Two Poems

How It Is Now, How It Was

as a boy panning the stream behind my house 
         for the minnows that drilled 
down the current in schools. They moved as one—
         muscular, thick, sequined—
so if I dipped down, I could nearly scoop 
         handfuls of their bounty up

to my chest like some dream of my hunter ancestors
          lost in the currents 
of my DNA. I imagine desire like this. 
          But whenever I stabbed 
my hand into that glacier water, they dispersed 
          at once, every one. And this entertained me 

until the day I did catch one, held its slim, jeweled body 
          inside my fist. The thrill 
of its tail flickering inside my palm 
          like candlelight, like a snake’s forked tongue
until I unclenched my hand to let it go and saw
          it was already gone.



As souls in heaven, before inhabiting their bodies, children choose 

           their mothers. I heard my mother say this exactly twice. 

Once after we had fought in the car to cut the silent ride home. 

           And once on the phone with my aunt after my cousin shot himself 

through the mouth. I was born after a summer solstice 

           under a new moon. Rain thickened the green outside my window. 

Above my crib two portraits of angels hung.