I'll tell you why I'm afraid of the dark.
It has its own idea.
It's like a bullet.
It doesn't want to know what you know.
The dark is under.
It fits a place to put a hand but I can't see.
It's like a voice behind a door.
It can be just about anything I want to hear.
Darkness comes in every size of threat:
the dark cocoon at the end of my life,
storms that turn the sky into an empty can of dark
fitting snug onto the horizon,
the dark in putting my head in hands,
my head into the cave of a person I don't love anymore.
I'll tell you again why I'm afraid of the dark.
I can see it coming
and can't ever tell just when it has arrived.
I sense it thin and waiting between the pages of books
but it's too fast even for a good reader.
From that place darkness
comes a phone call erratic with grief.
It fills the story called "dying in your sleep"
and was the only time left for voodoo to take,
for rapists to dress in.
I can't get a grip on darkness
though it wears my imagination like a shroud.
I've started hearing sunsets as cracking twigs.
I've taken to hiding a piece of flint in my shoe.
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Selling My Mother's House
Here is the treasure map,
erasure as measure,
and what was she thinking
while pinning these pins,
and whose vest was this
and what did it match?
Where are the Wheat Back pennies
in the rainbow of dust,
the Lady Liberty silver dollars
that must never be spent,
and coins of the realm of silence
and coins of the realm of tears?
Where is the stamp block, the first day cover,
the collectible from Certified Dreamtime?
Let me shake the tin plate
passed down from Grandmother,
let me push the button
on the back door knob,
right twist the Dial-A-Lock on the workshop
and drop the steel rod in the sliding door track.
I seem to have missed everything—
the alarming X's on the calendar, the sibilant drapes.
There was one kind of money
hidden in the bread drawer
and another kind of money
in the embroidery thread box
and money that should be
somewhere but isn't.
The only treasure left,
the empty living room where my father died.
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Calling Upon the Saints Including Titanium
So, here is my little altar and some prayers.
I have a metal of the day and a bird of the day.
For this occasion, titaniumólight and easy
to carry—and Peggy the Scrub Jay
for a satisfying flash of blue.
For the wisdom of the left hand
the prayer of the defeated,
and for the wisdom of the right hand
the song of the innocent friend.
For the forehead, a moment of solace,
mint-based and fragrant,
and for the chest where the heart lives,
a clean wave from the sea
to lift and float the body.
For the feet, ponds and streams,
and for the eyes, vistas in the style
of Wáng Wéi and also the poems
that go with them.
River stones and pearl gravel
for relief of the mind,
and a river bending in the distance,
a soft blue curve under clouds
with earth tones waiting.
I have roads, too, that weave
between mountain passes.
They are stories with such positive endings
I have saved one for the day I die:
Highway #395 north of Olancha, California,
where the Sierra Nevada shapes the vista
to the north.
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The Last Breakup
Maybe if she hadn't dyed her hair purple
and if she had gone to class
when I dropped her off each day,
then maybe she wouldn't have
gotten a heroin habit
and completely crashed your car.
If she hadn't gone to jail and
if you hadn't had to call your ex-husband
to meet you at the lock-up,
and if I had been the one
in family therapy with you
at the hospital instead of him
those three months of weekly sessions,
then maybe you would have
seen her talk to me
the way she talked in the car
on the way to school,
her hair glossy as a grackle,
back-combed on the top, nape
shaved, a perfectly crafted
punked-out geisha teen.
If you had seen her talk to me
then you would have known
I was her family, and not
like the one your mother had in mind
when she said "you need a man
to take care of you."
If you didn't take that advice so
to heart, then you could have
heard your daughter talk to me
about me moving in with you,
and if she hadn't painted
her bedroom black and ruined
the apartment so that your lease
was broken and you had to move,
maybe you wouldn't have said
she had to live with her dad
and his so-called bitch
who smoked dope all day.
If she didn't find heroin
then maybe she wouldn't have
felt superior to that stoner step-mom
and had to run away again
because there was no home with you
to go to.
If she had had a home
maybe she wouldn't have
needed a motorcycle
to make you mad at her some more
and you find my defense of her
tedious, and if I would have been a man
I would have told you to "calm down"
and you would have believed me.
Instead you said you had to
find a man and be normal again
and you wanted me to make that all right,
but by then I was so
bereft, as if my chest
had been unbuttoned in a
blizzard, I couldn't say
that it was fine for you to leave me,
to believe that admonition of that mother of yours
whose boyfriend was "hit" by the mob.
If you had just let me attend
family counseling and if you had
heard your daughter talk to me,
I think we had a home to make.
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