Through two torn holes in his faded
T-shirt, we view the massive back
of the Tufuga’s apprentice.

As a crossed-legged mountain,
he leans over Moses’ arm.
Moist wind, the mouthpiece
of the Pacific, swabs,
then salt-licks each surface of the fale
as the apprentice presses down
on young skin.

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On Bathrooms

We called the pink-tiled powder room with the floral wallpaper “Mom’s bathroom.” There, she sat on a white cushioned stool to put on her make-up and style her hair. She lined her perfume, hair spray, and jewelry box along the counter. Inside the built-in drawers she stored brushes, spikey-edged hot rollers, lipstick, mascara, face creams, mud masks, and dozens of other tubes and pots filled with creams and potions. I watched her sigh at her reflection, heard her wishing for dewier skin, and felt the mist from dozens of spurts of hairspray that never quite did the trick of keeping her hair in place. So much of it seemed to make her so unhappy, yet I longed to get my hands on all of them, the tubes, the jars, the creams. But I had to be patient: in fifth grade I would be allowed to hot-roll my hair, and in high school I’d have permission to wear make up outside the house.

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—where is the word—
that little Universe
you keep from me?

Is it
under the bending
autumn leaf?

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my perennial gardener
has gone to seed
      in February,
a cruel month.

In solidarity,
the fruits of his labor
feigned death
beneath frozen soil;

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The Trial of the Saltwater Bride

They pulled a corpse strung with marigolds out of the river today. She
was studded with stars and lava, her tresses of hair in a spider silk veil. All
bloody and bridelike. Her damp cheeks were powdered, over her broken
teeth her pale lips were painted scarlet. The town mourned her body like a
trophy, and she sat silent.

The women came to mourn her first. They touched the bruise over her
eye and gasped at the charming hollows of her cheeks. They bought charms
to protect them from her bad luck. She is too beautiful. Someone must have
jinxed her.

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Watch! The early light from the distant sun slowly,
Quietly paints the fraught sky rose-gray, the clouds rose,
Unfolding rose, while mist lies in the far valleys, brightening.

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A Silent Humming

“Hummingbirds migrate alone. Four thousand miles alone.”

Allen Bailey whispered the factoid to himself as he leaned into the column of steam produced by the boiling water. He felt the moisture gather along his retreating hairline and watched the muted colors of the kitchen cloud over as the steam reached his glasses. He removed the glasses and wiped them on his shirt, the frames square-shaped and a touch too large for his round face–the same style his father had worn. Placing them back on his face, he leaned away from the steam to peer into the pot. The sugar he had added, two cups in total, had dissolved completely.

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hen, it was easy to believe
the gentle world to be
sad. While rereading
for class, feeling
the old and scribbling
a few new remarks
in the margins
of thick anthologies, heavy
as brick—

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Though each will change its course in time,
rivers only briefly change direction.
This boat goes one way only.
Give the ferryman his coin—
the last you have,
red as evening-burnished water.

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