Thursday, October 26, 1989



The predictable paths we make daily
are beaten smooth & polished like bone.
After years of disuse and neglect,  
those less traveled become spongy with rot.
The old couple radiantly warbles a welcome
like birds in spring, oblivious to their house  
falling in, who's to evict them? Jigsaw
crazed white paint exposes the heartwood.
Down the back porch stairs, a missing step,
a vacant tooth whispers something I can't grasp.
The shaky rail offers no shortcuts,
but a leap of faith to collect the mail.
And it is not spring, sometimes life is like that.
It takes an earthquake to shake the foundations,
so why did I awaken at one a.m., my unfeathered feet
ready to flee, with nowhere to go?


Monday, October 23, 1989



Where the Spaniards sailed upriver looking for El Dorado,
and dolphins are thought to be half-human,
men still rub dolphin oil on their pricks,
then fuck them hard in the sand for good luck.
The canoejueras, plying their profession from bank to bank,
harvest gold with their porpoise mouths,
still suck and lick the river with such skill,
it is said even the dead come in the rocking boats.
A woman walked along the banks of the Amazon,
where truth becomes a seductive blur,
miscarried a small dolphin,
and they burned the poor creature
who flew up into blue smoke.


Tuesday, October 17, 1989


          –for Susan Swartz

I yell at the cats fighting in the basement,
my cabin dips and sashays a slow dance toward the creek.
The mirror sways in supplication, oak trees shimmy,
acorns, falling hailstones, scolding squirrels and cats
aren't to blame, the deep growling is the earth itself.
Half-dressed, I run outside, laughing with neighbors,
there is almost a festive air, the ground undulating
beneath bare feet, a small boat on a bilious sea.
Eerie static fills the airwaves, when news finally breaks,
we are voyeurs watching events unfold on TV.
The Bay Bridge, a toy drawbridge, toy cars,
a mile and a half of collapsed freeway, Cypress St.,
a roller coaster bed, with cars sandwiched underneath,
bottles of unbroken wine no one scavages,
a column of literate smoke from the Berkeley Library.
The Marina's on fire and sinking, someone says.
A B-grade disaster movie upstaging the World Series`
and space shuttle to Jupiter. Atlantis rising.
The Ferry Building clock stops at 5:04 pm.
Women jog with firehoses, victory streamers,
bikers carry the old ones to safety on their backs.
Just five minutes from the street of death,
my exlover interjects how he's single again
and of the two women living in his house.
4It takes a 7.0 on the Richter Scale to break the ice
but patterns of behavior limit us. Rescuers,
out of body bags, switch to sleeping bags, who will help them?
Gallons of paint, spilled rainbows, symbol of hope,
my friends draw arches in the dirt to heal themselves.
The Pacific plate leaps ahead of the American plate`
in a slow race toward home—Alaska. Terremoto.
Like a war zone, as the landfill liquefies into jelly,
rubble from the 1906 quake rises to the surface
 in a horrible resurrection
of chaos, a system of physics, wild and convoluted.
Parking garages squash
into cement pancakes. Apartments fall, card houses. 
Already the dispossessed talk of rebuilding on the ruins.
Fissures in the streets boggles the mind.
In the time it took God to make the universe, the ballgame
is rescheduled. Disaster transcends the World Series.
When Gorbachev offers aid, many weep.
It takes the heat of Chernobyl & the 25,000 dead of Armenia 
to thaw the Cold War. Thousands homeless.
VP Quail smiles photogenically in the face of tragedy.
Bush calls up to say his presence would be a distraction,
then changes his mind. Though scientists claim there's no such thing
as earthquake weather, it's hot, still, like April 18, 1906.
We've become impatient with the notion of the unseen, the unexplainable.
Children are hearing things, closer to nature they feel it sooner.
With phone lines jammed, I don't even know if my mother is alive,
I get an obscene phone call. A media carnival descends upon us.
One more good aftershock and the newscastors would sink into the bay.
In a few million years, Los Angeles will be somewhere
off the Bering Straits. Hollywood, USSR.
An occupational hazard of living on the edge of the continent,
we're always waiting for the Big One to strike out.


Thursday, October 5, 1989


    That philosophical understanding of carnage,
      that concentration of the species.
            —Gerald Stern

It was not easy making friends with wolves.
I'd sit on a ladder by the wire-link fence,
careful not to make eye contact or they'd lunge—
their yellow eyes; calendulas eating the sun,
hot flickering grassfires and phosphorus.
I'd listen to them worry cow hocks (or was it horse?)
across the stained plywood partition,
the bones echoing with a hollow thud.
Was it the slaughterhouse stench of dead meat
or the primal odor of concentrated wolf?
Full moons, they'd answer in chorus for unseen kin
ambulances, fire engines and police cars
the cubs knowing only the endless pacing of caged life.
The man who kept wolves—the town dog catcher.
Late afternoons, I heard his woman sobbing and crooning
like a sleepy child. Did she really come like that?
I felt envy, slow to notice my lover's eyes had turned
the color of Indian corn. I learned to sing louder
and longer with each passing stranger
running a practiced hand along my flank
until I was wolf-mother beneath the fig tree
sucking a rivaling empire of boys in men's bodies.
Sensitized by pain, I sang best, seeking asylum,
I studied the flight of vultures and despaired;
was the idea of love, a vulgar carcass of bees and hornets,
romance, attainable as the horizon, or Mars?
Each moon, a new eye. I learned carnelian hunger,
my spoor took on the scent of wolf
and I devoured the Möbius circle of desire.
It was never so bad or as good as this.