The Cruelest

No more April 11, 1993.
No more muscle relaxants,
no more Xanax pills
in her purse. No more purse.
No more bottle to drain
of anything sweet or strong.
No more friends holding.
No more dangerous obsession
fueling her days and nights.
No more strung out on some face.
No more dead-end wedding anniversaries.
No more Good Friday sadness.
No more Easter NDE.
No more immediate exit plan to enact.
No more denial: I just wanted to write
one good line you couldn’t forget.

She’s So Grounded

No lightning strike can touch her.

She would never pursue poetry
as a profession.

Her wings may rust from disuse.

Salt on her upper lip doesn’t mean
she swam with golden sweepers

to steal light.

Does the punishment fit the crime?

From a second story window, she watches
her duende and guardian angel

dance in the alley
during a thunderstorm.

She’s forgotten what it feels like
to touch the clouds.

She would not ask you
to get a face tattoo

on your turned cheek,
or the other side

of that Airstream
you keep threatening to buy

(or steal).

When she says she can’t drive,
she means it.

And still spokes are her favorite part
of the wheel.

She wouldn’t train a creeper
to climb a wall.

And still the Boston ivy
that slashed her screen

before dying doesn’t disturb her.

It’s not if—it’s when
she will eat dirt again.

Your New Oread

She knows how to whirl
her way down a hill, up
the next till she reaches the sea
where she will go to whirl
her way underwater to your
favorite hiding place. Pointed
remarks about home in the pines
cannot muffle the splash
she makes as she dislodges your
golden trident. What great
waves she makes miles from the pines
you used to climb. High tide on
the way. I remember our
skinny dipping excursions off those rocks
into that waterfall. We would hurl
ourselves into the cold pond, your
hand holding mine tight. Your tossed green
shirt flapping overhead. I’m still not over
it. As if there really were an us
before she was born. Someone cover
my eyes, so I can’t see how you wielded us
like a weapon against time. With
or without fear, she swims out far, your
dolphins beside her. It’s chlorinated pools
where she would drown. Of
course, I know you built the dock with fir.

Thanks to Gwendolyn Brooks, Terrance Hayes, and last Sunday’s New York Times At Home section for refreshing my memory of the golden shovel poetic form. This poem gets its final word for each line from H.D.’s wonderful poem “Oread.”

Meme Mutant

I was still looking for the horizon
inside a tunnel beneath a bay
a skipping stone’s distance
from an island I once knew.

+/- then a monster container
ship gets stuck in a canal.
A traffic jam of astronomical
(spring) proportions.

The push +/- pull of tugboats
make me laugh +/- cry.

Time to start keeping a tally
of things that measure
the length of the Empire State Building
tipped on its side.

An old steel mill skeleton,
now this
rainbow behemoth. We wait
for the tide to refloat it, us.

“Kilroy was here.”
I can’t draw, but you get the picture.
Mittens +/- folding chairs +/-
cats—lots of cats.

In this scenario, are you the boat
or the canal? Tiny bulldozer
or patch of mud? A sign of progress
or Lessepsian migration nightmare?

Are you a strangely beautiful
lionfish spreading venom
within turbid estuaries
or toxic nomad

jellyfish swarming
Mediterranean shores,
or the native meagre
disappearing

before our eyes? A ghost net
or a salt crystal.

The most invasive species at it
again, +/- all I want to know is
who’s going to right +/- refloat
New York’s iconic skyscraper.

The Horse + The Heron

Have I even seen one
since watching a herd
of the miniature Icelandic breed
break into fifth gear—
the flying pace—
alongside the winding Ring Road?

Thick waterfall manes + tails
flowing in the wind.

I pause to imagine their dark
silhouettes against a backdrop
of Northern Lights.
I saw them both:
the horses + the lights.
Just not together.

I wait for the great blue ones
to wade + fish
in the Loring Park pond again.
Despite the surface ice,
the ducks have returned.
It will snow again. Animals adapt.

Divide the picture
in half diagonally.

Dare to put the one with wings
in the wedge beneath.
I want to fly again. Head east.
Get a bird’s eye view
wide + long enough to capture all
of New York City’s bridges in one breath.

Head west. I ran across
the Golden Gate Bridge once,
looking for Easter bonnets
in the fog. Sobriety
out of reach
for another year or so.

I never found
your stolen Pegasus.

Would not drown it
in a bucket of salt water
if I did. Did you check
the sky one more time?
On this vernal equinox
after the sun sets so quickly.

Equal parts street pounder + cloud
counter, she may not want to be recovered.

+ Next

+ thieves come to steal
an hour in the middle of the night.

+ the ice on the pond come March
turns a brilliant slate of blues + grays.

+ after almost three decades
of running along that parkway,
I have just discovered
how red the asphalt is.

+ the snow has finally melted in time
for the next winter storm.

+ it is still winter astronomically speaking,
+ the vernal equinox is six days away.

+ my day dreams will become
perfectly balanced
with the ones I survive
in the wee hours.

+ I will continue to dig through mud
+ mycelium, desperate to unearth a plot

+ eavesdrop on the Sargent cherry
saplings as they awaken.

Triggering Cliques + Other Epiphanies

It was a sharp noise
before my sixth grade teacher
told my mother I needed
to find my own to survive.

A click, a clatter,
a crackle, a clink,
not a clunk.

Will the beautiful people
return when this is over?
Will a new circle be drawn,
this time with a curb cut

to spill us
onto the street
where everyone can begin

to believe
in their own beauty?
They say I wasn’t looking for a party
in the Bertram Woods Branch.

How do they know I wasn’t
dancing in the aisles?
Maybe I did bring in a detachment

of imaginery friends
from the town before to join me.
I wasn’t looking for beauty.
It found me spine-in, signatures flaring.

Just do it.
Turn your entire home
library inside out.

Believe in your body’s motion
+ spatial memory
more than the triggers
of a flood of titles draining

downward. Embrace the beige
+ decaying post-its
(flagging the not to be

forgotten) exposed.
Go ahead—forget.
The imperative will out.
Spring comes to hint

at the moment
it will be safe
to rejoin the herd.

37 or more
decamerons drape stories
like silver webs across empty stages inside once were live venues.

And I whisper, afraid someone will hear:
What if I don’t want to leave
this sanctuary of solitude.

If I Were Ambidextrous

I would lose
my lefty outlaw status.

I would never look up
the etymology of sinister
just to smirk + feign outrage again.

I would write more poems
with cleaner boundaries.

I would not interrupt
myself so much.
Others—who knows?

I would bang on doors
+ ceilings with equal force.

I would not run
any faster or farther,
would not further my daydreams.

I would cut out hearts
less crooked.

I would not remember
my dreams or learn how to recognize
lucid ones any better.

I would smear less,
become more legible.

I would not drink wine
from a glass I hold with my right
hand just to see.

I would even out
the angles + curse less.

I would not know myself
more than I do now. No, I would not
know myself at all.

Separating Ions from Lions

I. The Salt Before the Wind-Borne

It’s been a year
since you wrote that one about being
lonely for mannequins.
Or were you just looking

for them? It’s so hard to encounter
your barely legible, barely younger
self. Imagine dying
in the arms of the City:

how the Beacon
+ 79th Street Boat Basin
are just the beginning.
A year since you’ve proclaimed

removable limbs come in handy
during pandemics.
You would rather run into the fire
+ risk melting

than strike another
hollow pose.

Do you remember how it feels
not to hear or read the word
pandemic
multiple times a day?

Do you remember why reverse osmosis
made an appearance?
Were you really planning to distill
+ drink your tears as a cure?

This brackish sadness
will outlast the sun.
114 acres here, another spit
of land there—the entire planet.

Reparations or dignity restoration,
how do you quantify incalculable
cruelty? Sins that cannot be
forgiven or forgotten.

There is no pose left to strike
without a match.

II. Broadcast Lightning

I’m always writing two of them
simultaneously, never knowing
where to draw the line
in the mud, how to turn the page

so the ducks can swim in park puddles
again. Drunks too. Here I am desperate
to give reasons why
I became a dandelion.

His breath against my neck,
the freedom to wander,
the truth about weeds,
a wild dance

across the field
before they mow us down.

Aren’t poems equations that can’t be
solved? Things you snap
your fingers to + please
no clapping.

An avalanche
of frozen peas spills into the steamer.
An avalanche
of anguish + anxiety.

An avalanche
of gratitude for the color green
+ tiny globes—
ours is more blue than any other.

And still, this thirst tears us apart,
tree limb by tree limb.

Before the Thaw

I ran all the way to The Commons
to catch a glimpse of the celestial
horse sculpted from ice.

Wrong commons.
Not an equine in sight.

I should have looked for the aphrodisiac
telephone (off-white version)
in Boom Park

or veiled lady
in Longfellow Park instead.

I think of the forest
behind Chickering Elementary School
where I would go alone

to kill the loneliness
on a playground where the circle dance
children refused to hold my hand.

Not an equine
or lobster in sight.

Just those hot pink lady’s slippers
to beware. So afraid I would step
on one and go to jail.

Not a seahorse anywhere in sight
to protect me.

That time I tripped on the sidewalk
and bloodied my forehead
when I was 18, truth is

I thought I was tripping
on the absinthe I drank that night
from a bottle a college buddy smuggled

in from Spain. The green fairy
and her powers of suggestion,
my excuse for public drunkenness.

Not a lobster

talking on the phone or riding
a horse in sight. And now it’s too late.