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Poems from Walking Backwards

The city

I was one of the ones who crossed over.
They told me I was a chosen one.
I crossed into the city. What was I carrying on my shoulders?
The parts of the sentence were separated, I saw, by centuries.
I crossed carrying a sentence on my shoulders.

The city gates read City of Refuge.
They showed me a city with water for cleaning and drinking.
There was bread in the city to quiet hunger.
If you come without intention, they said, the city will open.
They said, here the avenger cannot enter.

I asked, but how have I come to this city.
They said, better to ask, where are the city’s famed bookstalls.
Many a head has bent over a book and asked many a question.
Who am I to come to this city, I asked, and bowed my head.
Bread on the water, bread on the water, I asked.

from Intentions


The time came to place themselves in harm’s way

but just how were they to do this

In another country they might step out in front of a Caterpillar,

paint blue butterfly wings on their breasts and march on the capital

but in their country earwigs spiraled down the cochlea

eating the thought that grows on the walls of the labyrinth

and dreams wept I’m so lost

One dream cut to the chase, a jet-eyed dancer,

right arm stretched, index extended in the Sistine gesture,

created a dream arm and a meeting of fingertips


Of the man whose clothes hang off him standing in line at the checkpoint fingering his beads

Flipping them back and forward clackety click clackety chattering feline bird through dormer

Otherwise as if docile the canvas sandals shuffling every few head to toe dusty lids drawn clickety clickety

Insect legs rub stone on stone rolls easily no sign something (you too were attracted)

Never to speak God’s 99 most beautiful names in rosarium spheres (you too heard them colonize the)

Of amber agate amethyst garnet jasper jade olive baked clay date pit pistachio

Birds’ eyes on a merry-go- (you too were unnerved)

Of the mouth shut in a sun-baked (you in the witness corner)

Of water and cognates—see hear read write ask

The man steps forward watchful opaque (you ho ld out your hand for the beads slide off into your

Poems from Calendars of Fire

Poems from A Darker, Sweeter String