This Brighter Prison - Excerpt


In the photographs, a small boy clutches a tattered blanket
  and nurses like a night-eyed calf
    at his own thumb.

These images are now impossible.
Though it is cold, 
  the photographs still
  blister my fingers.

The seasons have blurred with the grace
  of blood swirling down the drain
    of a porcelain sink.
Now the boy is rawboned,
  eye-sockets deep as boar-pits.
He leans over the taps and fishes
  fragments of teeth from his mouth,
  smiling at them like curious gems.

Somewhere in this city,
  there are eye-teeth on the sidewalk.
A design like scarlet lace deepens in the snow. 
Footprints grate over a glitter of broken glass. 
There is a print of a body in darkness.


I have stumbled over the world's edges, licked the candy windows
  and spent endless nights with the wise.
I have watched men and women
    touch each other
    with the tentative
    gestures of stray dogs.
I have seen my happy friends
  tear the nails from their fingers
  and hurl plates out of windows.
I know something about violent bad habits.

But my brother
  who wears the skin of my body
    remains a mystery.
He is splattered by mud.
He is still pelted by orange peels,
  tea towels, and screwdrivers,
    the ammunition of our childhood.

He is fifteen.
He is a gate of anger waiting for the storm
  that will rip him from his hinges
    and heave him to the wind.


In the field above Fish Creek
  there are toe prints in the snow, 
  evidence of the gallant barefoot sprint
    for freedom.

When he ran, the horses spooked
  like giant gray ghosts and galloped away.
He tore himself through the barbed wire
  and slid down the cliffs ides,
  knowing policemen eat too many donuts
    and do not fire to wound.
He dropped his own gun gently, like a black frog.

He ran through the snow,
  cut his feet on ice, pine cones, rocks,

  sprinting, anxious muscles in love with their bones, 
  his body oblivious at last, eating new air

    he charged into the trees, 
    bolted over the bridge the horses fear

    suddenly he feared nothing

    fears nothing, runs,
    his mind pierced
    with hot wordless sorrow

    he sprints out against himself, 
    escaping into the world,
    this brighter prison

      the boy, fifteen,
      famous for knife scars and theft,
      in his own mind,

      for racing death 
      barefoot through the snow.

Isadora and the Basque PhotographerIsadora and the Basque Photographer 

Quickly, Inaki, take her picture
  catch the light and her hand
    spread on the whitewashed wall, hold the lizard there, 
    above her skull
    warming leather in the sun,
    its eyes slit to feathers of gold.

Quickly, the photograph,
  trap this moment, the shadows playing like purple flowers 
  on her face as she throws her head back to laugh.

The girl is laughing,
  her mouth is cleft fruit, wet,
  her golden hand splays against white, the bones are perfect, 
    flowing from fingers
      to wrists to elbows to neck
      like the glimmering cables
        of a sun-struck bridge.

My body is a bridge, she tells you, smiling. 
There is always someone crossing over.

Inaki, quickly, take the picture, remember her this way, 
  Sunday afternoon on Skopelos,
    grief sleeping in a sea
    the same colour as your eyes.

You have missed a thousand other moments of her life. 
You were too breathless to take pictures
  when she was naked on the beach,
  singing for no reason.
You inhaled her voice and nearly choked,
    but she chuckled as watermelon seeds
      fell on her belly,
      oh, the pink juice, she said,
        and pulled your head down
          to lick her clean.

Even as she swam, you only stared
  at the gloves of blue water stroking her body.
    You cannot photograph any of that,
  or the years she has picked grapes
  and found fine Greek men to fuck.

She leans against the wall of the white church.
All the walls leading up and away are white,
  or blue, azure, draped with sleeping cats and flowers,
  fuschia and flame cascading over every fence.

Her body will be the arched bridge beneath you, 
  you will cross over her,
  pound over her, running,
    rushing, the flesh on her skeleton
      will be pale as a clay road
        under the moon.

The church is two hundred years old. 
Her face will not 
last that long.
You will die.
Take the photograph.
You are dying now.

The church is two hundred years old. Her face will not last that long.
You will die.
Take the photograph.
You are dying now. 

The colours will never be like this again.
Blind old men will wander home from the docks, dazed by the stench 
of dead fish and feline sex.
As the water roils to darkness, the sky
will raise the rotting face of a black angel. 

In late evening, Isadora's smooth-plank back
will snap away from your bed.
She will fling open every door and window 
  in this house,
    weary of your rich skin,sickenened by 
      the brackish musk of your love.

Spanish Lessons

Spain takes you in like a masked lover,
  ties you up with a red scarf,
  throws you the ocean's score
  and commands you to sing.
You are fooled by the grace of a man's hand
  gliding over a woman's bronze neck.
You are fooled by black eyelashes, amber eyes,
  mouths that smell of chocolate and wine.
  Spain teaches that the body is its own absolute.
The body is greedy and simple, honest, a hungry child.
The Mediterranean insists that the mind
  is a snake in the sand,
  turning its sharp tongue in venom.

1n EI Greco's city of narrow streets, the sabres
  pierce your eyes to sunsets
  that awe even the gods.
Through a butterfly dance of bats, the violet sky
sweeps down to kiss the velvet desert, reaches down to kiss your face,

    and stars drop ivory petals of light in your eyes.