Upper Mississippi

As the train crosses over,
it stuns me again to be living

so close to the northern end
of this multithreaded river.

Entrenched beneath bluffs,
it’s just waiting

to have its hidden whitewater
rapids restored.

I would give away
every page of misguided poetry

I’ve written
to be so dignified.

To know exactly when
to make an exit.

Then it hits me—
a paddleboat slamming

against a dock. I tally
up all the moves

and miles logged
in rows of unlocked journals

and see
I’m the one

who has done the leaving.
Ghosted myself

as I seek
another body
of/or water
to inhabit.

Evening Creep

She defrosts
her freezer
in the middle

of every third
lunar cycle. Hears
a man

at another table
mention shell game.
All she wants

to find beneath
is a trail in the sand
the original

dweller left
behind. Pretends
she’s just fine

through the other
two cycles

when inside
bearing walls
close in.

Others begin
to sway. Unstabilized
bookcases shake

loose thin books.
Poems appear
to leap

to their demise.
Words scatter.
Some flee

under door
sweeps. Others
slice window screens

to escape. As evening
creeps in sooner, longer

toward the autumnal
equinox, she longs
for the bravado

of no regrets
beneath a thunder moon.

Blinker Fluid

Living dolls will dance
with trompe l’oeil sculptures
in a parallel universe.

Here, we lock stares,
want to know what’s real,
what time it is.

Tights Weather

“This strange thing must have crept
Right out of hell.”
—Charles Simic (from “Fork”)

One year ago today—
the last concert in Midway Stadium
before the wrecking ball.
Never mind that.

The first one drowns
in a swimming pool in Florida.
Last night, I see the last one
still checking out guitars

when not slinging his own.
And there were Tommys
playing all over town.
Never mind any of that.

Exactly, why not a fork?
How best to eat a cherry?
While they’re ripping up
the whole garden,

may as well add
an entire place setting.
A giant comes to dinner.
Send him into the yard.

So many one liners
to map out
those days and nights
in September

when it’s still summer
and everything cries out fall,

or never mind. My ears
ring the morning after.
Yes, Mr. Simic, my fist
remains “bald, beakless, and blind.”

Cause Why

The wind dies.
Sails go slack.
Standing water
overripens in a fountain.
Knots in her throat loosen.
Her heart goes numb.
She can hear music playing
on a radio.
The words to the song
don’t register.
Afternoon sun
doesn’t warm her legs.
She looks up where a swirl
of marbleized clouds
cannot hide the blue.
September blue.
Another September 11th sky
stained with memory and silence.


For MJN crossing beneath,
for NYC connecting across,
for The Brooklyn Bridge rescue working destiny

Advance your vantage
point, collapse
your facade of steel,
your gutted concrete floor.

Collide your bridge maker
with mine, collage your hand over mouth
with my eyes shut,
vocal chords in strangulation—

a scream
a void

to coalesce to convalesce
on one promenade
of material unidentifiable yet.
Coordinate the crossing—

bare feet
ash caked faces

no veil could protect,
suits meaningless, ties undone
till they become arms swaying.
A human chain

of events. A human
behavior changing—
no way

They designed bridges
to be passageways.
Make them good
to get no further

than this. It is still where it has been,
the destination stands
between these pedestrian elevating towers
still here.

This Tongue Touches the Fruit Not the Computer

Cut into irregular wedges,
the first McIntosh
of the season
crunches just right,
tastes perfect

as the Brooklyn Bridge
subway station logo
with its two B’s
backing into each other
Janus-faced. The journey

goes both ways:
Manhattan to Brooklyn,
Brooklyn to Manhattan.
This first apple
could be my last.

How many people die
on their birthdays—
a question backs into an exclamation.

Look, in the Sky

It’s Tinker Bell, clutching
her one feeling
at a time. No,
it’s a trained hummingbird.

No, my guardian angel or
the street genius.
It’s a selfie drone
that hovers overhead

to protect or endanger
my airspace—
depending on mood
and time of day.

When I close my eyes,
I see it could be
a Mellotron or a real Dobro
that breaks my heart.


I forget
to say good-bye
to the bridge
before I cross it.

My silence
becomes the silence
in a field after a cattail fire
finally dies out.

Your eyes
tell me
to do it.

I trade rough
air for rough
water and swim
where I used to drown

before you
and those dangerous eyes.

I erase the horizon
with a cloth
covered in blood—

could be a fermented
raspberry smoothie
that exploded
in my hand.

I spit out
the wine
before it spits
out me.

Just in time
to hear the last minute
of “Night Fever,”

I want to walk one more block
beneath an elevated subway line
in a white dress
and platform shoes.

I want to dance alone
to the end

of a pier you and I saw
but were too afraid
to approach.

I won’t turn my back
on the waterfront,
or pretend
to be a contender.

What are we going to do
when Robert DeNiro is gone,
when the children have never heard of
Greta Garbo or Marlon Brando?

What’s that trick
when the artist draws
an entire world on a stucco wall
without lifting his brush?

Why is it a crime
to run a sentence
the full length of the sky,
but not a pencil line?

Color forgives
the wave its naked trespasses
in the dark.

The wide black vinyl belt
slips down too far now—
I hold my breath
against the eye doctor’s orders.

Because I could never ghost
anyone, especially you, or him, or him,
even if you invented the method,
used it on me more than once.

I don’t know what to say
about stalkers except

I hope they all get lockjaw
and spend eternity
in the Rust Belt.

My neck hurts
not from looking in both directions,
but from spinning my head
360 degrees like a good spinster.

Or solo musician who unscrews his,
places it in the passenger seat
so he has someone to talk to
on the lonely road.

It isn’t really funny,
but we laugh anyway
because he has those crazed eyes
and desire to see modern dance moves

in the elbow
of the man who stands
behind me.

All the widowed words
hesitate to walk into a bar.
No one wants to go first,
to be so alone again.

Greta Garbo would have
pushed one
inside the swinging door

just to watch the expression
it makes before falling
into place.

I might change my name
to tetanus
to honor all those ghosts,
I mean stalkers.

I mean who’s to say
it won’t end tomorrow,
or tonight, if the sky clears.

I believe every day
should be a Wednesday
night in the Flats.

When I find no stage
or maligned river,
I go searching for them
inside my wrecked heart.

He saw the scar you left,
licked it before I bit his cheek.
We laughed till the sun rose
in another Rust Belt city.

Ruined for this life, I hear
a solitude whisper to me
in an afterhours glow.

I lie in the middle
of an empty, one-way street
I love beyond reason
without a fear.

He Can Scream

louder than a bagpipe drone
she won’t hear him
where she is
she’s not dead
just to him

he can’t keep it up
all night
he’s hoarse
his throat and jaw
and back ache

it’s too hot
and hollow
in the bedroom
he tries to sleep
on the couch

is a chaise
is too short
would be
even for her
if she were here

he has nightmares
when he finally falls
into a fitful one
gets a rash on his forearm
from the heat

she doesn’t hear him
he stops caring
when ghost became a verb