But(t): An Ars(e) Poetica
when I used to say
but, in my head
it was always butt.
Nobody could hear
the extra T but me,
heehee. I was
over my objection
was a big round girl butt
in my own gum pink
Which made butter
richer, and buttery
to utter, and butterflies,
imagine. I got good
at other ilicitries,
other felicities, hiding
the small naughtiness
of my meaning in others,
breasting a morass of words,
cocksure I’d emerge
from the spurge
and pussy willows,
like a bushtit on the wing,
no bumbler in Bangkok,
nor from a penal colony
on the banks of Titicaca.
No, I came
from eating cumquats
to fly once around
Uranus, rev the hummer,
caulk the poopdeck
and make, attentive
to copula and tittle,
an identity, from such
tittering and vagile.
Las cartas de vidas alternativas
Cada día la ciudad quiere que la mandibular
abra de la bisagra y yo entre lo. Canto
las canciones de Broadway y pulo los dientes.
Por la noche monto sus escalas brillantes,
esperando que la ciudad sueñe.
Hermana, el desierto es mucho mas que yo soñé.
En cada piedra un cuenco de agua, una flauta
de madera, una lagartija descansan.
Las nubes forman mis miedos
y dispersan en el próximo país.
Vivo entre las montanas y tomo
mi pequeñez como una pastilla,
cuando me despierto. Siempre quiero
que la nieve y la piedra me desdibujen,
la única parte que se mueve.
Nunca voy estar estafada
por la consecuencia mañosa.
Claros o secretos o embrujados
los pueblos caen en su lugar,
como las esquinas del rompecabezas.
Todas las piezas del cielo
tienen el mismo aspecto. Deseo
que los fragmentos de nubes
encajen pero no puedo hacerlo.
El lugar es como si nunca lo salí,
la tienda de neón en la esquina,
el colegio, mi casa es un acuario
lleno de tulipanes. Yo temo
mi boca es un tulipán, llena de polvo.
Postcards from Her Alternate Lives
Each day the city unhinges its jaw and I climb inside.
I sing show tunes and polish its teeth. At night, I ride
its lit scales into glittered, showstopping dreams.
Sister, the desert is more even than I dreamed. On each
rock rests a bowl of water, a wooden flute, a lizard.
The clouds swoop into the shape of my fears, then
blow off into the next county.
I live between mountains and take my smallness,
like a pill, on waking. Always I'll be only one
more moving part, blurred in snow and stone.
I'll never fall for the slick con of consequence.
Bright, or secret, or ghosted, towns fall into place
like the corner pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. All the sky
pieces look the same. I can't fit the fragments
of clouds together.
This place is as I never left it: the neon sub shop
on the corner, the junior high. My house is an aquarium
filled with tulips. My mouth is a tulip filled with dust.
- Catherine Pierce
1970 or about or ago,
accident all along
announced and another
Armstrong artist. As August
he backed beach Bear
behind bike. Bill black branch by
campsite Children’s Church
cited Coast College continuing
could crowd dark death
Some do dog downtown.
Drove earlier employed
encouraging even familiar
fern figure, fire first, food
for former frequented friends
from funeral gallery
gathering Guerneville guests.
Guy had in handful hard.
He held, helped him, his hit
home homeless how including influences
just keep, know, last leg light like limp.
Liquor lived load local
looked main man managed Matisse may
morning’s mountain, near nearly news
next night, no not now, off
often old, on one opened, or out,
oversees own painting.
Prior paintings parents
people Picasso place playfulness.
Plumber possessions really recalled;
regulars remember rescued residents
Riverfront Road Russian safe.
He said Saturday saying seeing seen.
Services shelter show sometimes
spent spontaneity, staying stint storage
strap street such summer
taking talked teacher the things.
Tin to Toulouse, town truck
trying two until up used.
Usually Vets were what
when where while who winter
with woods work worked
working would year years.
More or Less
From the thrift shop & parking lot
with its cordoned collected stuff
a whittled asp, a small teapot,
the lot that’s not enough.
This book, & this, & this & that
by old friends, teachers, rising stars,
the memoir of a gay packrat
attuned to a blue 3-stringed guitar.
There’s time enough for loss & dearth
your bones picked clean & pockets pillaged.
Dispossession is the work of earth.
No wealth survives the final tillage.
While minimalists may live on air,
we’ll eat our meals on earthenware.
glimpse: kathleen probst
The term emerged, a shared geometric
that underlies a gridded plane,
at the same distance from biogenic
as absence from a protein chain.
The repetition makes for pattern
if not divine, not quite profane,
with magnetic moment akin to Saturn
that underscores the utterness of space,
its shifting fields, dimensions that turn
a back, a leaf, a wheel, a face –
the parallels & axes define
& deliver, dissolve as they trace
the spatial expectations of breath
the ordered design of pulse before death.
They are standing on the corner with signs, and the thing is
they look so happy. They could be one big family.
They look alike, dark hair, happy eyes. Two uncles maybe
hold the corners of the Jesus Loves You banner,
a homemade, but well-made, thing, gold
on black, though everyone holds up their own
signs, to the littlest, and their own messages,
slight variations on the theme, raised higher
upon each passage, like the announcement
of a carwash, with that urgency and direction of wanting
to be seen and heeded. I never know quite what to do or say
in return. I don’t not love Jesus, though I doubt
I am the proper target of his love, at least as this family
might see me, a heathen as open to polyamory
as the love of God’s only begotten son, though I do
unto others, do love my neighbor, do turn the other cheek,
cherish the meek, reckon the chances of entering heaven
on camels, rich men, and needles’ eyes. What do they want
not just of me, but of every last soul in Santa Rosa, who finds
him or herself here on this Saturday, when the sun shines down
on their fervency? Do they want people to slam on their brakes
and abandon their cars, engines running and doors open to join
the flock? To leave their errands undone (laundry soap
and the indoor flood lamp 100 watt lightbulb)?
I look to the youngest girl to see if she’s bored or what,
but when she sees me see her, her eyes shine.
What she’s offering me is more than just a Hi
that connects (I did this too at her age, stood and waved
until someone noticed me and hailed me
on their way to the rest of their lives), it’s a gift
of pure truth, as she’s drawn it herself in rainbows and
Magic Markers. When I flash her an un-ironic peace sign,
she and the rest of her family or flock shout, Peace
Be With You, Sister, and I ride off with it being so.
What is below is known
by what is in the sky,
the strung bow of ragged
black feathers like fingers
in great commas of reach,
the soaring, the circling,
the patience of one being
not rushing another,
as if the wheeling wings
were saying, take your time
to die, wolf-injured, maybe,
hinged between here
and not. I have strength
enough for courtesy,
for these aerial indicia,
cinders in an updraft
haloing and hallowing
And what must it look
like to the dimming eye?
as the bird-shadow cast
from forever comes round
again, across the gasping
muzzle, the dulling fur
with the touchless caress
of darkness, the promise
of a boundless devouring
depth, and beyond, beyond,
a force feeding flight.
It is not their fault these flowers will forever
be associates of teenaged mass murderers;
their indigo lanterns light the earthly bed,
in daggered petals. Blameless is the wild
onion that colonizes their underground revolt
with clusters of pearly marbles and loss
of native language. Of thuggish mint and ivy
I compose odes to tenacity and health
as I rip them loose by great handfuls,
cut deep the cape fuchsia, make room
for the rare and delicate, not the rampant
and hale, defending the plot
against obviousness, allowing
the feathered frond to flourish,
for the surprise of the hybrid hue. I never knew
how much of gardening is uprooting
and pruning, killing and tilling,
the one-dollar plant in the ten-dollar hole.
Sometimes it’s the sister
come home from college
with a way to enter
the world anew,
a side door, a compound eye,
an antigravity pill
you take upon your tongue
with Hendrix stitching
the curtains back, and the golden
throats of jonquils swallowing
your fear. She’s traveled far
to tell you. She’s come home
changed. She carries tales
of human folly and complexity,
knows how to settle disputes
with a word. She sings now
in Portuguese and Gaelic,
and when you ask her
what it means, she says,
“you’ll hear my name
in the old door’s hoarse
opening, in the clatter
of your horse’s hooves,
in the river’s unhurried
passage from the mountain
on down to the sea.”
I'm a poet, writer, & teacher living along the river in West County, raising a family, and doing my thing.