Hell Was the Second Word You Uttered

It’s 9 am
on a Saturday
in April, do you know where

your Please
Kill Me t-shirt
is? Who you were

with the first time
you listened to Chronic
Town all the way through?

Gardening at night
is not always as romantic
as it seems. Mumbling may be

a gift of genius,
or merely of the arrogant
camouflaging an inferiority

complex the size of a bull’s eye
on that t-shirt
in XXXL. Or, it could all be

a joke—the way
we equate enunciating
with the truth.

How To Be Second Choice

Grace. A chess game indoors
could have been outside in
spring snow if it was

a bigger place
with more pocket parks. But here
everything stays

insulated. A punk jabbing
at the inside mechanisms
of my mind. In a dream,

the old New York employer
has all but shutdown. An empire
of books gets streamlined. Everyone

has moved
on. Even those who haven’t
when I wake will be gone.

Twisted Anniversary

Twenty years ago when she thought she would live
forever, she tried to cut it

short. Twenty years later, she’s doing all she can
to preserve each daily miracle. Joy

Division was rattling in
her head: “She’s Lost Control.” Who knows what

the Roadhouse jukebox
was pumping out. It was Neil Young who awakened her

with a “Harvest Moon”
in April to a morning she didn’t know she would want

to know. Some dates are best
forgotten. She’s the lucky one who gets to remember the long play.

Is It Mine Again?

Dumptruck sings “Get off
my island.” Used to be
my refrain even though
I’ve always known no one

(especially me) can really own
it. Just missed going to college
with one Dumptrucker. Shared a cab
from the Lower East Side to Prospect Heights
early one Sunday morning with another.

An oral history gets written
down. What gets lost
in translation becomes ghost
poems that only recite

themselves under waxing
crescent moons. But when they do,
you can hear them echo
up freshly rained-on empty streets
with titles like “urban spring” and “long live
the lighthouse keeper.”

2711 Aldrich Avenue South

Still bare from a long winter, my favorite
tree has grown
crazier than I remember. One wildly long branch

reaches across the street
to shake hands with its fellow elder
on the block. Just one

south of the CC Club. I never enter
that darkness anymore. Someone leaves
a black teapot on top

of a recycle bin—yes or no? Do it.
Knock it in. Everything
deserves a second chance.

A Boat in a Fog May Not Be Lonely

I blush to think
how I did examine
that photo of you

naked. In the privacy
of my apartment. Alone.

Always alone there,
here, for now for however
long. Long enough

to defrost the freezer
on a schedule. My therapist
says go

online, experiment, be
a tease, say no. I
say no

to that. I think
I should—no, I fear
I should have no

one to tease. Could I
tease you for a night?
Could I be the smile

in Minnesota
for you? Is that meeting
in Theatre 80 on Saint Marks Place

where the original
punks who did not die go to not die?
I’ll never say. I’m one too.

Now She’s Done It

“I wish I could speak sky.”
—Richard Hell (“Boy Meets Death, Boy Falls in Love” in Hot and Cold)

And still a shadowy figure
and steady footsteps stamping the rain
behind me cause trouble. I must retire
from this life before

it retires me. Says the old one, says
who. Five o’clock on a Friday flows
in both directions—make it three,
four, more. I see

the water sculpture gain
momentum as it spills off
the edge of a tower
atrium balcony. They move

waterfalls on rivers
as famous as the Mississippi
and others you can’t name too. What
should I do

with you now? Hot and cold. I flip
through it in a crowded Starbucks—sketched
penises fly by. And you—naked
on one page. I can’t stop

to stare/admire you/it.

In a crowded Starbucks.
That’s what I get
for pulling you out

here—for taking in
my daily double shot

espresso in a crowded Starbucks
in the first place. The last place
would be where a stranger refuses
to pass me.


A meeting rumbles in the back
room. I could be
one of them. But

I like my margin
where I can hitchhike
rides to dark dreams

and musings
about collocating
my secrets with old

punk gods. I could delve
into euphoric recall

from a passenger
side high in a flying

coffin. Repentance. It was those
black leather police
jackets that got very cool.

Wise Disguise

The way a punk
unravels slowly,
then zap—nothing left
save the recovered voice
of a city transient. Or, a dead

man wrapped in stray
dog’s fur. Or,

poems spilling
red over black.