Friday, May 20, 2016

Six Blind Men and an Elephant


Skin of a dragon, stretched across stones.
I walk it on my hands: tender soles. Something
has been written here only the blind
can read. A brief history of pain,
names of the tallest trees.
I press my palms to the wall.
Every welt has meaning.


The long hard core of the soul
out of the belly of the world.

Broken bracelets, two curved arms.

for the moon.
                                      Sorrow's spear.

Lonely bone.


If there was a way to wear air, it would be
this thin and this thick, it would move our every
move before we thought it, king-robe, impala
weave, ostrich hair. It would be skin
reversed: that soft, that responsive.

There is a great lake where animals drink.
This is the moss on the stones they lick.


No tree so heavy, so worn and warm.
No shade, no leaves, no branching arms.
Mysterious torso, stripped
to the waist, no navel.
Old bedding.
Gold pole.


Where is the bell to this cord?
I pull but no chime,
the wind falling down
a deep cave, angry and treble
and sere.


I do not touch, I am touched.
Out of the dark a soft,
gentle and intelligent.

This hand is also a mouth, a face,
two holes for eyes,

I am not blind enough to see
what it sees.

This is the longing of the hungry
whole, how it reaches,
how it feeds.

From Mauled Illusionist and also appeared in Manhattan Review

Monday, May 09, 2016


A man takes a train from Durango to Yosemite,
traveling 185 miles an hour. On an island off Labrador
a woman sets out on bicycle and foot, a book
in her pack. He plans to sleep his entire journey;
she has packed binoculars, a journal, a sandwich.
They met, once; he has hung her face in the corridor
of his thoughts, a stolen painting he sometimes visits.
It's his book she carries. His signature jumps
where she made him laugh, and he asked her again
to spell her name, and she gave it. In his seat,
he twists his ring and watches a flutter in passing,
a grove of aspen in a mahogany canyon.
How many hours before each arrives?

Cortland Review 2001

Monday, February 15, 2016

Earth in Love with Moon

In you I have buried the flags of my hopes,
staked my claim to every place we touched.
Close enough to be a danger 
you turn, holding the light in your arms.
Always in retreat. Until you return.

Sunday, January 03, 2016


I can’t hold any part of you.
My hand falls through
your dazzling torso.
Even the light
on your face is

Thursday, June 18, 2015


Whatever possesses birches to undress
in the dead of winter, to stand
in the woods all solitary and come-hither,
their papery spice-colored layers wavering
in the wet, weighty breeze?

The peeling layers go on revealing
what's underneath until it seems
there are more layers than there is tree.
A tree half-peeled is no less a tree,
any underbark revealed is nearly healed.

Copyright Jean Monahan

Thursday, January 08, 2015

When Hell Freezes Over

When Hell freezes over we can walk on it
clear to the other side.

For once, the waves are still,
the air clear of frost.

We have no idea of future,
no hunger for the past.

At last we can see ourselves
inside the frozen glass. 

Here, the eyes lined with forgiveness,
Here, the heart cracked open by love.

Here the dreams we did not have.
Here, faith. Here, the second chance.

Too soon the bonfire's built.
Flames lap heaven's gate.

Arm-in-arm we skate,
over the breaking ice.

From Believe It or Not

Monday, December 01, 2014

Search Party

A foreign tourist was reported missing in the volcanic canyon Eldgjá after she failed to return to her tour bus. She had changed her clothing during the stop and her fellow travelers did not recognize her; nor did she recognize the description of herself. She took part in the weekend-long search before realizing that she was the one “missing.” Iceland Review, 8.28.12

She went looking for the one who was missing.
The brightly weak afternoon light
panned all live and inanimate shapes
sieving finer and finer golds from deep red-browns.
She kept her head down
in case a key, a ring, an earring,
bronze moss rubbed wrong, the living nap
imprinted with a misstep.
She had so little to go on: a woman, young,
dark-haired, not from here.
All weekend they walked the old wounds
of the volcanic canyon.

If you must search for yourself
go missing in a place where fire and ice
carved battle scars in water and rock.
Venture up to the impassable place
where water falls.
Make no assumptions about who is lost.
Examine the terrain as if your life depended
on it: not the fissure, the molten,
but long-cooled evidence
of who we've loved and what we’ve seen,
the black glass, that mirror too dark to read.

The Believer  May 2013