Poison Apple

“Wanna bite?” the old woman asked,
holding out her cherry-red confection
polished and gleaming as a new Corvette
or a little girl’s patent leather shoes
on Sunday morning.

Should’ve tipped me to the truth, that glow alone.
Nothing from nature shines straight from the tree,
the earth, the ocean. Not before violence:
the pearl deslimed of its oyster’s flesh,
coal hewn from the depths and lit ablaze.
Even fruit does not reveal its juicy glisten
until split open by greedy teeth.

But I was tired and not attending as I should.
It’s long days, caring for grown men small enough
to resemble children—or call them children
grown destructive enough to resemble men. No matter.
Princess is only a title that escapes drudgery
when some other woman’s close to hand.

What I’m saying is:
Maybe I did notice, after all.
Maybe I did understand.

Maybe I ate it anyway.

~a.i. Continue reading “Poison Apple”

For Baltimore

When I hear on the news “they are burning their own neighborhoods”

I remember how refugees detained half-a-world away protest
by sewing their own mouths shut,
how overcast stitches of twine finish the cut edges
of faces that might otherwise unravel
into howls.

Which is more silent: a stitched mouth
or a crushed larynx?

(Freddy Gray howled, the last time we heard him speaking.)

In one corner of my mind, gratitude mixes with grief
for a city still shouting even as
its voices



Links on the situation in Baltimore — especially as regards media coverage and issues of violence/nonviolence — follow below the jump.  Continue reading “For Baltimore”

Rising with Her Red Hair


I have never forgotten                     the night

my father looked at my body and saw only
another fuckable woman living

under his roof.

Women are places
where men                              put things:

bits of flesh
intimate and embarrassing,

emotions too unmasculine to carry            openly
like a purse. Demeaningly useful,

better to deny.

Like landfill next to a gleaming city:
the spires shine best in the dying light

at sunset

as trash heaps heat
to stink their worst.

The oldest profession: Blaming the object coveted

for our own desire.
Did anyone check under Adam’s fig leaf

the day the snake took itself off for a walk
to talk from a tree?

Adam got to blame Eve for the naked

lust lodging in his eyes
while Eve’s eyes got wide

and finally clear.

I am

on-my-knees hands-to-god

that on the night my father saw how

droit du seigneur coupled                    with a daughter

in the house
made its own brutal but algebraic

logic —

he resolved to resolve his equation with fury          instead,

disemboweling his self-hatred
over top of me.                           Preferable

to what
thought he needed rage to drown

the night a man saw not his child
but a gash

broken open to the world.

[featured image via]

Lives Draw Breath

(for Rekia Boyd)

In the first days

before we knew how #AllLives #AllLives #AllLives
would ring out like a social media
machine gun
aimed at the heart of those crying
#OurLivesToo! —

a friend and I exchanged impossible messages:

“Black lives matter,” I wrote.
“Yes,” her reply. “All lives matter.”

Saying: hers too.
Saying: this rainbow coalition of everyone she loves, too.

“Yes,” my echo, “yes. All lives.”

Asking: are you well are you safe are you loved.
Asking: where can rage and anguish go, when all of the air is taken. 
Continue reading “Lives Draw Breath”


“A poet writes a poem as a hen lays an egg,
and both of them feel better afterwards.” — Samuel Butler


I misread the first time.
That’s how much sense I found, saying “yes!
of course the poet and the poem, both
feeling much improved for their process.”

Only after reading again did I realize: the we
who are meant to feel better
includes the hen alone.
The poem, like the egg, impartial to its experience.

I looked down at the treasure I held,
warm moments before
from the heat of my body,
now cold brass.

Then I remembered “one makes the meaning
one needs to find”
and again we three are smiling —


this golden egg
cradled in my palm,

the poem hatching.


[image via]

This Is Not A Poem


This Is Not A Poem

All metaphors point to the insufficiency of languages.

I animate my body like a puppet.
In conversation, the tongue and teeth you argue against
are no more than my hand in a sock.

This is not a metaphor.

Why do the depersonalized find themselves holding
not No Person
but many persons?
The core, the shell, the flesh —
the self that would speak for the flesh if she found
an audience to listen.

The rhododendron in my yard ignites each spring in fuchsia blooms.
I am all my selves but one that can speak “I am”
and know its truth.

And you?
If a stranger reaches out a hand in a crowd to greet you,
do you recognize when that stranger

is yourself?


[Image: “Rhododendron&Vast ocean of clouds、コバノミツバツツジ&篠山盆地雲海、盃ヶ岳4256293” by 松岡明芳 – 松岡明芳. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons]