On the Books

A muscle spasm in my right calf
makes me think

about football.
I don’t know the rules.

We made up rules for swimming
and skating. Her parents made the rest.

After that one misstep, she took night walks
on city sidewalks with me vicariously.

So many sexy photos inside a pencil factory,
I don’t know how to love the pen anymore.

One more street haunter fetches a pencil
from a corner shop

at the long edge of civil twilight.
Virginia’s moth dies all over again.

Say you are a drop of water.
No, a flake—a snow flake

left on the window ledge
before it melts to become that drop

mentioned in the beginning.
If you spill into the lake,

we will see you from a perch
in the cottonwoods.

In the beginning,
the taxidermist made us laugh.

In the beginning,
the building was constructed

from dreams and whole trees,
not milled pieces of timber

or pocket stones
no one bothered to engrave.

In the beginning,
you are the tear I shed for that moth.

The day I start following an electric eel
from Chattanooga on Twitter

is the beginning
of another bout of homesickness.

In another beginning,
we play Double Dutch with an iron rope.

Cross the bridge
on a pogo stick.

Don’t count on keeping back 200 feet
from a fire truck on a mission,

or walking less than 200 feet
from the tavern to the temple.

Bless the Manhattan grid,
but in the Bronx the hills won.

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Humming Replaces Smoking

pink hippo milk drips
from the ceiling
and she overhears
then settles in

to eavesdrop on two women
at a table
on the mezzanine
above her

they compare notes
on the best Dyson
and flours not flowers
and she gets bored

wishes they would
bring up stories
about smuggling messages
written in lemon juice

buried in cigars
and mashed potatoes
to fellow revolutionaries
imprisoned on a treasure island

it’s all poetic decay
or smirking angel emoji
that operate in bad faith
from rickety funicular cars

not a true blue TARDIS
in sight

sexy transport
in the right light
a #1 train on elevated tracks
in the Bronx at dawn

the way low winter sunlight
reflects off metal
while railfanning
without a care in the world

she wants you to remind her
without persistence
make the banners that fly
over the beach temporary

so she can still see
the sky’s natural mural prophesying a return
of the street haunter

teeming frost line

this year the undertakers will begin
to live different lives
before the ground thaws

tripping through graffiti-coated tunnels
while a radio station broadcasts
gamelan music

is a flashback
returning to the underground
sober and no longer terrified

by the silence
is a flash forward

when you forget to flex and rhyme
before leaving the house
cracked words will rattle on over ice

prepositions will stack up
on a broken conveyor belt

it’s never too cold to snow
despite what you’ve heard
everything gets amplified in this weather

jets scrape across the sky
a snowblower revs its engine
radiators hiss at the creaking wood floor

another debate rages in your head
do you run do you stand still and pray
the animal won’t see you

you could use
a thicker coat of fur
your mining days are over

a box is not an insertion
till the trees smile again

trees don’t smile
they send warning signals
to their neighbors

nutrients pass through
a network of fungi
buried beneath

laughter camouflages the cough
in another body of water
another body no longer at rest

swipe through the Instagram feed again
sea smoke and frost on the rocks
off the coast of your island

a Royal Winnipeg Ballet School dancer
reaches the edge of the frame
with her left toes

a house holds up a mountain in Norway
is that grass on the roof
or a foothill to hope growing slowly

even in this cold
with days stretching pica by pica
in low light

Tassels & Tridents for 2018

She says I have fire hands.
My chained heart
line on the left hand
indicates I will write
another poem soon.

I may be writing
one now.

I will never marry,
but I will marry
disparate objects
together with a few
simple brush strokes.

Without a Girdle of Venus,
I will never manipulate
my way into someone’s hearth,
or heart,
or home page.

She doesn’t comment
on the soul.

I will travel to places
I’ve never seen
and return
to the ones I love
in a neverending loop.

She says I will never be famous
but will meet one more
famous person
who disrupts my life
for a little while.

I will not talk
about the weather
for an entire week
some winter to come—
not this one.

She pats both my hands
and smiles. I leave bitcoins
on the table
and walk a mile
before realizing

she did not tell me
if I would be rich,
or live long,
or invent a new word,
or discover a new route

into the center
of anonymity.

These gloves
will keep them warm
in the meantime.

Subway Mind (Wreck a Title)

We sit under the same glass
umbrella beneath the dripping stairs
and wish for stars
over a calm ocean—

no wind to tell on our motion
toward each other.

We sit above the same filthy
platform over the third
rail and wish
to be spared

another breakdown.
We ruin everything

in all directions
till the rumble wakes us to stand
and consider what Claude would say
about the crowd’s breath now.

REM GPS

Please don’t ask me
to drive you home.
Please don’t tell me
where you live.

Please don’t get lost
on those winding roads on a bitter
cold evening. I used to transpose
wind chills and windshields.

Please don’t tell me
how to drive. I drove for hours
through the streets of New York
in my dream last night.

Please don’t laugh. No, I didn’t
crash. Yes, I closed my eyes
when I couldn’t see
what lay beyond

the next bend. Yes, I know
New York streets don’t bend.

Please don’t ask me
to turn up the heat
in the cab of the old pickup
parked in the back.

Please don’t tell me
I’m hot. Only I know

how I feel. Please don’t ask
for my number. Cell reception sucks
in the middle of an evergreen forest—
or a nightmare.

Why Does Everything Depend on the Weather?

How will she know when
to stop running?

If the temperature drops below zero,
what happens to the ornaments
on the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree?

Why does that tree make her sob
and dream of Old Tjikko standing alone
on its Swedish mountain?

What happens when they say it’s too cold
to snow? Who do they think they are

to spread fake news to those boys and girls
looking for a glimmer of hope
on a January night in International Falls?

How can she greet other loners
on the trail tomorrow
with her lips and arms frozen in place?

How many myths have gotten trapped
beneath the frozen surface of that lake?

How do night ice fishermen hook them
to use to swap tall tales
while for they wait for the walleye to bite?

Will she smell the black ice
when she comes down the hill?

What does the fish smell
as it swims long distance
in the middle of its school?

The bridge’s reflection on the water
in the low light
tastes tart to her this time.

Plucked Not Struck

If no one waits for you
on the other side of the screen,
then wooden box
means coffin not confessional.

If no one says no to a child
who tampers with ornaments
on a cafe railing,
then there’s the mind
of another sex offender
in the making.

If her sister discovers a new geometry
in bold primary colors,
then she will hold the numbers
securely in her fist.

Then she will keep walking
city sidewalks
till she finds the perfect kelp forest
to release them into.

Then forget restraint.
Throw Bowie
in the lab.
Then push Neil deGrasse Tyson
onto the stage
without a telescope.

If she won’t look in the mirror
on this trip,
then she won’t see
the stars scorching

everywhere—trapped
the way she is
on a #7 train stuck in a tunnel
beneath the East River.

If five years
is a long time
to go without
seeing a real monster,

then a watched Apple
installation progress bar
won’t get bolder
even as an unbearable tartness
begins to tease
the tongue.

If a harpsichord burns
in a yard in England,
then it will first warn us to pause
beneath a single note flame.

Then a radio emergency
alert system
will flood the eardrums
till a scratching on the screen door
fades under manual typewriters clicking
in a row in an empty room.

Then the ocean will beckon outside
as marching boots on wet pavement
get closer and a train
passes overnight

before breaking open
to crickets as they stir
in a rock pile fence
on a hot morning

that spills into a liquid cool
afternoon over a worn hammock
then burrows into a night sky
that a paper hole punch
has transformed
into an eyelet shawl

so that tiny discs
of atmosphere and cobalt blue
dreams can drift downward
as snowflakes
that have no longer
lost their way.

If / then
wire strings
will melt
our wayward myths.

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

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