Wednesday, October 27, 2010


The last drop of water in the wok bursts
into bubbles on the stove; it is morning

and I have lost the skill of doing dishes
when I should. At night, when the windows

turn obsidian and this apartment might be
a container inside a larger container or in

the belly of a cargo plane with a name like
"Galaxy" or "Dreamlifter," it is possible

to stare into the water in an unwashed pot,
flecked with soap and cooked rice, and see

the unmarked endings of things stacked up
with half-submerged utensils in the sink. Then,

the skilled mind becomes a mirror or a tree,
puts on the look appropriate to the season

waits patiently without receding, returns
undiminished to its place- the empty room,

the quiet grove. There are no stakes here;
the worst that can happen in the morning

is the dishes, but the green stem of a pepper
will slide into the trash like a snake without

a face; like something that shouldn't exist
in daylight, making a noise between a whisper

and a bang.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The census-taker crosses the desert

"We are practical," he says,
"for each thing there is a reasonable measure.
Take the desert--of sand
so many square miles; of sky
so many degrees;
the winds, arriving in the cities
at the end of the day can be recorded.
When we stop moving
after the animals have fed and watered
and it grows cool, we are still
taking stock: in the darkness we find the edges of a raft
we lie down on, looking up
or we imagine driftwood, or movement, the pitch and roll
of the dunes we'll walk tomorrow
beside the camels."

He sleeps, and this imagined journey
becomes mine: what I have
walled up in bone, the future's
ruins of oddly-shaped calcium and optimism:

A thousand incidental moments; stuck
at work; saying "thank you"
and being handed a receipt;
opening a door in the morning,
seeing light.

a handful of things I return to:
the arc I traced daily
between the top step of the porch
and the packed dirt my bare feet landed on;
the ride home at night from a lover's house,
skin buzzing like it wasn't sure where to be;
my father practicing Torah after dinner
the smell of bread and candles lingering
in the room.

Now, when I think of him, the census-taker
is an abstraction, an abacus made flesh,
clicking beads from side to side
for grains of sand, for animals,
for my father and me--for everything
of the same stock.

Saturday, October 9, 2010


And he finished the measurements of the innermost house, and he took me out by way of the gate facing eastward, and he measured it round about.
Ezekiel 42:15

Of skin, from the thin veils
covering the bones of my ears
to the calluses at the bases of my fingers:
two thousand seven hundred ninety square inches.

Of bone, leached clean
of marrow, displacing water
in a container:
two hundred sixteen cubic inches.

Of muscle, from my voluntary
muscles even to my ligaments
and cartilage:
seventy pounds.

Of viscera, from my cardiac
muscles to my meninges
and their contents:
ten pounds.

Of my body
height, weight, volume:
sixty-eight inches, one hundred
fifty pounds,
four thousand one hundred fifty cubic inches.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Prayer For The Circulatory System

Whose is this cathedral, aorta,
this sinewy carapace, empty fruit?

The hauled marble breaks slowly
from spine, tombstoning over lungs

hooked through with turnings
waving cilia like fields of kelp.

There are no places here, only
the constant on-and-off ramps

of blood vessels, capillary
walkways where leukocytes

mutter short prayers to pressure
and are washed away.

It is the cosmopolitan
self, where parasites

hawk their counterfeit proteins
between long lines of red cells

without a nucleus among them
but so much iron. The iamb

at the heart of it pulls, pushes,
forms syllables:

"How goodly are thy calories, body,
thy frantic life, O human."

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