The "Do You Have Lots of Faults Too?" Issue



Poet Laureate: The Primaries

The moderator asked about free verse.
The first poet said it was immoral.
If elected, all bards would return
to the rigidity of prescribed structure.

The second poet interrupted, pressing
through the moderator's pleas,
reminding that the first poet's own
high school work was loose as liquid,

not a rhyme in sight. Really,
the third poet asked, are we going back
to youth for evidence? Then surely
your young verse is on the table.

We have seen your Biblical typology.
Your weak attempts at new myth.
You were Swinburne without balls.
The moderator gasped; such liberalism

was shocking. The fourth poet pleaded
for peace, saying our small quibbles
would be fodder for the general election.
We can agree: we would all be better

than that lazy sonneteer in office.

Passion Play


Judas was late.
He was played by a construction worker
who had crossed the border
in the insulated trunk of a Ford Ranger.

His brother, who played Christ,
had snuck years earlier, and studied
at UC–Riverside, his alias footnoted
in an article about histoplasmosis in beige mice.

Caiaphas kept a brown bag full of quarters in his backseat for the Laundromat.

Mary Magdalene said someone would break his windows to snatch the money.

Mary hadn't remembered to change her ranger boots
and her feet were so small that nobody,
not even the director's daughter, had shoes to loan her.

When Peter and Pilate arrived, they stared at each other,
realizing they had gone to the same high school.


Christ's arms were tied with twine
to the patibulum,
and he felt the pinch in his biceps.
He was crying. It made Peter uncomfortable,
but he did not say anything. Christ continued crying
after the curtain rose, during the agony in the garden.
He paused his tears during the kiss of Judas.
It was the first time the brothers had touched in years.
He should not have left him in Chiapas.

Pilate was ready for his moment.
He had been practicing with his wife and her dreams.
In the dark, she asked if he thought all of this was real.
If connections could be made between his life on that stage
and the real world. He told her it wasn't possible,
but secretly, he hoped. So he was ready for this moment,
and as he stood before Christ
he spoke the only Latin words some would ever know.


Caiaphas asked Mary Magdalene
to come when he did his laundry:
Since you're always making comments,
maybe you can help.
She misunderstood his tone, and told him
to fuck off.

Mary's feet hurt, and Pilate helped her
to her car, where she hugged him.
He was happy his wife did not see.

Judas waited for Jesus
in the parking lot. They shook hands,
and Jesus thanked Judas for doing
what he had not been able to do.

The Heresy of Paraphrase

Her parents fought in the kitchen, hands
fisted at their sides, shouting through the air
without care for me at the table, earphones
stilled, Coltrane waiting for this show to end.
When she came back from the bathroom
and we left, I told her everything I remembered:
her father's complaints, when her mother went there,
and finally, how they never mentioned her.
She said I should have paid better attention.
I said silence and exemption were good things,
that couples who divorce after 23 years
don't have to think about children in the same way,
but what do I know? My parents never talked,
spending afternoons in separate rooms.
Silence is easier to translate.

The Function of Criticism at the Present Time

Before my father sold the shop,
I spent long weekend afternoons
in the center garage, staring
at the underbellies of Fords and Chevys
hovering in the lifts. Oil dripped into gray bins
and sometimes onto my wrist,
the thin black pooling toward my sleeve.
My father tugged me back
and sent me to the sink,
where he scrubbed my skin red.
I thought it would bruise
but the color left with the pain.
I had nothing to show
for my embarrassment.
I ask you to do one thing, he said,
and you do the opposite.
Later, when he answered phones
at someone else's garage,
he spread kitty litter on the oil
spots left from our ancient Buick.
Sometimes it worked.
Other times the puddles stayed slick,
though I did not want to suggest
another approach