Another Shy Kettle

All blinged out in
black metal mesh,
she doesn’t wait
for the bell lap

to rush out the back door
into another beautiful cloudy mess

of a morning.
Nothing left to stare at
or boil. Is it a deadlift
or a heavenly drop

empty handed onto a bridge?
She wishes she could see the ocean

or one of the Great Lakes
through the hole
in the wooden deck—
not 16 lanes of traffic.

And then she vanishes
without so much as a whistle.

There Were Rabbits

Everywhere in the rain.
No thunder. No falling
leaves yet. Wet pavement.
And rabbits. Everywhere

there are wheels
that fell off. A hill
to reckon with. There were words
everywhere in the woods

beside the street.
Stuck to stories
that no one remembers
to tell for years. Words

she would rather sing
than say aloud.
A melody gets entangled
in the branches.

Whole chunks bitten off.
Parallel grooves brand
the bark. A subtle plot
becomes a whittler’s carving.

How those fragments get teased out
remains a secret
only Sappho could whisper
into truth. Not her.

Listening to Jimi Hendrix’s version
of “All Along the Watchtower”
in a van heading to the North Shore,
she’s the one who will slice open

a red cabbage to reveal
the beautifully tragic
spiraling section. Enough
of a lullaby to calm all

those rabbits to sleep.
Or, in another compartment, residue
from immortal sweat (or,
are those tears) tames the urge to kill

off another oracle.
And bless the no-see-ums
that swarm so late
into September.

A Violent Striking Together of Two Bodies

The intensity of calm. The brevity
of long summer days. Free radical

wellness. She can’t justify using
the word oxymoron in a poem.

She can’t justify
any poem she’s written—

left, full, or ragged
right. She’s more dash,

less of a mark. More ruin, less
shame. More hypo, less hyper.

She’s a hand stretching to strangle
a throat into an interesting effect.

A song spoken first. A lullaby iuxta.

Less horizontal, she’s more
a tree not yet ready to crash.

Minnesota Point

I am going to read
“The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”
the way you once did

for a poetry class
as an MIT senior in 1959.
Years before you would begin

sharing your birthday
with me. I am going

to taste seaweed all morning.
Run through dunes with rolled-up
flannel trousers all afternoon.

Come civil twilight,
the hour of our beloved
early December sky,

we will not hear the mermaids
singing. No, it will be a chorus

of selkies humming like giraffes,
chanting like monks,
bursting with life

beneath the Aerial Lift Bridge
to be heard while crossing over.
Salties and lakers pass through.

Ten years now since you slipped into
the horizon—the grayest of blue seams.

Anything with Wings, Dad

“I love my free spirit.
I trust my creative power.
I generate the wind beneath my wings
and enjoy the journey.”
—Michael Nash Mantra

Wielding a broken branch,
a child chases a juvenile gray duck
in the grass.
My heart hurts
to watch the bird
waddle furiously to escape.
Suddenly seeming to remember
it can fly, it glides across the walkway
through cattails to the pond.
A water landing—sweet relief.

Anything with wings, Dad.
Anything with wings.

Utter an Inarticulate Sound

An open blind casts shadow bars
on a blank page mid-morning.

They are a mask—a birch forest
on a tilted globe. You are mistaken

for a monumental stair by a robot
that thinks your ribs

are made for climbing. The takeover
has begun. No crickets or grasshoppers

within earshot to wake you
from the middle of a dream

about an encounter with that singing
curmudgeon in a neglected corridor

on the top floor
of a Victorian apartment house.

Facial expressions nearly legible
by candlelight. You’ve lost track

of what day it is.
The smell of handgun smoke

lingers on the mall
after the muzzle blast dies.

A 300-year-old bur oak splits open
under the stress of rot, weight, age—

drought the final straw.
The park has always had a bird man

who ignores the signs
not to feed the geese, ducks,

pigeons, red-winged blackbirds.
The occasional great blue heron

that fishes in the lake
doesn’t need anyone’s help.

You were once a bumper car stuck
going backwards in figure eights,

before rhythmically slamming into walls
on repeat. You’ve spent your life

trying not to become the ball
crushed into a 2D idea

in mere moments. Night fell

on national chant at the moon day
without so much as a whimper

released from your throat.
Let the howling resume tomorrow.

This Rocky Misunderstanding

I am landless. I am free. I am trying
to get away with it.

I can’t distinguish weeds
from prized flowers.

I can’t tend a garden
I don’t have. I won’t take

that community plot
in the southwest corner

of the park I call my front yard
from someone who deserves it more.

Everyone owns my front yard.
The party’s been over for decades

(for me). I am licenseless. I am afoot.
Hoping to get away with it.

If this blind tracery were to cover
my ears, I would still hear

tires screeching on pavement
in the middle of the night.

If the West Chop foghorn could be heard
this many miles and years away,

it would soothe these nerves
before splitting all that slate

blue apart—sky from ocean,
an oscillogram of my father’s voice

looping above and below the horizon.
I am not

rootless. I am a tree
that refuses to choose: Am I

planted in the wrong place
at the right time, or

the other way around? Or, secured
to some hidden holdfast.

Oh, my sea moss,
you and I have gotten away with it.

LLD

A banana falls from the sky,
lands loose and dented
at her feet on a hot sidewalk
before August has begun.

Sounds bleed into one another
on a Monday, like a child’s handwriting
that droops to the right,

each line more sloped
than the one preceding it.
The gutter does not terrify
this five-year-old.

Everything she loves
grows in the margins—wild
and entangled in the lost language

of the drum. Cattails that harbor
red-winged black bird nests
surround Loring Lake, designated
as the most urban one in Minnesota,

where you can canoe for free
on Wednesday evenings in August.
That a hole in the wooden deck

of a nearby pedestrian bridge
doesn’t cause anxiety
might mean her long-lost daughter
has always been her long-lost duende.

So what if you were right
all those years ago about the left
leg being shorter by a half centimeter?

Some game of low-level dueling
will always interrupt lifelong dreams.
Lead to the risk of late-life depression.
Translate into a series

of little lie-downs
that don’t add up
to one everlasting sleep.

And just maybe she won’t become A
is for Amy who fell
down the stairs. With a backpack
(lilting, long, and deep enough

to hold all her dirty laundry
and a few scraps of lost letters
and dignity) secured to her shoulders,

she’ll keep her balance
all the way down.
And if she does stumble,
a rope ladder, strategically hung

on the cellar door
by someone who looks like
you once did,

will appear at the last possible
moment. A handwoven lattice-lace
design remains imprinted
on closed eyes, not by choice.

And, finally, a dark August
Saturday morning arrives
with thunderstorms in the forecast.

“Rain, rain, please,”
she pleads,
“stick around long and loud
and dripping enough

to quench the garden’s thirst,
to coax Minnehaha Falls to begin
falling again.”

Were the Wraiths Ever Extroverts

A community garden arises
from remnants
of old shuffleboard courts.

The dandelion fountain
will bloom again.

I will write one more
ekphrastic poem
about a single painting that celebrates

the island in moody watercolors
with abstract undertones.

If I write a poem about an art fair,
would it be ekphrasis, or a failed figment?
Those cursive m’s I could never draw

quite right shadow dancing
in a darkened corridor. This printed word

will crush the teeth
of those ghosts wading in the surf—
or would if they had mouths to hold them.

Channels Through Wire

Your tattoos reassure me.
The way you drum your fingers

on the kitchen island
does not. One more rust

colored, handwoven rag
to soak in ice

water. Wooden

buckets. We were haulers
of things. We were the rivers

flowing backwards
between our words

on hot, humid nights
before the storm. Metal

shovels. The vessel is now closed.
A one-way spiral stair climb to nowhere

near the real city. Red buoys.

Do you punish yourself
for erasing the recording

of all of us
laughing? The joke

tucked so tightly
inside the temporary brick wall.

One more lefty who holds
a bouquet of the sharpest

pencils. We have waited
for the burdened net to resurface.