autotomy

sometimes I believe
I am writing
one long-ass poem
to uncoil slowly
like a Jesus Christ
lizard tail
ready to brush
your hollow cheek
before the appendage
breaks off

I will grow a new one
I don't have to grow a new one
life without a tail
is a lonely walk
across water

I consider the flashy metallic elytra
on a beetle that gets tangled in my hair
how I don't realize
it has hitched a ride
till I am inside the hotel lobby
how guilt motivates me
to scoop it onto a map
of the central business district
to return it to the great outdoor
concrete wilderness

I consider
the possibility
rows and rows of Indiana corn
is the best line
I will ever write

how 44 years
is a long time
to wait to see
my best friend
from elementary school again
consider writing a poem
called third child
how we hold onto
the position
even when baby brothers are born

how I jones
for words
that work hard
on paper
inside books

how I don't identify with Baby Boomers
who taught me new math
and old style mechanical drawing
or Gen Xers
raised on MTV and Nintendo
how I belong to whatever cohort
my sisters belong to
how I'm always tagging along
with mud on my face
and sand in my shoes

I consider how exhilarating
to swear freely inside a water tank
turned mecca for sonic arts
how I will enter through a proper door
not a drainage hole
hell damn it all
I will make this shit
swell awash with the sound
of water that hasn't powered
a locomotive in a hundred years

consider how
that hummingbird isn't dead
just startled
to find itself
flat on its back

sometimes I believe being born
on a Sunday evening in late fall
means I will always worship
the darkness that blots out
civil twilight's embers

I don't own land
I am slang
I must keep moving
I am an obligate ram breather
I am slang

Recurse

An architect doodles
on a blank matchbook cover.

The tiniest
skyscraper stands tall

inside a taller version
of itself. If

my mother kept
reproducing baby girls,

we could be
the Land O' Lakes butter girl,

or Russian nesting dolls.
We're no one's little matrons.

The album cover art
to Pink Floyd's Ummagumma

triggers flashbacks of 1969—
the year I learn to dance

to "Sugar, Sugar"

and two guys in identical suits walk
(with all of their reflections

of their former selves)
on the surface of the moon.

We watch it on TV
in our grandparents' basement

in Westwood. Or,
is it the great room

in their beach cottage
on the Vineyard?

It's her word against hers against mine
against the higher pitched voices

we used inside and outside
to sling our favorite slang at one another.

The Droste nurse offers you hot cocoa
to comfort a broken heart,

while a smaller one offers
a smaller you a smaller cup

and so on
till Escher tells everyone

to stop.
He never does.

A damselfly nymph
may resort to cannibalism.

Calving the Airport Road

I’m going to keep writing
about the Airport Road
till I get it right.

Till the radio plays
the exact song I need
to remember the smell

of the pines
in the breeze
as the wood panel station wagon

speeds along. Windows rolled down.
My mother and her lead foot.
I come from a family of lead feet.

While they put the pedal
to the metal, I press my foot firmly
on an imaginary brake

till it bangs against
the back seat floorboard,
till I give up. Resume

watching the world go by.
Always humming something,
this time it’s

“scoot down the road
what’s my number
I wonder how your engines feel”

Not the song
but a good one
to begin with.

In reality, you
were probably too young
to hitchhike

the last time
we pick up my father
from the tiny airport

in a clearing
in the woods.

If I am 9,
you are 13.
Too young.

Then I read maps
will need to be redrawn.

An iceberg the size of Delaware
has broken off the Antarctic Peninsula.

The age of hitchhikers
seems so insignificant

compared to the future
of seacoasts everywhere.

Think of Billingsgate Shoal
used to be Island.

Without the Offing

A weather app
says it’s raining.
That’s not what I see
or feel on my skin.

Another app
tells me to boomerang
everything in view
and lean into the vertigo.

A shifted angle doesn’t help
this far off the horizon.

I am that line
you cross
when you expect
a different descent.

I fall
in the gap between
the first 1 WTC
and the next.

I don’t know
how to mind it at all.

I don’t have the right
to call myself a survivor.
I descend from one—
now dead from other causes.

apricot jam is for Thursdays 

I keep forgetting to include the kiss
fear of forgetting cannot be cured
with remembering

I hear a voice on the plane intercom
mumble something
no one else hears

I can’t make out what the artist
who creates mummy sculptures from shrink wrap
says about their souls

dead fathers are as proud
of their daughters
as when they were alive

scratch that
no one knows
what a mummy desires most

the one I dream about last night
is not the one I touch with my lips and thighs
26 years ago

he is the one who shares a chicken dance
with the one I touch
that second night in a backstage trailer

that doubles
as a green room
no green in sight

not even under the table
with tour rider leftovers
spilling forth

his brother dies 22 years ago
from a drug overdose
in the dead of a deadly cold Minnesota winter

he used to play cards
with my two closest buddies then—
both dead now too

he used to call me his Amybody
the brother that is
not the one I dream about last night

doesn’t call me anything
that time he and the lead singer
drop their jeans to their ankles

just cackles
a signature cackle
you know the one

I keep forgetting
whether I forgot to take my pills
so I take another

am I an amnesiac
or an addict
or simply an imposter in a silver dress

to the tabula rasa man I say
clean your own slate
clap your own erasers

I’m busy
pretending I haven’t
considered you naked

I remember that Indian girl in first grade
her father is missing some fingers
they say he lost them in the spokes of a bicycle wheel

a bike turned
upside down
but that makes no sense

a 27-year-old man tells me
about riding the Coney Island Cyclone
how he would take greater risks

when he was a kid
I think
you are a kid

you are the age I was
when I rip my life to shreds
just to get a better look

at the lakes from plane view
eventually falling
into one of them

I do not drown
I do die
I do not drown

you mention the beauty
of Leonard Cohen’s song
you want it darker

you look directly at me
when you say this
yes go darker

and I say
that voice
I am always saying

that voice

the airplane bathroom
is held together with magic blue
masking tape

you warn me
not to get attached
not to stick to one for long

we torture ourselves
with the choices
we don’t make

we torture ourselves
by returning to the scene
of some stolen love

you know the ritual
we are both trying to recover from
an incense hangover that has no cure

when I tell you I have accomplished
my two lifetime goals by age 27
you tell me

don’t just run a marathon win one
don’t just publish a book publish a novel

our story begins toward the end
of the third act
has nowhere to go after

the is it mine question
I want to listen
to songs that make me feel

like I’m falling
off the edge of the earth
into an algae bloom infested pool

Irish Triplets

Each of us in our separate corners
near enough to the Great Lakes,
we could be Lake Superior’s

triple threat
of rogue waves.
But in 1975, none of us would dare swim

that far out
to sink
the Edmund Fitzgerald.

We are not the three sisters
of agriculture.
No one wants to grow up

to be a climbing bean.
Despite the dolor
of our father’s mother

who claimed her blood bled black
and despite my tendency
to suspire poetically,

we are not the sorrow sisters.
We do not belong in a play
by Chekhov or Shakespeare.

We are not the balance sisters—
only one of us
has given birth.

After a lifetime of seeking
a grand purpose for this threesome,
I give in.

It turns out
everyday heroes are walking
close behind

ready to catch me
when my dirty bare feet
slip on the overgrown beach grass.

Ready to remove the stinger
when a honey bee stings my thigh.
Ready to laugh at me

when I demand
we give the dead insect
a proper burial.

I’m number three,
the one to blame
for making a crowd.

Stuck in the middle seat,
I am the odd girl
in red hand-me-down shorts.

Or, maybe that’s the pair I swiped
from my oldest sister’s dresser
while she was learning to drive.

I have no use

for the old 10 and 2 rule
or 9 and 3 one
that replaced it

no use for some floating
hotel in Sweden
that freezes in place in winter

or alarm clock
the cat knocked off
the nightstand

or airbags
that did not exist
in cars crashing

on Ohio highways
in 1985
let’s play putt-putt

and forget about the storm
that refuses to pass
let’s forget

you are dead
let’s backtrack
to the hill

I’m running down
on a calm Tuesday evening
in late June

what if that bug
I almost swallow
is a moth

what if
I do swallow
a moth

will I utter
imaginal phrases
to coax

even the most stubborn ones
to begin to morph
I will be

the most
stubborn case
I handle all summer

the worker bees
are in revolt
not revolting

not going in reverse
rooftop gardens
are fine unless

the daylilies
have agoraphobia

they may blush
with anxiety
refuse to bloom

in the morning
or next night
they may leap over the edge

or get some help
I am supposed to

hate glass block
the way I’ve learned to despise
wood paneled rec rooms

or maroon seashell-shaped
toilets or
the mottled edges

of my former self
what could be more majestic

than the glazed eyes
embedded in concrete
below my feet

than the subterranean
life I have led
without artificial light

arms and feet no legs

knots form mysteriously
up and down your headset cord

or in the kinky tail
of a spider monkey

or red-spotted glass
frog tadpole

sometimes polliwog
no that lizard

the one that walks on water
what’s it called

Jesus Christ
where are my smokes

thief
ever get swallowed whole

by a song
tucked inside the mouth of a whale

tickle its tonsils
if it had some

with that feather you pulled off
the end of a long-tailed widowbird

to escape

you’re no starfish
that tattoo of railroad tracks

crawling up your torso
can’t be removed

your appendix won’t regenerate
neither will my soul

sold on the black market
a lump of ambergris

washes ashore
I dare you

to pick it up
without getting fettered

can you spell
gray the American way

without getting indigestion
it’s illegal

to smell this good
anywhere near here

where seasmoke settles
over the island

a farm road disappears
voices whisper

rumors of reunions east
alongshore

no plane
will land this morning

I should have asked as much

as you got
for my leaky reeky heart

Into the Evergreen Wash

“I confess I tortured the dress
that you wore for the world to look through.”
—Leonard Cohen, “One of Us Cannot be Wrong”

I wait in a pew to be next
to unburden my soul.
Or is this sacrament about the heart?
I confuse the two.

I count to three.
I confess the real reason
I don’t drive: I have trouble
unfastening seat belts,

unlocking and opening doors,
understanding how headlights work,
distinguishing your car from hers.
I confuse the two.

I collapse two memories
into one to save
space, time, energy, or
nothing at all.

What I would give
for a glimpse of that dress
he tortured. Or to touch it gently—
careful not to rip the fragile

fabric of the story.
Translucent not transparent.
Not every part
is worth repeating.

I get my picture taken
leaning against the knuckle
of the Fremont Troll’s left
trigger finger.

He won’t release his grip
on that VW bug
he’s been clutching
for 27 years. I confess

a fear of those beetles
comes into play too.

Another city waterfront.
I want to run alongside it,
not in it. I have not forgotten
how to swim or tread water.

I just know now I could sink
to the bottom
even with the ocean salt
offering buoyancy.

The seam in the torso
I have only read about before
startles and embarrasses me
when I see it in the flesh.

Don’t stare. I can’t stop.
The eyes and mouth
attached to the torso
give nothing away.

Memoir and poem.
Poem and memoir.
Somewhere the story
must stand up and walk through

blackness into an urban evergreen
forest in order to begin.

I live stanza to stanza,
hopping on trains,
falling off the edge
where motion meets a mirror

of itself. Suddenly,
I remember exactly
where and when I learned
to walk backwards.

A buoy bell spells out a rhythm
for waves as they slam against
a stationary ship. The two become
fused in the distance.

Remember the One about You and Me

I could post that poem
about one night in the Flats
on my blog

I could write another one
with “I remember”
as an anaphora

I could but
I’ve already started
this echo chamber

I could
I could
I could

I would not expect you
to remember me
if you saw me

walking along the sidewalk
in a rainstorm
I would be lying

if I claimed
not to have expectations

Screw it
I remember when I believed
I would never lie

I don’t remember
ever believing that
about you

I would lie again
if I had to

some mornings
I want to bruise
the ginger essence

I spray
on my left wrist

bang it into the right
and grind the scent
deep into my pores

I would tell myself
I am more potent
this way