Instead of Zed

when an F-hole
might have been confused
with an S descending

near the end
of happiness

before minor key
tunes played on a fiddle
got recorded or written down

after the U
in colour fell

on an uncleared trail
in the Berkshires
and the O and R refused

to rescue it
during Noah Webster’s lifetime

and I will never forget
those walks inside
the Grove Street Cemetery

will always wonder
what story antedates the mystery
of A Mother’s Grave

Unconditional

if he dies in the same hospital
where he was born

if she hollers
next stop the morgue

if no one dares move
images between stanzas

if stairs bend out or in
not spiral up or down

if the leaves
never turn

if your vertigo
spills onto hers

if my thirst lasts longer
than her walk across a swing bridge

if Monday morning swindles
Saturday night

if velvet and hook
never meet let alone mate

if smog surrounds a motel
in early October

if there was no word if

then would be a lonely widow
who never turns the page

Hover

A page torn from a book
has fallen on the street.

She doesn’t stop
to discover which page, which book.

That upright piano abandoned
on the tree lawn a week ago
gets stripped of its parts
piece by piece, day by day.

She imagines all the black keys pried off,
dumped in a box a block away.

Sharps and flats slam against cardboard
desperate to escape.

Someone left an absolute beginner
guitar propped against a stonewall.

She doesn’t stop to check the model or make.
She just doesn’t stop.

The sun crashes
so suddenly this time of year.

Between Piers

I walk with solitude
along Melancholy Boulevard
to reach those dunes.

I walk with solitude
through night cooling sand
and tangled beach plum branches
to follow rumors
of a single file passageway.

I will follow solitude
into the tide
through watery caves
to witness a deeper joy.

Within Walking Distance of 52nd & Lex

Invisible or forgotten.
Not both.

To slip through a moving crowd
on a New York City sidewalk unrecognized,
without falling through a subway grate.

To walk past a construction site
without a glance, let alone cat call,
directed her way.

To ask Siri a simple question
and get no reply.

Or, to go whole weeks
without a single text, email, Facebook message,
phone call to reply to.

To discover he really did leave
to catch the last ferry
without her.

To be given a choice,
she keeps slipping through,
dodging ironwork lattices.

It’s not a cool breeze,
but a steamy, cloying one after all.

Inertia

a box full of springs
a barren field

breath visible in cold air
a long crooked trail through a forest
overlooking an ocean

a notebook left on a table
in an outdoor cafe
its blank pages flapping in the wind
the first red leaf dangling from an oak

the dot on a lowercase i
rolling under the couch
stale bread crumbs scattered on the floor
a whole basket of glyphs
covered with a gingham cloth napkin

anything that gets caught in a sink drain
centrifugal force and other myths
wrapped around a rock
tied to a string
before the spinning begins
what’s left when it stops

You Are the Second Person

to ask:
Who are you
writing about?

All of you,
especially you
over there,
but not you.

I will never forget
the girl who screamed
from the front pew
in a crowded church:

My socks are wet!

The exclamation bounced
around the walls
and high ceiling
till it landed

on an old lady’s
tulle-covered hat.
I swear it wasn’t me.
Was it you?

Fallboard Down

Hit by a stun gun
or tranquilizer dart,
she can’t tell.

Two hipster dudes
in skinny jeans, rolled-up
sleeves, creative facial hair,

bang on a beat-up
piano rolled onto the sidewalk.
Yesterday it stood

abandoned on the tree
lawn, fallboard down.

Summer passes the baton
to Fall. It doesn’t go smoothly.
Summer resists letting go.
Drops it on purpose.

Fall swoops in, takes hold,
appears to have a firm grip,
begins shaking leaves,
dries out the air.

But then Summer’s last breath,
hot and pungent,
burns off morning frost,
suppresses red and orange brilliance.

Fools, everyone, for a single
strange day in October.

Dance transforming quietude,
song breaking silence.

She refuses to commit
to a mood
till the keys declare
up or down.

Who Wrote This, Again?

I.

he decides
not to decide
how to end
a sentence
till she decides
what she wants

an entire torso
disappears into
the ambivalence

being a torso
it has no legs
or feet
to walk away with
no brain to use
for simple navigation

without a wrist
it can’t wear
a GPS watch

look closely
at that photo taken
on a Thursday
long ago
when it still had
everything to lose

quick before it evaporates
a Polaroid
magically undevelops

all the secret posing
and floating off
now gone

2.

he changes careers again
goes into women’s coats

makes her insides crawl
to hear a stranger in the cafe
click his pen incessantly
while surfing the ‘net

buds in his ears to protect him
from the fingernail
on chalkboard
phenomenon he causes

when it stops
relief floods
into the flume
of an open mind

teetering on the edge
of nonsense
she wonders why she has to
put her hands in the air

to become someone
else’s sweet surrender

Not from the Common Cup

No one else called you Lester. No one knows
I broke your typewriter
save you. No one will call me

Esther now. I see the jumbled mass
of timber holding up the Grain Belt
billboard sign. It doesn’t change

even when the river below breaks
open mid-sigh after months
of rigid silence.

Cross out drunk—
write down sick.
This city turns a green

we tried to dye that windbreaker.
Remember the stranger who left it
on your veranda above the cobbler’s shop.

Nothing is wasted
in this world—is a lie.

He’s got to work. The banging has stopped
for you. For me, I’m left holding
jokes no one else gets—inside out.