The Dead Can’t Hurt

No longer in the run around, she traipses
across an invisible line
between mentor

and visitor, room
and mask, smile
and lie, tears
and truth, lover

and ghost. A new
preoccupation might not be so kind.

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The Flats

If only you had come down
that warm June night.
To rescue her

from his leaping kiss, from
herself—you might have deflected
the obsession

from his visage
to yours. Might have cherished
her beautiful catastrophe

longer than
a summer’s breath. River
to lake—lake to river

bed, you might have left her
another widowed
word in the end.

Hallowed

She doesn’t visit haunted houses.
But for you she might
walk the disappearing

floor boards just to spy the illusion
of you and those insinuations

your eyes and long fingers held
captive for so many years. Creaks
expose only laughter wrapped

around the mystery
of what might have been. If

only those planks had been
longer, straighter,
of sounder wood.

After School Prey

Rabbits and voles whip
across a city sidewalk. Still,
the leaves don’t fall.

I can almost feel the heat
of your tobacco-flavored breath
against my cheek

as you whisper ghostly
nothings in my ear. Still,
the leaves don’t fall.

No Past

“One must be receptive, receptive to the image at the moment it appears.”
—Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space

In moments like these
I do what I do
best—steal.

I see your collage
of sea glass clad the curve
of a clam shell

and raise you a cloth bag
laden with leaves, light
fixtures, planks from bleachers, a pale

pink mannequin
arm, the final words
he whispered before

he left the café at dusk. I see straight

through our trial
to time to be served.

Popo is short
for poor poet
as much as it is
for the police.

Yearbook: A Found Poem

“There’s no art
To find the mind’s construction in the face.”
—William Shakespeare, Macbeth

Black and white is better.
A chance to sing
with the prettiest
soccer player he ever coached is best

between the pipes. The choral
room fades into a late-night debate
séance. A rude awakening—you
were no challenge to her

even before she got so lonely
on her mountain. Did you get your kiss
beside a pile of broken
chairs? Behind another brick

in the wall? Bonfire flames
and umbrella silhouettes
become an unfinished
symphony. The egg

drop comes before those fish drawn
on their foreheads in crayon. You make me long

for the artless construction
of your face.

Scars

She’s ready to declare:
I believe

in ghosts. She’s ready
to admit:
I believe in ghosts

so I might encounter you
in the hallway of that haunted
old school building.

If everything could be repurposed,
she’d like to be slate
under your chalk next.

Each time I pull out a calculator
I feel that disapproving
look outweigh your seductive
glint. It doesn’t add up—nothing

does since I discovered you
were gone to the numbers
bonfire beyond. And you’ve been monitoring
the flame for years. Where was I?

I never let you take me
to the Take No Heroes Hotel.
Now I’ve misplaced the directions
but can still prove

I haven’t lost my way. I remember
something about forgetting limits.
Let my lucky 8
get knocked down tonight.

Till the Day

Fountains spout in rain, splatter
in wind. If we had been

lovers, a bitterness would have prevailed
the way it has for all these others.

Might have been threats
left on answering machines:

“If you ever darken
my doorstep again.” Cruel

confessions: “I could see living in the City
but not with you.”

“She laughs more.”
“I don’t love you anymore.”

“I never loved you.”

“This is my O Lucky Man!
This is good-bye.”

Nothing can dismantle the purity
of a death that saves us.

Prized Pupil

You never saw my city—didn’t get arrested
for something we might have—

what’s done is done to be
without regret as I place blue

poppies on stone. It’s the same
latitude as where you were born

where you rest now
where I live out these days

as an almost fugitive. No more
eyes on this one—invisible and lifelong.