The Last Time We See Each Other in the 20th Century

As we kiss good-bye
in the middle of a Brooklyn street,
you whisper:

“Sleep with whomever you want.
Just don’t hold hands.”

For 31 years,
virgin palms press
against swinging doors,

against each other
in desperate agnostic prayer.

I hug other mourners
inside a church basement
when one of us leaves too soon.

I hear my name
expertly delivered
in a voice no one can touch.

I turn around
to face you—
my hands free.

In Search of the Lost Art

“A writer is essentially a spy. . . .
With used furniture he makes a tree.
A writer is essentially a crook.”
—Anne Sexton (from “The Black Art”)

When we were lovers,
I didn’t know how
to wear lipstick.

When we were lovers,
we built and broke
our own code.

The Def Leppard
drummer still
used both hands.

Orwell’s novel
did not come true.
Ronald Reagan was president.

When we were lovers,
I had all the licenses
I would ever get—none.

When we were lovers,
you were thick,
I was snug.

We had no world
wide web. MTV was born.
Mark Zuckerberg, not yet.

We didn’t need replacements. Heard music
beneath stars, discovered our bodies’ perfect cadence
in a station wagon way-back.

When we were lovers,
house alarms went off

When we were lovers,
eating ice cream was erotic—
didn’t give me stomach aches yet.

One bath almost shared.
One shower together
after three years of waiting.

We got locked inside a courtyard
outside a Brooklyn brownstone
and didn’t care.

When we were lovers,
a waft of ghostly smoke
occasionally hovered over the river.

When we were lovers,
we fought as intensely.

We could reignite
as soon as one of us got off a plane
at the airport gate.

Thornton Pool had a high dive.
I belly-flopped off it.
You watched a swan glide down.

When we were lovers,
you would drive me home
at daybreak.

When we were lovers,
time stood still
but not for long enough.

When we were lovers,
we couldn’t keep our hands
off each other.

One letter got lost
for months.
Our timing was off.

Before 1950, making love
to one another could happen
through the mail without touching.

When we were lovers, we didn’t know how
three decades later we might submerge ourselves
in deep water to resuscitate the lost art.

Four Letter Word

Pride isn’t one. Neither is
addict or humble. Love and have and
rape are. Live but dead too.

Ghosting should be. Memory too.
Forgotten. Missive
and dismissive.

What if I say
vampire and rollercoaster are.
It’s my poem. I can say

whatever I want.
Trust me,
or call me a liar. There’s another.

Here, take some more:

song / deaf / tone / mute / rock / star / road /
kill / sick / well / east / west / make / eyes /
turn / down / sexy / left / wind / tiny / pose /

snug / huge / soft / deep /
seas / leaf / lean / into /
your / kiss / hold / hand / last /

Time is one more.
And poet of course.

Lean into August

A red rake
propped against a poplar
glows in the late afternoon sun.

The red door
remains shut.
She waits outside. Not ready

to consider
the fallen. One night
it will happen. The door

will open.
He will extend a hand
to offer her

a pair of love-worn
leather ballet slippers
in her size.

Summer ’81

Night & Day Poems of Amy Nash

Engine shut off,
brakes released.

We rolled the teardrop window car
down the driveway
like spies.

Curfew or no curfew,
we discovered our own
way to decode the night.

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Last Word

“I was much too far out all my life.”
—Stevie Smith
(from “Not Waving but Drowning”)

She works the last
word, worrying it
with her tongue
against the roof
of her mouth.
One more suck, then spits

it out. Chops
it up with a cleaver. Sprinkles
the remains into a manila envelope. Seals
it. Licks

a billion stamps
to stick in a line
on the outside. Mails
it to the moon.

Let it be, please,
let it be

Grime Writing

I try to walk a mile on a boardwalk
in your shoes. Trip on your laces.
See your life flash before me. Details of mine
get scrubbed off a stucco wall.

moving moving parental divorce
moving moving starve date rape
moving moving miscarriage obsession
moving addiction overdose on purpose
moving stabilize common law divorce
slipping obligate ram ventilator

about to pause aka slow suicide relief
traveling scarred terrified still moving

I can’t describe what I see of yours.
It’s not my place.
Where is my place?
Help me find my place.

I live in a building
made of saudade and duende
at the bottom
of a concrete hill. Help me

celebrate reverse
graffiti where it belongs.

What’s left. Just a washed-out, deep
female voice that cracks
in the urban wilderness
after a late night rain.

I have leaned over
the flickering flame of your thinking
candle. Am singed without regret.
Help me find mine.


The air thickens
throughout the day, stays
thick hours after dusk.

The kind of call
that leaves her exhausted
at the edge

of an unguarded rooftop
31 stories above
graffiti-scrubbed pavement.

As the gap between
exhales shrinks
she welcomes the disorientation

not the elevated
burning inside.
31 separate stories

she doesn’t know
how to tell
without interrupting herself.

Claustrophobia in this wide
open space means
only one thing—

utter confinement
within her
own skin.

Merely an optical illusion
that she can touch
the horizon

where the river
and bay meet
with her fingertips.

Merely a dream
that she has only one
way out.

She can open the hatch,
climb down those metal stairs.