Gary Miranda, Writer




Man, you got a bird where your brain
should be, he says, talking to me.

I say:  Perhaps you’d like to explain
that figure of speech for the whole class.

He says: A bird, man, a bird—thass
one o’ them things with wings what flies
around.  You, you jes sits on your ass,
but your brain it flies around, goes

flap an’ flap—like this.  He shows
me then with his arms, doing flap-an’-flaps
between the aisles like a trained crow’s
bad imitation of a little black

boy flying.  Then he flaps to the back
of the room and out the door, free:
free of the class, that doesn’t crack
a smile; free of the teacher, who sits

on his ass, a bird where his brain should be.



Some people would remember iron
railings, the color of buildings,

how a dog circled three times

before settling in—novelists,

certainly, or just good talkers.

Most of us take only the light

from a place, and translate even that

into the way our spirits shape

the light.  We flash into knowledge,

which, if we ignore it, will not forgive us.

Objects can survive fine on their own,

but the feel for how this face, that

window, falls upon the momentary

way we hold ourselves could easily

get lost, and who would find it?

Such loss, if lived with, stiffens

into pain; it stands up, starched

and handsome, ready to please the neighbors.

We find ourselves forgetting dreams, whole

days, the last time we were honest;

we ask ourselves:  say something

in childhood, and feel only the weight

of what that means brush against

our face like snow.  “Like snow,”

we say, not even coming close.



I fell from one once.  Judy Cole

used to put five of them, whole,

in her mouth.  My brothers ran to tell

my mother:  It’s Gary—he fell

from a tree but he isn’t dead

yet.  As I write, there is one outside

my window.  I have a weakness, still, for

women with large mouths.  The doctor

put two fingers into my head,

tingly with novocaine, and said

to my mother:  Look, you can see

where the skull is chipped.  Sometimes we

made pipes, or necklaces.  My mother

groaned and looked away.  I could never

figure out what connection they had

with horses.

Later, Judy Cole was named Miss

Seattle.  Mostly, what I remember is

blood all around and me lying

there thinking: so this is dying.

Every one of them has two inside,

like testicles.  I wasn’t afraid

really, just convinced.  By the time I began

to think I loved her we had been

children too long for it to matter.

Sixteen stitches.  I saw her once later,

when she was married.  My mother

said:  I don’t want to see you near

that tree again—understand?  I still tend

to confuse dying and love.  And

no one I’ve ever loved has died,




A kind of slant:  the way a ball will glance

off the end of a bat when you swing for the fence

and miss—that is, if you could watch that once

up close and in slow motion; or the chance

meanings, not even remotely intended, that dance

at the edge of words, like sparks.  Bats bounce

just so off the edges of the dark at a moment’s

notice, as swallows do off sunlight.  Slants

like these have something to do with why angle

is one of my favorite words, whenever it chances

to be a verb; and with why the music I single

out tonight—eighteenth-century dances—

made me think just now of you untangling

blueberries, carefully, from their dense branches.



“The seal hunters sometimes call themselves

listeners at the breathing places.”

   —From Eskimo Prints, by James Houston

The air says what it means, regardless of what

we want it to say.  It holds our breath.  Conundrums

tumble like seals.  We listen.  We catch one,

if we are lucky, the way a camera catches the gallop

of horses, their legs in positions we would never imagine.

Van Gogh knew.  There is something to be said

for the word’s inadequacies, the swirls of light

and movement which will always escape, astound us.

Rain on water, a lover’s turning to go.  Those places

breathe too, saying:  “Be brave, believe in us.”

In the end, we will lay down our words and embrace

the air that shapes them here, just as, at the peak

of loving, a cry shakes the candle’s aureola in a room

too small for all this, and the body for now needs

to be held, to be held back, from that blinding other.



Jupiter has eleven, or nine—I don’t know

which, or whether they resemble ours

or even each other.  A moon is a moon.

Perhaps.  But, science aside, we shouldn’t

underestimate the mystique an eye

lends to any landscape, mistaken or not.

And the eye is connected somewhere—just as the ear,

caressed, has lines like a telegraph to the shuddering

loins, except the eye’s connection is less

predictable, more varied, and to a place

not charted on anatomical maps.

I have seen maps of the moon even—ours,

I mean—where every bump and indentation’s

labeled:  Grimaldi, Landsberg, Rabbi Levi—

names no moon would think of giving its children.

What we call a thing should matter.  A moon

would come, called by its true name, as when

the eye beckons from that place:  Here, moon…

here, moon—though not in so many words.  A moon

has as many names as the eye can give it, and knows

them all, and can’t be fooled.  Moonogamy

is fine, but think if we had nine or eleven

moons flashing their bright news—like plankton

when you splash in the sea at night, or a good day

on Wall Street—such a cache of news each eye

would need a college education, and have

to specialize….  On second thought, I think

I’ll take our one the way it is, that

flat white stone in the sky.  Skip it.



Spirit, your answers lie

lost somewhere—no, not lost,

misplaced—or placed, rather,

where they belong but where

we have yet to look, like notes

we find between pages of books

years later and half remember, half


The place we are not does not

exist, we think—and then, going,

find that the world thrives

without us: incredible.

Whole families on the klongs of

Bangkok, brushing their teeth

in the fetid water, flagging

down vegetable boats, existing,


Who knows what spiked image

you plan to drive into our

hearts today?  What happy

things wait like familiar coats

on the backs of so many chairs?

It is as if, on our one day off,

we had called in sick, this choosing,

these lives that wait for us—here,

there.  Yours, though we call them