HIGH SUMMER

leaves droop from trees 
the sky droops from branches 
like a white sheet 
to hold the locusts in 
their buzzsaw whine 
a blaze of sound 

july is god's forge, god's 
hammer coming down 
again and again, stupefyingly 
hot at seven o'clock 
the heat its own kind of sound 
a swarm upon my skin 
july is sumo wrestling with the sun 
belly to belly we stomp 
and sweat and shout 
the sun always wins 

the birds slump and pant 
too hot to chase the 
screaming insects 
even the wind 
dries out, curls up panting 
in the woodpile 
with the snakes. 


WHAT IF

what if all the kids stayed home from school 
and went outside to play instead 

what if we put down our phones and used our hands 
to make a meal a tool a basket 

what if we stopped using plastic 
what if everybody took a nap 

what if we lived in one big house together 
and no one felt the sting of lack 

we'd sit together in the evening throwing bones
we'd say poems and sing and pass the jug and dance 

once upon a time we knew what we were doing 
our gods had faces and were our masters 

not other men. now we spit in invective in our masks 
distrustful, withholding--but what if we went back

who knows the way speak up if you remember 
a story we once told about the stars. 

MAY TWELFTH

After the muggers don't kill me I go to the all-night diner
and order eggs. I order chocolate chip pancakes. I order

sausage and bacon and beer because eating and drinking
is what alive-people do. There's no ordinary time 

in New Orleans, it's always some high holy day. Someone's
always dancing wearing crimson velvet screaming in the streets

some dark Vapor's always seething in the storm drains
and someone is always eating pancakes in wonderment, alive

to the flour and sugar and grease, amazed by the cracked vinyl
seat: this banquette is a pew, the hiss of the griddle an endless

sigh of relief—and tonight it's me. The other diners' faces 
placid as plaster saints, oblivious to the first supper

of my second life. I tell the waitress thinking maybe she will
cross herself or drop down on her knees, high priestess of the plate

I've cleaned—but she doesn't even raise an eyebrow as she slips
the bill beneath my bottle and says welcome to New Orleans. 

PRAYER FOR THE KING OF THE MOUNTAIN

once upon a time you shoved the girls 
you shoved the other boys / you shoved 
the dreamer in the outfield / picking flowers 

now you stand atop a tower with your hands 
on your hips / bellowing orders / you were made 
for this / you are a man / behold your necktie 

your cammo cargo shorts / emperor of a rubble heap 
believing you can pass decrees / you are nothing
but a schoolyard bully all grown up / and I invoke 

a roaring Mother grizzly bear against you / Goddess 
made of fur and teeth and no you don't motherfucker /  
may she tower over you / and blot out the sun 

may you curl into a ball at Her feet / trembling / may you
eat your threats and slurs like clots of earth / may they grind 
between your teeth / o Bear Woman protect Your daughter-sons 

and daughters / from dick-slinging bigots and assholes with rifles /
swat them from their mounds / turn them into boys again 
and send them home knees scraped and weeping / to Mother. 

E. D. Watson 

RAIN PSALM

take your shoes off     go outside 
tip your face toward the sky 
feel the cold clean droplets 
streak your chin           and cheeks

this blessing is called rain 

let it in             go to the end of the path 
where it gathers inches deep 
follow your feet in      let them recall 
the child        to whom they once belonged 

let the water    wrap its thumbs and fingers round 
your ankles      silver circlets               let them hold you there 
let the mud settle       in the crescent of each toe      listen 

the trees are praying 

kneel and lift a drowning worm from the puddle 
behold the string         of blood within              a single vein 
remember when the world fit in your hand 

remember not all blessings fall the same

HERMIT PSALM

I keep thinking how if I were a hermit-monk
I wouldn't know a thing had changed

not unless an angel came and told me: pray
for night has fallen at midday--

if I lived alone atop a mountain, with only
wind and stone and sky, everything 

would be the same. I wouldn't feel the weight 
of this sudden brotherhood of novices 

wouldn't hear them pacing in their cells at night, 
groaning and not sleeping. All my life I wanted silence, 

space. Now cries crowd my ears, suddenly my cave 
feels like a cage, I want to rush down into someone's arms

suddenly I see that I am bleeding. All my life I thought 
if no one touched me I'd be safe; suddenly I don't believe it. 

EASY RIDERS

come for supper my dad says, he's grilling 
I say we're supposed to stay inside 

you're not sick he tells me 
and neither am I, come have a burger 

some fries, some laughs, let's roll 
our eyes -- and maybe he's right 

there's nothing to fear, his generation 
invented rebellion, invented barefoot 

invented protest signs gave their middle 
fingers to the old man in the white house 

and the sky -- where is your spirit he asks 
without asking I feel the disappointment 

like feathers in my lungs, the itch 
before a coughing spell -- how can it be 

he raised me to obey some faceless They 
there were no bathrooms at Woodstock and 

everyone was high they lived into a legend 
braided hope and daisies in their hair and 

how I wish the world they made was made to last 
and only doctors wore the masks

E. D. Watson

REQUIEM FOR BURR CLOVER

I rip them up by the roots, they are the only plants 
I hate though to be honest it's mostly because 
I need an excuse to put my phone away. I am weary 

of the virus, the clean hands they tell us to maintain 
I want black half-moons beneath my nails, I want 
my arms and legs to ache from exertion, not from fever 

from improvements I can measure, each square foot 
without burr clover a victory I can stand inside and 
celebrate. Everything seems okay outside, bees hover 

in the lemon tree, lovesick wrens weave nests 
in the eaves, earthworms slick the clot of soil 
I've torn free. Only the burr clover weeps. 

I try to stop my ears, to justify the genocide: it's my 
yard and you'll take over, I tell them. Your burrs lodge 
in my cat's tail. You choke the flowers, you're ugly 

you have no medicine to offer me. But I see the plant's 
tenacity, the star-sprawl of its open arms, ingenious 
coils, corona of hooks on each burr, tender leaves of three.   

Angel of death pass over, the clover pleads. We drink 
rain and eat sun same as anything, anyone.  What can
you know of medicine? Life is more than seed. 

E. D. Watson

Reflections on the Woodshed Year

Well, it’s Advent, beginning of another liturgical year, and the end of my so-called “woodshed year.” I published nothing save for a poem sent out ages ago and forgotten. Instead, I spent the year huddled with a notebook, writing everything by hand, trying to write from my body. Trying to let go of grad school, searching for a new way of writing and speaking, a way that is earthier and more honest, more feminine perhaps.

Did I find it? I don’t know. I think I might be on its trail, though. For so much of the year I was laid up with an inexplicable knee injury, followed by a cancer scare. I suffered choking anxiety and severe depression. It seemed like nothing was happening. Certainly nothing good.

But through it all, I wrote. Mostly, what I wrote were prayers, because I was desperate AF. I re-read the Biblical psalms and the prophets. I began to think of poetry and prayer as made of the same stuff, and imagined the words curling up to God like incense smoke, or chanted like incantations.

I read Betty Friedan and Ram Dass and The Argonauts. I spent a lot of time grappling with the concept of gender. I lifted God’s beard from his face.

And then I tore it off.

Still, it seemed like nothing was happening. From the outside, it just looked like I was sitting in a chair, crying a lot. I skipped church most Sundays because I just couldn’t stand there crossing myself and exchanging the peace when I had no peace to exchange.

But looking back, I can see things were shifting. I’ve been accepted to study with John Fox at the Institute of Poetic Medicine starting January 2020. I’ve written hundreds of poems, lots of them crappy but some of them good. And I’ve been named the inaugural Poet in Residence for St. Mark’s.  All small things in the grand scheme, but movement nevertheless. I can sense a shift in the trajectory of my writing, and possibly my life.

DIA DE MUERTOS

The Dead now make their pilgrimage 
Back to their homes, back to our side.
I hear their laughter on the wind
For they return as butterflies.

Come, come! Beloved ones, come back!
Come spend a night beneath our roof,
Come eat our bread and drink our wine,
Come make the candles dance as proof

That you have not forgotten us,
You still remember how to dance
Though you no longer have your feet.
Come buss our cheeks and clasp our hands

For we have not forgotten you.
Come tell us of the place you've been,
What you eat and drink and do there
And what it's like to shed your skin.

And for those lost and hungry souls
I place some bread outside my door.
Godspeed, you pilgrims, hurry on
To homes that are your homes no more.


E. D. Watson