John Isles



The Arcadia Negotiations




Cherry tree, if I held you close, where would we be?

The body where I was born is less than liquid,

less than the stories the fathers told.


Pink stain—mid-air.

Bleeding without blood.  Sweet mouth.


Grassy cutting sounds—like water parting—
insects carry on in a torn world.


Cherry tree, when I was a boy, a girl, minefield of skin,

I walked into this stranger’s coastline—impenetrable deep sky,


medicinal trees, the bay unhinged—salt, sulfur

too rich to breathe


                                                Is it any wonder

molested by the air like you—I hack away,


sprout a smeared version behind the eyes?






                                                Something there is

that will not let us be—


fire zones in brownhill outskirts, festive flags

of the used car lot, shine like blood in the traffic surge. 


Bodies pulse out of shops—Juanita’s,

El Ojo de Agua—into a larger body of people.


The boulevard trails off into heat-choked hills,

coyotes camouflaged in quivering manzanita

conference of quail


                                    After the Mexican War,

Vallejo surrenders to the Bear Flag Republic.

The mission burning and he is serving


wine and eggs and chorizo to the Americans

who have come to arrest him. It is time

to move on—higher ground, or lower ground.


Good or gone, roulette of beget and beyond,

redwood groves over hills, simple trade


of light for air, vertical for vertiginous.





Westerly, wind—maritime atmosphere in the tourist talk—

dry cough at the foot of—the immensity of…

the Pacific continuing in the expansive mode


myself—in the diminishing state of sleeplessness—

dissolving song—carny tune in a palmy district.

Desert of one—down sidewalks buried in the drift


maritime atmospheres in the tourists talk—

bygone schooner under the unforgiving heft of high-rises.


Traffic swells from the broken backbone of the road.


The world is dead behind us

canoes gliding past forests of skeletal trees,


vague weathers of selves and salvages—

ocean pouring into more ocean.






Waking into summer fog—water flowers can’t drink!


I am intermingled and cannot distinguish

the skin’s sensations from the world.


This view allows a tree trunk, bougainvillea

sexing up the neighbor’s stairs, burgundy


clouds fast forwarding into the field

you make in this regard—claim on what is


true, entity like zero—chasm—as far as the eye

can see:





                                                Zero’s bride


fog smothering its landlocked lover,

the Pacific rising up to overthrow


solidity: soft-maidenly at your window—

sigh in a sieve, sweat on green water.


Prowling beach grass in withering summer—

it whites out faces in the sidewalk flow,


buries the Farralones in thickening zero—

pulling you into darker thoughts—


smoke from no one’s mouth fills and erases,


fills and erases (you)






Voices, voices… 

ambient in the neighborhood—


Who is it this time? 


Polk and Santa Anna skirting the boarder,

playing out private storms in nation building light?


Listen my heart

Dead August: flies don’t budge, leaves don’t stir—


nothing happening, nothing ever happening—

The plum tree filling too quickly here,


emptying too quickly—sheisen plums.

Nobody eats the things.


After the Invasion Yanqui the Senator from Illinois

wants to know who will show him the American soil

stained with American blood…


Dead August, nothing is still happening.

Branches impart deciduous ways to birds

in their reaches—birdly spirit of light,


the still world in interstices, city carved out

by a city of branches.






Vertical for vicissitudes


Inward awe for a city of transfers and promotions


For winter-seeming summer nights


Dull sublunary lovers


Pleasures like yesterday’s news


For a blasted field stretching from gray to gray—


Crumbling concrete, dirty birds, interminable fog.


—Not doves throating gossip to the gods, 

but scrub jays, blue torches in in an empty lot. 


The city constructs itself out of love


opossum light of public haunts

chalk outlines of lives dreamed by the waterfront.


The Pacific reaching out of its water-compartments

delivers its pelagic distances.


The tide lifts any body.  We could


if we had a lighthouse for a match light,

a house of water for a house of debt…


We could sleep here.






I forget my country, breaking into pieces—

the recently elected—branches downed in a gust

Monarchs unclotting—delirious in the yard.


The others sleep in their separate rooms—

the boy dreams of monkeys hogging all the cakes.

You are blinded at the foot of a lighthouse—


waves thick and sweet with algae,

something imminent in the distance.

What goes unexpressed between us.


Glaring shore and an expectation of water

where there is none—in the long white


of your throat and yes your eyes from here

are transparent, your face a cloud—


please tell me again what does the fog say—



© 2008 Electronic Poetry Review