuum out
seventy years of insect wings, straggly bird feathers
a hose-clogging skeleton of something small.
By the time spring comes
I will know everything about this house.
Whispered to a Mason Jar
I’m in love with the little midges
that dance in the sunlight, their green wings
fluttering so quickly that they seem suspended in mid-air.
When I die, I want to become a creature like that
cavorting in sunbeams and buffeted by the wind.
I love the little spiders, too, tiny, bright
transparent and gelatinous but full of so much potential.
Just to know that I could grow from a pinprick
a spot on a piece of paper
into a hairy brute that sent housewives screaming
to the top of chairs, a bird-killer,
something with venom powerful enough
to stop a man’s heart
I could wind my dreams about that.
I love the fireflies the best, though
blinking serenades across the water
disguising themselves as perfectly ordinary brown beetles
only unfurling their secret starlight at night.
I am also a firefly. I know
there is potential for sunshine inside me as well,
there is an unexpected brilliance
just waiting to explode.
It’s 0 degrees and the dog wants out.
“Not going to happen,” I say. “I just took you out.”
She sits in front of the door, expectantly,
whines deep in her throat as she flops her tail.
I get up and go to the kitchen, conspicuously
ignoring her request for a walk. She gets up, too
convinced we’re going outside. After a moment
she joins me in the kitchen, hoping that she can at least
talk me into giving her a treat.
There are so many things I’m supposed to be doing right now:
shoveling out the driveway, catching up on mail
baking for the kids who will be home from school soon
but instead, I’m in here, staring down the dog
determined to win just one battle today.
I never got to see Bigfoot, although
we walked along all those same paths
the other hikers had, the ones
that came back with stories about
a giant hairy creature that walked
stooped near to the ground
leaving bare footprints twice the size of a man’s
that filled quickly with water
I did see a small herd of deer
two fawns with speckled rumps struggling
to stay erect on baby legs, a lone egret
trying to pull something out of a faded beer can
a raccoon so fat it struggled to get out of my way.
But I never got to hear
the low growl or high-pitched screams
of the supposed missing link, just
the cacophony of loons, awake at midnight
hooting so mournful they could have been wolves
backlit by lightning and drowned out by thunder.
The Home I Could Give A Tree
I watch him sleeping and I want to plant his little feet
in the dirt, thwart his dreams of escape before they have time to foment
keep him safe. I would be a better mother to a tree, I think
something that lived in my back yard, grew slowly and predictably
didn’t mind my daily visits to the garden, to sit on a little bench beside him
to ramble about the passage of time. He could get older and older out there, in the yard
and I would probably remember to come out every day
to check on him, even in the middle of winter, I know I could do this much
keep the mulch off his roots, remember to water his roots until he was big enough
to do without me, and even then, I would still be here
and he could not leave.
These are the walls that keep us in: birds armed with flint
sharp claws curled, the children that will some day be
just like you, muddy footprints in the hallway. You tell yourself
you like it this way.
We huddle, arms and legs everywhere
one, children in the middle, something else
drops from the sky, dead, everything becomes rocks
fatal spear points for tracking down and killing monsters
chinking walls to keep us in.
Outside, the snow piles up, makes us safe.
The winter drags and we like it that way.
Buried deep inside your head is a feral creature
that can coax fire from flint, guard its territory
in ways never dreamed of by a small, brown ancestor.
If you hammer a stick into the ground, will it grow into a tree? Will it
stretch splinters into roots, cover itself with new bark
grow high into the air and spread branches like wings
disappear into the canopy overhead and make room only
for tropical birds?
And if that stick is really a spear, will the metal point
disappear into the heart of the new tree, a dormant weapon
waiting for the right king to come along to pull it out
just in time to give his faltering cause absolution—
or will it simply disintegrate into the corrosive sap of the tree
become black and twisted before breaking into dust?
The Place of Future Thoughts
A crazy lady who says she’s my mother is giving a lecture on dark matter
to a large group of crazy ladies in the other room, all of which
claim to be scientists of some sort of another, which worries me because
I know for a fact they are not scientists. The lady who says she’s my mother waves
a piece of paper in my face, says she’s even written a paper
on the subject, on dark matter
it’s supposed to prove to me that she’s serious. She says her other scientist friends
are very interested in her revelations on the universe, of the origins of myth
on the paths stretching into the past and future of humanity
but she won’t let me read what she’s written.
Upstairs are two children who are supposed to be mine, and I wonder
how much of the nodding and agreeing that goes in my house
is simply to placate my own insanities and inanities. The lady who is my mother
wonders why I don’t speak up more in crowds, in groups
why I don’t share my own theories about the relationships between
the opening of tiny flowers in the morning and the art of trephination
the sound of lightning and the invention of the wheel
with more people, how come if she’s brave enough to speak her thoughts out loud
why I keep my own ravings so still and quiet.
Trip to the Zoo
The gorilla pokes the bent cigarette into the tiny hole and pushes it down
with his black, stubby finger. He falls back on his haunches and stares
at the cigarette, the stray reddish-brown strands of dried tobacco leaking
out of the crack in its crumpled middle. He sits and stares at it as if
contemplating a new unfinished or finished piece of art, as if trying to decide
if it looks better
leaning sideways in a hole in the ground or clutched once more in his
massive yet delicate hand.
Another gorilla comes to stand next to the first, sniffs at the cigarette
but does not pick it up. The first gorilla snorts loudly, some exclamation
I’m not privy to, a command, a question, a solicitation for comments
on the aesthetics of what he’s done. The second gorilla ignores the first,
instead, picks up a loose twig, uses it to poke at the cigarette with as much
care and concentration as if he was trying to play a tiny game of pool. The first
gorilla watches the second, brow furrowed but not particularly agitated
obviously in on whatever game the second is playing.
The lights flicker in the display cage and the gorillas turn expectantly
to the tiny sliding door set in one wall, wait patiently as it slides open.
A tray of carrots and broccoli and brown food pellets are pushed through the opening,
and the gorillas slowly lope to the plate to claim the best pieces. The cigarette
remains in the hole, forgotten for now, growing like a little white tree
or mushroom in the dusty dirt, the split in its side threatening to break it in half.
I briefly consider staying longer
in the hopes of learning what the gorillas are planning to do
with the crumpled cigarette next
but my son is pulling at my shirt sleeve
says he wants to look at the orangutans now.
Adapting to the Change
The sound of the surf pounds always in my head, waves
breaking, shattering on tiny translucent multi-hued pebbles
of sand, pulses constantly in the background of my day,
matches the click of heels on the hard pavement ironically
made up of tiny translucent multi-hued pebbles of sand
so much of a part of my every day that if I was to block
it out of my head, the emptiness of silence would shatter me
I miss being near the ocean so much it shatters me.
I wake and can still smell the salty spray of the ocean
from my dreams, dreams of playing in the surf with my sister,
children again, the water tugging at me in a way no
slow-moving river ever could, pulling at every part of my
fragile being in a way that no shallow freshwater puddle
Sunday Afternoon at the Pond
So long as we kept throwing bread at the big-ass
snapping turtle, he left all the other animals in the pond
alone. On the far bank we could see
bullfrogs big as your fist
a couple tiny baby turtles
a family of confused-looking ducks. I told my son
“go back in the kitchen
get some more bread
we’re almost out”
While he was gone, the mother duck
slipped into the water, started paddling around
with her little family. The big snapper looked at me
expecting some bribe for sticking around
and receiving none, sank beneath the murky water
disappeared. Seconds later, one baby duck, then two
also disappeared, yanked down fast
like they had strings tied to their feet.
Just then, my son came back
arms loaded with stale dinner rolls. “Start throwing!”
I ordered, grabbing a few myself
hoping to save the remaining ducklings.
We pelted the spot the turtle had been
until his head popped back up out of the water
an innocent, expectant look on his dinosaur face
like he’d been waiting for us.
“I came back just in time,” said my son, pointing at the ducks.
“The turtle might’ve got those cute little babies.”
“Just in time,” I agreed
smiling at his excitement at having
saved a family of ducks. At the other end
of the pond, the mother duck and her three remaining babies
paddled contentedly in the shallows, seemingly
oblivious to the doom waiting in the water for them
barely held at bay.
The Second Plate of the Muscles
Even without his skin, he is beautiful, curves marked with letters
Rippling as he strides purposefully to the left
Of the page, eyes turned towards Heaven, hands beckoning to something
Cut off by the book’s seam, he radiates pleading, perhaps
Calling his billowing skin down from the clouds.
The palazzo lies in ruins just behind him, perhaps symbolic
Of the man whose skin was ripped from a still-pliable carcass
Perhaps not. Trees have dug their roots in between the arches of
Crumbling stonework, prying apart the clay bricks as efficiently as
The round, metal lobes of a sternum retractor.
Until There is No Reason
I will rip the flesh from their thin, white bones, suck the red, wet meat
from between their fingers and toes, I will catch them when they’re
running from the house to the water to chase the tiny frogs that dart
velvet among the blue-green river rushes, the bright yellow marsh
marigolds, the thin brown stalks of cattails and last year’s dead
floribunda. The layers of dirt and mud and smooth river rocks that separate
your/their world and mine/me will part like water, like air, like the thin
streams of fog that divide the land of the living from the land of the
dead. My hands will be real and will take them down with me,
kicking and screaming, as insubstantial and ineffectual as mist
themselves, my fingers entwined tendril-like in their fair hair, filling their ears
with my cilia and their skulls with my song. I will tell them all about the place
they will live now, and forever, with me, among the bright shards of crystal
that lie buried far beneath the earth, sparkling in the dark
where no eye can see.
All the Days After
days pass into weeks
and now even the flowers
are dead, curled brown in their vase like squirrel paws
little hands. I call
tell him to take
the vase full of withered
baby hands away. He
looks at me as if
he has something
he wants to say to me but
doesn’t dare, instead, he
takes the vase off the nightstand, takes
it out of
the house. I
can hear the trash can
lid outside slamming—metal
lid, metal can. I listen for his footsteps
downstairs, heavy boots
on wood, but
I fall asleep
sometime during the waiting.
I pull the bird’s nest from its cradle of branches, turn it over in my hands.
Some studious bird has woven bright strips of plastic in with the straw
pasted a round piece of newspaper in at the bottom. There are birds
that use spiderwebs as glue, weave their nests
entirely out of feathers and grass, others
that seek out bits of aluminum foil for decoration.
I carefully put the little nest in the lilac bush, hope that someone will use it
this season as well. I don’t know what a well-made nest looks like
from a bird’s point of view, don’t know if this one is any more spectacular
than another. It’s amazing that those tiny feet and beaks
can pull bits of grass and string together
to make something like this, strong enough to raise a clutch in
strong enough to last a winter in my back yard.
Hands Fall Like Dying Butterflies
Let’s call this love: the waves folding over your head
like the wings of a tent flap, the suffocating confines
of warm blankets in a morning you don’t remember entering
the heavy arm of a stranger thrown over your chest that won’t let you go.
This, let’s call this last breath: home, the sinking resignation
of concrete boots pulling you across the threshold into the kitchen
the anchors that tie you to the stove, the ballast bags of screaming children
that know who you are and why you’re here
even if you don’t. Here, this place you belong
we’ll draw a circle around it on the map
so you know where you’re supposed to be, a tiny point engulfed
in winged possibility that you will never know, those dreams
will not be allowed to hatch.
There are alarms set to different times all through this house
and your feet know when and where to take you to answer them all.