Friday, March 30, 2007

This is a semi-fictionalized account of my mother's family. It's been cleaned up a bit. The title (which I'm not sure works) refers to the fact that shoes were very hard to come by.

in the corner, saved for winter

The clouds sometimes look like eyes. On the back porch, Ruby washes lettuce in a bucket, her apron damp from splashes. Her mother falls, sprawls in the furrows, gingham skirt over her knees, stockings dark with a wet rush. The baby, another baby, is coming. The younger children shriek like crows, stuff dirty fingers in their mouths, clatter into the house. Rachel, the youngest, grabs her mother’s hand, tells her to get up. Her mother calls for Ruby. Ruby plucks a lettuce leaf, sticks it in between her teeth, tasting snow and rust. Her mother yells, Ruby, Ruby. Ruby shakes out her skirt, goes to the pump to rinse her hands. She remembers the elephant she touched once at a carnival, skin as big as the sky, wrinkled like a map, dark eye fixed ahead.

Monday, March 26, 2007


my favorite overdose

Hidden stash: the armpit warms her fingers, when the bad dreams catch me, the problems are great. I’m sorry your mother isn’t here to say all the right things. Francesca wants, Francesca wants, Francesca wants. I work in a sneaker factory for 6 years, steal laces to string in the window, make a cat bed from discarded soles. Hold on a minute, I’ve got to put more money in. They enjoy each other’s fur. I walk in and something‘s been going on. Bring Francesca home! Francesca has to step in, edit a crisis in your life. Crisis brings new opportunities to every one who ordered a tortilla. Many people have come to the US to photograph Francesca’s feet, or her footprints outside the Mexican restaurant. It might have closed by this time; it’s past nine PM. And her adventures begin.

I smoke the sneakers. No one finds out about the carnival until too late. I have to tell you, living in a big house with a certain amount of shock, a certain amount of culture. The silverware runs rampant, gets caught in Francesca’s curls. It is hard: it is very hard. Very Francesca. Part-time work starts falling into place. Her fingernail clippings accumulate on the rug -- she stops the cat from…NO SMOKING. Collect tickets and have them ready at the side service entry. Here’s a song I wrote. Francesca use the side entrance. Each episode has two sections: the electric switch and the waking up slow. There isn’t going to be a next time.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Three readings in one week. Don't recommend it. I didn't really enjoy these readings -- don't know why, except I feel I didn't read well.

Anyway, new poem inspired by... well, you'll get it.

Anne Sexton Nuzzles the Breasts of My Assistant
(after a photo by Arthur Furst)

You in your white dress, ankles crossed above the grass, beside the pool

your arm around my assistant, who holds my extra camera and squints

at the dark-headed creature
pressing her nose into the soft part of my assistant’s stomach

in the next shot things have gone a little further
my assistant pushes at your shoulder

your eyes tilt up and search her face
your eyes, blank as a made bed in an empty room

this photo is not for the book

later I will tell people about it and my assistant will sigh,
smooth her shirt and laugh

as if we were discussing something else

theres a rough part in the middle, can't seem to get it under control.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Curing the Embolism

Buzzing like a small saw. I try not to make eye contact while a patient with a shaved head squeaks with pain and kicks out his leg. Reek of blood and cheap incense as I sidle towards the quiet booth, where a man with a braided white beard and a baseball cap beckons. He’s had the operation so many times I can‘t see his eyes. The florescent lights flicker, giving me a headache.

The man takes my hand and strokes it hypnotically. He is missing a finger, one of the unimportant ones. I look at the floor, which is covered with white chips, possibly sawdust or teeth. He clears his throat and points to a sign above his desk with the tip of a pipe (he is not liable for any side effects, up to and including death or spirit possession). He slides a padded bench out from the wall; I see bite marks. I glance away into a mirror so I can pull my hair back into a ponytail, my face is flushed. He wipes at the crust on the bench with a rag and invites me to lay face down. As he lights up his pipe, ash spills into his beard. It flares into flame. He ignores it and snaps on rubber gloves. Humming rapidly, he opens a drawer, rattles a tray of murky liquid and plucks out a metal instrument. He shakes it to get rid of the last drops of fluid. As his baseball cap smolders, he smashes the heel of his hand on my spine, holds me in place.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Muscular Wrist

on our small windows

my thumbs (on you are)
sudden sugared syrup

these breasts weird as witches

steamed bra,
old contraption
of leather and spit
how you smell of the saints
and their mistakes
how you reek of injustice
against singing insects

nipples sting like bedbugs
like the dark eyes of drowned angels

silver skin, feathered with the hair
of pale cows,
coated with sweat
like weasel piss and milk

your toes architectural
little firm boxes, all in a row,
each a perfect snail shell

the size
of a coin
in my mouth

O I could die from you

Sunday, March 11, 2007


dear mother

thank you
for the recipe
for cheese casserole

when I tried
the new oven
the house burnt

only the lawn
furniture is left


Hello people,

I started with my tattoo. It’s just an outline now -- looks like a coloring book that has not yet met the sweaty and smudged hands of a crayoning child. It was quick and not very painful, but I felt like a had a bad sunburn the next day. Also, the opposite shoulder keeps hurting. That happened with the last tattoo -- sympathetic pain in the mirrored part of the body.

Come to my readings?

Christine Hamm is reading her poetry!

Many places and not quite all at once.

One on Tuesday:

The Battle Hill Reading Series
will be serving up a Highfill-Hamm extravaganza…

on Tuesday March 13th at 8PM


Their brilliance will be accompanied by bourbon & brisket, thanks to
our venue-Bar BQ -


Battle Hill Readings
at BarBQ: 20th Street & 6th Avenue
Corner of 20th/6th ave in South Slope/Greenwood Heights
in Green-Wood Heights/South Slope Brooklyn

Take the R or M to the Prospect Avenue station. Walk up the hill and
turn right on 6th Avenue. Two blocks down on 6th Avenue.

One on Sunday:


WHEN: Sunday, March 18th from 4:30-6:00 pm

WHERE: 440 Gallery, 440 Sixth Avenue (at 9th St., F to 7th Ave.)

CONTACT: Brooke Shaffner at

Admission Free







For more information, go to

One on another Tuesday:

The Drew Graduate Student Creative Writing Group
reading their works-in-progress
in the Drew Writing Center
Drew College
7:30 pm
on Tuesday March 20, 2007.

Featured readers include: Joel Campbell, Andrea Braunius, Terri White,
Christine Hamm, and Rachel Bower.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

I need your help (not spam)

Dearest friend, recently .... money... bank account. No but seriously, I need your help. Please comment on the poem below. I need it perfect for a contest involving poems about Queens -- as in NYC Queens.

Be harsh, I want to make it as good as possible.

The Beauticians of Queens

Jamaica Kew Gardens
Astoria and Forest Hills

they put down their curling irons
leave the blow-dryers on full

rise away from the toxic puddles
of nail polish remover,
the sad piles of tweezed eyebrow hair

the mounds
of fluffy bleached curls
strewn like rushes on the checked linoleum

they float up over the 99 cent stores
the dry cleaners the funeral parlors
basketball courts and bodegas

the bridges humming with cars like shining eggs

the subway lines singing their mechanical vibrato

their acrylic tips their aprons
the scissors in their pockets fall away

their lipstick peels away to nothing

and high, high above the borough
that is shaped like two clasped hands

they sprout wings

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Today I went to the tattoo store to get my tattoo. I've been consulting with NYC's most experienced tattoo artist. He started creating tattoos about 3 years after I was born, when they were illegal, and he had to run an underground shop in the East Village, as if he were selling heroin. When tattoos finally became legal he opened shop in the same spot he'd been using all along, but now he could put a big flag outside with the word TATTOO and get licensed and all that. He is very respectful and sweet and elderly and looks like a reformed biker. His face is not tattooed. That may be the only spot on his body that is not. I've had this idea about getting a tattoo for about 6 years -- at first I was going to get matching tattoos on my calves going up to my knees, but now the idea has migrated to my right arm. I'm getting waves. Just stylized, Asian influenced waves, nothing else. The aged tattoo artist is taking my request very seriously -- I emailed him pictures of the sort of waves I like and he made a copy of the skin on my arm with some tracing paper. Today he called to let me know that he had a draft of the tattoo so I went in, hoping to start. I'm aware that the process will take several months. He had drawn perfect waves, but the size was a little off. So I didn't get to start today. I have to go back on Friday and see his new draft.

It will cost upwards of 500 dollars. Don't try to talk me out of it. I need these waves.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

This is for a flash fiction class I'm taking.
It's hard to write fiction. It hurts.

Activities of Daily Living

I. Claire in her Doctor’s Office

The poster over his desk says Hang In There, Baby, above a kitten dangling from a branch. The kitten’s belly is fluffy and large, inviting Claire’s fingers. The kitten opens its mouth and blinks at Claire. She looks away. On the other wall a Picasso rearranges itself. Woman on the beach. As Claire watches, the pieces of the woman begin to drift away -- one fades into the horizon, another sinks into the sand. Claire picks at her fingernail polish. The doctor continues to write something in her chart. A trio of purple irises leer at her from the plastic vase on his desk. One leans over his elbow and watches him write, then stares up into his face. Obnoxious, Claire thinks. So, the doctor says, finally turning to Claire. He straightens the seams in his slacks. How are the voices?

II. Claire at the Community Pool

The smell is hard to define, but gets into Claire’s eyes. Her mother sits in the bleachers, buttoning and unbuttoning her pink cardigan. Three times a week they’re here; exercise is supposed to help with the side effects. Claire clings to the side of the pool and adjusts her navy blue one-piece. It sags at her ass when wet. Two dark children splash and yell at the other end of the pool, their voices echoing off the concrete ceiling. Everything is painted peach. Claire watches the crack in the ceiling get bigger. Her mother claps her hands and Claire ducks her head underwater, swims along the bottom for a few yards. A milky film stirs up, reaches for Claire. The medication makes it so hard to move. She’ll just sit for a moment and rest. She looks up through the water and sees the ceiling crack open. The navy blue sky is filled with blinking stars the size of kittens. One of them has His face.