Look Around

illustration by Leanne Canty

illustration by Leanne Canty

Look Around

‘Opportunity’ comes from the Latin porta, which is an ‘entrance’ or ‘passage through.’ The word is associated with doors and entranceways and an oppourtunus then, is what offers an opening, or what stands before an opening, ready to go through.
—Lewis Hyde, Trickster Makes this World

A crumb is an opportunity
for an ant. Strong wind is an opportunity
for the albatross to soar. An apple, ripe

and wholly red, is an opportunity to share.
For the aardvark surrounded by termites,
opportunities are everywhere.

The rain, to the agave, is an opportunity
to blossom. To Cleopatra, the venom of the asp
was an opportunity to die.

In golden autumn, aspen leaves are an opportunity
to get lost. An acorn is an opportunity for future shade.
A queen of hearts is an opportunity for an ace of spades.

There are always opportunities to listen. An enemy
is an opportunity for antlers to do what antlers do.
The temperature of a nest is an opportunity for an alligator egg

to be an alligator boy or an alligator girl. The artichoke
is an opportunity for the thistle to be valued.
The vast Atlantic Ocean is an opportunity to be alone.

What is not an opportunity for gratitude? A zillion zillion
blessings wait in every moment, portals for awe,
passages to astonishment, one way tickets with your name on them.


I walk away from the world
but there is only the world.

No, it is my thoughts
I try to leave behind.

Thoughts of how things
could be so different if only.

But there is only the way things are.
I spend hours in the garden,

shoveling and pulling and raking.
It hails. The hail passes. The sun

blazes and then disappears.
All day I am alone with the dirt,

the spade, the preparing of a space
for things to grow. And there,

hiding beneath last year’s dead parsley,
five sprightly green parsley volunteers.

I do not want to live forever,
but there is only forever, this moment

strung together with every other moment.
It is good to be kneeling in the dirt

aware that I am practicing. Now the rain.
I continue to dig, to tug. Now sun.

The day goes by. It goes by.
I forget to try to find myself.

Never Far Away

We tell stories about who we are and what life is, but seldom see that they’re only stories. The good news is that the truth is never far away. It’s right here, in fact, posing as backdrop.
—Erik Hansen, “The Island,”
Tricycle Magazine

Tonight the truth is posing as a short-haired cat,
gray and increasingly white muzzled.
She wants love. Now. She will scratch
for it, push for it, shove for it, yowl.
She has been left alone too long and
her black spine rises up to meet my hand
as I reach down toward her back. Not enough.
She leaps up and curls herself into an island
on my lap. People are usually more polite.
Unless we pout. Send darts with our eyes
with a note attached to the shaft that says,
Fuck you. I need you. Goddammit. Now. Please?
Oh the truth. How it messes everything up.
Like the story that says, I need your love.
It’s got so much drama, so much pull.
That story, a woman could build a whole life
around it before she ever thought to ask herself,
Is that true? The cat curls deeper into
my lap. I feel the tug toward the love
that I call you. My spine arcs as it rises up,
starving for your touch. My claws
come out as I start to purr. Who says
it has to make sense. I’ll do
whatever it takes to make you close.

a button
and a buttonhole—
only effective when we realize
how much we need
each other.

for Jack, who wonders if locusts are next

I’ll send you organphosphate chemicals, perhaps?
It takes only a small, concentrated dose in an aerial sprayer.
But the possible side effects are gruesome and I cannot imagine
the karmic debt for this kind of slaughter—80 thousand
locust adults in each square kilometer. No.
If the swarm comes, as it often does as part of a series
of misfortunes, well, there is nothing to do then but to make
the best of it. Locusts are, after all, protein rich. And not terribly hard
to catch. In Swaziland, they use large nets, then cook the whole
bugs on a bed of embers. Once done, they remove the heads,
wings and legs, and dine on the roasted breasts. In Botswana,
they boil the bodies in water to soften them before they fry
the locusts in fat until they are brown. Best served
with mealy bugs. And in the Philippines, they serve locusts adobo,
slow cooked in soy sauce, garlic, vinegar
and bay. It’s a fine dish, they say, for travelers.
It is terrible, this longing to help someone when you know
there is nothing at all to be done. Death. Illness. Fragility.
We wish we could ease the loss. But when the locusts come,
the locusts come. And you know the flood might be next.
That’s when you might wish you’d dried a few of those Acrididae.
They have a long shelf life, years, and the dried legs are relished
for their pleasant taste. Or so they say. I haven’t tried.
But I so want to help, to say something more useful
than “I’m sorry.” “That’s tough news.” “I will keep you in my prayers.”

after the bridge
is burnt it doesn’t much matter,
the why


everything breaks
eventually and something
contains all this brokenness


there was never
a bridge anyway—it’s our own
charred flesh we smell

in line at the airport—
every one of us a son,
a daughter


at the same time
I take the antidote, I hold my hand
to the serpent’s mouth


in a room with six thousand butterflies,
impossible to be anywhere but in a room
with six thousand butterflies


tying one end of the noose
to my neck, throwing the other end
to the sky


not one word
worth writing—
this big, big ocean


having no single way to love you,
what a gift—I find
many ways


I am perhaps a wind
dreaming it is a woman
sitting very, very still


lying right
on top of you dreaming
I can’t find you


playing possum
does not work
unless you are a possum


laying my worries
out on the table—
the gulls devour them


that trap you set for me?
without springing it
I write a love poem on it


even though the waves
erase that line you drew,
I still know where it is


turning to look at you
I cry, attacked
by gratitude


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