An island won’t tell
its stories to just anyone.
She needs to woo its open ocean

side with a promise—
no messages in bottles, no

texting the mainland
after the fishermen bed
down the sun into night.

Museum as Verb

She prefers student
over teacher, says
inspiration is

elusive. No one
would settle without
water nearby. It will all shift—

the more she learns
the less she knows

call this—or this—
home. On these days,

she prefers
to board a train
to let go.

Polite Emily Dickinson Flies*

Riding the rails through
an afternoon comes
easier than staying

put face
to face with imminent
death. Or not. To those

gone but not
gone, she says
these tracks are her prayer.

* From Jack Kerouac’s Big Sur

Into this Autumnal Equinox

This rain may mute
the full moon tonight,
may turn my thoughts to wet

brain, incurable
delusion, doubt, immobility.
I cannot blame

those clouds or any weather
pattern for this disease
of selfish, vicious obsession. It fights

back by sitting in wait
to rot my body—power
greater than myself. I won’t decay

today, will walk into spitting
wind to become present
inside a drop of cannot know.

Or Wave

She believes the dirt
can talk, trees and wind join in—this nonverbal

world says more to her
than the one she keeps trying to define

and confine herself to. Poetry
of numbers in vibration is

music. She sees the face
of a god over Big Sur cliffs—sand mixed in.


When her grandfather paid her
a nickel for each half
hour she could sit still

and mute

neither could know how
her father’s words would evaporate
into close Jersey shore air

for free, how the other capital A
disease untreated might do the same
to a friend she can’t bear to be near—

and stillness becomes

permanent. Even if
she kept those nickels
all these years, she couldn’t purchase

a reprieve
from either for anyone.

On this Day in 1995

The Mississippi River is a poem.
I slip through city pores
to its west then south then west
bank. It will not be shaped

by coordinates. Will not lay down easy
for measurement.
How to become plum with a poem is
a gritty quest with a solution that won’t be fixed.

On this Day in 1995: A Prose Poem?

Warning: Sentimentality Ahead

In honor of the 15th anniversary of Trace’s official release today, I decided to listen to the entire album while walking along the West Bank of the Mississippi River. I walked from downtown Minneapolis to the river and along the pedestrian path—which hovers between the river and the Great River Road (Highway 61)—to the Broadway Bridge in the time it takes to listen to all the songs through “Too Early.” “Mystifies Me” played as I turned back and started heading south. I did make a brief detour on a trail that loops to the water’s edge for “Out of the Picture.” With the band members residing all along the Mississippi River at the time the album was recorded, from the Minneapolis area to the Saint Louis area to (temporarily) New Orleans, I have always associated the album with the river.

Trace may have been released 15 years ago today, but I’ll never forget hearing the songs for the first time on a leaked tape cassette that was circulating in early 1995 and the first time I saw the band play at the 7th Street Entry on a warm June night. I stood in the front row and have done my best to maintain that position ever since. When I listen to those songs, I feel as if they’ve been around my whole life. “Sounds like 1963” indeed. Isn’t that the definition of classic?

No collection of songs has had such a presence in my life. I believe that generations down the road, or up the river, will listen to Trace (on whatever contraption is prevalent at the time) and become just as enchanted with the songs’ beauty, sadness, grit, and wisdom. Trace is a best friend, a classic, a poem, a prayer. And “the rhythm of the river will remain.”

Nine Eighteen

Don’t draw a line through
this day yet—late
afternoon and still sleeves
are optional, blinding light
from the sun’s reflection
on a fender, her footsteps
reflect nothing but promise
of a moon sighting tonight.