why does she resent the canoe & envy the elm?

and the color blue dances
in the meadow with pale gray

till civil twilight
waves them off the horizon

a raccoon scales the side
of a skyscraper in Saint Paul

who knew there were raccoons
in the city

who knew Saint Paul
had skyscrapers

who knew half a lifetime
would pass

without getting any closer
to the answer to the question

is it mine
this is the glass age

and the year of light
has slipped away

we fight the darkness
with burning stick

figures we forgot we drew
when the words wouldn’t come

the best building
is no building

the best body
is nobody

she ever knew
how to awaken

without disturbing
the loam

if there really is just one system
she will keep fueling

this container filled with water
and carbon and blood

the flaw in her profile
is no accident

each snowflake that falls
on her tongue

tastes like the splinters
he used to feed her

the ones she would crave
with the disorientation of a junkie

between fixes
tin ceiling tiles bounce all this

wayward light
into her hands

it’s not snowing
on this day in mid-June

an excessive heat warning
kicks in till 7 pm

here in the middle
between the famed river and hidden channel

only the dirt and wood in her mouth
are real

what gets incinerated
can no longer forgive

One Night in the Flats

Claustrophobia can be triggered
at any moment in the cabin. Who else hears you twist
those lyrics? Another girl jumps off a moving merry-go-round
to change her life. An island known for brass

rings, clay cliffs, mechanical sharks, cars going off bridges. The back of a jet

heading west. Potholes
in the sky over the Great Lakes. A radio station
rented yacht called Heartbreak Hotel docks.
The Cuyahoga at civil twilight. It’s all so close—

the oxbow bend in the river, an old jackknife rail bridge,
waterfront amphitheater, beer on tap, royal blue floral baby
doll dress with pockets. In front of the crowd, you ask:

“Is it mine?”

Everyone cracks up till you leap
off the stage to kiss me.

Nothing there to be yours yet.
Clothes off, jokes on
all night. One letter. One phone call. One souvenir heart.

Then it’s gone. Too much
blood on the bathroom floor.

Name. It.
I dare you. Thought so.

Descending over the Mississippi,
a landing so smooth.

On the Road to Zero

I meet a hero.
She gives me an 8
to use as a boomerang.

Before he comes back to me,
a spinning jenny hovers forever
beside the hummingbird I trust most.

I try optimism
on for size.
A little tight

around the neck
and across the shoulders.
I shrug off the glitter

from its inner lining
and return to these
exercises in euphoric recall.

Memorizing the Atlantic Ocean pays off
when everything comes back

in a rhythm
only the moon
could invent.

Black or Blue

Dressed in black
like some Goth female Jesus,
she dashes across a channel
in the deepest pocket of night
to deliver a message in the wind:

When you find your blue dress,
dance in it, swim in it,
just don’t tear off
the buttons
before it’s time.

She hears a whispered response
to kiss another evening
in another city and
look for lipstick smudges
on the near side of the moon.

Morning somewhere else
years later, she erases
all evidence
of dream seeds she planted
behind the building.

An alley is no place
for sprouting new limbs
and lineage,
no place for recall
of the euphoric kind.

Some fabric cannot be dyed
black or blue.

and this is June

smile
it’s the month
for smiles

and meteor showers
and oceans
I love/

hate the month
of June
births of past lovers

including the first
who later drowns
in his own swimming pool

Father’s Day goes on
even after
the father dies

celebrate global running day
and my niece
weeks before the longest day

and shortest night
in the Northern Hemisphere
flip it in the Southern

Seersucker Thursday
Bike to Work Week
in Victoria

celebrate flip flops
surfing and Canadian rivers
Hungarian teachers

Icelandic seamen
but what about
the seawomen

doughnuts and trails
dairy goats
and thunderstorms

queens from Papua New Guinea
New Zealand
England and Norfolk Island

private reflection
in Northern Ireland
the Finnish flag

Russian inventors
and rationalizers
pixies and Dutch veterans

bomb pops and Juno
log cabins and roses
don’t forget my niece

Kenyan and Luxembourger mothers
weather whiplash
and where are the lightning bugs

moonstones and summer
meteorlogically and
astronomically speaking

honeysuckle and pearls
and the night
I may have ruined my life

Drinking Games on Jade Mountain

(“Jade Mountain Illustrating the Gathering of Scholars at the Lanting Pavilion,” artist unknown, China, 1790, Minneapolis Institute of Art permanent collection)

No one knows
who carved the ancient gathering
of scholars at Lanting Pavilion
into a jade boulder.

Or how the rice wine
they drank
on a cool March day
tasted on their tongues.

Or how the poems they wrote
sounded out loud
after so many drainings
of the floating goblets.

No one knows
what the lone poet felt
when he left the others to find
the secret passage

up the mountain
where water might run
pure enough to drink
from cupped hands.