The Soothing Justice of Stones


In some countries, adulterers

are buried to their chins in dirt

and stoned to death.


In California, adulterers are taken

into people’s homes at suppertime

and stuffed like geese.


In vacant hours, the wives of fore-

closed lives consider those

who do not call.


Infernally, eternal as the damned,

they worry stones to still

their trembling hands.





An orderly takes the

un-touched tray away.

Someone lifts her,

turns her, sets her

on a new sheet

so tight, so clean

she could eat off it.

Her arms are

wiped, her face,

everything lotioned,

everything cleared.

She notes the latex hands,

powder-white, bright as the

cotton gloves those waiters wore,

the ones she loved so much at L’Orangerie.


In Buenos Aires – the girl whose high heel snapped on the cobblestones - she kept dancing long after we saw her feet were bleeding.


She thinks:

Even at the last

the body was

still the body,

still refuge,

still sound,

still supple enough,

climbing stairs,

typing thank-you



threading gold wires

through earlobes,

sitting in springs,

pressing knees

under tables,

fretting music on

small, stringed


hacking carcasses apart

for stews, for molés,

perfumed marrows

and stock bones.

The duck that flew

over the lake

floats in this bowl,

buoyant in its own

soul’s broth.

Where are its

feathers now,

once proof against

all waters?


In Chiapas, we slogged out of the rain into a village kitchen. I filled my mouth with flaky enchilada and found a young chicken’s foot marching across my tongue. I spit it out. Hid it in a paper napkin. Pocketed it.


She thinks:

We dress the flesh

to alter its flavor,

to shame the delusion

of its daily sameness

and spite its long decline.

We embalm it

in fragrance, in

fluoxetine, in

tarragon and

rosemary, in

butter and ink,

in applewood,

corsetry, Nivea,



the baffling smoke

of other flesh. We

stuff and stitch it up

with every wile and care,

and by this rendering

keep it tender

keep it salt

keep it
















In charnel houses,

long bones of uncles,

aunts and other

un-remembered kin

vault dark arches

at the smiling,




In catacombs,

crammed hostelries

of dime-store saints sleep,

gowned in kings’ ransoms,

their dreamless eyes

planted with



We are always








filling rooms

with incense and hue,

wrecked ambushes of cut flowers pitting their hopeless

majesty against death even as they gasp in vases set on

wooden tables and consoles and credenzas inlaid

with mother-of-pearl, with ivory, with ebony, with semi-precious

gems of perished hardwoods, the un-skatable rink of all this

itself a glittering marquetry made of death.


 All this passes through her mind.


The insectile tickings of a darning egg and needle.

The bottled pickles stacked up along her mother’s shelf.

The freak-show fetus silhouetted in a gas-lit tent.

The lemon zest preserved in sugar,

how it stung and

swooned along

her tongue.


I could eat you up!


The crushed silk of her cheek remembers

a boy-child’s tender hand, still

sticky, sweet with syrup,

damning evidence

of his crime: the

furtive violation of

a just-baked




Tell me one more delicious lie,

let me taste –


she puts his fingers in her mouth.



All gone.