1995

WALKING PACIFIC COAST TRAIL

BoliviaEclipse

I appear poised
like a pelican
scattering my spirit
into voices of sand.

The Pacific chooses to go on,
bringing messages that taste of salt.
At the edge of this slender sweep,
I translate the syllables of mermaids
nervously lamenting in a tantrum of seaweed.

From the Pacific I hear
my own departure trumpet
into a separate moment,
a bridge I can cross over,
a beginning for my life
to drink from.

From the Pacific the middle of life
holds a candle in a wind of echoes.
Into my life whales pass
after years of captivity
knowing the way homeward.

In the distance the celestial bear
Lights the way to the moon,
and I can never go back
from the way I came.

 

 

Photo by Dean Drumheller, Rio Mulatos, Bolivia, 1994


1999

TO MY FATHER

I think of you
 bent over unlaced shoes
looking for your name
over a desert of daydreams.
Daily you devour
the distance you become.

“Dead, dead, dead, I’m dead,”
you said, humbled by glasswired windows
and a a world where earth and sky
have suddenly disappeared into thin air.
I watched you like a blindman search
for the fingerprints of a door
and come up empty. For a moment,
your eyes remembered the wholeness
of things before foghorns
evaporated a lifetime in a wink
of sound. Then you shriveled
into darkness, the moon’s
mute eye
like a shadow at dawn.


1999

ZAVEN’S LAMENT

Loneliness is a conversation
hidden in his pocket
with letters of the Armenian alphabet.

Zaven distills September’s fruit
into decaying bouquets. His large hands
tremble with ingredients, a lost recipe
turning water into wine.

Where the laughter
of naked feet and dust create an ancient
village in the orange waters of an afternoon sun,
Zaven sings like a mother who buries her children young.

“Soon tomorrow will be yesterday,
and I will still remember,” he recites
to sleeping birds.
His words dance like feathers

in a prehistoric wind.


1998

REMEMBERING

Where stone fences merge
into a wilderness of suburbia,
grandfather leans on the shadow
of a plunged spade, embracing
unchartered passages of wind.

Balancing thinly, he weaves
like needle and thread
through heads of cabbage,
heart-shaped tomatoes,
and green flags of young celery;
he is an ancient tongue
among deaf ears; he steps forward
before the day gathers
into a mortal echo
of uneaten fruit,

sowing himself among
the dark hands of water.


1998

VOCABULARY OF ABANDONMENT

Walk away from glacial echoes
of tin cups
and star-shaped staircases
where second
crowd behind you
like pinpoints and periods

Inside my skull
a wind gallops overhead
pushing for an opening
like moths
beneath a rafter of obsidian
Through empty streets a new language
discovers with haste
identities forged in blue ink
Across vacant fields
winter covers itself
in white lace

Shadows approach
I emerge slowly
an alphabet of silence
clinging to the breaths of icicles


1998

WINTER AFTERNOON

in
the cold gray
storm/clouds
whale like
smile some fever
of blue sky
two coins wheel
from a torn pocket
down the road
the sound a child hears

there is a north wind
that freezes the eye
into pinpoints
a fever knots the body
like a balloon
and crosstown
the factory whistle
blows early
silhouettes stitch the darkness
with quick needles of light
in a parade so routine
life wonders
if night can weave a cocoon
to warm the blood
until morning
now street lamps and neon
kick on, blinking momentarily,
with steady juice
buzzing magically
through a thousand wires

. . .I bury my fists into my jacket
frozen they sleep like stones
my breath steams the windows
where the broken hands of fathers
open empty tables, and the quiet whispers
of mothers nourish the dreams
of children with winter fires
and Spring
sometimes I am a desert
and wait for rain,
or lost travelers
stopping for sleep


1998

FRESNO INDIAN

I lived underground during the 1950’s
in the wake of my father’s habitual
and unknown rage to weave himself
through the stagnant air creating an alphabet
of icicles from the eave of his wooden tongue–
He struggled in a web of private conversations
and kept us silent with threats and abandonment–
orphaned to invisibility where dreams survived
on the urgency of boredom

…..And being 10 years old I would slip
like a lizard into a pool of shadows
finding a pathway from his dark window
down the yellowy fragrance of a lemon tree
studded with thorns
and into my grandmother’s backyard garden
where imaginary winds dusted with sunlight
lingered beneath a veil of star-faced jasmine–
I listened to the growing of things
whose boundaries opened into wilderness
where the city stopped and farmland
spilled like ink over the landscape for miles
Screen doors swung easy like clockwork
in a trusting wind which seemed strange
on a planet where nightly
blue-collared fathers knee-deep in backyards
dug bomb-shelters after work and on weekends
with nightmare delusions of reddened skies
swallowed by mushroomed clouds
Families struggled sinking
silently into a lifetime of expectations
Their other selves left to keep appearances
a mirage of green lawns and a perfect death
No one really slept!
Buried up to their necks in schedules and telephones
watching children disappear into a blank margin
of no return …….across an outfield of timeless summers
forged with long hours and hunched backs
looking for work and the American grail
even on Sundays before dinners in copper-tinted rooms
tanned by the oily seasoning of garlic and lamb

where windows hung like portraits of hunger from far away lands
at 13 I heard schoolmates point in slow motion
at the Armenian in me and the invisibility that was visible
in a Kingdom where dreams survive on long tables of diplomacy
and reality speaks from the splintered lips of baseball bats
threatening the heroes of this poem
to bleach their dark skins white
…They called Armenians “Fresno Indians”
with our hollowed eyes and and eagle-beaked noses
but my grandmother said
“They called us starving black Armenians….first”
Those whose promises
promised nothing
in a land that genocided its natives
with no reservation
We were no strangers to genocide
fugitives of dust
we blurred into borders and brown-faced hills
to wait like grass for winter’s first rain
We survived the delirium of previous lives
as if some god had forgotten us
and ordered our children to bleed
our earth to be bitten and bled
We embraced life without a tear
our skins emerging from an undergrowth of syllables
unfolding from the simple grace all miracles grow

……..The ranches I knew as a boy have turned to salt
and winter like my grandmother’s unbunned white hair
haunts the ruins of broken mirrors
in empty stations looking for the river back to eden
praying for a melody on the green side of childhood . . . .
She assumes what is necessary for the moment
to shape what remains after death
having liveda life on the edge
now sits at an empty table
Her hands drink a headful of bad dreams
and everything that she was before
commands the wind
to sing in Armenian!


1998

SUMMER DUST

To Larry Levis

Street after street
I keep your death
between my teeth
its iced wing thaws into a sound
that turns a shoulder West
and chooses not to stop

The road calls
like a woman lifting
her arms to welcome the future
with an unbreakable embrace
Under candlelight you touch
her skin with swollen palms
stained black from picking grapes
in the San Joaquin
where halos of dust
hover from light to dark
until there are no shadows
from the heat’s trance
Here under green waves of grape leaves
we snapped rubied clusters
between thumb and knife
rescuing moments that were
fermenting with age
until words were no longer necessary

I catch your shadow ringed by stones
stepping from the vineyard
of your father’s farm
Thin shoulders shrug and pinch a smile
where the worn spots of earth
slowly fill in the roots of your breath

Overhead flutters of white doves
burst from a nearby barn
where I see you leaning from sunlight
your dark eyes child-like

and lamenting


1997

LAMENT TO MEGAN

Wildflowers, star thistles,
and late afternoon soften
under a child’s eye. Observer
she mimics sounds
of lifting birds, where rivers
vapor among the dark
and hunched backs of mountains.

Winter thaws in the mouths
of butterflies and bees
caught in frantic trance
they dance,
piercing
the faces of blossoms.

When stars turn to clear water
the child lets the water
carry her reflection past deep pools,
rock islands, trees arched
over a white passage thin enough
for a shadow to cross.

In her hair grow landscapes
of orphaned birds
too late to catch the wind.
She plants each
at dawn in the field
behind my eyes,
where horses
raise long necks
calling in darkness;

And the bending of the grass
Stills long enough for a portrait.


1997

LIFE GOES ON

Life goes on
between scattered papers
fixed clocks and hands
with no smiles

Life goes into
separate moments
patiently waiting
for the hour
fictions are unmasked
with human touch

Down avenues of nightmare
the future sheds
its skin in public
when you least expect it
and a universe
passes
between us

without a word


1997

4th HOUR

The wind draws your laughter
between the branches
of a Judas tree
and waits for night to fall
my arms carve a circle
around cold shoulders
and the day falls into the sun
escaping shadows
honed by clock hands and light bulbs

A door opens and the world
walks in with lost feet
the rest are burning
like frightened children
nothing gets through
the hole in my eye
silhouettes seize names
along the brows of curtained windows
where betrayal is held
like a pair of dice
in the palm of a hand
clicking
as they roll
a coded testament
of what is to come

From a ballroom of empty chairs
I drift beneath watery hours
and unbuttoned passages
of smoke and jazz
stretched out before me
on notes of neon air
on the lips of those who drink laughter
from the mouth of a saxophone
and drum wings over quicksilver streets

Sparks leap from the tin can ashes of a nightmare
amusing children who crouch like spiders on sidewalks
listening to street messiahs
hallelujah in the early hours
reciting be-bop notes under the white lip
of a half-eaten moon


1997

Kind Words

to MAX

What the sky learned from the birds and wind
was tentative and lonely. The simple words
of sunlight talk me back to earth, but offer no miracle,
only the stale air sinking beneath the blurred shape
of my clothes as I stand guard on Ward B, of Kaiser Hospital,
resting on the white ridged columns of my balled fists.
My son’s smooth face breathes out morphemic dreams
into the traffic 4 flights below. My laments
fall through an hourglass
in search of wings. Life inches like a flame
down the white body of a candle, until it forgets
to remember what came before.

…Inside his dream,
I watch the hole in his heart
look back at me like a looking glass.
I stick my hand into the dark space
of his life, reaching for a latch
or umbrella, and come up empty.
Through a cloud of ether, I see
my grandmother rise from her death
and stiffen a thread of skin with spit
for the eye of a needle. Her words
are ancient tongues as she works
to stitch the silence that divides his life…

When I look up a community of gulls slips
over white flecked rooftops that drop suddenly
into San Francisco Bay, dark islands of rain
follow closely behind. The doctor sweeps
like a scythe over a landscape of electrical pulses,
bearing endless scrolls of digital graffiti that make no promises.
My grandmother shuffles back
to heaven, forgetting to invite me.
I look for another country,

having no power to rescue my child
from the doctor’s “kind words.”


1997

LISTENER

Across vacant fields
winter replaces the landscape
with a white tablecloth.

I wait for sleep
in a kitchen of dreams.
I piece together
what has disappeared,
listening to my children
turn my life
like the pages of a book.

In my absence certain words
cling to windows
with breaths of icicles,
I erase the letters,
leaving a voice with nothing to say.

My children wake me;
a chance few get
before the wind returns
to claim our shoes.


1997

THE SPACE BETWEEN

The fragrance of dusty hallways
connect themselves
in halos of smoke
under the last light of day.

A furious sun spreads out
along blue veined avenues,
arriving and departing,
awakening out of breath
into loud echoes
of human spirit,
broken and carried,
like leaves in the wind.

I tremble with nocturnal wings
against omens the stars embroider
on the moon’s half-face.
Her luminous mouth drinks
the shadow of a dark cloud
with promises of things to come.

We find in each other’s touch, a sentence
of perfection, vanishing as it appears.
an eternity of words
settles into a drop of ink.
I enter you
through a sea of vertigos,
remembering to live again.


1995

Something of the Last

Outside night
holds its breath
threatening
to fold early.

Thunder crumbles
Into the sound of rain,
Blurring sidewalks
Into a labyrinth
Of ghostly altars.

Marooned in
the last moment of dark,
I rise in a vapor
an owl drifts with something of the last
fixed in her grasp.

Before the lights go on,
stars flex their dark selves
in words we will never understand;
and where the moon falls yellow
into an orange bed,
I am off,
my space uncut,
through dark kingdoms
bending to blow
the light from each star.


1995

RECIPE FOR LEAVING

As clear as a door closing,
our silence listens
to the afternoon decompose
into grains of broken time.

We act to separate ourselves
from ourselves
without waste or necessity.
All warnings fall
like leaves
into water,
and the weather makes it
impossible to hang on
in a life where dreams
live forever.

My exile stiffens
into cold shapes
held by the fingertips
of the wind.
Forgetting the way home,
your voice sings
into the open road
like a delicate thread
seeking the eye of a needle.


1995

THE STORYTELLER

Of course children liked her
ancient voice and the way
her silver hair wore the wind
like a calico scarf. Feathered hands
charmed the weather in a simple
motion, candled passages
where each breath had been.

Dragon dreams and wicked spells
looked for a man
on a white horse
to dispel the gospel of certainty.

Listening, we darkened ourselves
into shadows among the oak chairs,
preparing for the long silences
the afternoon inherits.


1995

SOMETHING OF THE LAST

Outside night holds its breath
and the moon’s half-face
drinks the shadow of a cloud,
blurring sidewalks into a labyrinth
of ghostly altars. Marooned between

a common life and things to come,
I rise in a vapor beneath the language
of shoes. An owl drifts with something
of the last fixed in her grasp. Silhouettes
pretend sleep on long benches of dream.

Stars flex their dark selves
into words we shall never understand.
And where the moon falls yellow
into an orange bed, I am off,

my space uncut,
through neon kingdoms
bending
to blow the light
from each star.


1995

SOMETHING YOU SAID

To Clifford Hunt

Rising out of the past, implications
multiply at the end of each day
with statistics and burning cities.
the familiar silence
avoids objects and light,
keeping sound empty
without a trace of dust or age.

We watch the wind tug at accurate, glassed spaces
and remember wild, green places
we can lean toward
to locate ourselves.

Wherever loneliness rises
in an echo of itself,
we come together and plant a garden
of jazzed hieroglyphics.
beneath platoons of plumed clouds,
we create an alphabet of moments.
content with possibility and existence.
In the presence of the unknown
our voices invent an essential unity
a fresh hemisphere, with no vocabulary.

The Pacific flows nowhere,
but continues to knock at the door.
On Medio Street the laughter of our children
agrees on an identity and takes
the shape we live by.
Between the traffic
of human syllables,
and something you said
focuses the distance
into a threshold
beyond the eye’s edge.


1994

A BEGINNING

Paralyzed at the window, my eyes
are between storms, quick traces
of blue break the gray cover of sky.
My life fattens on bills.
My family’s wonderment
at my lack of ambition
grows from the field of voices
I irrigate daily. My dictionary
is thin. I pin memories
like wet clothes to windows and chairs,
observing each with a third eye.

When my back turns, crows swoop in
and pickpocket the landscape,
leaving particles of life,
I piece together
into a vague puzzlement
of bones.


1994

THE RAIN LAMENT

As it rains, she rains
a labyrinth of soft lusts.
She puts off the human care love wills.
Outside it rains and she rains.

Into desperate rivers
age charts one destination
through a sea of dreams.
Into narrow channels
the heart speaks, innocence hangs
and the flesh darkens
when she wills love and care,
her door stands empty and open.

In woolen nights her watery hair
unravels its threshold of loneliness
with a fierce indifference
to the heart’s frightened weathers.
And love wills in dark moments human care,
as it rains, she is the rain.


1994

IN A DESERT WAITING FOR RAIN

Even your words
hold their tongue,
coiling into a mouth
of white sand.

All night you and I
hide from the wind
tracking photographs
scattered like leaves
in the attic with flashlights,
looking for missing links
between negatives.
The moon tattoos
words of salt on the dark windows
of our tongues and something we forgot
to say turned like a doorknob in a stranger’s hand.

Dust clouds drill
our hollow eyes
into an open sky,
pulling earth
in all directions.
Whether I move
backward or ahead,
an overcoat of ambivalence stalks
between us with a great thirst.
We pretend to go
beyond what we’ve learned.
And from the oasis
of your shadow,
a promised rain
sprays through me

like a blizzard of stones.


1994

LE CHANTEUSE DE CHEVELURE

To Marcia

A rapier’s skill with scissors
and comb, she sculpts
a feast of heads
under spells of magic.

Her motion dances
toward the sea, turning
a silvery halo of age
into a moment of youth.
The rhythm of her hands
shape and color
secrets of wintry forests

where African drums beat
a fevered song at the end
of a breaking wave,
she recites odes
into ears of seashells,

pirouetting between
dance floors of clouds
and litanies of falling hair.


1994

MORNING WITH A MERMAID

To Loretta

Her mythology sings
to a lifeless world
the symphony of the sea
from rock aisled balconies.

Leaving a trace of fog
through candles of narcissus,
her hands work late
flowering
over a concrete environment.
where birds slide
along the shadowy arms
of telephone wires;
where twilight
filters through her hand
like sand that rises
under white hooded waves.
her invisibility
trembles with curiosity
over unshed tears

A halo of salt reflects
veils of mist
in her watery hair,
as she rises
with a clear voice
from the chalice of the Pacific,
unlocking the ears of a silent planet.


1994

ECLIPSE, ARIZONA, 1994

the one white eye
raises its lips
to the darkness
from a dusty corner
looking for the tombs
of dead stars,
looking suspicious,
looking like a broken bowl
in a furnished room

a shadow grows from the hollow
hump of an old life
it walks alone
in the empty space
ashes inherit
before heaven
closes tightly
into a fist

drinking candlelight
it narrows back
from the rim of light
echoing into a single
black eye

before the moon,
afraid to open her door,
is suddenly swallowed by the dark waters
of the sun


1993

WINTER LAMENT

This day is no different than yesterday,
that I should make it the beginning.
The world is damp with the odor of winter
and my eyes burn with a blue halo of late news.
Windows have grown higher. I look
for secret edges where doors might appear.
My poems gather behind lips
of women awakening
in the dead hours of bitterness.
Unwilling to speak, the women frighten
into the language of rain.
Upstairs the future takes no shape,
like a wished miracle that forgets to arrive.
In a landscape closing in,
messages go up in smoke,
and something terribly human
wakes my hand.


1993

FINGERPRINTS

Listening to premonitions push a green alphabet
over the hardened arms of bare branches,

I went into the field where brown skinned Mexicans
put the stars to sleep with songs of the sun.

I weighed the day shedding my skin
for perfect light, a chameleon

pulsing green in a rainfall of working hands.


1993

ALBERT’S GARDEN

To Albert Nalbandian

Morning begins
a bad day for flowers
the sun beats out
brilliant blue flames
lifted by warm winds
across a white sky
onto sidewalks.
Shirtsleeves and shark skinned suits
fragrant whispers of black nylons
cascade Union Square
in a melodic human symphony.
A parade of foreheads
prowl the veins
of Powell and Geary
with abstract, cold eyes
to where the City
is pulled out to sea
by the stilled wings of gulls.

Clusters of red-eyed wildflowers
hum like bees from their golden centers
platonic roses refuse to wilt
craning green necks for recognition
and cellophane
Calla lilies dream of unfurling
tight wide mouths
into alphabets of sound
where purple windowed tulips
trumpet with laughter
drawing shadows
along your lifeline
where everybody rotates towards
Albert
with his open palm of sunlight
extended at the edge of a dark world
like a hummingbird
embracing the face
of a blossom
with artistry and tender eyes.


1992

POEM OF GRACE

This time the mysteries
are worn
by too much magic
while subtle wrinkles
advance like galaxies
over sanguine dreams

Each grain of life
a promise of things to come
now ending
where it began
dancing upside down

This magic
this inertia of air
glitters against a combustible sunset
Its reflection masquerades
swarms of stars
entangled in an amethyst heaven

I lie down to the hush of frogs
My furious life
pretends nothing

My furious life
pretends nothing


1990

RETURNING

Under the burned distraction of night
below my eyes and the uncertainty
of my shoeless steps
I imagine morning
embracing me like an empty bed
the reflection of a cigarette
reminding me I’ve missed the bus again
I pin my fate on the flame of a brief promise
written on the back of an IOU
long since expired

I picture the new suit
In a garden beneath a cloudy sky
the private shadows divorced and returned
among the smoke of turbulent grasses
and the beseeching gestures
of dexterous hands
striking up a match of conversation
between the bad music of applause
a dream fell through me like summer rain

I give the grey hair of my head to a hummingbird
who will use it to find his way
through the dark lonely crying of gulls
Sometimes I’ve held it
like a newborn child
My dreams too large to swallow
and its there waiting to break out
like revenge, revolution
or a memory walking back
from the end of what it has lost
with the bitter ink of prophecy
and the defiant singing of madmen
behind dark glasses reminding me of myself

I return to the grain of my own earth
lift my empty cup and begin humming
the untranslatable recipes
of dead stars and the moon
dancing through a cobweb
like a weightless island


1990

LAMENT

to Baidzar

Your voice passes through me
like the flames of candles.
I look for words to call you back,
knowing I am the one
that is still here.

Within me is a stone,
a geography of sadness
that clings to each breath
I see in everything
you’ve touched
an inherent spirit,
life sized and wakened.

How will I learn to understand
the language of clouds?
I anchor messages
to the wings of birds,
and wait for an answer.
I scatter objects,
and wait for your hands
to join them back again.
Too quick was the life between us.

Outside, winter’s face blackens
the cosmos with sleep.
Each day closes
between our shadows,
as if we were in a dream
where your voice echoes
into the sound of a gate opening.

I stand before another kingdom,
separating us for only a moment.