Mask and Bark

every poem
is a love poem is
the last ash
swaying its branches

to reach the oak
cut down
so many
mornings ago

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Last Trip to the Dead Letter Office

Glitter from a 30-year-old birthday card
sticks to her thigh. Boxes explode
all over her dining room floor.
Decades of letters, postcards, greetings
from everyone she’s ever loved.

All those words skulking
inside envelopes—
mostly white, mostly #10, mostly last century.
Handwritten, typed with a typewriter, keyed with a computer,
mostly with a right hand.

All those words too settled now
to bang their way out.

She sifts through them.
Something from everyone
she’s ever loved
save you.

You two wrote in code.
Across a pub table,
you once mouthed the words
“I still have them.”

Your first kiss on the hill
behind Lomond School.
She wishes for the last one
not to be in a street
in Brooklyn Heights
before everyone began to die.

The only prayer she can remember:
God, please let me not
be the last pair of lips,
the last left hand
reaching for another pen.

Latitude Longitude Lies

I have hidden
my big dripping heart
in a secret place. It hangs
from a rack
out of reach.

I believe no one—
not even you—
knows where. I am
so wrong. You’ve passed
by the site

so many times
over decades and degrees.

Never thought to look
till now. It was so easy
for you to find.

Affixed to that thing

all this time.
To what? Where? There.
A number. A symbol.
A geography without coordinates,
my love.

A Speck Is Everything Is Hungry

Maybe you and I
are hungry ghosts
bouncing around this blue swirl
sphere we call Earth.

Tongues ready to go.
Eyes that won’t blink.

You did die. That’s a fact.
Did I die too

when I collapsed
in the Roadhouse,
when a drunken angel caught me
as I spilled onto the floor.

When I put down
the third glass of I
can’t remember the name
of the wine now. Mid-sip.

When I dashed out of the pub
trying to outrun
the perpetual loop
banging in my ears.

When my father slipped
into the forever lift of clouds
he needed after no longer being
able to tell anyone what he saw.

When I couldn’t follow him
down the road anymore.

There’s a beach that rolls
over itself to get to the lip
of a wave. Words going in reverse
about to be eaten.

On the 8th Day

She sees herself poised
at the edge
of a pier. It’s not a mystery
how she got here. There
she goes again:

running across weathered boards
trying to catch fireflies.

She pauses
when she gets to the end.
Discovers she’s standing
by herself. The other
firefly catcher turned back

hours ago. Maybe days. Maybe
he turned back
a billion years ago.

His palms could be cupping
a glowing 8 at rest
on a pier
on the other side.

He’s not here. Unless.
She reviews the calm
bay water beyond her sandaled feet.
Unless all sleeping 8’s
spoon together when it cools.

I Think / I Believe / I Am

I think I am touched
by patterns in the dirt.
I believe I am a dirt eater.
I am New England dirt.

I think I am touched
by the way you think.
I believe I can touch you
with the soft side
of a thought.
I am only touching
your skin in a dream
I had four years ago.

I think I am the alphabet
recited backwards
underwater. I believe
I am underwater
hoping to stop fearing my words
will rust. I am a rusted inner hull
of a houseboat tethered to a dock
in the 79th Street Boat Basin.

I believe I am a map
of New York City
drawn with lipstick.
I think I am being memorized
in my sleep. I am all the dreams
I can’t remember when I wake.

I believe I am a sad cedar
in a ghost forest waiting
for someone to make me laugh.
I think I am saltwater
that has kissed too many Midwestern rivers.
I am a freshly dug canal on an island
that turns out to be the kneecap
of a giant soaking in his tub.

I think I am still moving too fast
down a gravel road
in a speeding car. I believe I am
one little scar
beneath my left eyebrow,
another faded on my right cheek.
I am a station wagon way-back
harboring two restless spies.

I think I am a memory
of two guys named Matt mooning us
from a Rabbit as it raced down a boulevard
of beer and 20-year-old bravado.
I believe I am a rabbit
in an otter’s body.
I am really just a fish
with arms and breasts.

I think I am unlicensed.
I believe I am unlicensed.
I am unlicensed
to do anything but this.

I think I believe I am
you. We
are all
a little bit touched.

Bénisse ces Petites Morts

No aneurysm can touch
that stored image
of the way we touched.

A Peaches t-shirt
and that thing
you could do to me
with your eyes

then, now, when
we’ve both gone
to our big deaths.

All fabric falls away
to reveal more
than our encasings could hold.

Hormones and the little ones
we celebrated
without mourners
in a darkened basement.

Tell me how it feels
to find your fingerprints
all over those hidden stars.

Lift Bridge

A firefly hovers over a waterfall.
A hard-won contrast in the river valley
after dark. This tiny flashlight
directs her to the bend
where womb meets tomb whispers bomb.
Not a wrong note, a controlled explosion
relived in too tall echoes
that bounce against packed dirt block walls.
Somehow the bleeding stops. She smells
cattails, moss, yesterday’s morning rain,
knows his hand will swing to reach her soon.

Light Trespass

a noisy street
lamp invades her
private property
she has none
who owns the sand
she lets slip
between her toes
must own
the shells
he collects
in a shoe box
where she used to store
those letters

her memory
is too much
with her
another power
given to the rip current
his, shards
of sea glass gems
in amber ruby cobalt
blue aurora borealis
rose swooning
above the horizon

an offing
that can’t be reached
where the road runs
under then beside itself
to spill over the pier

she’s done it before
who says they can’t touch
those lines as they vanish
doesn’t know
what it means
to be a wave

I Am Always Giving Away

my power
even when the recipient
doesn’t remember
to take it
confusion about how
to operate those levers
a hidden mechanism
someone whispers
tavern wench
from another darkened room
my power
will drop ten stories
to break open on a sidewalk
like an egg
unfertilized and precious
my precious power