20-minute selfie

selfie #14: end of self

we take the task seriously:      face the camera

make the necessary adjustments         first look at me      

mistake my hair for winter garland         wrap it around

your shoulders        then look away       

these walls papered with our daily devotions       

the punctum is     that you are still in the frame       

mouth a grim line       eyes half-closed as if anticipating

the scene        where it all breaks down

selfie #13: past perfect

this is the way we live now:        fingers aching

hair drawn back with barrettes        while you drive

I sleep         not wanting         to take too much in

indifferent years accumulate         like old chairs

in new upholstery        and the faces of everyone

we used to know        we stayed out late and then

on the floor you took me apart         as a way

of remembering         that summer in all its

bright fury        past days of simple transactions       

a single shelf in the refrigerator         single door with

single lock        when the phone bill came        you paid

your share        in those days we called it long distance

selfie #11: risk tolerance

the man at the bus stop      holds one arm over his head

and waves it in a slow wide arc        as the bridge collapses

in slow motion       the bus speeds past and does not stop

in the hospital room         paper cups of soup

cool on the window ledge        it is not the time for soup

it is not the time to pray for rain        or to fold cathedrals

from paper squares        when will you come for me       

I have been counting out loud         all these years         

the man at the bus stop         has not returned for weeks       

the hospital bed now empty        you should go now too       

no more waiting        no more backlit against the city skyline

while the buses speed by        they are extending

the crosswalk now        for our safety        but I say why not

let us all         just take our chances

selfie #10: self is a machine

the sound of a machine
speeding through the night sky
wakes me

from a dream
of being cradled in the steel arms
of another great machine

small wars
have erupted through the city
small fires burn

my machine carries me
barely disturbing
my broken bones

here we lament
the ruins of this fallen place
here we see broken glass

limp party balloons
table abandoned mid-
picnic      stroller on its side

wheels crushed and broken
what I will remember is the waiting
and then waking      in all this silence

selfie #9: purpose

people are leaving     running barefoot in their night pants      and shouting

disavowal         tell me the story      of the woman you left in the desert

crushing lavender beneath your feet         and tell me again

how you will leave me       on the bridge         with the light behind you

I am made for this     this train whistle and siren        I am made to do just this

selfie #7: mistaken identity

not in the end who we say we are:        not the wounded

the world-weary      the heart        on the sleeve       what rises in us

armored and fierce       what shudders       what

terrible tremble of memory       of suture torn and ragged      

how unfastened we are       how unfastened we become when        

touch can spread us open       here is where       you show me      

the lines you carved on your own face     and how you gasping

turn me over like a pearl plucked       from the cold green sea       

this is not        what I intended to say       this is not what I wanted

us to be        in the end aren’t we all of it        all of it

and nothing        a clean white cloth twisting         in the wind

selfie #6: devotional

this is not the last of us:       staircase at the end of a long hallway

you say what you want in the moment that you want it

lumbering through space and ravenous       this

is my body: take and       this is my body: the ground beneath us

gives way       no communion       no consecration       no hands

folded and brought to the mouth       no sacrament       no holy oils

no prayers of the faithful       no devotional hymns receding

on the tongue       bear your gifts to the altar of the

ruined and now bow your head       and blessed are they

who do not want what they have not got       and blessed are you now

on your knees       let us pray

selfie #5: gutted (with @leighhendrix)

“let yourself be gutted. let it open you. start there.”

what do they say?        there is a fine membrane         between skin and flesh

a sharp blade severs        there are hills you will want to die on       you

are not here        you are thinking of all the fine membranes         a wound is

an injury       but can also be an opening         to a what is no longer a wound        

you are thinking       of the time between         there are many hills        

you come in alone       my body on the cool metal table         I watch you

open me         you are not precise         you go out alone        

you return to a place        you do not recognize         what is severed

cannot be undone        though we may wish it       though we may

stuff the skins        with straw and clay        though we may wrap        

our wounds with paper        though gutted

selfie #4: invisible self

this is not a way to spend a life:       murdering time by the hour       

lost in some imagined state        some shoreline       some

desert       the infinite sky        the days are indifferent to      

our petty hungers:        shoreline turns to dust       desert

turns to ash        waking hours dissolving        to sugar water         

no tremble       no hands on the skin       no lifting hipbones

to the night        not imploring        like some wild

inhuman thing        to be broken         but broken

selfie #3: conditional

if the desert        yields its twisted yellow petals of creosote and spreads its table wide and if         we open to the flat blue sky and cry out yes and if the ghost lights         wink at us in the black night and if yes         and if the hot dry earth beneath our feet does not burn the skin and if we burn         and if we cry out         and if we let the telephones go unanswered and if yes and if the broad-shouldered arms         of the unknown city enfold us and if I say please don’t stop        and you say         all this ruin         and if yes         and if then         who would I be then and if then         and if when

selfie #2

when I arrived it was with         the artifacts of another life

a box filled with ribbons        jackknife        bent & broken

I don’t want to do this, you said         but you did

& disappeared beneath my hoop skirt        its whalebone

bent around you        & you waited        haunches lifted

you held my ribbons in your teeth    I heard your breathing

ragged         fierce & tangled         & anywhere ready to strike

selfie #1

how is it that you get to be         who you are

rain falls on late summer sedum

everyone you used to love is gone

you are not the architect of this feeble fantasy

all that you have made abroad and

assembled here from parts        none of it built to last

what you were given was time

what you squandered        what you were given

was rain sluicing your skin after love

now part of the made-to-order architecture

now part of the ruined temple        now build up

your monuments         now bury your dead