jettied

one minor
one too many cocktails
enough rumors

to match each one
end to end

she thought she was
the lucky one
on your mind

after hours
how could she know

your footprints
collecting
in the sand

like so many
coupling then uncoupling
pairs of plastic bottles

left on the beach
at low tide
to float out to sea

to disturb
the balance
of life

no matter how you spin it
slips of paper passed
hand to hand

do they do it
that way anymore

she thought those lemon wedges
perched on the lips
of highball glasses

meant you would survive
the black magic spells
cast over your heads

you would wiggle
through gaps
in the net

to land on kelp beds
positioned perfectly
to cushion your fall

how could she know
you would use your Bowie knife
to cut the flax grid

deforesting
everything below

a sandbar scuffle
in the Mississippi not Atlantic
to blame

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Postcard to My Heel

not achilles but deeper
where we travel together
along ice and hard-packed snow
on an island in the middle
of the Mississippi
boom

you have complained some
about the weather
more precisely
barometric pressure
now we stretch and wish
those others would join us

success without daydreaming
does not compute
never stop tracking
the teacher
even when
he’s dead

your grandmother’s house
is too small
to store all her memories
she was born into
to walk the sidewalks
no longer an organ grinder

turns out
we are the invasive species
that no shuttered lock
can prevent
from spreading
downriver or uphill

you share my anxiety
for the comma
gone rogue

that expired
New Jersey Transit schedule
I jammed under a leg
to a chest
of drawers
has been there for years

I needed something
to balance my life
as my father slowly evaporated

he was a marathon
of years
older than me

you want me to use
geophagy in a poem
before it’s too late
to run two loops around
Central Park
one more time

no matter how many
of my birthdays pass
as anniversaries
of my father’s birth
the number 8
upright or napping is ours

as the sun sets
the Earth shrieks
rings of blood red
sends waves of anxiety
passing through its layers
to burst from its crust

when I walk outside
wearing headphones
I cannot know if I have begun

to hum uncontrollably
cannot know if it’s that
or a dark sky
piercing scream
that paints horror
on people’s faces

and I do smile
sometimes while I run
despite what you think

borderline

along the edge
between sand and murky water
between island root will become a bog
and yellow snorkeling fin

between ice fishing shanty
and bonfire nest
between pike eye staring sadly beyond
and the one who welcomes it back in

forget their names
the violence in their posture
forget the weight of their hands
the bruises they leave

forget the struggle to speak
the sudden paralysis
forget the way the story gets twisted
into what she wore

what if I’m the evil child
no foul play by a babysitter in a rowboat
in a lightning storm
I make it up as I go along

what if a blurry photo
of an eastern grove
of birch trees holds
the only bark left to trust

a boardwalk
to be straightened
after miles of meandering
over a darkened lagoon

where swimmers transport
their opaque bodies
beneath the surface
without a struggle

and I observe
from a safe distance

still jealous of the shirt you wear
how the inner threads
touch your heart
the way I never will

the ASSIST

help me
walk the streets of New York
a virgin again
help me
ride the subway
a virgin again

help me identify
the next generation
of cells
fragile or sturdy
you can’t be both
says who

help me define the edges
of broken glass
from a porch window
without color
without gasps
for breath

or that delicious sting
that comes when the blood appears

help me
help myself
one more time
as sand gets between everything
and an empty pail
and bent shovel

This Fracture Critical

The vicious circle stops
navigating around itself here
at the bottom

of a half-drunk glass
of Shiraz inside an Irish pub
one northern night in late fall.

A damp, drizzly November
in my soul saves my life.
Always knew deep down

the whale would win.
The time has come
to drop the harpoon,

to pick up the oar.
As I row toward what could be land,
I see how easily I might drown

without a second oar,
without that hand reaching

to help me leap from the boat
as it hits the beach.

WASH ME

when the left hand disappoints
more than the right ever could

and another A train catches fire
and you still love to write

about your irrational love affair
with the New York City subway

when you want to laugh
and all the jokes turn sour

on the tongue
your mouth shut \ jaw clenched

when you see an ad in the New Yorker
for passion \ drama \ Russian romance

a Tchaikovsky marathon
to be performed

by the Minnesota Orchestra
on its home turf

and you lose your place
in the geography of reading and dreaming

when water drips
from the basement ceiling

and you wish you could fold a flood
and put it in a drawer

and never yell
FIRE again

when you accidentally eavesdrop
on the Lyft guys at the next table

and wonder where
all the girls are

when missing puzzle pieces
articulate the spirituality

of imperfection
in Leonard Cohen’s face

when #MeToo triggers flashbacks
to a large empty brick house

and unidentifiable jazz
leaking from the radio

and the weight of him on you
muffles the NO’s

and all the self-hatred
that goes into climbing

in and out of
open bedroom windows

when the pain apparent
under transparent skin

shouldn’t lead you
to a wooden box

confessional

and the trombone player
will never kneel the penitent’s light on

when the messiest clean artist you know
is you \ and grime writing purifies the soul

those kills 

I hear you dance
with my hands

your lips congratulate your feet
for making way for taller ships

I would return
to Staten Island

for the kills
not the politics

I would return to the scene
of our crime

of passion if
I could remember how

to get there
you can’t get there

from here where the sky fills
with darkness so early

Martha Graham and Helen Keller
chose another storied route

delineated by vibrations
stirring the air

and those tiny talking bean stalks
have more to say

soliloquies always carry
a hint of distress

if a painting falls
off the wall

it won’t land
on your head this time

it will implode
like those towers

never mind
next time

never mind the questions
I ask you

text after text
because I can’t help myself

it’s an abstract
because

you already drew all the figures
to be hung

ice and snow patches
before not under

the overpass
still catch me off guard

let’s drive across
the Bayonne Bridge’s new roadway deck

before they dismantle
the old one below

too late

let’s cross
it anyway

you drive
I’ll steer

Wash Your Mouth Out

she fears if she eats
lavender, her cloven nature
will resurface

it’s not a question
enemies do lurk
in passive aggressive shadows

dog leashes loosened
too much to create a barrier
between this time

and the other night
those raccoons and their obsessive
compulsive hand wringing

they’re not that clean
the stories I told you in bed
were not that dirty

Non-Consanguinity 

In a dream,
my favorite lost dress returns.
Wrinkled and dusty,
it had fallen

to the bottom of the walk-in
closet. Those edges
won’t curl
in the dark. A crawl space

becomes a secret passageway
between your sisters’
bedrooms. No one should leave us
alone back there.

First kiss, first trip
to New York City,
the bicentennial year
winds down.

Every bathroom doubles
as a severe weather shelter.
Even the brightest
aureole fades

to nothing
on foggy December mornings.

A clay horse
head explodes
inside a kiln
on the other side of the lake.

To unclutter the sky
at the tail end
of another shoulder season
is to mean everything

you say, even the words
that get trapped between your teeth.

Please don’t let this view
deep into another northern night
be the final whitecap
that crashes

before it reaches the jetty. Useless
foam that cannot salvage our drowning

hearts. Our fingers will never touch
memory’s true mud. Will never work
rooms like worry stones
under the hot light.

That thing you make
will be a poem some day.
I wish I could burn a bridge
just for a little while.

Nothing would collapse.
The sun would rise again.
You would give yourself over
to laughter and another cup

of black coffee
in an empty tavern.

I speak to horizontal,
then diagonal,
finally vertical
transportation experts.

They reveal nothing
about the journey
into the center
of a warm shell

where geothermal heat kicks in
just as the hidden people
from that dream I can’t shake
whisper coded messages

about what might become
of all this raw space.

And I confess to longing
for that cold afternoon in 1976
when you buy the Farrah Fawcett poster
from a 34th Street sidewalk vendor,

as I stand next to you
trying to memorize the motion
of our first subway ride
to tide me over till I return.

Crease

Blue can bleed
in so many directions,
she loses the map
inside folds in the sky.

As magnetic north shifts,
geese and turtles
and planes
scramble to find their way.

Who will remember
true signatures and gutters,
head bands
and dog-ears?

Who will teach
the anatomy of the book
when our planet’s
magnetic field flips?

Part of the last
untattooed generation,
she whispers an ode
to her largest organ—Earth’s too.