Social commentaries


For Russians the stars are always incontinent, ejaculatory
smears across the squalor of a boundlessly

unhygienic sky. You’ d scoff, Marina, at how I go at them
with a tiny plastic shovel and my litter box

technique, scooping up the sidereal splooge while trying
to wipe down the universe. You’ d say

I tug at God’ s Old Testament beard, praying the prayers

of a coward. You’ d confide to your diary my eyelashes
don’ t bat sootily enough. Such a lummox

Political Theory

In a famous painting of a founding father
and the back end of a horse

it’ s the horse butt that’ s properly lit
groomed out smooth an immortal peach

Who can say what it means about revolution
that the horse’ s tail emerges as though it had no bones in it

no chunky mechanics of the living
And the horse is not well muscled

but has been living in the rich grass
swollen like a birthday balloon

Poem on a National Holiday

How is it satisfied
I asked clapping my hands violently

and waving
in fear that I would miss the parade

I might have lost my sight
without noticing

Gone on imagining
I saw the same linked-up rooms I moved through

Or some cool gray space
where a silence could be made

I wanted a little animal
to climb inside it cleanly

I was asking to be left alone
but in answer the sun shone brighter

Intensity as Violist

That she was not pretty she knew.

The flowers delivered into her hands post-concert by the young girl, pretty, would be acknowledged only. To display was to invite comparison.

Skilled at withholding, she withheld; it was a kind of giving. As when meditation is a kind of action,

a way of leaning into music the way one leans into winter wind, the way a mule leans into a harness,

the way a lover leans into the point of deepest penetration.

After a ship’ s prow cuts the water, the water rushes back twice as hard.

After the Disaster

One night, not long after the disaster,
as our train was passing Astor,
the car door opened with a shudder
and a girl came flying down the aisle,
hair that looked to be all feathers
and a half-moon smile
making open air of our small car.

The crowd ignored her or they muttered
“Hey, excuse me” as they passed her
when the train had paused at Rector.
The specter crowed “Excuse me,” swiftly
turned, and ran back up the corridor,
then stopped for me.
We dove under the river.


My father was an enormous man
Who believed kindness and lack of size
Were nothing more than sissified
Signs of weakness. Narrow-minded,

His eyes were the worst kind
Of jury — deliberate, distant, hard.
No one could outshout him
Or make bigger fists. The few

Who tried got taken for bad,
Beat down, their bodies slammed.
I wanted to be just like him:
Big man, man of the house, king.

ICC Kenya Trials: Witness

was it so I could
never say
across a courtroom
that man, the one
standing there

was it so you could
walk among us again
as if you had shed
the body that did
those things

was it because you could
not bear
my pupils so huge
they would have swallowed you
my whites like flayed kneecaps

when you pressed down
to singe them back
into my skull they were softer
than you expected
you had thought them
diamond hard
weapons turned on you

from Don't Let Me Be Lonely: “I don't usually talk to strangers...”

I don't usually talk to strangers, but it is four o'clock and I can't get a cab. I need a cab because I have packages, but it's four o'clock and all the cabs are off duty. They are making a shift change. At the bus stop I say, It's hard to get a cab now. The woman standing next to me glances over without turning her head. She faces the street where cab after cab drives by with its light off. She says, as if to anyone, It's hard to live now. I don't respond. Hers is an Operation Iraqi Freedom answer.