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Category: Poems



I wish I could tell you more about the man
bent over the drawing of his daughters
Sofi and Sonia, how like Saint Bartholomew
in Rembrandt’s painting, the man becomes so intent
that his pencil is now another finger,

and the man himself leaves, as though absorption
in what one loves calls the being from the body,
and being, the only true state, shapes the careful eyes
and lips of his girls. I would like to tell you the man’s name,
but I am sworn to silence on the prisoners I work with.

Were it possible to portray the man
accurately, his skin sewn in a tight weave
of tattoos, I would start with his eyes,
tell you how I see in them the brown loaves of bread
his mother made, his mouth about to form what he is unable to say.

What we cannot utter must write its meaning elsewhere—
the fragments of language building the innovative.
If there is a heaven of words, or at the very least
a storage place, what goes unspoken must send its roots

into a future we know nothing about.
It’s yard recall, but the man, still absorbed, draws
his daughters, his head so close to the paper
that he could be outlining himself—
the shapes of their lovely mouths,
butterflies with spread wings.

The Butcher’s Apprentice

                     Hawai’i Pacific Review, 2006


First he showed him how to hold the cleaver,
where to make the best cut,
said to keep his eye on the meat’s grain,
hold the blade steady,
and how beautifully the meat opened
on the maple chopping block,
gracious host to its own body,
the apprentice wiping his bloodied hands
across his heavy cotton apron;
his sigh, such finesse,
a sigh a lover might make,
satisfied before ultimate
pleasure—but, no climax here,
only the calm of knowing

one did the other body right,
and can’t you tell
that the one being trained
seeks the best advice to finish meat,
especially since fine butchery is nearly extinct,

for why else
would the Master train
the hand coming back to fingers,
to opening, carefully at first,
the red flesh that was once desire.

The Holiness of Potatoes

THE HOLINESS OF POTATOES                                            Seattle Review 2006

While I count my potatoes’ worth,

calculate how much they’ll yield the village,

they widen their space against silence.

They push with the walls of their skin

against the unknown, peel back

their desires. Today, I grabbed a wheel-

barrow to cart them inside, bent at the tub,

rinsed their pretty heads, a scrub brush

in hand. When I wash something else,

I also cleanse myself. Who dare flaunt

the fluency of growth, how a spud’s roots

sink to take hold? I too have known

moments inside earth where each birth

was promise of something else. I slept as my

potatoes sleep, mute at the breast of depth.

There have been potatoes I’ve favored

more than people. Because of their adherence

to mystery. How it works to enhance.

Even the earth-worm knows the richness

of tubers cloaked in their drab burqas,

how all things wrap into something for comfort.