Warm dusks on which the fire flies display their bright
hormonal stars, like cold nights when the eyes of foxes
burn through snow.
Roasted sunflower seeds saved, like brown ticks, in a jar.
The black rose bent on her stem like she’s buying a car.
The tree standing shyly at the edge of the road like she’s
earned a degree from an accredited online university.
The bird perched on a weed, intoning like she’s reciting
Shakespeare into the ear of a sow. The now
and the now.
The cow, chewing her cud in the far field, stopping
every few minutes to ram the enormity of her head
against the fence like she’s using a hammer to kill
a gnat. The whole day, the entire yammering year,
was like that.
Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle
than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.
My sister is eating mandarin oranges from a can, nodding off
a heroin high, a long road to here where she sits on a bed
in a room rented from a man who deals crystal meth,
her bony hips oozing with bedsores, her crippled
daughter passed out on the floor in the front room,
clothes piled over her for warmth, and so no one
will steal them as she sleeps. My sister used to make
Christmas dinners, cutting the trussed turkey’s
tail with a pair of greasy scissors, even slipping
those frilled booties over the leg stumps
to give the amputations a festive tweak. You could
see her face in daydream above the kitchen sink,
her hands plunged into a bowl of soapy water,
lifting each wine glass to the window streaming
with winter light, drying them with a soft towel
until they began to squeak. She’d pull aside the curtain
and look out over the yard where the kids
played in the ice-laced dirt, one dressed like a sailor,
another with a paper parasol, one with a fringed
jacket and a yellow squirt gun hinged to his belt,
the rusted chains of the swing set twisting
in the heretic wind. Three onions chopped,
celery and the leaves, currents and nuts
for the stuffing, bread crumbs haloed on the floor
around her feet. You can almost see them, the ones
who would call to her from across the great
divide with their vials and syringes and pipes,
the scored pills that would one day swallow her.
They were always there in the background
waiting for her to give it all up, to put down
her fork and carving knife and follow them
into the gathering dusk, under the clotted clouds,
past the trashcans lined up along the curbs,
her eye on the frozen fields, slipping quietly
through the narrow keyhole of the cul de sac.
The doves keep their secrets
in the backs of their throats.
They own the tree in the side yard,
the one with three pointed leaves
canted westward into sunset,
into a red sky that forgets.
The leaves sway like knives.
They shimmer, they clash, they fall
on the grass and scatter
across the field. The doves huddle
through the terrible rains, the wind,
they measure out their song
above the Iron Triangle,
the refinery tanks, the ghost tracks
of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe,
the riveted bridges and shipyards,
the bones of the Ohlone.
Roosted in the crown they coo
their lament like grey clarinets.
They are a dole of doves, a cote
of doves, a piteousness of doves.
They mourn the raccoon, its white
skull hung from a nail above
the shed door. The lavender stump
holding on by one tough root.
The mountain lion caught in a trap
in the Richmond Hills, licking
his paw, waiting to be killed.