Water Dancer

She knows this dock—
each splinter, barnacle,
hurricane-spared stilt.

It is not a plank. It’s where she walks.
She knows how to dive,
has been doing it for years.

No easing into the wash,
she plunges in and is used to it
before others awake.

This is underworld—closets, caves, shelves,
trenches, forests, hydromedusa, brittle
stars, Painlevé’s camera.

This is where she should live—
she who is a sponge
is a sponge is a sponge.

She will never work a room
on dry land, works the ocean floor
with the precision of a jelly bloom.

To become exposed to air,
the rising sun. It is her death
to appear before all of us.

Metal crushes metal on a distant street, emergency
sirens approach
closer, closer. A muffled distortion underwater.

Leave her enough sea room.
She would rather synchronize her own sculls
outside a tank

than be confounded by a mirage of closing night roses
she can’t reach without a body.

Low on the Horizon

nothing to prompt us
the first boyfriend question
still unresolved / a new year
it’s just another day

when the temperature has plummeted
as if on cue / the morning sun
converts a thick layer
of ice over everything

into diamond-studded
streets and sidewalks
velocity and momentum
get mirrored by outstretched arms

upon arrival the irony
mark makes some rumblings
other gestures with straighter lines
may come back or slide forward

as firsts to hang
our thickest parkas on
after a morning outdoor refresher
who needs a prompt

or first boyfriend clearly defined
when we can wipe our boots
on the vestibule mat
so cold and so bright outside

Those Screams

while she sleeps
the last newborn of the year arrives
followed by the first of the next

in her dream
two women she doesn’t recognize
give birth in her living room

the fathers wear New Year’s Eve
party hats and blow noisemakers
to cheer on everything

that might end or begin
in the next few moments / empty
bottles of champagne roll

down the street without smashing
or waking her / a cardinal sneezes
from a giant tree in the backyard

out front three young foxes
watch the miracle
through a giant picture window

even the explosion
of fireworks over the lake
doesn’t scare them off

those screams that could turn
a dream inside out
a nightmare outside in

Who Wraps Fish in Scandal Sheets

I drive the getaway car.
I stare into the sun
during another eclipse.

Do not streak through a college cinema
during another showing of Jailhouse Rock.

I drive her to the clinic.
I stare at a man on a subway
train in the wee hours.

Do not go to the lead singer’s hotel room—
not once but twice.

I drive him into her arms.
I stare at bare ash branches outside
as they kiss by bouncing flame candlelight.

Do not write another poem about the night
that changed my life.

Please Don’t Refresh His Memory of Last Night’s Storm

when snow covered yesterday’s ice,
formed as the temperature plummeted
after a steady rain turned
Wednesday’s accumulation to slush.

What a drag she loses
a boot on the frozen drive
before having a chance
to put another log on the fire

he claims he didn’t start.
Another stale family joke
she doesn’t get.
Now would be an ideal time

to hibernate in a remote town
without access
to a back road shortcut.
They could rewrite the script

without fear of crashing
another party without a host.

One chip from one cookie
left from the last batch
he made without her input.
She never reads the menu

or removes the spider web
from the storage bin
above the cellar door.
He never removes the tag

from the sleeve
of his vegetable flannel
or bothers to zip up
the hidden duffel bag

filled with pine needles
and all evidence
that might link him to her
after another January thaw.

They Were White Cedars

I come to the swamp ready to disappear
into the primordial forest amidst cedars that stand
a distance from those dunes where I stood
above it all, eyeing a boardwalk that floats
on a salt marsh at high tide. Pause
and recall a time when I still believed
in the power of moving bodies to speak
out loud beneath the eaves as rain pounds
on the roof. A gray cottage he owned,
or, his family did. The space heater vibrated
all night. We shared peppermints after we ran
along those dunes before the perfect storm surged.