This Title Will Be Fewer than 60 Characters

“For the sake of a single verse
one must see many cities.”
—Rainer Maria Rilke, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge

If skin is sexy,
door assemblies
become the ultimate
flirtation and chaperone.

Everything is
in conflict
with itself.

I am one of the unreliables—
a narrator who negates
plot and loves settings
that blur the lines

between sand and water,
wave and particle,
feather and gasp.

Without a plot, the story goes
dormant at the bottom
where beauty
in the muck lies.

It’s the quiet ones
who interrupt the storyteller
with their exquisite corpses

and neverending
Mad Libs
written in red pencil.
When she realizes

she should have been
collecting stories
instead of souvenirs,

she tucks herself
into the fetal position
inside a snow globe
and falls asleep.

The sign says
no photographs.
She takes one anyway.

The resulting image
of a vaulted ceiling
inside a reclaimed reading room
captures a moment

but takes no prisoners.
The heroes have gone exploring
secret meta passageways

and forbidden films
and songs. She discovers
a compartment
filled with old black hat

boxes—the kind
with leather belt straps
and brass buckles.

I know she will not find
any hats inside.
The story goes
all those koi

frozen in place
just below the surface of the pond
will not have died in vain.

Minus Forty Is Minus Forty (No Matter What)

She reads the wrong books
in a corridor
everyone has forgotten.

A cardinal rests
on a bare branch
outside a window she cannot see.

She reads people
recover from Nor’easters
in different ways.

When it’s deadly, some don’t.
If a bird, not a human, dies,
it’s still deadly

despite what the official record
says. Baleful conveys
the wrong tone, she reads

in one of those wrong books.
She reads about bridges
under water, and the stench

of decaying fish
fills the nostrils
of her imagination

(as if the imagination
could breathe
without her knowledge.)

She reads the temperature
in Celsius
aloud in a minor key

and warms
to March ambivalence
with a knit cap, no gloves.

She reads too much
into his woeful eyes
and learns the wrong way

to comfort a stranger.
He’s not a stranger
to the woman

who loves him
no matter what.
No matter what, she reads,

erases consequences
like sidewalk hopscotch boards
in the rain, or

the messages she leaves in red
dirt with a rusty jackknife
far from home.

Petrified + Sintered

graffiti on a highway
noise barrier
on closer inspection
I discover sketches of treehouses
that thrill then
fill me with dread
wooden planks affixed to a trunk
become my first definition
of cannibalism

a soft rocker that lights up
after dark becomes
a lost bunny ear begging
for its twin
to complete the rhyme
to keep a little boy
named Leo
from tripping over
untied shoe laces

that rusty nail
the blood
the tetanus shot
another fear is born
whose mine my sister’s
the facts blur and bleed
into a new truth
bark is much prettier
than this creation myth

we move onto a game
of rock + paper + scissors
to see which bacteria
will win this week
paper cuts sting as they leave
thin red lines
on our fingertips
as we thumb through a field guide
to advanced birding

an app would be safer
and so much
would not translate

even ferryboats have rope
wrapping around iron
as they break through ice

why would
anyone want
to willingly shoot
a soaring crane
and deprive the sky
of its quiet
dialogue with
the mountains
and the wind

No Alibi

I wouldn’t want

to write with a pen

filled with prehistoric

animal bone. I wouldn’t want

to know how it got there

instead of somewhere

it might serve a purpose.

If I could see the fingerprints

left on my heart, would they

serve a purpose?

I wouldn’t want

to wait for an answer.

I wouldn’t want to crack a joke

about sewers without

mentioning how to push pure

silk thread through a manhole.

I wouldn’t want to wait

anymore. I would interrupt you

one more time to declare

my vow of silence begins now.

I wouldn’t want to smile here—

then I would elsewhere.

Hold the Slurry

don’t expect this poem
to be shaped

like a wild turkey
(bottle) or mannequin

torso or Grecian urn
or giraffe skull

or dancer in repose
gently worrying

an idea’s spikes
into flapper dress beads

the color blue
as it runs backwards

an ancient Icelandic birch
tree untangled

from the myth
surrounding its demise

a late winter morning
forced to conceal a capsule

filled with
all my past love

a rockhopper penguin
as it rides the wave to the cliff

a grotto where I’ve hidden
all that I wish for you

and this plea
for it not to flood

during the next thunder
graupel storm

or the muffled
sound itself