Palimpsest

By any other name, old under
new over these layered spasms could be
a lover’s ancestor in throes
of it. The lover did not 

inherit that passion. It could be
learned. Or unlearned. No.
I cannot go back. I can
repurpose desire into 

energy to stay awake overnight
for this city’s sake. But shadow
limbs will move behind a scrim—an ache
will likely bleed through.

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After Hours

It’s tension. This talk
of the temporary. No shelter—
but a stretch 

to represent. I
would not live 

in a tent. To go
to parties means meeting
a man who says: 

“Let’s light up
the Third Avenue Bridge.” 

Not burn it
down. That’s a different party
on a different night. 

Because the darkness can
be so random I rarely go
out without my torch.

Marionette

Lapsing into flaps to close a cardboard box, she slips a note in afterward
the way she forgets she can dance
without strings. The tension
for the right arm varies from that of the knee. Thighs weigh more 

than you might imagine. Pulled out, she emerges
naked and cut free
of nerves before the flaps fold
over each other, before everything collapses, 

before she slips away without written instructions
on how to manipulate the soil
to grow freshly carved limbs.

Then I Will (Day 2,518: Take 2)

Take away all definite
articles overworn
and shaped to fold
as tightly as a cliché
in a cheap plastic frame. Throw 

leftover scraps into a tipped
over metal ash can
before flames burn
another year’s calendar
beyond recognition. Steal 

another man’s thought
after an October
snow leaves a bouquet
of unlabeled white 

traces and artificial heat.

Across Times Square Is Paramount

I. 

You are the axes, bowtie, pivotal moment
we all pass through to get to the other side
of our lives. This time 

I’m emerging from Penn Station, heading your way
along freshly rained-on sidewalks—the tourist
thicket watered well.  Your required spectaculars 

advertise everything but
this love story I have left
to tell. Will he be jealous? I wish 

I could tell him I cry
whenever I see his face. But I don’t.  I do
when the Friday afternoon slow river rushing crowd drags me in. I am 

so in love. Would he be jealous yet? I check
the Chevrolet clock. Into the transverse LED net—Broadway,
42nd Street, 7th Avenue—I become an endangered species 

in an island sanctuary, practicing the art of intentional
walking.  Always a little subversive on these streets. I am so
in love. Beyond you, west along 46th Street, through scaffold mist, my love is 

Paramount. 

II. 

The hotel looks the same. 

Stainless steel, concrete, a hundred shades of horizontal
gray to subvert the vertical noise outside. Rose 

heads protrude from wall surfaces without newscrawlers. Fog and January humidity
get smuggled in waves through the heavy swinging lobby doors.  A blue floor light 

guides the small hot elevator as it rises 14 floors. The same
floor-length mirror and barley twist

rail greet me as the doors open. Room 1508—another small one,
the bathroom sink a metal funnel that drains the tear I give away 

as quietly as the shift in my mouth’s shape. Down
in the Library Bar, I don’t drink 

all those glasses of Shiraz. I drink black coffee for free and know better
than to wait for him to arrive. Would he be jealous yet? An emotion 

he hides so well. I can only manage to say it once—in reverse.  There is no story,
no plot ready for neon streaming, only enough character to walk across 

the Shuffle in well-worn heels. It’s all I have to show for
you—how I learned to recognize my love of place, 

over person or thing, with no jealousy left to pass through to get to the other side.

Talking to the Streets

To avoid loose
structure, she steps around
the porous stretches
of your concrete skin. 

Call it superstition—don’t
step on the crack in any sidewalk.
She calls it the wise
way to construct 

a commitment from you
in a faithless world. If 

she believes you can
hold her up, will she believe
you will? Strike out
the ending and the sag 

in the middle, she seeks
a taut you, abhors
the tremulous, falls asleep
to the vibrations rising 

through the grate,
a compressed force
she would not dare deny.

How To Get Here

If this moment respects
its elders, if I honor
the memory of a lover’s laugh,
silence, topography
of an old acrylic seascape painting
gently against my fingertips— 

if 

I could be so expansive
with what’s left inside—broken,
scarred, intact—I might begin
to understand how to drop 

this word
nostalgia 

on its head and see
it shake itself free
of the mockery
and disapproving stares. I could 

touch it without leaving
a smudge.