Nine years later, and I’m still writing about death

I did an interview with Howard Miller for Avatar Review in 2008. In it, I said

When I sent my manuscript out to a friend he said, “Are you aware how many times you mention death?” And then I did look at that and saw that I mention it a lot. Death, bones, blood. I don’t think I’m that morbid a person, but I do tend to be drawn toward extremely depressing, personally depressing, subject matter.


After realizing how dark and gloomy all of my work seemed to be, I made a conscious effort to lighten up. I haven’t been wholly successful, but I think my work is richer now.

Nine years after I published pseudophakia and seven years after claiming I was making an effort to lighten up, it’s time to admit the truth. “I haven’t been wholly successful” is the understatement of a lifetime. “I haven’t been at all successful” is more accurate. Maybe “I failed utterly” or “The level of failure I have demonstrated is remarkably immeasurable and startling” or “I suck at this ‘lightening up’ dealio.”

Snow out

Snow out

They keep tugging on the tarp,
like a too-small bathing suit

always creeping where it shouldn’t,
they tug and high step across

the billows, a kid in a bounce house,
put the tarp on, take it off, back

and forth hokey-pokey while we
freeze envious of the infield,

freeze to the seats in the
wet bushy glitter of snow.

The Mountain Must Go

The Mountain Must Go

They ask for the highest point
you’ve ever stood, higher than the dangerous
tippy top of the ladder you shouldn’t have leant

on the other ladder you shouldn’t have leant
on old siding and ignoring the do not stand
and you wonder why it’s a step

if you can’t stand on it, what’s the highest
point in the country, the world, the highest
point you’ve braced your toes against

and reached out with a paintbrush toward
the soft splatter of a cloud just get that last
faint smudge of color hidden beneath

a new coat, your shirt with its last
faint splatter of spaghetti sauce or sweat
hidden beneath a new coat riding up a size

too small. That point. Your highest one.



I am going to build some bright, bright new world
for us to sit in, shining like two shining lamps would
shine out in the dark. But without the dark. We will kick
quick shadows in the head and shine. And you will be
so bright, bright that I will see nothing but
the burnt-on green of your afterglow when I blink
scarred starry eyes at the scarlet flame of your face.

And He Held Out

And He Held Out

And he held out
his hand and I put
the bolts there

and he said is that
all and I said it was
all I could find that

the shell was burned
like a house charred
down to rafters

and joists and he
asked which are
the rafters which

the joists and I
said my ribs are
the rafters my ribs

the tall arching rafters
of my church and my
spine the joist and

my heart was
the furnace but
it’s gone and

here’s what’s left
and he smiled and
curled his hand and

I knew he meant
to look for more
later while I sleep



They haven’t put lines down on this tarmac, nothing
slicing into the night of this road but the passing

stars of reflectors each one too bright in the starburst
of my eyes that says my glasses are scratched,

need cleaning. That might push lost stars back
into the sky firmly, like a thumb on a syringe,

a candle shoved past the frosting into the cake.
If I hunkered over the plastic, cupped my hands,

my t-shirt billowing out, my headlights off, could I
huddle my nose close enough to the sticky cindered ground

to see them spark up to me with their own light?
I had a jacket that glowed in the dark. It rustled

and hung extinguished in the closet. I had eyes
that could see in the dark, follow such a faint trail

someone would stumble behind me, trip on a rock,
on nothing, on the air where a rock should have been.

Now I have glasses. Headlights. Road. And go.
Go on abiding by the lit-up edges of the world.



The letter came a few months after death.
Someone could walk. Someone could newly walk.
He would have been proud. Would have popped with pride.
Would have pointed to his legs and said
these things are miracles. We’re miracles.
Then settled himself atheistically
across the couch and, smiling, watched TV.

Tesseraction Figure

Tesseraction Figure

His heart is
a hypercube.
He lost
a pencil,
brought a new
carbon out,
an allotrope
shaped like
a rabbit,
the moon’s
own pet.

My heart is
a line.
I just
go from here
to there.

I am
He is
He is always.

Before falling

Before falling

Just before I fell, I felt

the air’s fist pushing back,
the twist of fluid in tilting ears,

that grind that sounds like gears,
like a dog growling with spite,

a rope of spittle lassoing
someone else’s favorite bone.


Regeneration, Or Living Two Doors Down From a Funeral Home

They have a generator up the street
because the power flickers at a cloud.
The surging rumble proves an indiscreet
reminder of their cellar, and the crowd
of cold cadavers, propped up under loud
flourescents buzzing like a waxing hive
for Tussaud masks. When thunder comes, I dive
into a book, turn TVs up, retreat
inside my head, afraid I’ll hear the drive
start up, or never start. Flicker. Repeat.

Surviving is Underrated