Making Home

The selected poems and etchings are part of a small edition of artist books. The etchings and poems were created in a parallel workflow, often with the image preceding the text. As the image moved from composition into the technical process of etching, aquatinting, and printing, I wrote from the place or emotion that image created.

FAMILIARING

Butter the trees.
Dig old smells out of soil
with your hands: vanilla,
cream of wheat.
The curb is a rounded bread crust.
Make browned toast to fill
the spaces between clouds.

Draw shadows at impossible
curves, the blues subtle
and glazed with glowing
orange on asphalt dark.
The vanishing point is your door,
green with peeling paint.

By tracing the street with two wheels
you can contain the neighborhood.
Some nights, you smell
a dinner simmering
as you ride by.
Zucchini and rice, the windows
are closed, holding in heat.

Touch the brakes,
lean around the corner
toward home.
Call it a pillow of fog.

HOLDING

We cling before parting
and our only movement is fernlike,
slight as tendrils nudging hems.

Outside in this cloud-shadow
the neighborhood swallows, holds its tongue.
Windows drip dew, but imperceptibly.

I stay, glued to the stairs,
shoe soles stuck in paint.
A cold pocket of fog grows over my chest.
Keys freed from his jeans snap the hovering pause.

The sidewalk buckles as he tiptoes to his car
making small earthquakes
under the garden.

NO CEILING, BUT A ROOF

I’ve been eating almonds, one by one, for the past eight minutes.
I taste an oil between the halves. It gathers under my chin.

Mom put salted cashews in the tin snack-can last winter
Dad ate a handful with his beer while they made dinner.

It is a ritual for them, including three different elements.
A meat browned in a pan. Some greens. A bread.

The way my boyfriend and I lie in bed in the morning
is the way my mom and dad lie in bed in the morning.

There is no railing on this bed and no curtain on the window.
There is no ceiling. There are hands and mouths and there is a roof.

When the leaves fall off these vines, the window
makes this room an aquarium, lit up for the whole city.

It’s okay, no one knows us here. I understand that I’m pretty.
I wear jade-plaid, dance so hard I fall on the beer-slicked floor.

See, I repeat recipes out of ancestral memory, all subconscious.
Brussels sprouts go well with pasta. They are in the oven.

“THE ECCHOING GREEN”

Paint peels from the front steps,
green fades in the sun. It bakes the cotton
around my legs, blood crawls like vines.
My hot hands hold a bowl of glazed lettuce
and avocado mashed on crusted grains.
My housemate peels flannel sleeves
from her wrists. The collard greens
flap their leaf-ears. We survey the neighborhood.
Our phrases sail in wind, echoing childish tones.
On splayed toes, I pick sourgrass to taste.

Sourgrass grew at my first house too
and the collard greens waved leaf-hands
from wiry, curling stems in Dad’s raised beds.
Dad taught me to recite Blake’s “The Ecchoing Green”
when I was a yellow-haired child.
A great fulfillment of fatherhood, I bet
to have seen my round face bathed in sun
against the shadows of the collard greens,
my tiny throat ringing out
those soft rhymes like little bells.

Shadows cool the front steps
as the sun begins to descend.
My housemate retires inside
brushing toast crumbs from her pants.
I chase the sun behind the house
where it falls in flat patches.
Here, collard greens grow out of old tires.
The dust-green leaves wobble on their long stalks.
I have not gone so far, tasting sourgrass
bare-toed in the darkening green of my new yard.