Going Direct

I am a tale
of two cities

ping ponging east
to north midwest
and repeat

the net getting
tangled and slack

big to minnie
no I won’t say it

pomme
there I did

Atlantic Ocean
estuarial to Mississippi

River and falls and lots of lakes
the Spuyten Duyvil
and Minnehaha creeks

four seasons
some longer than others
much longer

so cold so hot so pretty
in October

First Avenue
to the Bowery Ballroom

no more CBGB
no more Uptown Bar

no more every night
with smokes and shots

Walker Whitney
MIA MoMA Met

Central Park
Cedar Lake Trail

High Line
skyway skyway skyway

best of worst of
in a continuous loop
blurs the distinction

Loring Park
Kingsbridge the Bronx
Uptown the Upper West Side

home home
I say it twice

in two different time zones
to mark my place

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Urban Paradox

When in doubt,
when only anonymity
inside the margins
of a crowd will do.

When my heart aches
for the younger me
who lost her father
three years ago.

When I don’t trust
my capacity for keeping
a stiff upper lip
above a lower one that droops.

When I see wild turkeys on train tracks
across from the VA Hospital
and wonder if
one of them is you, Dad.

When I wonder how
to endure one more minute
without you
in this world.

Begin to think
about those other worlds.

Fear trumps peace
and I struggle to forgive

my even younger self
for all the times
she gave away her power
for the wrong reasons—any reason.

And the knot in my throat
makes it hard to swallow
the present moment,
impossible to breathe.

When I feel utterly powerless
and ready to find my strength
and competitive drive again
running up the northern hills in Central Park

because after 31 years
nowhere else
drags it out of me
so completely.

When I’ve got no place
to go
to be so alive,
I go to New York.

27 August 2015

I fly to LaGuardia
not Newark
because

even after all these years
since you left New Jersey
when you could no longer speak
or navigate your way
to the correct exit

and three years
since you left
the world altogether

I could not bear to walk past that spot
just beyond security
where you used to wait
for me—tears in your eyes,
mine too.

LaGuardia
not Newark
because

I won’t choke
on memories
through Queens
to Manhattan
or the Bronx.

Proteus (Old Man of the Sea)

“I love my free spirit.
I trust my creative power.
I generate the wind beneath my wings
and enjoy the journey.”
—Michael Nash Mantra

Since you died three years ago,
whenever I fly
I find you
in the clouds.

On this date, you have come to me
as a wave breaking
against a jetty
in Oak Bluffs,

as a young fox
darting along a beach road
on the farthest tip
of Cape Cod at dawn.

As I board another plane
bound for New York,
I wonder what form
you’ll assume this year.

Gulls don’t
get so high.

You might wait till I land.
The wrong season
for a Sandy Hook harbor seal
haul out.

No, something will soar
overhead if I can be
patient, still
as the Palisades.

Anything with wings, Dad.
Show me anything with wings.

Allegheny Monongahela Ohio

“Throw the calendar away,
gonna find a jukebox of steel. . . .
Revelry in borrowed clothes.”
—Jay Farrar (from “Jukebox of Steel”)

Two rivers merge
to make a third.

No longer a prehistoric tool
made of flint, I am

a new sidescraper
made from an abandoned,

three-story coke works mill
115 feet longer

than the Empire State Building
is tall.

I don’t make fire
since I put down

the pack and lighter,
since I gave away my power

for the last time.
A parting gift

for a man
who doesn’t fear

borders or wormholes.

Two songs merge
to make a third

I hum from a train
as it rumbles through

the Rust Belt.
I’ve gotten on

the wrong one.
The Capitol Limited

not the Lake Shore Limited.
The Empire Builder runs

nowhere near here.
And two cities won’t merge

to make a home.

Why

because
Minnesota boys

the first cool night in late August
and a blanket
pulled off the shelf

because
the Mississippi
any time of day or season

because
First Avenue
with its ceiling replaced

because
winter windchill
bragging rights

the first warm day
in April
maybe it’s May maybe June

because
Loring Park
Armajani’s Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge

John Ashbery
in both directions

because
sculptures by
Noguchi Shea Serra

Lake of the Isles
Cedar Lake Trail
Minnehaha Creek

because
the C.C.

because
Minnesota boys

Why Do You Do This?

Who will answer
this time?
Which one of me wants to tackle it
today?

I will.
I/we have no choice.
I/we say the same thing
each time asked.

Time is the ultimate
four letter word
scrawled on all the walls
of all the buildings

in all the cities
within all the worlds
we map
or make up.

The ultimate reverse
graffiti reveals
how much dirt we accumulate
within our own inventions.

Leave it to the scientists
and philosophers,
this poet (and this one and this one and)
hears an echo

split open in an alley
where a mangled chainlink fence
and rotting garbage in a dumpster
are proof enough for her

time does exist
inside this heart
where love and loss
slow dance all night

into a new day.
And it might rain.

Nobody’s Sitting in Your Chair

I want you
to read me
all the time

even in the bath
even in your sleep

I’m so vain
I want you to want to believe
each poem is about you

they are about everyone
and no one

till the reader
enters the room
surveys the tile floor

wooden tables
plaster walls
painted cautionary yellow

chooses a chair
sits down
becomes part of the scene

an empty folding one
blocks an open window

its half-drawn shade
flaps in the breeze

She’s One

She looks for lefthanders
near the border between

Minneapolis and Saint Paul,
between staying and leaving, between

walking and tumbling off, between
fade and fate.

She wants to find a way
to celebrate her invisible skin.

Invisible face. Invisible hair.
So invisible, she becomes

an imaginary friend
just like the one who built

mini-towns with her
in dirt and sand and gravel

on an island nobody owns.

She’s not talking
to herself; she’s just talking

to someone
who left the room

before her fingers began to stiffen
with arthritic self-awareness.

She takes selfies
in the nude. Deletes

the evidence. Thinks of you. Deletes
more evidence.

She crosses the Mississippi
on a train on a rainy August morning

looking for lefthanders—
finds a few.