Where Are We?

Over the bridge
underpass, in through
the out door, up
the down

staircase, says
the lefty behind
the right-on.

Between sets, crack open a highway
to find a village
of ants as they scurry away,
having fed on the meat

of lost loves—or
memories of them. No space left
in the mannequin graveyard,

unhinged limbs smell
like burning plastic flesh.
So different from strands
of hair on fire

in the attic. Where they keep
the crazy girls. So different
from alcohol metabolized

into hot sugar breath
that cannot warm cold hearts.

Drop all the names
you have forgotten
into a hole in the street.

Somehow someday everyone
becomes potable again.

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Dirty But Happy—Digging & Scratching

and the ink
gets him high
and not all swollen hands

contain broken bones
and a bag of dirt
nourishes a tree

before it finds freedom
in the disrupted urban
grid’s open space

and reinvention
happens in the grimiest
crevices inside a subway car

but what gets left behind
could be used to build
the next or

Hooked

Sometimes she wants
to tuck herself inside a song
and never leave.

She doesn’t drink
or do drugs anymore.
She can still dance.

Prince is dead.
Go out, buy some colorful clothes.
She gets it.

She looks for a third
wind at the bottom
of an espresso demitasse.

That song
she’s living inside
will carry her

so much further.
That song,
that song.

Indoor Cloud Seeding & the Color Blue

No one tells me
they don’t like
the way I laugh
and still.

Those lake geese
that dive underwater
with only their tail feathers
sticking in the air

make me giggle.
I need to giggle.
A dark vapor has enveloped
my brain. Mildew ruins
all the giggle inside me.

No Sunday New York Times
left by the time I get to the coffee shop
to buy one. No one cares
that I get 100%
on the true New Yorker quiz.

I haven’t lived there
In over 25 years. I wait on line
but am only visiting,
only trying to clear my head.

My right knee aches.
It might rain today
here in the middle.
We still need it—and the color blue.

Water & Traffic

More potholes
than street left. Build
a canal to channel
all that fatigue. Get out
of the way. Throw open
the heavy doors
to the edge of things. Toss
the balled-up socks
under a sturdy chair.
Read pages from a book
out loud
to a hummingbird—

lingering on each word—
till one of you flies away.

Till you see how that girl’s starting
to happen. She’s slightly

crooked but definitely
happening. It doesn’t matter

what color
the facade tile is. The old
black car is black
with the hood up or down.
Before or after
cocktail hour.
A gull flies so close
to the window
you can see its bent
feathers. Even here
in the middle
it can happen.

Made Me Look

Some wonder about Whitman’s heart.
If I had eyes like Simic’s,
the shadow this pen casts
on a wooden table
in the late afternoon sun
would simply erase itself.

Come back in another life,
or at least another day,
as a reanimated limb.
Or a severed pipe
that releases a few
final sputterings of steam.

It’s always a good idea to keep the stray
pieces in a shoebox.
Always worth noting
how the sweat that forms
on my upper lip
might bring me joy.

The Cruelest

In the thick
of it, she walks
all the way around
the mess

of road destruction
she almost bought
23 years ago.

It’s not the drizzly
November in her soul.
It’s the breeding lilacs
out of the dead

land, mixing memory
and desire. Can’t be bothered
to dig out

any quotation
marks. It’s the splaying
across mud-caked,
still-drained fountains.

The heat of Sunday
colliding with Monday’s
sleet. The horror

of another desertion
hanging in the sky
like some pink,
pink, pink, pink,

pink moon
hungover from
another decade.

It’s the dread
of reaching

another blank wall
so thickened

even the blood
won’t stain it.

Relief that no one
remembered to unlock
the cellar door.

Nosebleeds

Between the acts,
I feel the rail vibrate
against the side of my boot.

Without proper
line breaks, there it goes
again. The west side

tries to get a message
through, using some restored
Morse code.

dit dit dit
dah dah dah
dit dit dit

We’re all passengers tonight—
riding out secrets on the rails,
waiting for Mr. Pop to take the stage.

I’ve already gotten vertigo
before it begins,
high up in the gallery circle clouds.

The notes I’ve taken in the dark
during the opening act
are more legible

than anything I write
when the house lights
go up after it’s all over.

And there is no more
except to forget the rose.
Accept the thorn

as part of the pain of living
with a strummed-worn
lyric heart.

Passenger to Passenger

“I am a passenger.
I stay under glass. . . .
Over the city’s ripped-back sky.”
—Iggy Pop, “The Passenger”

I laugh aloud to myself
because I can. Diamonds
are funnier than squares,
triangles more gruesome
than the geometry
of our wrecked love.

I’ve gotten close, closer,
too close to the mouth
of a singer as her earring
explodes on stage. Glittery
shrapnel decorates the palm
of my hand. No blood this time.

I see a man
swim with his children,
tossing them in the air,
so they can make a splash
in the world.
I think of my father

and know he is
there underwater
using his gills
to guide me
through an angry ocean
to the nearest sandbar.

I get further
and farther
away. I spend less
time and travel
fewer blocks alone
in the wee hours

hoping to crash
into your imaginary black
jeep with my invisible red
car. I never know the year
or make, don’t care
who chauffeurs you

through the backroads now.
The Stouffer Inn in Public Square
has seen better days.
Goes by a different name.
All the aliases offered
at check-in crumble into

ruin porn, or do they just
ruin porn. Or ruin a poem.

Or have nothing
to contribute
except the image
of Mr. Barney Rubble
ordering room service
in an urban hotel suite.

I write more legibly—
I’m more legible—
in the dark.