Way Before Daffodil

Cradled between merry-go-round
and satellite,
the first words
he would say to her
were an insult
wrapped inside
an error becomes erotic
presumption blanketed
with snotty affection.

Is it a deep blue
sleeveless floral button-down baby

doll dress
with a collar, or

a maternity
jumper? Didn’t your mother
teach you

it isn’t

polite to ask
if a woman is

knocked-up? To her face?
As she dances? To your music?
Damn, boy! Is it mine? Just you wait and see.

The Last Daffodil, Or How to Become Famous Inside the Take No Heroes Hotel

The window
seat is the aisle
seat. It’s too damn small. Claustrophobia

can be triggered
at any moment. Am I
the only one

who heard you
expose that moment

a young woman jumps
off

a moving
merry-go-round
to change her life? An island known

for brass rings. But now it’s the back
of a larger jet, not
a bus. And the word

turbulence is a curse. Gravel
roads and potholes
in the sky over

Ohio and Wisconsin. No,
it must be the Great
Lakes. Each

and every one. And rivers
that flow too slowly

or not at all. You belted out
the question:

“Is it Mine?” There was nothing

there to be yours
yet. When there was,
you didn’t want it.

(Did I?) And then
it was gone. Name it. Go

ahead. Name.

It. I

dare you. And

I will not offer
suggestions. And

once named, you can
forget it—me. Yeah,
thought so. Descending

over the Mississippi, a landing
so smooth.

Daffodil

No matter how many transfers
I pluck off

the ground, she will never
kiss me

on the bus
again. Valid

for 2 ½ hours. Time’s
up. Dirt on the magnetic

strip. Invalid

for life. How lame
that I am still limping

after all these years. Again,
I forget

who she is—Daffodil
or some lesser lily

of the field. Face validity
will do. Fingerprints

everywhere. I do know she’s no longer
made of glass.

The Mats at Midway Tonight

I’m going to start
wearing a money
belt to pretend

I’m traveling
in a foreign
country. Wide enough

to hold
a passport
and a spleen

in case mine needs
to be removed.

I would keep it
so I could still vent.

No one will accuse me
of being passive

aggressive. Where am I
going tonight?
Saint Paul. You never know.

Will have to cross
the Mississippi, you know.
Maybe, you don’t.

Is it Mine? Yours? Theirs? (Or, a Text that Raises Questions of Ownership)

Syllables. They tumble from her mouth into his.
They didn’t complete each other’s sentences, they ate them.
She would chew “con,” he “crete.” She “white,” he “washed.”
He would swallow “be,” she would shit “low.”

To fall means climbing—knowing
it could be your last. The rough texture
of their forms curve and complement. He is closing in
on her. Not a walker’s imprint—

a stomper’s. Her high heels cast shadows. Entangled
in one another, covered
in sand under a too bright sun.
A bearded man plays

a harp. Window glass protects viewers
from themselves. Almost
lovers in the shadows, it is time
for us to part. The ocean is out of control.

Syllables smash. I am going

to reinvent you.
This act is not visual. Life will go

out of focus, or

the tree could be dead.

I remember realizing I could swim but not knowing when it happened. Believe
my father taught me. You’ll drag

your wasted body from the water. Flop

onto the dock like a caught fish.
As soon as you can stand, you’ll
jump back in. I remember my cousin Judy
getting me drunk the first time (on Rolling Rock)
when I was 14. And you’ll swim

across channels, swallow salt water,
even seaweed, and your cravings will shift.
I remember almost losing it

for 90 minutes—a steel blue white-capped lurch
up slap down—don’t take your eyes off
the horizon for even a second. Syllables
smash against the white-washed.

I remember puking
on the steps to Saint Patrick’s
Catholic Church in Kokomo
on Easter Sunday when I was 8.

The ocean is everywhere
in her mind. Against the white-washed concrete.
I remember telling my father

I’m one too.

But you’ll keep jumping
into the drink till you go down
or find a squeaky board to use
as a balance beam.

What happens
beyond that bare tree
will become the thing. Syllables smash
against the white-washed concrete floor. A box
unfolding, I get vertigo even before I begin.

In the beginning, there was no lighthouse. Everything was light.
In the beginning, ships sank.
In the beginning, climbing was optional.

I feared the word undertow before one knocked me off balance.
But I hit the barrier between breathing and drowning in a Holiday Inn pool.
Jumped off the State Beach lifeguard stand under fire
works, shouting “The ocean is dying.”

The white-washed concrete floor base. In the beginning,
language rescued us. A keeper was a keeper.

In the beginning, we had to learn the names of each place
before we could forget them. In the beginning,

there was no before. Its beauty—its ruin. Syllables
smash against the white-washed concrete
floor base below. Now all I can hear
is the sound of someone else’s ocean

in a conch shell I found buried
beneath a shack,
destroyed by fire. It was no accident. The day my father died,
I could not recognize my own name.

Figurehead Off the Prow

She could return to the man
who dances with praying
mantises. Or, to the water—colder

on the second day. Or,
another man

she hasn’t spoken to
in over 20 years. She sees him—does he
see her? She imagines

how she might reinvent
his gaze. How he would look

underwater when the ocean
has calmed. Or, what he’d do
if a fox started following him.

Now she doesn’t even know
which man she means.

It’s all a wild ride
that begins in a dinghy
her uncle named after her.

August 27, 2014

A fox follows you
till fear makes you
sprint to lameness. A swim
in the ocean

in your dress awakens
your hidden desire
to be out

of control again. Your hair
may smell of seaweed
and salt mixed
with grief

for your father—some called
Running Fox—now dead
two years. But the air

you breathe
in this moment
brushes the Atlantic Ocean
across all surfaces—your face.