Corpse Pose

I let my legs and arms come off
and lay them in the dust
My long muscles melt

Fluid oozes
all over the boards
and out across the universe

The head comes off the neck
like a paddymelon from a dry vine
in late summer
between a fence and a highway,
rolls away and falls in a hollow,
earthing itself like the skull
of Yorick

The pelvis, heavy, unclicks
from the spine
and rests,
like the rusted truss
of a forgotten chair
by the side of the road

Ribs fall away and stripe
the ground
All that’s left:

the heart

To matter & thrum

When I looked in the book I found:
Time is the temple — Time itself and Space —
observed, marked out, to make the sacred place
on the four-quartered sky, the inwalled ground.
— Ursula K. Le Guin, “Contemplation at McCoy Creek”

If I’m good, Lord, if my karma serves,
will you bring me back as a bass guitar?

     Known by the fingers, slung from the shoulders
     of Adam Clayton, Esperanza Spalding,
     Robbie Shakespeare, some nextdoor kid,
     whichever altar you choose…

     If I’m good, Lord, if my karma serves,
     will you let me embody your sinous groove
     the one & one & two in one
     of your snake-limbed dance? Reassemble me
     from spruce & steel, pass me from hand
     to hand, give me one purpose only?

     To underpin. To intone, hum,
     to murmur, mutter, to matter & thrum
     the flow notes, womb notes, Lam, Ram,
     the low tones that ground the Om.
     Make me make the floor of the chord,
     the salt & ochre, the heavy water,

     the earth, the rock, the dub, the step,
     the harmonics, waves, weaving fields,
     the neutron, proton, quarks, gluon,
     the Higgs, the mystical boson.

Will you bring me, Lord?
If I’m good, Lord?

From A coat of ashes
“Contemplation at McCoy Creek” is on p. 17 of Late in the Day: Poems 2010–2014 by Ursula K. Le Guin, PM Press 2016.

Turning off time

I hid all the clocks.
Got up when I wanted,
went to bed when I wanted,
ate when I wanted.

My brain wailed for its numbers.

It’s hungry time, teatime, I said.
Restless. Walk time.
Tired. Bedtime.

In the middle of the dark
my brain demanded a number.

Let’s lie here
and see what
happens, I said.
It’s dark time.


When we awoke the sun
was almost above the treetops
and the house next door.
After a few days

my brain forgot
the numbers. We went
to a shop, but it was about
to close. We practised yoga

at sunset, just as the gurus
recommend. Before we slept
we went outside to the night

to contemplate the Pointers,
their movement
up the sky.

Thirteen ways of looking at an unseen bird

In response to “Learning the Name” by Ursula K. Le Guin

Read its name in English, such as crow or Swainson’s thrush.
Read its name in Latin.
Look at a picture of a bird of its species and sex.
Write an equation to model its flocking behaviour.
Add its decaying nest to your collection.
Find its bones among black nightshades in the ruins of a harvested field.
Look at the bars on your window, the iron latch on your door.

Study the tree where you think it hides.
Close your eyes and count the shape of its song.
Transcribe its cry into dots and sticks on lines.
Look at your own ears.

Measure the lips of the day-white moon. Threads of sunlight hanging between blue hills. Your eye in a raindrop. The face of a gnat.

Stand under the tree until it shits on the sphere of your head.

From A coat of ashes.
“Learning the Name” is on p. 121 of Finding my Elegy: New and Selected Poems by Ursula K. Le Guin, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2010.