The older the poem
the more uncut words
there are, the more said
the more meaning
thank god for manilla folders
and filing cabinets
for the egomania
of saving drafts

When we go back far enough
through the layers of cosmetics
past the rendering and polishing
and find the excess verbiage
we so cleverly excised that time
we were so clever with the pen-
knife, there in the heap of vowels
and consonants is a word

You must retrieve it, extract it
like a diamond from dung, see
how it pulsates, palpable
the very heartbeat of the poem
is there, the poem that became,
for want of it, a mere shell
a propped up scaffolding of bones
in the shape of something
you thought you knew

You knew nothing, thank god
you knew enough not to throw away
the pages behind the poem
you called finished
to finish well you must always
go back to the start
find out what it was
that stopped the world
and your breath
and had to be written down
what it was that you later removed
to make it all so neat

Neatness is for corpses, remember this
while you are still alive: shun neat
flail, fling, whirl, leap and turn
strive to increase, expand
take up space, fill the world with more
not less of you, use more words
that are pulsing, fewer that are
blank bones

Hva profeten ønsket seg til jul

å gud hvis jeg hadde
et hemmelig språk
ville jeg si noe her
som bare du, ja du ikke gud
skulle lese
og skjønne, det ville lyde
noe slikt: qnwzixssm
og ingen
skulle tørre kommentere
eller beundre
eller misunne
eller fordomme
det som guds håndflate
maler i fingermalingens
tydelige farger
ja da måtte jeg også
ti stille og lytte
og kanskje skjønne
noe som alle disse
vellskapte og gjenkjennlige ord
ikke snakker om
ikke skjønne
ikke sier

Found Poem

Prairie dogs
emerge from their burrows
at dawn
press their hands together
facing east
for thirty minutes

at dusk they return to the burrow
and face west
palms pressed together
for thirty minutes
before going inside

in between this hour
they are as busy
as prairie dogs

busy as a prairie dog
isn’t that a saying?
though we haven’t said
much about them at all
up through the years

now a man has dissected
prairie dog barking
into some hundred items
of communication

there is the word that means
man with gun
and the one that means
man without gun
and the one that means
woman with red shirt

it seems all this time
the prairie dogs
of which only
nine colonies remain
have been watching us
talking about us
among themselves

but when Lewis and Clark
gained a peak
and beheld them
four miles wide
and seven miles deep
prairie dogs had only
use for one word: buffalo

What Barnacles Are Not

Barnacles look like cement
but they are soft, flaky
fragile shells
that crush if pushed
inside a purse
where they don’t belong
or if pecked
by a gull
where they do

so is it all the same?
that I bring one home
from an island called Angel
though the vikings meant angle
a crook to hook a fish on

because I found it at the bottom
of the ocean
attached to a stone
on the ocean floor
one evening when the ocean was not at home
and left its shore open and wide
for me to thieve in

is it all the same
purse or gull
where the illusion of strength

The Girl Waiting for Her Mother in Gina Tricot

waits alone
in a small bubble
her fist so close
to her compact cheeks
to the little knob of her nose
this is it, all of her
right here in this little bag

she drills one finger into a nostril
over and over
but nothing comes out
it is hollow
she is empty
but digs all the same
trying to reach within
since there is nothing without
everything in the world
is right there

it is all so small
and inside the invisible walls
she is huge and alone and insignificant
wiping her dry finger along the counter
as if to leave a trace, a smudge, a smear of her slime
as if to mark a trail in the dust
but at Gina Tricot it has all been wiped away
there is nothing for her to touch
and nothing for her to reach

she rubs and dubs her nose
it is all she has
this distance between nose and fist
but it is not enough
and she doesn’t question
how the world can be so completely full
of nothing
she doesn’t wonder if it could be unlike this
somewhere else
she knows only this, it is everything
and it is

Not one, but two

We drove home talking of the
requiem of our choir in the day-
light of ten-thirty p.m.
parked cloudberry the car
still grumbling over napoleon-
sized Nils who deems himself
King Owner, Anders who holds
his fine voice hostage while
naming his terms, Gunnar
the Entitled by Nature of
his Fluty Voice, all these crumbling
cornerstones that won’t let go
of the institution they wear like badges
like we all do, the prestige of con brio
with spirit, gusto, verv, vivacity, animation,
with get-up-and-go, but they won’t
get it up for con brio, no they are the
Gods of Good Enough, a measure
set by the effort they deign to make

while the rest of us want to sing con brio
want to rattle the three-feet-thick walls
of the medieval church, want to raise Lazarus
from the dust of the crematorium
where we rehearse on Thursday nights

ah, fuck it, I’ll quit, I can retire from choir
even though it is the one civic activity
I have always done and wanted to do
starting back at Robertsville Baptist church
Peggy Mead and I in the alto section of the choir
sitting on puritanically straight backed chairs
staring at the white pages of lines and notes
as we sang led by our ears to the soprano melody
of Just As I Am Softly And Tenderly How Great Thou Art

and later it was the first disappointment
of my marriage, the young man with star blue eyes
who promised we would always sing together in a choir
but never did – con brio was his hometown choir
this is his hometown, now mine
where at ten-thirty at night it is what anywhere else
would be called day, the last sun of April gone down
somewhere beyond the mountain fringed fjord
but the only nocturnal evidence

is the moose that appears like a granular
silhouette shadow of gray and gray against
the dun colored grass, no green here yet
in fact a mound of dirty snow taller than the moose
is to the left of the mailboxes where the moose
is having a look around at the houses
like a visitor to the neighborhood trying to see
the house number of his friend he thinks lives
somewhere around here

a car coming up the hill stops in the curve
pointed like an armed tank toward the moose’s
skinny legs that hold up its Bullwinkle bulk –
the people in the car are watching it, we
are watching it, your arm around my shoulder,
me shooting ill-fated photos with my hopeless phone

a man working near his garage just down from
the mailboxes where the moose’s huge nose
is swaying back and forth scenting for a direction
doesn’t see the moose, Moose! you shout
to warn him and as if on cue another moose
trots forth to replace this one that has decided his fate
lies on the other side of the yellow house, exit
first moose, enter moose number two as if pulled
by an invisible string to the same spot

when moose walk it is a floating motion of exaggerated
ankle bends and knee lifts, the massive body perched
on these thin bone colored legs, and still the beast
floats like a dancer who has no real regard for the solidity
of ground, air is the element of moose movement
silent progress of seemingly impossible proportions

and isn’t that what song is, music as incongruous
and as startling as this sight of the King of the Forest
among our houses, a thing that makes us all stop and gasp
and listen for what we can’t hear but is so obviously there
see what we have no evidence of but know is there
moose floating in and out of our sight
leaving no visible trace
no sound

like song sung con brio
the effect of it,
the thing you try to tell people about the next day
but can’t

they don’t know what it was like the moment
a moose materialized putting an end
to your speculation about the adherence to choir
regulations by the various choral members

shut up and watch the moose with your mouth agape
shut up and sing
con brio
whenever, wherever you can

Not A Muse: The Inner Lives of Women

not a muse
not amuse
not amused
knot of my ooze

all this the interior
of a woman
rooms of a house
that is woman
all the roles
the rolls of women

read one page a day
and you will find me
at the end of one year

you will find me looking
you will find me by looking
I will be the one looking
down looking for something
hidden something lost
something I feel I lost
though I don’t know it
by name or shape
only know it is missing
so I go on looking

and you go on reading
there are many more pages
of poems, many more poems
of rooms of states of ages of eras
the book is as thick as a bible
though here there is more room
between words

the empty spaces have their own language
they are what we are not
defining, there is not
a muse to be seen in the whole place, just rooms
the interior spaces

each room a name of an age
of woman, and I
you will find me where they found
it meet and fitting to put me
among the keepers of secrets

I had not known myself
which room on the interior of woman
was mine, but when I see the title on the door
I know it is home, it has always been home

and this is why everything I say
and don’t say is a woman’s articulation
manifestation, transfiguration, transubstantiation
of what is not said, do you hear

do you hear
what I say is what is not said
and this is how you know me
this is how you hear me tell you
my name, it echoes
in all the empty spaces
between the jots and loops and tittles

where the voice resides
like a hum, a purr, resonance of a mechanism
ticking, ticking, like a heart marking the minutes
marking the words, five thousand or more
words not to amuse but to silence you
to make you listen, here

hear my heart hear me swallow hear
me not tell you anything
and everything
in the same word