When the sister becomes a burden
I drop her at the railroad tracks,
her head a turquoise bauble.

When the sister grows too heavy
I take her to the convenience store
and trade her in for a pack of gum.

When my sister regresses into tantrum
I bind her in skeins of Mother’s yarn
and infinity signs of father’s cosmology.

I dress for her in a sack
when we pose for pictures
so she can stand pretty and be noticed.

Two PhD’s delivered our infant bodies
to Amerika, so I make myself less than
a person for her sake.

I try to forgive this stunt as well—
my child self mortgaged as caregiver.
My sister and I live alone in a deep well

where moon and sun change places
according to the whims of dead parents.
Bring me effigies and voodoo dolls.

My pins wound the heads of puppets.
My needles stick in the dictators’ craw,
fanning every which way.


You could say cottonwood falls to earth.
You might say the white fluff contains catkins.
Neither of these statements is wrong. They miss
the point, which is that cottonwood
makes a crevice, an outline, signals

the end of May, the beginning
of a summer always come too soon
to allow happiness, pleasure, comfort.
Driven here and there by wind, a blizzard
for those unnerved, inarticulate hungers.

Number the trees along the boulevard.
You could say softness, like sex, is a thing
of the past. Perhaps your face caves in,
your eyelashes shorten beneath the gaze
of a German optometrist who would

explain propagation as a matter
of numbers. Irrational to the end,
these wishes still enter through sliders,
accompany you in the car, stick
to light sweaters. May you be well, a friend

writes, thinking to cheer you up.
Whether the seeds rise or fall
sickness has taken root in your sleep.
The architecture’s ruined. For proof, stage 4
doubles as dream-time. How can you rescue

the other, lighter woman, the one
who was drowned by a mask in order
to save two lives? Her infant grew beyond
the hospital and left mama behind
to fend off these intrusive peddlers.

To My God in His Affliction

Yellow tanagers thread the great wood.
We are told suffering
builds character, told of One who came to wear
a crown of thorns, to die for our manifold sins,
to free the body of its weight.

I watch the yellow tanagers needle the great wood
behind the house, I see the same gray carpet
under my feet. I walk into the mundane
as into a city whose gates close behind me.
Where the rash spreads, I hear the voices

of May birds for whom all is green and blooming.
Rectangular screens keep all
but the smallest gnat
and the largest wolf spider from entering
the house to which I have come

chained with hours,
alone with no words to exchange—
no laughter, no children, no toys.
How imagination chafes beneath the mass
of this dull sun meant for another world.