Quinobequin

my prequel meanders
with you / my mother’s river

one of those Booth babies
born a mile south
of your Storrow Lagoon
the Salvation Army hospital
long gone

three miles south
of where you do a 180 on yourself
I become a Chickering School kid
who would try to fish in Trout Brook
without any bait

I would stumble upon a patch of pine trees
wander into the cool edge of shadows
to establish outsider status
are we home for good this time
loving grandparents five miles away

my father would begin
his 30-year running addiction
on these roads / I would get lost
trying to follow him
without knowing how

my prequel meanders

the Boston Marathon begins
at your head / ends
near your mouth / slow moving
you take the 80-mile scenic route
how could I know

I might qualify some day
but never reach Main Street

I would map a world
of make believe
in slate tiles
announcing the foyer
inside a house with black shutters

where brown grout joints
match your waters / all that gray before
it turns blue / the salt separated
from the fresh
by a century of engineering

nowhere near the powder blue
my mother chose
when she reupholstered
the used furniture
she bought at the Dover Country Store

where my sisters and I would buy
Pixy Stix and SweeTarts
to fuel dance performances
staged on the fireplace mantel
ah sugar / ah honey honey

stone bridges arching across you
and more stone holding back a hillside
where I learned not to
pluck pink lady slippers
for fear of landing in prison

I would drain the bitter
from rock glasses
collected on the kitchen counter
during and after another one
of my parents’ late-sixties cocktail parties

my prequel meanders
away from you

to another temporary scene
earmarked in this road atlas
of perforated maps
I just might tear you out and keep you
hidden in the pocket

of that party dress
my mother made
for my big sister’s birthday trip
to ride the swan boats
in Boston Public Garden

so close to you / my mother’s river
so far from the one I might claim
as my own

Sinnissippi

rocky from the start
those first steps to memories
kept / crumbling / lost / remade

the Weise’s parking lot
a string of 1950s ramblers
along Laurel Drive

an elbow of Midwestern America
between Crosby Street
and Hemlock Lane

3 miles to the east bank
I knew nothing of Forham Dam

the gravel / bedrock / long stretches
of mud and silt

those very first days
of school / the crossing guard
who would ask me each day

how old I was
so he could hear me declare
I’m free

the slow return
of the Higgins’ eye pearly mussel
and gravel chub

the Belvidere tornado of 1967
tore off the convertible top
to my dad’s red Austin-Healey

while he watched / 1 of 45 twisters
reported that day / 58 people dead
by sundown

we had a basement with steep
for a 3-year-old stairs leading
to a dollhouse in the dark

details long gone
the rocky river ford
a passage for crossing again

Tiasquam

the only river on the island
is a stream

now a restored herring run
so many warm days and nights

so close / so dammed
by the time I first crawl

in the sand
10 miles down island

take the Middle Road
it crisscrosses beneath

when did I discover
the real Martha / which one

what did she do
with all this dry land

amid so many streams

from an open window
to a parked station wagon

I wave as we wait
to drive onto the ferry

to leave the mainland behind
45 minutes across the sound

to be amid them again

Lechewuekink

pick a river
stick with its current
long enough to know

how it mouths off
where it might come undammed

know its fish / its depth
its bridges / its tragedies
of contamination / comebacks

involving kayaks and sculls
white water rafts and riparian buffers

learn how to pronounce
its non-Anglicized Native name

what it means to be
just passing through
where there are forks

silk and steel / all that doesn’t
take root in a mere six months

Hot River Mile

heat trapped in the harbor
she forgets to memorize
the way she tracks the waves
in her sleep / those sweaty banks

how many trees
how deep is the water
at this kink
how many boats does it take

to fill the basin
shells crowd the northeast end
of the dock / another slip
another hybrid / a welcome breeze

a slackened halyard slaps its mast
the next town over
she will walk there eventually
how she greets every place

feet first / the heart will follow
the head may / or may not / catch up
one more word and
she’s / almost / done

putzfrau / robots

pace impatiently
waiting to paint
while we fumble to stretch
their next canvas

Entry

I don’t wash off
the black ink stamp
on my right wrist

last night
in the Entry
a one-man show

no guitar
loads of moving images
somehow dancing

to his voice
somehow dancing
to his body

I can’t get too close
or I will disappear

into a hollow
I might not escape from
I know that now

another summer solstice
begins to stretch
its long legs

across the river
another one flows
snakelike into a new scene

I might get to see
if I open my eyes
shut my mouth

lock assumptions
in a metal box
lose the combination

memory is murder
when it’s not getting erased
too soon

I can only put down
the bottle in my hand
those others so beyond my reach

Anything with Wings, Dad

“I love my free spirit.
I trust my creative power.
I generate the wind beneath my wings
and enjoy the journey.”
—Michael Nash Mantra

Wielding a broken branch,
a child chases a juvenile gray duck
in the grass.
My heart hurts
to watch the bird
waddle furiously to escape.
Suddenly seeming to remember
it can fly, it glides across the walkway
through cattails to the pond.
A water landing—sweet relief.

Anything with wings, Dad.
Anything with wings.