A porcupine and I take a bath.
He says, snout sticking out
of the foam bubbles like a pinecone
half buried in snow, that I
should look for a boy without a mother,
and write poems to him
about the trace of a mother’s hand
on the wind-swept hair,
about the strength of a mother’s voice
like a bullet through glass.
“Yes,” said the porcupine.
“Write about the speed of a mother’s voice,
that sweeps clean through the window
without breaking it.”
And I ran the porcupine like soap
up my legs and my shoulders,
and the skin was weeping.
From the water stemmed a flower,
from the drain, whose years-later ring
would still have the red stain.
(first published in Fugue)
The porcupine and I go to the mall.
One store is selling formulaic titles:
My Vampire Days, Flame of Light, Eden’s Fall.
I pick one out. The porcupine sidles
up to the salesgirl, takes her hand, and says,
“Baby, I could write a best-selling book
about you. You could put it on display.”
The lights go out. Outside the window—“Look!”
A long-armed solar flare snaps down from clouds.
Fire-sprinklers jerk on, jetting their warm wash
into the dark. Some sirens wail. She shouts,
“The end has come! The dead arise from ash!”
The store floods. A blanked book floats into sight.
Porcupine picks it up, and starts to write.
(first published in Fugue)
The porcupine and I skip class to sail to America.
We leave New York for New York, two hours later.
“Here we are,” he says, “fresh off the ferry.”
We walk the sunlit avenues, hands in our pockets.
We sing old Russian songs. Everything looks different.
Our hearts, and their dozen gold coins, feel
heavy in the shadow and light in the sun.
Night falls, and the streets blink as strangely
as the familiar fireflies above our chimney.
Our new mother tucks us in as always.
The porcupine and I smile at each other,
noting the differences between the countries of
one day and the next. As we harden into sleep
our hearts melt: stormy, sunlit oceans, tossing
white braids of froth that fish leap after,
filthy-finned, swelling white-yellow eyes,
mouths gulping through the air, and the errors.
(first published in Flyway)
I look to the ocean.
A house floats by
surrounded by bees.
Inside two children
cower against a wall
wearing their fathers’
The porcupine knows
of all this
and much more.
He likes to sing about it.
He sings so much
I hate to hear it
although it was once
beautiful, startling, and true.
(first published in The Monarch Review)
Death is Boring
“It’s a magical world, Hobbes, ol’ buddy… Let’s go exploring!”
The porcupine and I walk out
during the funeral. A ghost tags behind,
but disappears when we cross
the street. Years pass, we become
traveling magicians. We astound
with feats of clairvoyance:
“Calvin hurries his mom back
to the white cot, lips stained from her
drink at the water fountain,”
intones the porcupine. And I add:
“She shivers and burps. Calvin wraps
his tiger fur coat on her. He leaves.”
We pull clean diapers out of our hats.
We walk backwards. I tell every child:
“Look at the dark changing clouds
that you are.” And when we are
alone, the porcupine sings
walk one way, and never come back.
(first published in Harpur Palate)