Craig Arnold Poems

Hit Title Date Added
For A Cook

What I remember most is what he did to the couple
who sent his best pasta back to the kitchen,
pronouncing it "too thin." Capers and kalamata


I'm cooking Thai—you bring the beer.
The same order, although it's been a year


You have towered here
leaning half over the wall
all my awareness

years before I knew
what silkworm was or China
I felt your berries

pulp under my feet
tracked your purple all over
grandmother's carpet

a sapling planted
by some sea captain to make
shade for a future

This winter you lost
one of  your long low branches
to a backed-up car

and the old woman
who has known you all her life
wept at the split wood

Your bark is wrinkled
more deeply than any face
you live so slowly

do our voices sound
to you like the fluttering
of  paper moth wings

do we seem rootless
holding fast to the anchor
of  the saddest things

Meditation on a Grapefruit

To wake when all is possible
before the agitations of the day
have gripped you
To come to the kitchen
and peel a little basketball
for breakfast
To tear the husk
like cotton padding a cloud of oil
misting out of its pinprick pores
clean and sharp as pepper
To ease
each pale pink section out of its case
so carefully without breaking
a single pearly cell
To slide each piece
into a cold blue china bowl
the juice pooling until the whole
fruit is divided from its skin
and only then to eat
so sweet
a discipline
precisely pointless a devout
involvement of the hands and senses
a pause a little emptiness

each year harder to live within
each year harder to live without

Lines for painting on grains of rice

For Rebecca
You are the kind of  person who buys exotic fruits
leaves them out on the counter until they rot
You always mean to eat them sometimes you rearrange them
rousing over the bowl a cloud of tiny flies


How do they balance the parrot who chews a walnut
sideways holding it up in his right foot
the owl perched on a just-lit lamppost
scratching behind its ear like a big dog


Your pencil eraser wears down long before the point
for every word you write you rub out two


Where the slice of  toast rested the plate is still warm
a film of fog little points of dew


Love is like velocity we feel the speeding up
and the slowing down otherwise not at all
the more steady the more it feels like going nowhere
my love I want to go nowhere with you


I cannot bring myself  to toss the cup of cold coffee
you set down by the door on your way to the taxi
all day I have sipped it each time forgetting
your two tablets of fake sugar too sweet


Running down the street
dodging between raindrops plump as cherries


The ground was feathered with wild strawberries
I picked seven as many as I could bear
I ate two I saved the rest for you here
hold out your hand take them taste how sweet


Please hold me the forgotten way the wall pleads
spray-paint face and voice of a damned poet
the darling damned poets save them from themselves
maybe it is us they need saving from

The Singers

for Boyce
They are threatening to leave us the nimble-throated singers
the little murderers with the quick pulses
They  perch at the ends of   bare branches their tails
are ragged and pitiful the long green
feathers are fallen out They  go on eating and eating
last autumn's yellow melia berries
They do not care that you approach cold corpses
rot in the grass in the reeds
The gray-shouldered crows hobble about the wren
barely a mouthful cocks her pert tail
and threatens to slaughter the white-footed cat in the bushes
They do not understand that they are dying

They are threatening to leave us how quickly we forget
the way they taught us how to play our voices
opening soul to weightlessness like the Spartan poet
singing under the burden of  his old bones
to the chorus girls with their honey songs and their holy voices
how he wished he could scoot like a kingfisher
lightly over the flower of  the waves who boasted
I know the tunes of every bird but I Alcman
found my words and song in the tongue of the strident partridge
Where will we find songs when the sleek-headed
mallards are gone who chase each other around the pond
the reluctant duck and the lovesick drake
The way she turns her head to the side to scold him
whack  whack  whack  whack  whack the way her boyfriend
chases off  his rival and then swims back reeb  reeb
with feeble reassurances the way
he sits on top of  her the way she flaps her wings
to keep above water the way they look
pleased with themselves wagging their tails smoothing
each feather back in its right place

They are threatening to leave but you may still catch them
saying goodbye stealthed in the cedar and cypress
at dawn in the dark clarity between sleep and waking
A run of  five notes on a black flute
another and another buried deep in the mix
how many melodies can the air hold
And what they sing so lovely and so meaningless
may urge itself  upon you with the ache
of   something  just beyond the point of  being remembered
the trace of a brave thought in the face of sadness

Very Large Moth

After D.H.L.
Your first thought when the light snaps on and the black wings
clatter about the kitchen is a bat

the clear part of  your mind considers rabies the other part
does not consider knows only to startle

and cower away from the slap of  its wings though it is soon
clearly not a bat but a moth and harmless

still you are shy of it it clings to the hood of the stove
not black but brown its orange eyes sparkle

like televisions its leg  joints are large enough to count
how could you kill it where would you hide the body

a creature so solid must have room for a soul
and if  this is so why not in a creature

half  its size or half its size again and so on
down to the ants clearly it must be saved

caught in a shopping bag and rushed to the front door
afraid to crush it feeling the plastic rattle

loosened into the night air it batters the porch light
throwing fitful shadows around the landing

That was a really big moth is all you can say to the doorman
who has watched your whole performance with a smile

the half-compassion and half-horror we feel for the creatures
we want not to hurt and prefer not to touch

The Invisible Birds of Central America

For Alicia
The bird who creaks like a rusty playground swing
the bird who sharpens the knife the bird who blows
on the mouths of milk bottles the bird who bawls like a cat
like a cartoon baby the bird who rubs the wineglass
the bird who curlicues the bird who quacks like a duck
but is not a duck the bird who pinks on a jeweller's hammer
They hide behind the sunlight scattered throughout the canopy
At the thud of your feet they fall thoughtful and quiet
coming to life again only when you have passed
Perhaps they are not multiple but one
a many-mooded trickster whose voice is rich
and infinitely various whose feathers
liquify the rainbow rippling scarlet
emerald indigo whose streaming tail
is rare as a comet's a single glimpse of which
is all that you could wish for the one thing
missing to make your eyes at last feel full
to meet this wild need of yours for wonder


There is no I in teamwork
but there is a two maker

there is no I in together
but there is a got three
a get to her

the I in relationship
is the heart I slip on
a lithe prison

in all communication
we count on a mimic
(I am not uncomic)

our listening skills
are silent killings

there is no we in marriage
but a grim area

there is an I in family
also my fail


Teach me a fruit of  your
country I asked and so you dipped
into a shop and in your hand
held me a thick yellow pinecone

no knife between us
you put it to your teeth
sideways like a bird and bit
and peeled away the fleshy
scales or were they petals

crisp white at the core
peppered with black seeds
sweet and light like a cold cloud
like some exotic sherbet carried
hand over hand from a mountaintop
by a relay of runners straightway
to the Inca's high table

we sat on metal chairs
still pebbled with rain the seat
of my pants damp we passed it
back and forth no matter how
carefully we could not help

spilling the juice making
our cheeks sticky our fingers
getting sticky our fingers no
not even once touching