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Legal Studies Forum, Vol. XLI, No. 1 & 2, 2017

Restraining Order 

I am watching the freckles

on the back of my fingers

multiply and divide like

lovers under the lens.  The

speaker at my podium

says:  He's my pimp.  Tore

a branch from a tree.   Beat

me.  The branch broke.

I am lifting the law books

down, a  browning obsolete

boulder older than I am,

the weight of a witness

of losses.  The letters of the

law chew on my fingernails,

and now she is saying:

Choked me  . . .  can't

remember the rest.

I am skin closed in

this chair in this black cloth

swallowing more water these days

staying tempered, staying cool,

a surgeon dusting her hands

for powder burns, and suddenly

I look at her, wide-eyed, broken: 

He shouted he'd

kill me.  I don't know if he will.

I am blotting the battered  bench

with a clawed Kleenex, aligning my

pencils just so.  She says justice.  She says

justice.  She says:  He dragged me by my hair. 

My head broke the mirror. 

Do you need to see the pictures?  

 

A Mother's Advice to her Children

 

If you ever get the chance, live with an artist.

Live with an artist and you begin to notice

the shapes of things. 

Even the air around the enormous

sprig of forsythia

in the beer bottle,

the way its presence

makes the room fade away,

its relationship with the white wall,

its simple canvas.

 

Live with an artist and expect food

to slow cook all day

just for the odors of chiles,

the moisture in the kitchen

the falling apart of the meat inside the pot.

You needn't gather the cats.  They will find you.

 

Move in with an artist at least once.

Plant plenty of daffodils,

whatever you can afford. 

And study the light

all day and in every season

before you decide to do

much else.

 

Live with an artist. 

Stay as long as you can. 

Leave if you must, then live with

an accountant.

 

Poetry Is An Act of Love

To love a country is to know its poets.

Is there the soul of a human being in there?

Pure uncertainty yearns in a minor key.

Going out to get a poem is like hunting.

Is there the soul of a human being in there?

Miles said: Don’t play what you know, play what you hear.

Going out to get a poem is like hunting.

It is what the mind takes hold of.

Don’t play what you know, play what you hear.

It is what the mind takes hold of.

To love a country is to know its poets.

As if poetry were an act of love.

 

Zazen

It is a beautiful thing to wake

in the dark chill of October

and go out into it

where a crescent moon

and two stars appear both ahead

and in the rear view mirror

before you even leave home

to sit on the floor

kneecap to kneecap

inhaling the dark clarinet

of your body

only the breath of the tires

the train’s long choo-choo

your pounding throat

a bratty knee

a molecule of coffee still clinging

to the root of your tongue

your eyelids lower now

and in front of you

wrapped shoulders of a robe folded

with empty hands

those hands, that you, that teacher

with the one-word lesson.

 

Quincentenary Poem:  Civic Center Park, 1992

One by one they circle the park,
Eagles facing east from
Courthouse columns
Capitol dome
Museum fortress
The glass rectangular offices of industry.

These are the closed edges of architecture,
This law, this art,
This swallowed literature,
The politics that burn
This island of seeds laid out like tiles On which we march. 

It's another turn of another century,
stage-blood covers the globe,
Stains the pool of buildings
And the books of bones

That do not burn

 

Selected Poems from What Remains (Turkey Buzzard Press, 2016) "Zazen" was previously published as "A Beautiful Thing" in Sage Green Journal and "Quincentenary Poem: Civic Center Park," was published in Colorado Women News July 1993 and Montelibre, 1993.