Conception


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Conception


You were made in the desert in a car with the windows down
About an hour after sunset, as quiet as a mango pit
Save the panting engine from a long drive in

Your mother and I steaming. We had no idea it would work
It was not supposed to be. In Death Valley, in a Volkswagen
In an engulfing space, the lowest place on Earth

Hundred and nineteen in the sun. Gas was four bucks, we gasped
Out the windows, copulating in our petri dish under the vast
Dome of sky, nothing but minimal specks by which to grasp

Not like it’s supposed to be. We were afraid of the silence
You know, those desert homicides, pickup with lights dimmed
Who knew we’d create a storm called you

Those days I thought the heart was more a muscle than an organ
How it would grow in a sea of dad, landscape of petty and urge
Flashflooding the highway, depositing love far and deep

At night, if one is quiet, when the windows are wide
Still a little fear.   How irony, in its expansiveness
And a little lust brought you here

There is a tiny fish that lives only in Death Valley              
Ironically, created in a cave, in waters sparse and dank   
Not in the seas, but in California’s deep perdition

Listen to your mother and I breathing you into being
This is your pulse, your desert, all the water that you need
To evolve in your own unlikely shallows

At the Lakshmi Temple grounds at Rajgir


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At the Springs of Temple Lakshmi


At the Lakshmi Temple grounds at Rajgir the hot springs cure all. We wash hands
in the generous springs. Splash liberally on the face and over the head.

Clothes, no matter. Everyone is wet in all manner of dress. Say your name. 
Say your family members’ names. One by one they are cleansed in your prayers. 

Drink shiny metal cups full. Capture it loose and heavy from the stone dragon's
outpouring mouth. Sit with the water as it confirms your shape on worn stone steps.

Listen to children gurgling. See their parents washing their iniquities in pools 
of belief as their parents and their parents and their parents, and so on.

Hear the boatload of middle schoolers on a field trip to Lakshmi's holy springs. 
Watch them bob with giggles and glee, forgetting the anxieties of twelve.

Listen to the girls sing along to the happy Hindi music as they splash. See their 
school uniforms transform from marine blue to the dark deep shelf of the ocean.

Touch the warm waters of Lakshmi Temple to consider how they play with humanity.  
Is it their own beauty, or do they conjure the sublime in you?

Your physical body: How its muscles languish; how the spine bends achingly 
forward in years; how the limbs follow you around carrying tired heaps of skin.

Yet in these waters the body has become gorgeous. It is one with the Hindu prayers. 
One with a clean past. One with the canticles and rhythms of water.

One with the Brahmin priest who is blessing you for your offering, a white flower 
you have laid at the foot of a stone goddess Lakshmi, adorned in purple and gold.

Gold, reflected in your eyes, wide with infinity. Purple like the dripping cliffs, 
curtains of heaven surrounding the pools.

A skinny man balances all that is sugar atop his head on a wide, metal tray, notices
your eyes and dips precariously to showcase all that is available for you.

Your mouth lingers with his sesame, milk, coconut and caramel, and as you drip 
in the cool shade of a bodhi tree, beaded water nestled in the hairs of your arm loosens.

Loosens, ushering a sweet river of sugar juice that disappears in drips off the elbow, 
a gift for grateful ants at the Temple of Lakshmi.

Forgetting where you are could be anywhere or nowhere


Calacatta Gold Marble Honed 12x24" Subway Floor and Wall Tile
It’s All There Is, In India


Sometimes in India
Forgetting where you are
Could be anywhere
Or nowhere, in Kushinigar
From the bus window:
Slow man on a pink, beat bike
A baby rides a lean women’s hip
Agile dogs mount in a trash ditch
With plastic signs of commerce                  
Everywhere without commerce      
Anywhere on planet earth

After 5 weeks, you are alert
To the location of your bag
In the universe, your gaze,
Passport. Is anyone lurking
The station besides that confident rat?
Where are your feet? How crazy is he?
Are you attracting attention?
Does your crossed leg show too much sole?
How is your odor from the monsoon sweat?
Are you hungry? Did you take a malaria pill?
Alone makes one obsessed with self

Then it occurs to you:  You
Are an insect with giant oval eyes
Alert in the flickering light
Preening yourself, exposed
Alert for predators
Aware of the mopping man
Transforming tiles in swirls
With a glee that comes from
Illusion, or pills, or conviction
That the moment of now
Is all there is

Climate change is melting people free from icy tombs


From a Time Before Climate Change


Towering slabs lose their grip
Remains are melting from the ice
Who starved while singing from their pain
Below blackened cliffs that drip
Of eons, echoing to hush

Deep draws of breath and time
Open tombs around the world
Who ran away with mouth wide open
From war or clutching amulets
Still rubbed clean

Long whimpering thaws
Drain salt of tears to sea
Who was a thief and bled out
Before helicopters
Or search parties

We will date them
Scan pollen samples
Who was hunting ‘til lost in fog
Burry them in boxes
Or museums

Sometimes they curl
Or straighten as they thaw
Who slipped or was chased
Sometimes turn first to red
Then hues of stone

Cannot inquire as to decisions
Study contents of their stomachs
Who lost a lover, well aware into the cold
From a time before engines
Or climate change

The Ghats of Varanasi

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The Ghats of Varanasi


The ghats come clean when drops of rain
Flood slurry scum from ancient slabs
Of stone hauled thick from Maharajan cliffs
Into a river flowing brown, opaque and swift

Wide rows of toothy stone, the ghats, in packs
Down from the spitting slums where kids
Wake spritely and squat early in the shade
Then climb into their bare snake suits

These ghats live well on refuse and on ash
As women pound the clothes of day to pulp
In the wash to mangroves where the licks
Of tigers curl in sleep at Bengal Bay

Singing softly in the dusk, the ghats
Ignore the clocks and what is at their backs
Intent with solemn sticks that float with bones
In time with eons and lit candles on their lips

These ghats take all children thin and wet
Whose mothers peer through iron bars to see
Their searing shimmers wiggle as they rise
Or dive in magic arches and bold splash

The gritty ghats lure cashless, squinting bulls
With monkey gods, blue women and the strays
Lap puddles and chew mango seeds til gone
Leaving holy places with their dry thin stools

Brahmin bells proclaim what we have missed
Truth be told, you’ll find it in a coconut
Its cool white milk and wet shredded meat
Is hulled and hairy and smells of burning flesh

On el Dia de Los Muertos

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Lying On Her Grave


Incense poked into her soil
We wonder how she died
On November 11, 1878
Woman with lichened, unreadable name
Decayed below her tombstone
A mother oak--dark and stretched
Wide against the glowing white
Of sky

We drink Palomas with Mezcal
Before dodging traffic to a gallery
Watch an artist demolish his perfect
Vessels into sunken forms
The way he remembers bodies
Slumped in the street
Returning to earth
In Iraq

As the candle burns low
Our legs wrap like roots
Noticing gothic letters, flickering
Her name becoming clear
She is John Sutton, a man
We wonder if John has finally
Come out on Dia de los Muertos
With the light

When the gallery lights dim
We eat tacos across the street
For the Day of the Dead
While the Addams Family flickers
Behind the bar, yet
My eyes rivet on spirits
Moving in and out of apertures
Of her dress

No one is watching
On the Dia de los Muertos
The lovers sprawled amongst
Bones.  No one is honoring
Life like those who flicker
In their skeletal moments
Freeing themselves, exorcising
The dead

You do the DNA test and find this

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After the Flight


You do the DNA test
Bring the sealed results to a funeral weekend
Everyone gorges on Chinese food

In the living room you reach into the envelope
There is laughing about our thousand year lineage
About how much this or that, as if we know

Most everything we’d know
Except the 10.5% Jewish
Looking at each other

That one word
Stands up on the page
Like a boney stereotype

The sound of Ashkenazi
Someone Googles it
Most of all, laughter

2-4 generations back
10.5% of our blood. 10.5% of the giggling
My Jewish friends get a text

A little allure about Jews
African Americans and Jews
And now some of them is you           

When Chinese food was empty trays and egg drop soup
During landing, considering
The wheels touching down

Spinning hot and burnt
Amongst cornfields, dead and tall
Hearing their wheezing breaths

You realize
This is 10.5% targeted. 10.5% spit
10.5% grief and ash and bones

From a pit
This is kinfolk in a forest, hunched
Cousins, mocked, raped or blamed

An uncle or an aunt, 100%
Ducked into their own
Face full of tears