Lost Coast


The continent dismantling.

I go to its shores, the outer
reaches of a fracturing hand.

I go to its shores to feed the black swans.
The violinist on the corner plucks
strings with his thumb.

The streets are a dress for your daughter—
I walk with her alongside the sun-blazoned beach,
her hand wrapped gently around my finger.

I plant lanterns in a dark garden.
Set bowls of milk out to draw the birds.
I listen to the radio for the names of the missing
then turn away from the mirror to call your lost name
as a white crescent moon turns the pages of light
and an old woman folds my dark photograph.


She is folding a swan from the black

her palms, blows birds
like dry leaves towards the pond
where two women drift by
in a raft of reeds, green
ribbons braiding shut their blue

She leans
into the mollusk of my ear, whispers:

she landed two daughters
on a glittering shore by blowing
white sand from the creases
of her palms. Small birds opened
in her mouth—



The city is a ship in a bottle. Streets glitter, fracture; clouds pass through buildings like ghosts. An old man is pushing a walker up the gutters of Telegraph Hill. Dense fog spills over studded chimneys, flickering rooms, women smoking cigarettes behind wedding shrouds. A banker throws himself in front of a commuter train during rush hour traffic. It is Tuesday. An old woman in a yellow raincoat is scanning high wires for her shoes. It is Tuesday. I tow my trash to the curb. The moon unsheathes from the clouds: all is tilted towards the sea.


Disassembled by the sea, the skeleton of a city
collects itself around me. Avenues
murmur with dark beating wings; in their waves,
the names of the missing and drowned
are too distant and deep in the ground
to decipher. It is possible to disappear
from that which has disappeared.
Crashing against a slate gray shore,
memory recedes—

an arrangement of seashells
washed upon the beach as dawn
rustles awake the hillside’s weeds.


What is this continent but a memory
remapped each morning.


The old woman plucks a gardenia.
Afloat in a liquid world, she says,
she was seasick with the restless beating of birds
circling the moon that she carried inside her.

When she opened her watery limbs
to break the skin of the sea,
her breath of sweet wind
became sand. The birds

scattered from her hands.

Her body split into continents.

Her last breath became the name of all things.


The city with her rudders and sails
sluices north through restless waves.
Gliding oars across the sand,
she spreads silk over the cracked
glass world. Rain-clouds
shatter into particles of sun.


I awake to the relentless thrumming of pigeons,
the slow drum of rapturous weed banks.
How sea carries only the forgotten
to shore. I arrange blue stones
around the boundary of my feet,
fold the photographs into two black swans,
drop them among the gardenias and reeds
where a woman lays flattened, her blue beak open.


On the treadmill by the window on the corner of 1616 and De Haro, I name the pigeons, high wires, green car, blue. There must be other names for metal boxes, electrical labyrinths rigged across the sky. Other names for blue. Other than sea. Not all birds that live in the city are pigeons. Not all are birds. I strap myself into the rowing machine. What an exile. What dry land, wet air, flowers in window boxes.


In the twilight gray of the visible world
where I gather eelgrass
tangled in foam,
weave a raft of seaweed
beneath the churning fog;
where the shore is ambiguous
and clams rock shut—

I blow sand from my palms
with a sweet-wind breath.

Then there is only one woman in the sea, and me
in the fog of a coastal city, unclipping
blue dresses from the wind that abandoned me,
bended sideways at the blustering shore,
looking for footprints in receding sand.


Loneliness is an element like water or
air. It is Tuesday. Alone on a park bench
at the edge of the continent, I watch
the streets of heaped glass sift and
shimmer in the fast-moving clouds as the city
steals back her blue memory with her teeth.


There is no sea here.
Only what is still
has memory. In the pond
two black swans
shatter my reflection.