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To see a World in a Grain of Sand

And a Heaven in a Wild Flower 

Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand 

And Eternity in an hour

-William Blake



Mountain, Falls, Man

American Poetry Review, September/October, 1999

I love this old Chinese painting—mountain

split softly in two by the long blade

of a waterfall. Mist at the base holds

the black mountain like an ice floe, adrift

from that fifteenth century to this

bloodiest century on earth. Pines clutch

the stony hillside. Despite; nevertheless.

It's only on third, maybe fourth

glance that there appears a man (how did

he paint detail so fine?) sitting at cliff

edge, watching the mountain. What lust,

what hate, what guilt, what anger, does he bring

to the notching falls; what youth or age, fear

or hope, does he bring to this drift, floe

within floe—the falls churning below the mist

into river meandering between steep banks

out under my feet, the feet

of a 15th century painter who knows

This is all illusion; he says this to the emotions

splitting him in two. The painted man—minute!—

says this to the mountains. (Despite; nevertheless.)

Now that fluid blade of pain splits

my sternum. The mountain in my chest

is floating away. Die into this, die into

this—the tiny man's echo behind my eyes.


West Branch, 1991


The tour guide lies about the way George Washington died.

Or perhaps she just oversimplifies.

She's told the story so many times

her lips are barely in sync with her words, she wants

to say other things, her feet

are killing her, she daydreams, she looks

out the window to the Maryland woods, she falls into

George Washington's view. She takes us to the study

where he spent his last days writing letters, she tiptoes

on the oak floor at the doorway, she's looking in,

he's sitting back in his chair, a blank piece of paper

on the table before him, his head tipped back.

He stares at the ceiling, his throat flaming, while outside the rain

is mixing with snow. The trees he marked for cutting

a few hours ago are taken by the evening. Horse hooves

are pounding away. The fire

is going down, he's having difficulty speaking, she will help him

to bed, she will tell him his story, she has words

for this father of no children, she will describe

the huge balls, the ruins at Belvoir

but the chimney still standing.

My Mother's Body

The Journal, Winter 1995

In the shaded inlets of Long Island,

my hands curled to my ribs, afraid

of undersides, claws, wire antenae.

My brother Jim teaches me

how to—quick!—flip the rock,

pinch the shelled bodies,

toss them into the bucket for bait.

My crayfish scuttle away.

My mother's eye frames

the trembling boys in the viewfinder

as she walks the camera toward them.

The hot projector chatters.

Tonight we are older. Jim's girlfriend

has a body. My mother has tried on

her bikini, walked outside

robed in a dress shirt to flash

my father who looked, then bowed

back to the Catalina, bleeding

its brakes. What?

I ask. She shows me,

sitting before the oversized 

wheel, pumping the fat

brake pedal. Tides spill

from three slender cups.

I show my son nakedness, she says.

After the movie Doreen

teases, Jim snatches at

her ribs, they spring

and trot to his room

as my mother reheats coffee. 

In a yellowed album, on an uppermost shelf,

lives this photograph of my mother:

her eyes, behind girlish glasses, gleam

with ocean light. Her lean

body twists to the shutter.

Her love script to my father scurries

over the hollow of her shoulder.

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