Isfahan, ca. 1600

The weft and warp
                are wool, wool and silk
form the foundation
                and pile, steeped first
in indigo, buckthorn
                berries, saffron and
madder, larkspur. See
                where the weaver
has plaited into
                the odd Persian knot—
among the three hundred
                every hour, eight
hours a day for eight
                hundred days—a strand
of her own ebony hair,
                how it still reflects
the sun, these centuries
                later, as she must
have known it would,
                must have hoped
you would imagine
                her here, today, combing
each new row into
                place, her eyes lifting
for a brief, capricious
                look above the loom.

Fairy Tales

When you get them talking, you will hear
fantastical things, like how your mother’s
car-dealer boss forced her to sit on his lap,
or how your father spent two years of his life
breaking East German radio code. How
can you not have known this about them,
their lives before you that had nothing to do
with you, these bright Kandinsky spatters
of experience that jar against the placid washes
of their lives now, set in the gentle landscapes
you have peopled with them, the way you once
set plates around a miniature white tea table—
for Barbie, tarted-up to the nines, and GI Joe,
rakish beret tipped back, already three cups in.


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And what did you hope to find when you thrust
your hand into the side of born-again Jesus?
Would the kidneys be diamonds, now, large

and smooth as river stones, the sweetbreads
all gone to rubies, warm and red? You had it made,
right, the guy who held in his hand the amaranthine

entrails of our resurrected Lord? Who would believe
that even as your fingertips next felt the nail holes
in His hands, a megajoule jolt running through you

like lightning, part of you wanted to hold up
to the light the emerald of His spleen for one
quick appraisal of color, cut, and clarity?

Things That Don’t Get Lost

You said you wanted me to be holding
                your hand when you died, so all the way
through a Wyoming rainstorm, I drove
                with one hand, windshield wipers
too fast for the Neil Young on the stereo,
                neither of us able to ignore the contrast
between singing along to “Old Man” now,
                vs. forty years ago, in college. Well, chemo
hair/hippie hair, for one, you said.
                Some things are the same, though,
I smiled. You always listen to it stoned.
                When you waved your prescription at me,
lightning brought your face into momentary
                relief: dark lines and hollows, bright prow
of your nose. And then the sun came out
                as we rolled home, down through Parley’s
Canyon and into the Salt Lake Valley, then on
                to California, where I wouldn’t lose you
for another three months, though by then
                you would no longer know or care
who held your hand.