Her body felt unnatural
under a forest canopy
in Western Kenya.
Dewy grass slapped her
ankles wet and shiny;
her leather sandals liquefied
sliding her feet
forward as she walked
behind the two men--
sie Deutsch sprechen--
They stopped amid
the tallest trees in Kakamega,
the language musical to her;
it mesmerized her
so that she hardly noticed
the crawling on her feet,
her toes; they laughed--
sie mich vergessen haben--
began to walk toward the cabin.
She looked down,
stared at safari ant pincers,
roundabout her ankles,
her legs bare beneath her skirt.
Sensing her panic,
they began to feast
on her skin--wet, slippery,
and right in their path.
The Armadillos ☊
She didn't see it coming, shouted
something unutterable with the shots,
then four of the five were dead,
left bleeding at the corner of her house.
"They're pests," the deputy said,
"and they're too far north--these critters
come up from Texas and will ruin
the foundation of your house, ma'am."
She thought he might have brought a trap
like she remembered he did for raccoons,
skunks, and groundhogs; Armadillo blood
splashed unexpected upon the verdant grass.
Her daughter took pictures
once she'd called the sheriff;
these were strange, primordial
creatures she'd only seen on TV.
They were sinister too, in armor,
prehistoric in their gunmetal scales
and taupe leather for skin. They were
digging for grubs next to the holly bush
between the hydrangeas and jonquils,
oblivious to the chrome on the car,
the man pulling up in the drive,
cutting the engine,
standing on the porch, drinking
iced tea, talking, laughing.
Roaming the Tasman Sea
The waters are changing, warming,
the jellies are abundant
they keep cropping up like parachutes
abandoned on the Tasmanian shore.
Lion's Mane are a dominant class
with unnamed species, each different, new
yet so old; wandering for centuries
until the water changed, became just right.
Now we know about them and will watch,
warn, and wait for their breeding times,
erect signs for swimmers and surfers,
avoid the far-reaching tentacles
that swirl like mops through the blue;
waving in copepods and roe, zooplankton
and larvae; evading capture.
Fierce anemones wait to grab,
suck the jellies down into their reef
bellies under tacky fronds that clutch,
seize, consume, and devour,
nematocysts and all.
Killing Teenage Girls and Pit Bulls
I see that you did this:
you strapped bombs
to her chest and
stole her children;
you removed her teeth
so she could not resist;
you sit on a mountain
high in the wind
that blows from behind you,
stings your face with
strands of your hair;
your head moves,
you watch trees
sway, hear them groan,
as if you made it happen,
as if you were the wind.
Walking home from school
I smeared sparkling eye
shadow onto my palms, carried
a white rat in a cage, sighed
deeply and long before going in.
Hardwood floors glistened
like prairies in sunlight
that streamed through the living
room windows. Kitchen
walls beckoned and bestowed
from an oven just warm enough.
Stairs descended twice, landing once
at the front door, journeyed
down to the cool of a room
we'd never seen before; a place
to play ping pong and watch TV,
where slumber parties were cacophonous
then quiet at 3 in the morning.
This house wrapped me in cream
colored walls, watched
me write in my first journal,
peered over my shoulder
into Tom Sawyer and Little Women;
The Outsiders and Forever; Jaws and Carrie.
This house overheard plans
for riding my purple Huffy
more than a mile
to the discount store that sold forty-fives,
watched me unwrap Neil Diamond's "Cherry Cherry,"
that rode home with me, inside my shirt,
next to my skin; this freedom felt like
breathing air for the first time, swimming
the length of the pool without stopping,
wishing the pool were a lake or an ocean,
like walking invisible
or flying just under the clatter.
This house indulged my lime green
bean bag and sheets that splashed
my room with calm; then it smirked
at my crush on Ronnie Martin
and exulted with me when
my science project won.
Barbie, Ken, and Talking PJ
went out on dates in this house
for two years, then left;
posters of Donny and David
beamed at me, conceding
to the Sweet and Elton John--sounds
from the radio next to my bed.
Nixon resigned in that house one night
while I mowed the lawn,
smelled the grass, and ate mulberries
until purple juice streaked my arms
to the elbows, dripped onto
my legs, onto the branch, sturdy
and coarse under me.
I played softball in the backyard,
built tents out of quilts
with the sister who knew
me; the one
I locked out of the house
one afternoon; the one
I scared standing quiet
behind the door, the one
who fought with me
and always made up.
This house watched us
play kick the can, hide
and seek, truth or dare,
protected us from a drug
bust one early morning,
young people lying
on the lawn--moving,
in and out
with handcuffed neighbors
and filled bags
(like a scene from Go Ask Alice);
it played host to teenage girls
in bell-bottoms and halter tops
who smoked and skipped school,
to my brother who hitchhiked
from California and called
with his last dime, found
only me at the other end, home
from school with plans
to finish my homework
and read read read
Reading Sylvia Plath
If you are squeamish, avert your eyes.
If you cannot fathom why the sea
should be sluttish or rutted,
set out for the shore.
If you believe that poetry should not expose
the grievous offenses of the world
then you are in a forest without a path,
even one well travelled,
or in a gown of gossamer,
and you are lost,
bereft of feeling,