Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Response to Ms. Woolf

To write fiction, Virginia Woolf once wrote,
a woman needs money and a room of her own.

To write poetry, I think, a woman needs
a broken tea cup and some jam.

To write plays, I presume, a woman needs
the silhouette of a snake and an orange balloon.

To write essays, she needs only a long-haired
cat and night's open palm.

To write epitaphs, it follows, she needs
knitting tools and a gallon jug.

And to write fiction, Virginia Woolf
forgot to mention, you need cake,
opium, gorilla fur, and a ball of twine,

Ode to Crawfish

A forty pound colony of Louisiana
crawfish just arrived
via FedEx in a white, styrofoam Mayflower.

JD spreads the unsuspecting pilgrims
on the back porch of this East Texas lake house.
He cleans them methodically.

As he sprays, the crawfish writhe and spin;
they raise their red claws to the sky.

In poses of surrender or exhaltation, they are washed
and gathered and reboxed in preparation
for their ten gallon death.

Even now, as JD fills the pot with
water, the crawfish reach and stretch against
the sides fo their styrofoam cell.

Soon they will be moved by handfuls into
a spicy pyre where they will be come red and

We will eat them with corn, potatoes,
a healthy share of local beer, and a

I hope we speak of democracy, peace,
honor, or love- those most dangerous,
most difficult subjects- those subjects
worthy of such a sacrifice.

New England Woods

The woods of New England
are not like the woods of the south.

In the south, we have large
groves of oaks whose antebellum
roots still sprawl where plantation
homes once burned.

In the south, we have yellow
pine forests whose needled
beds hide coral snakes
and small town teenage trysts.

In the south, we have swamps
whose mix of moss and fog
help ghosts and alligators
both appear and disappear without warning.

But in the north, you have
Irving Washington filling
your bundles of sticks with our
child nation's greatest stories.

You have Robert Frost, covering
your empty acreage with snow

You have Arthur Miller letting
loose witches into your barren woods.

And driving, as I am now,
on the slow road from New York
to Bethesda, I can't help but
see your fictions swirl about
dead branches, like the fall
we wish we had.


for Josh Kain

You drink your vente-créme de caramel-macciato with organic milk and cinnamon whip. Sip it gingerly as you open your books, as you let all the words fall out. Pick them back up and carry them reverently, the idle props of your one-man tribute to ennui.

I’ll have a small cup of stiff, black coffee. I’ll wade into the neighboring river as the sun crawls up the sky. I’ll whip my line back and forth, the whistle of which will be the only sound God did not make.


In the Upper-west side
my friend has an apartment.

It is a postage stamp
on this envelope of a city,

a grape in this large horn-of-plenty,

but it is hers, and she lives
in it unapologetically.

The light wood floors
cover the ground like
some oaken quilt,
some unsolvable geometry lesson,
or the tessellating rugs of Alhambra.

The walls are vanilla pudding
and the silver radiator drops from the ceiling
like some bizarre utensil
with which to eat it.

Outside the open window,
the purchased symphony of the city plays.

Nigerian nannies push small white
children in rattling strollers.
Students at a nearby school laugh and scream
and lay the foundations of the edificial lives.
The busses and taxis honk and squeal down Broadway.
Wind shakes the leafless branches of this city’s
concrete trees.

Somewhere, church bells chime
with the hour—the little choir, a small
reminder of the God who still dwells
in these mechanical places.

And a woman, long out of the limelight,
competes with this metropolitan orchestra.
She walks up and down vocal scales
as a mezzo-soprano. Her vibrato vibrates
this small, forgotten opera house,

and in our warm vanilla box seats,
we close our eyes, lean our heads back
and applaud,

our prima donna’s most devoted fans,
tasting small thimbles of joy
in this ocean of a city.