One Poem: Order


Let’s deal with the brilliant forsythia
and the strangle of lilacs

that beside the train tracks bloom
and burn, yellow, mauve, erratic, effusive,

firing flames beside the train’s upstate roar
even as it shrieks by at no matter what speed

tell these seasons they can’t go on like this—
oh just a glimpse of the sparkling Hudson

before the train fires on
is not enough! Endless river,

always passing, blooms yearly dying:
give us more order—

or less.
From the train I spot

a man on a Hudson river barge,
who waves to me with a big smile

and I wave back.

From behind windows so darkly tinted
he may not see me

waving anyway, waving and waving—

Five Poems: Progress, All in a Row, Wasp, Day after Day, Meteorologist



Since the highrises and the fancy dock 
went in, Byzantium looks like Florida 
or the coast of Spain—

working people on holiday 
with palm fronds and sickly drinks.

A lot of concrete.

After three hours on the beach,
carrying a small volume of Yeats,
I don’t care for exposed flesh anymore.

I just want my little flask
and to never take off my sunglasses.
It’s not pleasant to expose myself 
whenever I want to.

I want lapus lazuli and priests,
birds of prayer and gold leaf. 
I want Isaiah and the fervor
of Greek or Russian Orthodox, 
stone walls, exclusion and mystery.

I apply zinc to my nose and slowly get drunk.
Tide is out.
No sailing tonight.
No Byzantium.

All in a Row

I adopt two cows
and like a dilletante walk them to slaughter.

Buildings made of hay bales:
Manhattan a farm.

All in a row,
everyone’s cows.

Mine wait brainlessly,
don’t try to escape.
                      They hang their heads low:
bovine depression.


I’d been drinking
in the kitchen.

A wasp on the landing looked lost,
its nose pressed
to the painted wood.

Its wings hummed along
to a private philosophical problem 
or maybe it was waiting out an exit.

My foot in the expert’s shoe
squared off above it
cracked down
killed it. 
                         A kind 
death, I thought, 
no delusions 
no rage.
No one got hurt.

Day After Day

Miserable still, though different, 
the morning sun rose into sight.

Inside the hospital I was recovering
from a dailiness quite severe 
something lost somewhere
or too much of me all around 
or not enough.

Like medical Houdinis, the doctors
looked down, smirks
sealed into their sympathy

"If we asked you,
could you talk about this 
more directly?"


             "Could you write it
in these margins? 
Is it rhythmic?"

            "Does it have sound?"

it has
repeating sounds, flashes and strikes.

             "It has two parts then, 
the facts and the flow; 
numbers and voices.
Would you like to make a recording?"


I’d like to make amythyst


I'm getting my PhD in clouds

                   I don't care
the way she did
hanging her desires
on knitting needles
                 knit one   pearl one   cast one off

           Preserving her virginity
in a glass box

            I smash my box with a fire ax

So lock me up

                      I'm silver, I'm rain, I'm gone

Ten Poems, Read Aloud

AS PUBLISHED IN THE PENN Sound Center: Radio Poetique Archive

PENN Sound is a project of the Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing at the University of Pennsylvannia (UPENN). The project was launched in 2005 by poet and professor Charles Bernstein, along with Dr. Al Filreis, director of the center, to preserve the writing and performances of poets and to encourage new work. The Radio Poetique archive hosts recordings of poets who appeared on the Brooklyn-based poetry radio show, Radio Poetique, from 2003 - 2007.

A Picture of You



Getting to the Whale

The Spell

A Diary and Two Letters: Day After Day


Busy Isolation

By the Highway on Foot

Arctic Circle; Meteorologist

One Poem: Animals


One by one the animals disappeared
either shot or destroying each other
or owned by banks or the military,
the short dog, the eagle mean
and not giving over,
the terrible melancholic deer.

I admired their efforts in the face of apocalypse
and so lined up my inner animals
in a similar formation:
the happy stupid one, the cheater,
the practicing intellectual,
the yogini, the softball champion—

They looked pretty good together,
a nice cross-section of society
so I fixed myself a scotch
and smoked cigars Washington-style
and laughed from deep under my pubic bones
where my phantom penis nervously waited.

Once gathered this way
they acted like union officials
out back on their breaks
cigarettes burning
in solidarity with the sunset: one by one
they raised their hands over their hearts—

I grew up with animals, you know.

I always needed to rescue something.
I never liked lace
the troubling gaps masquerading as completions,
and I never liked spring branches,
that dripped with rain
then became dry—

There must be order.
Fold clothes neatly
and put them in drawers.
Use make-up, mow the lawn.
Eat right.
The body gracious as a butler—

As if nothing had happened
someone put out her cigarette
and sad as a Chihuahua
said, "Heavy rustling of needles. Uplifted branches—
their shapes offer them up
but then they struggle against their shape—"

—no one speaks like that

I turned away.
When I looked back
she was gone
like the animals. No!
"When I looked back she was laughing,"

Yes, like that,
as though she actually
saw something in the trees
like a sign fortune tellers had posted
giving up their charade:
be prepared for no answer

or maybe,
be prepared for I.V.s and a crowd in the ward
an approximation
of a conclusion— a body’s knowledge here and there
then changed into
anything else—

One Poem: Favorite Restaurant


you keep trying to get it right


tonight’s menu on the placemate again

a sweat-crusted "what?"
he’s just happy to see you—

Jean’s spelled an S.O.S. in white tape
in her loft windows
two letters short of a message

He runs his hand down your back
such a huge prize
you order a hamburger,
Moon separated from Jean’s building
electricity separated from her air conditioner
both joined

in a relationship of absence—

Real estate over love

real estate


Loneliness lives

in the mind. Real estate

lives around the body

you chose loneliness

over interrupting love

more poets commit suicide than painters

does this make them less__________ or more _____________?

He would ride naked on a horse

dance samba with brooms

still you look on blankly

it kills you,


Jean paints with the power cut,

he loves you though you sidestep

though you come back to this place

again and again

trying to get it right

its moon and the message

written very nearly

clearly before you—

Bodega: a Sestina


Shit! Out of milk again. The bodega
downstairs is no good, forget it, sells only beer
chips, canned beans, pickled pimento, and smokes
their milk’s always expired, the guy just shrugs
when I ask him how comebrown toothed smile, nods
uh-uh, sure-sure his go-home dumb-ass mumble.

I’ve done that twice I won’t again mumble
cocksucker, how hard is it for bodegas
to sell unexpired milk? Boozers nod
and wink inside and on the street with beers
men in Cuban hats, bottle caps, and shrugs
and wide sweeps of hey! arms wide, fat smokes

what do they talk about all day? Light smokes
at nine a.m. or maybe ten whenever the mumbler
stumbles in to open shop. They smoke, they shrug
hello or turn away, say “fucking car,” bodega
of eternal comment, sponsored by Bud beer
come afternoon they’re slouched in sleepy nods,

but still they know who comes and goes. They nod
sly-eyed, if they like you they’ll give you smokes
or fix your bike, warn you about the milk, suggest beer,
give you a gracious pass at the door, mumble
salut! the end-all cheer of the bodega
when you’re gone forget you with a shrug

eh, whitey. Always wants something. Shrug
off to the back room, pool table, thick with nods,
good shot, cheater! asshole, conyo, bodega
men. In summer, their women come with their smokes,
pull lawn chairs under the one tree, mumble
uh-uh, no way, play salsa, goddamn it, more beer!

shout, shout, eh conyos! turn the music up! more beer!
You know what? Forget the milk I’ll just shrug
if off, coffee’s black, I’ll buy juice, mumble
my thanks, pass the women in their shady chairs, nod
at their young babies, every one of them has smokes
that’s the way it is downstairs, that’s our bodega

where the men crack beers before noon and nod
uh-huh, yeah, damned fucking car, shrug off and smoke,
turn on the transistor, mumble, eh, si, no, eh, shit, okay: bodega.

One Poem: Small Gestures


Mosquito larvae "may be the leading impediment to economic growth in the developing world."—New York Times, July, 2000.


It begins with small understandings,
then rises to the size of Ganesh's phallus.

You are at a dim cafe. Lightning splits the sky.
You are eating spiced olives with someone you desire.
The door is open but she doesn't love you.
A white streak burns into your retinas.
The taste of cumin and paprika salt you with a shriveled pain,
you have bought it and you must pay.

ii) The Mosquito

It begins with a billow of evolutionary hubris,
then sweeps the body with encephalitic fevers.

Larvae hatching in old tires
don't threaten anyone
busy behind their screens.

But she's a democratic insect and she insists;
she sips blood in
to gestate her young,

for this gift she repays in flames
shooting in yellow fever, malaria,
a vast swelling, transnational,
the sting and buzz of generous disease.

The democratic insect. Fair exchange.

iii) Mayan Scribes: the Red Murals

It began with a talent for figures, gestures,
then grew into civil war.

In victory, the Mayan scribes were drunk with their King,

wrapped in long scrolls of their work
and rolling around the palace.

In defeat their fingers were ritually broken
in front of their enemies,
their genitals gashed
and their fingernails torn out.

In the Mayan dictionary "fingernails" means lament:

"I have no fingernails; I am no longer the person I used to be.
I no longer have power or authority
or money. I am no one."


It begins with simple gestures,
then swells to the size of Nietzche's madness.

The mosquito either infects
or it doesn't.

The scribes are either drunk
or they are dead.

She either loves you
or she is lightning.

There is great thirst, even as the bloom is on the larvae.

Three Poems: Panic and Work, Gutting Trout, Silence


Panic and Work

Buicks and Chevys stand parked
in the Goodyear factory parking lot
though their restless atoms whiz;

the bushes don’t care, snagged
as they are on junk-- rotting insulation 
like awkward bolts of flesh;

hobos pace the fence 
between the railway tracks and the trucks,
walking in the leaves’ mulch and their
smell --

inside the factory, punchcards hold on a moment
in the teeth of the machine
in sexual noise, a joy;

but flustered by mental nonsense 
one machinist drove home at high speed
with the Maritime salt-marshes calling in gibberish,
wanting to veer into the snowbank on either side of the road
and hide under his bed.

His work ethic offered no comfort:

no one inside the factory would accept
"Buicks parked at senseless angles"
for signs of ‘team spirit’;

nor would the parking lot
contain his obvious struggle--
neatly parked in their defining spaces
Buicks and Chevys stand row on row.

gutting trout author joelle hann.gif

Gutting Trout

Roughly the flesh resists
then the head pops open
a silver-red rose forced to flower.

I’m glad you are dead.
Your deflated fins lay against my palm
like a hushed-up baby;
each of your speckles
once part of the black and yellow lake
flash like codes.

Killing was like a game, but it wasn’t.
The bolted handle of the knife
clubbed you dead. I used to watch his expert hands.
I learned to kill 
by splitting myself in two-- 
one shrieking, as the blade 
shrank into the skin,
the other standing back in a smirk--

Your filmy lake-water back
slaps the sink,
my father’s knife seems to know you.
              --here’s the white bucket for your innards
              the silver tap to flush you out.

"Intestine," my mother says. "Digestion. Waste." 
I scratch your black intestine with my thumbnail
'til each vertebrae is articulate.

Then I open you 
without disgust, adult-like:
lost are all the organs that propelled you towards me; 
I relate to you perfectly. Your scoured inside
is my ideal self, gutted and clean

no mess in my all-reflecting eyes.


Let there be silence in the overmind,
exhaust the stigmas, the busy enigma 
of being, as it's silenced
In the closed handwriting of some mad women.

Others may mark their way like dogs,
trickling piss from their excited hearts 
over city shrubs and parking meters.

Q: How does a life unfold? 
A: Each day without a security guard.

Initial life questions hit across the throat 
and give birth to more questions.

(As I write this, wasps crawl in and out of the light socket
so above me is the sound of struggle.)

To prevent more questions I've transferred my life
into photographs. I look like a medium-brown woman (summer)
with drooping eyes. (She of all people looks like she is posing.)

But it isn't summer yet it is spring (I'm rushing)
lilacs on my desk perfume with a mauve flourish
like little groups of microphones
that would not be photographed.

The trees in the photos of the trees
seemed farther away than when I saw them out the window.
I miss them, turned back
to a living wild and without me.

Q: why me?
A: no particular reason