6 poems from Tom Paine


 No one ever told me to stand in the woods and await dusk.

But no one ever told me I’d see roots plaintively reaching out

to me at night. No one ever told me light flowed in limbs—

a conversation in halo sentences from tree to tree. No one

ever told me looking at the forest floor, tree-light bathing

bare feet, I’d weep for the trees in these dark, dark woods


Lizzie met Gabriel. They married.

Rossetti only painted Lizzie.

No one else could paint her.

Lizzie had a stillbirth, and

died of a laudanum overdose.

The night before she died,

Gabriel painted Lizzie,

hair threaded with irises.

On the window glass, he scratched–

with Lizzie’s wedding ring—

a line from his sonnet:

I was a child beneath her touch,

–a man, when breast to breast we clung.”


He placed his poems in her hands,

closed the casket, drank, and died.

He dug up the sonnets first,

or how could I recite tonight?

Laugh again, and go pick some irises



I was doing something so pedestrian

like putting things on my hotel dresser

when my phone which now works

beeped that a text came in…from you.

I stood by the bedside phone in hand

reading of blushing and Cortazar. I love

you for the sweetness of blushing, and:

“Come sleep with me, we won’t make love.

Love will make us.” I am dreaming of you,

spinning you in heels and a dress I bought

you on the left bank, or the right bank,

wherever they sell invisible silk dresses.




It is August in the Caribbean so

there are no tourists—and Grootpan has rocks—

sandless, it is silent even in season

it wasn’t a life plan to be in a hammock

on a forgotten beach alone with

a pelican diving into blindness–

on that rainy drive down 95

you straddled hard my lap

your small nipple in my lips

a trucker’s brutal air horn

signaled the end, and

I was blind for a moment

there are things we will never

have again, I remember

saying to you as we broke up

You Can’t Tell
Someone About Love.

The streets are full of people
who have never had cancer

You can’t tell someone about love.

looking out the hospital window
and the bird is the only bird

You can’t tell someone about love.

people swat at love like a volleyball
sure, you’ve mouthed the old word

You can’t tell someone about love.

love too, but now you are stricken–
the shock is not just the sickness

You can’t tell someone about love.

but that the poets didn’t lie and
you lived a life so cancer-free

You can’t tell someone about love.

this cancer that devours your old life
until you shovel gold on your coffin

You can’t tell someone about love.

and you see a wedding and think:
should I tell them about cancer?


Down a dirt road in the woods
The river speaks in green dialects.
And two lovers clamber on a car,
strip to flesh, laughing with green secrets.
The metal roof is burning with August, still.
They drove to the woods to proclaim a green holiday.
They are fucking as if to grow roots.
They are in a green fire. This is love.

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