she watches the woman water
potted plants on the stoop
in the pouring rain

an indoor ghost garden leaves traces
on the ceiling / an enclosed atrium
aches for its missing awe

a preserved moss wall
in any color merely represents
never reveals the true river

will it stop / it doesn’t stop
Lola on the Lake from burning
to the ground / Tin Fish phantom

from another wet spring
a bite grabbed / he brought the dog
one more walk around the lake

some histories too burdened with slag
are not worth rescuing
from the flood

Speech Therapist for the Angels

For Sheri

As we recall her in unison,
I hear her mocking herself

for the way she said
“button.” I mock myself

for trying too hard
to out-walk

my shadow. She’s been gone
so long, so much longer

than she was alive.

Dimming flashbacks to our secrets
remain safe within me.

How the angels do sing
through their stutters and lisps

to thank her
for being one of them.

Cleared or Cleaved

Illegible scrawl creates a collision
on a freakishly cold, rainy morning
in mid-May.

She wears a knit cap. Tree pollen
ruins her for anyone
who crosses this crooked line.

Nothing against those blooming
northern pin oaks. Misery clears
an unwanted swath

through an urban forest
of steet signs and boulevard droops.
How did she get from tree

lawn to boulevard? By way of berm
to hellstrip to swale to snow shelf
on the verge of bursting forth

along a line of maidenhair trees,
dewy green blades might reply.

Extreme weather cleaves another
station where she might have met you
during a calmer time.

A crawler reaches for the sky
so that vegetables with dirt on them
might take us the rest of the way.


In this version, she retreats
from guitar strums,
the plaintive crack
of a worn voice,
to write a letter
to her 27-year-old self:

How many babies won’t you have?
How long will you stay
in one place?

A voice in some messier version
gives her permission
to let the questions dangle
precariously from her lower lip.
Whispers from another river
elevate her view

of all that high water danger.
She wants to release it
to a more natural shape and flow.

Another version
will emerge truer
with more nuanced
section cuts
in an even darker ink,
if she can wait
just a little longer.

Route Hinge

she keeps coming to you
in a dream fog
to show you where

the streetcars used to run
around a sharp bend
the hill so much steeper

in the slumbering mind
you know she’s wrong
you remember those tracks

mapping a dfferent route
on another street / neither of you
alive when buses replaced trams

in another city
in another state
in another dream

you ride the Rapid
downtown / it will remain
the Terminal Tower

in your mind / dare you say heart / she nods when you laugh at yourself
all the protesting

may have been valid
but the crooked river
is slowly being set free

February 25, 1974

I remember the day you were born
and I was told. Our sister
ran up the driveway, shouting
just after high noon:

“It’s a boy! It’s a boy!”

And she was right,
the Ouiji board was not.
She was right there,
you were somewhere
in a hospital I had come to hate.

I wanted you home,
wanted you to bring our mother with you,
so she could play her sacred
organ music again with those tiny
(critics say too small) hands and feet.

I was tired of waiting
for you. Tired
of waiting
for you
to bring our mother home.

But you needed time to incubate.
You were so tiny and perfect.
Shockingly perfect
given how little time
you gave yourself to compose.

And when you did come home,
and you brought our mother with you,
she dressed you in all white
knit sweaters and hats.
And I thought, no.

You should wear a different color—
maybe navy, perhaps gray,
no, definitely black—
and then, and only then, some white
in a minor key.

I wanted to invert the piano.
Wanted the sharps and flats
all white. I wanted
all the naturals
black. I wanted you to know this.

And so when I was told
you were here for me to feed
one quarter time,
I let you know
to reverse the piano

more than half time. I let you know
that you and I endangered our mother
twisting and breaking
our way into this world.

To honor her, we must
keep twisting and breaking
our way
into each moment alive

because it’s better that way.
Because I am so glad
you came home
and brought our mother with you.