Links to poems online:

Right Hand Pointing

Elohi Gadugi


Video poem of “I Was Grass,” with film by Eduardo Yagüe

Video poem of “Backward Like a Ghost,” with film by Lori Ersolmaz

Video poem of “Reading Arabic,” with film by Dave Bonta

Video poem of “Memory,” with film by Jutta Pryor

•   •   •   •   •

The Church of the Rowing Machine

In the end,
I arrive backward—
not the way I learned it
in the book,
but pulled by the body’s
wordless logic,
lever and bone.
I can see where I began,
the shore of a dream lake
where I put in every morning.
My crewmates sweat
and huff and secretly fear
I won’t keep up, but they
are illusion
and distance is illusion,
the water, the carpet
rolling to meet my strokes.
Books kneel on shelves,
chairs have parted with their ghosts.
The door is open
to the rest of the house,
the otherworld of day.
Behind me—who knows
what’s coming? Who can say
I haven’t moved an inch?
I tell you, I saw the reeds
slide by. I heard
the ducks on wings
nearly graze my shoulder
as they rowed
the invisible air.

Appeared in Alehouse

• • • • •


I love those big yellow tables
in laundromats, big enough
for slow, soft sex among
the folded towels and t-shirts,
smooth and swept
as heaven’s floor
from all those years of clean,
from the up-close scrutiny
of everyone’s imperfections: frayed jeans,
torn socks in the flat,
fluorescent light.

                              Each of us lost
in our contemplative folding, if we think
of our warm union—
that living here, breathing here,
eyes closed, our clothes
the mountain kingdom of our sleep—
if we are thinking this, our thoughts
are tumbling on themselves
in our own sealed bodies,
each door a window and a lock
with a whirling life inside.

Appeared in Many Mountains Moving

• • • • •


How I wanted to keep up. How everything tasted so sweet: the brandy, the beer. Where we started—Scrabble in the kitchen while Mom poured peanuts into bridge bowls and summer drummed on the night screen, warm wings of air. How we started. The bridge ladies came, talk of the roads and the worlds of their houses, three monologues, a chorus from another room when Mom stepped into the middle, the winner and still champ-een but humble, offering coffee and milk. She beat them every week. She did not tell me this, but I knew the incandescence of that square on the calendar, how she would not love a thing she could not square up to and belt out of the park into the sky with all its old bear and bull stories and men marching around with swords and hunting dogs. How she led even the dimmest partner to bid a shark’s hand—she would not bother with the talk if the math and strategy didn’t burn bright holes in the table. How the house billowed with her thinking, my sister and I slipping out and hitting the store for Heineken Darks, my sister’s Beetle with the rusted floor, her two-story house across town (take a right at the Flaming O). And how the night was a pulse, how we pulled that glorious dull into our mouths, that sweet, forgiving dumb. How we wasted that night on talk we’ll never remember. How my sister kept on drinking—the wizard power of her body, changing brandy into blood, lighting every cigarette with a welder’s precision. How she drove me home so late, my key like the voice of a mouse in the lock. How I lost—the game of keeping up and every fleck of food I had. How my sister mopped the floor with the warm, damp mass of me. How even her Scrabble words were seven letters, bonus points, so far ahead she might as well have been a star in her own unfathomable sky.

Appeared in Nimrod

• • • • •

On Being Told My Brain Is the Normal Size

Of course you think of Einstein,
his brain in a jar under that doctor’s sink
all those years, acorn pried
from the dry shell of his body
and rinsed in the church of science.
His was giant, a universe
with recordably more matter
that someone saved, 
then forgot. And you can’t help thinking

of putting it in someone else’s old body,
Einstein in somebody’s
big head, the careful reattachments, 
the brain’s surprise
to find itself back on the beach,
peering at the soft bright, sharp bright
spines of creatures fixed in tidepools,
their fluids just awash enough
to bathe them in lunch and dinner.

Later, the brain will see the miracle
of Walgreen’s at 10 p.m., the bright gum packs
and bored cashier and Coke cans and bologna
preserved at just below
the decomposing temperature.
The brain will like the cold outside,
the turn of the key in the quiet ignition,
the street that leads home
through houses half asleep.

I only thought of this today,
two weeks after I waited 
inside the magnet’s telescope,
XTC in the headphones,
the stars and planets of my head
held still for the clattering cameras.
And now, having seen the charts—
it was only a galaxy, no
dark matter at all—in this new time
when turning on the TV is a wonder,
when steam on the kitchen window
is an indisputable sign of life,

I think of Einstein
and that sad cashier at Walgreen’s
in her green uniform 
and hope that whatever she has or thinks she has
will soon be gone and she’ll walk
out of that store at the end of her shift
to find the sun’s come up.
And even though it’s cold
and her car is brittle with ice,
it starts, 
it starts.

Appeared in The Hippocrates Prize Anthology for Poetry and Medicine

• • • • •


  1. Your pen is your weapon drawn or in holster your aim is true. So I tip my hat ,,
    As I once used to do .. Thomas

  2. Just read your winning poem from the Jack Grapes contest. Wow! Fantastic, caught me off guard in the first line. Terrific imagery and thought provoking words. Great job! Definitely opened my eyes to what a poem can do.

    1. Thanks so much! It was a thrill winning the Jack Grapes Prize. I really appreciate your comment.