Gravity

She wears real lady’s
slippers in the snow
so she can become
your endangered species.

Precious cargo, she’s some kind
of female Jesus ready to bless
the ice cold river for being
so capable of reducing knots

in the lower back to mere seeds—
the very ones she will plant
to launch a new vertical farm
indoors, capable of rising above

the gravity of the city’s
wooden water towers.

Three Depots

I will never shake the number 3,
forever my place in the line-up.
Moments of stochastic resonance.

There I would sit
on a long wooden bench
and write lines to calm nerves

and crack open scenes of other
stations in or between other cities,
towns, junctions, tiniest of hamlets.

Strangers would talk to travel companions,
most stare at their phones these days,
the rare person reading a book

with real covers and pages inside.
Arrivals and departures
get announced over a PA system.

Of all the depots I have passed by,
all the ones I waited in,
working to believe

my life was about to take off
down its true tracks—
I narrow down the list to these three:

The old San Diego Santa Fe Depot
where I waited for the Pacific Surfliner
to carry me along,

to hug the coast,
destination LA for the first
(and only) time (so far).

A union station where Amtrak,
North County Transit District,
and the San Diego Trolley converge

and diverge. Historic Mission Revival,
redwood beam ceilings, walls covered
in the warmest colored ceramic tiling.

I could write a thousand poems
about my beloved Grand Central
and never scratch the surface

of its celestial music and theater
of crowd and architecture
in perfect choreography.

Instead, I return to the tunnels
beneath New Haven’s Union Station
where I would run

on Friday afternoons
to catch the next Metro-North train
heading to Grand Central.

After I moved to New Haven
to take a break from NYC,
all I wanted was to escape back

to the City every weekend.
Why don’t I have a better memory
of Cass Gilbert’s grand chandeliered interior?

How can I forget Red Wing Station,
just south of the Mississippi,
the first stop after the Twin Cities

on the Empire Builder?
I waited outside
well into a warm summer night

for the perpetually late train
as bats flew overhead and a young man
turned the track into a balance beam.

He knew something.
I know it now.
Not a third rail in sight.

Brackets

[All the dying that occurs inside.]

The way time passes within without.

A widow stumbles along a passage.

Beakers fill with mystery—an invitation

to rest inside a tiny universe.

My therapist once said

I expanded his world.

I think I may have broken

it [open?].

Accidental Not Occasional

Sneeze on a blank page.
Call it interruption poetry.
That stanza wasn’t going to launch

anyhow. Your ode to the anacoluthon,
punctuation releases itself
from a corral to take a brisk walk

in the windchill heavy morning.
Why? The first
and last question

to ask, knowing no one will answer
you. The silence is nothing to [pause]
You know the rest. Break it

anyway you can. It’s the sudden
exposure to bright light
reflected off snow and incurable ice.

Arousal of memory you interrupted one
too many times. Fragments
scar the walls inside

that Olin Library study carrel. You
hide from the world
inside a thesis swirl of notecards,

quoting everyone quoting Woolf
way before laptops and Google.
Metal in the stacks. An aerosol

of song before the word pandemic
took up residence in the highest
aerie, refused to leave. That view.

Live with it down here
where solitude
is slang for [pause again]

Listening to ‘90s Era Americana

on the radio on a Sunday morning:
Uncle Tupelo and Lucinda Williams,
Steve Earle and the Jayhawks,
Son Volt and Roseanne Cash.

A decade’s worth
of music-triggered memories.
The prime of my life cut open
exposes a swath of impossible

highs, unbearable lows.
How will I ever forgive
myself for the ’90s, forgive
those years for what’s left

of me? How can I not? I already have. Drunken angels send the best postcards.

Are You Talking to Me (in the Third Story), Bertha?

Life is short. What are you
going to do about it?

How many grudges are you nurturing
under that grow light?

All the Northern journalists
scramble for their pencils

in this deep freeze, ballpoints
capped and stacked at home.

In this early morning darkness, who
can tell what kind of birdwoman you are.

Which bank you lean into.
The frozen river. What grows inside

the cave. A cardinal or kite,
osprey or owl, witch hazel

or wallflower, weed or wild turkey. Then comes the wild child,

the blurry one
before she becomes

static. Electricity
from a lightning storm.

What a frayed memory to fracture
this haunted February morning.

All those sustained notes—
mere organ speak, the sound

of virtual reality tipping
over the choir loft railing.

There will always be
madwomen in the attic

of old New England
publishing houses. Go back

to when you lived
in the third story

of an apartment house
all by yourself. You,

the mannequin I found hidden
in a cedar closet up there.

Missing arms, your soul
was intact. Remember the friend

who named you. Who maimed you?
An East Coast life interrupted

by a Minnesota live song set.
Shall we return to New Haven

for the last chapter? All the books
published since then left to read.

Long Winter Euphony

The hamster’s not dead.
It’s hibernating.
The mouse that leaps off a dumptruck
stopped at a traffic light
and scurries past your boot
to burrow its way into a snow bank
may be wishing
it could hibernate too.

You no longer question
if your hands look old. You know.

Instructions read:
cut open the wall
in the same spot on each floor
till you reach
the open cellar door.
You know what to do.

You are asked to gin up
some fabulous story
about why wool, why mittens.
Why not skull caps?
Why a folding chair?
Why not a cedar wood
glider bench?
Why now, not any other time?

The pipe
for smoking, the bottle
for drinking. How can anything
be done casually, you ask?
You are one of those
who cannot play
with fire again,
not even once in a while.

Instructions read:
Chant STEAM, not STEM.
Steam the stems
to get a better consistency.
You pour a sculpture
of a blue rooster into a test tube,
fire up the Bunsen burner,
wait for a sustained note.

You miss Isamu Noguchi’s theater
set piece for Martha Graham’s
“Judith,” languishing
in a storage vault
less than a mile
from where you sleep.

The aroma of nothing fills the air.
What a relief this time.

Early Saturday Morning Pandemic Dream

walking becomes
riding a bike becomes
scooting between highway lanes
in an unidentifiable capsule
collapsible
deep blue with white racing stripes

trying to get back

to the Bronx

your brothers play war

simulations in your bedroom closet

trying to get back

to the Bronx

where’s the #1 train
no one wears a mask
where’s your filter
take the N or the R
a stranger nowhere
near you says

what

where’s the light switch

to turn off

this nonsense

trying to

get back

to the Bronx
how did they
get in there
tails hidden
you follow
the #1 rule

of improv

don’t deny it

you’re lost

it’s the tell a story

rule

you reject

without a way home
out of this offline
memory reprocessing
preparation for possible
future threats where the Bronx
is the only safe haven

2021 Begins With

a week of rime ice
on tree branches, fences,
power lines, news of a breach,
sedition, insurrection
within the US Capitol
inside the US capital.
Humid air in Minnesota
in January disturbs

the order. White feathers,
needing fanning, float
off the grid. Time to replace
the spikes on your traction aids.
Time to plead for it in a new voice,
hope, however off key.

Undo

With only one sub-zero day
this season, I worry the ice skaters
and hockey players
won’t make it

off the pond. It’s a new year,
and I still worry I won’t
remember how to talk to someone
unmasked. I won’t be able to unsay

the things my lips
expose, the blotter stained
with ink bled long ago.
Letting go of the pain

will take more than reading
the DANGER THIN ICE sign out loud.