West 15th Street

not Chelsea or Tremont
Coney Island or Ocean City
not Allentown or Arlington Heights

West 15th Street in Loring Park
where a 19th-century row house
anchors the south side

where to the north
within the city’s oldest park
the geese and ducks

and turtles and black and albino
squirrels and pollinating bees
and butterflies in summer are

where you and I lived out
most of your life indoors
with catnip cardboard workouts

and otterbed dreams
wherever you were
was home

The Motile Ones

“There was nothing to make a fire from—only damp cold moss and sparse bushes the fire wouldn’t even put in its mouth, let alone digest.”
—Olga Tokarczuk, Flights

The digestive habits of fires
cannot be summarized
with one ash branch in hand.
My cat never got the chance

to curl up on a warm hearth
(as far as I know).
I grew up with them
in every house we moved to.

Even had an almost working one
in that last
New York City apartment
on West 98th Street.

By the time Jackson meowed his way
into my life, the fireplaces
cleared their throats
of bats, not smoke or steam.

He caught two. Never caught a mouse
(as far as I know).
He was a cat—
he would have let me know.

There was that incident
involving a candle
and some singed whiskers.
They grew back just fine.

Incompletely Automated Public

before I tell you why
I’m not a robot
let’s talk

about the weather / how
snow and ice in early
November break

my stride
make my hips
and thighs ache

it’s cold and my best friend
who was a cat named Jackson
died / it’s colder

than I can remember
any early November being
even here where

people escape
to Iceland
to thaw out

before I tell you
a thing like that
look up and over there

smoke plumes
out and about
the old chimney

there’s another one
in use / so many traffic lights
and vague storefronts and

Abbey Road zebra crossings
emptied of humans
and images of buses

never getting anywhere
you can’t erase
and those fire hydrants

that appear everywhere
the bots want to crack
open the mirror

Coming Unhemmed

it’s your fault
the seagull died / blood
red metal boxes that fail
to capture moonlight
till it’s too late
high or low tide
the ocean has gotten so dry / drowned
spits and flooded personal weather
stations crowd this space
you desperately seek to rescue
from yourself and anyone
you ever blamed for needing
to be so human / that wing will stain
the shingle / it won’t wash away
our erosion

One of the Last of the Last Century Cats (in Cinquains)

I find
one white whisker
tucked in the comforter
on the bed where you used to sleep
with me.

my orange friend,
the best dumpster dive find,
we were each other’s true constant—
fixed love.

How long
before I stop
swearing I see your tail
swat air around a tight corner?
How long?

This whisker
will navigate
me through a hollow place
that once brimmed with your life, so I
can breathe.


Chappaquiddick has one
the only one I know firsthand
will I go to Howth Head
when I return to Dublin

I don’t know why we didn’t make it
to Chesil Beach
that time we drove through Dorset
on the wrong side of the road

longing and blame
should be buried
beneath a bed of pebbles
every sacrament has its risks

choices made get nailed down
so quickly and I never learned
how to let the ducks out
so much was left unsaid between

my Polish American grandmother
and me / I won’t forget
where I learned to swim
or who taught me

or how one man could be
so angry / so loving
so arrogant / so naive
so brilliant / so sad

at steady intervals
my father knew
torque and lift are everything
so many flat stones left undisturbed

The Flavor Never Lasts

the spines of angels with paws
are more fragile
than she or they admit

she doesn’t hear the rolling wave
spill into its crash
the wind has drowned

out everything save itself
she can’t even hear herself beg
for a longer reprieve

before daylight hesitates
on its way to breaking
open access splits

down the middle / cardinals escape
out the side / bark scraps
trailing from their beaks

please leave all memories outside / remove any trace

of feeling from the inaccessible
lobby steps / tell
the furnace to slow down

the piano is drunk
again and the chairs are holding
a wooden stare down contest

in the corridor
that trails off / a dream
of flying across an ocean

in a massive jet
with a boy she knew
when she was six

all night dreams unfold
in the present tense
daydreams the future perfect

nothing imperfect
about the reels
she splices together

the boy sits with her
on a contorted tree branch
in his grandmother’s front yard

an arranged marriage
they like each other well enough
just prefer to have his sister

join them on a post-honeymoon walk
along the rocky beach
in search of mermaid toenails

they will have been laughing
because everyone knows
mermaids don’t have feet

their tragic curse to be given no warning

of the scales
that might crowd out
their afternoon visions