Zinnia (& other poems)


When the oaks swell
soft with water

I’ll build you a fort of branches.
Come cross-legged in the belly

of the wild, and I’ll press
gin to your lips, kiss

the sweat off your palms.
You’ll find me somewhere in red,

cutting zinnias for the table,
stepping barefoot in dog shit,

rinsing under the hose.
I’ll be laughing and lighting

candles, dipping my fingertips
in the honey wax.

My zinnia, my garnet and glaring:
count the days down.

At what moment exactly
does waiting become waste?

I’m afraid of not finding
(my way back to) you,

afraid of making you up.
I sleep with these images of you:

planting loose seeds
in your father’s garden;

drinking black coffee
on his stoop.

Tell me the oaks are swelling
soft with water,

and I’ll build
anything for you.



Longing was long overgrown.
You, my invisible eclipsed, asked
everywhere for else.

If god was light beyond light,
you burned inside me, where no other could see.

Each never-enough was ruin, gleaming.

How often I scraped
the scorching from the stovetop.

You are any longer
my anywhere, my hush
and wonder.

At what moment exactly will I stop finding
your impression in me?

How often we soaked the spoons in soapy water.

How thorough you were, how forgiving of my excess.
A thousand times

shaking proud in the secret of you.
(Containing nothing.) I am asking you
to lie low

for a while, my most terrible –
as if I could say

how long, how loyal, my fingers rode the lip.


Blau Sein
     after Anne Carson’s “Change”

Then a huddle of women squatting on the ground smoking cigarettes in the glare of the moon.

When I met him the kingdoms of my life all shifted down a few notches. We went for coffee and talked down about the things around us; we recognized each other like italics. We met at a party; I was looking around for something to drink. Can I have a sip of your bourbon? I heard myself ask. It was one of those moments that is the opposite of blindness. In German, to be blue is to be drunk (blau sein). He was right; I saw a blue rinse over everything. The bourbon burned down, hot as a flash of light on water. He watched me swallow, tapping on his thigh with piano fingers. I had the strange feeling he might start dancing. I unfolded. I exhaled the stain – hummed thank youI believe in being gracious. Some hours later the world was pinking with light. We stood close together under a streetlamp. The huge dawn moved overhead scattering its heat and mosquitoes. You’re still blue, he said, I have the strange feeling you might start dancing. 


Notes from the Hospital, 1st Night

A woman all in pink
came forward with her clipboard.
A whole petal of a woman
a carnation praying –

I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come? –
I saw my brother in a reckless coat
of brown blood and wet grass –

My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth –
the world smelled plastic
like Lysol or anesthesia –

he will not let your foot
be moved; he who keeps you –
him cut out of his clothes – will not slumber –
had God walked

in I’d have asked
why fear tasted so much
like pride like I was special
like help was coming

just for us – behold,
he who keeps Israel –
will make me into
a carnation like her

my most knowing
and I – will
neither slumber
nor sleep –

 I will be a woman all
in pink
all psalm
and all sister.


You Were My Even-then –

I will talk only of days that dripped with light, of wind chimes silvering on the porch, of your beard rubbed shining with oil. How careful we were in the beginning when we met in secret and talked of planting tiger lilies in spring. In another world I could’ve missed you. Thank God I didn’t.

I wasn’t looking to set anything off with you. How I was shaken when you said love when you said no matter how. In another life I knew only to protect my disorder; I checked the world over and over for signs of dying (glittering material) – you were my even-then.

How it was quiet in the rain that morning I learned tiger lilies stain yellow. We were idling in the parking lot. You had wet hair. I had the leftovers from Betsy’s wedding in a glass vase blooming between my thighs. Yellow ashes silted everything. I never planted anything for you. I hope I was at least your even-then. I hope I still am.

– L