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

Monday, November 30, 2015

November Moth

There’s another way to live,
a different outcome.

Stage a sodden ballet
every night
of the darkening month.

Crawl up out of freezing earth
to spin gray and white
above the wet dead

            Land pale kisses
on the surface of everything.

Engage in an all-out romance
with porch lights 
and windows, asters
and ivy:
             all things
living, non-living and dying:
Stash your eggs
                        in the crevice
of a parallel 

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