Commencers

A long rake will be needed
to shake those black
mortarboards from the elm branches.
A shorter one to tear
the dresses from their grips.
They climb up, out, and away
with so much care.
Still, the cellar door—
that beautiful cellar door—
gets slammed shut
with brute force.
Hip bones click
before they creak.
It rains, then hails,
then they must step
to the side
to remove cold stones
from their shoes.

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Overlaps

She has so many strikes against her
she could play a half-broken
Venetian blind left open
in an upper floor apartment
on a hot sunny afternoon
in some O’Neill drama.

The building speaks
in tongues before it bursts
into a torch song. The one
about the skyscraper
that turns it back
to the old rowhouse.

The sun never shines
in those rooms,
with or without
the curtains drawn.

She dreams she gets lost
in her own city
in a van with people
she thinks she recognizes
as friends, associates, fans
of his. He’s nowhere to be seen.

It stops at an intersection
with a view of a river and
carousel she can’t name.
Suddenly she remembers
riding it with him.
But he’s nowhere to be found.

The van stops moving.
The building stops
its low-pitched moan.
She stops sleeping.
It’s a new game, new day,
and the field is covered in dew.

Euphoria Throughout Without

this long
weekend is
not a lost
weekend is
slightly damp
is clearing
up is passive
voice is break
a sweat up
the winding
hill is remember
when 13
miles was
no big deal
was a craving
for the high
inside the zone
with only the body’s
naturally manufactured
opioids or is it
endocannabinoids was
an addict’s dirt
trail dream through
hyper-green groves
will be released
legally without
a prescription
again if she can
tolerate the pain
of another hill
to get there
will it to be
there for
yesterday’s tomorrow

Rose of the Winds

I hide inside
this shirt that hangs
below the thigh
on one side.

I would never
willingly return
to Vegas. Would board
the slowest train, if

it headed home.
Cardinal directions

are an illusion I can’t read
from this distance.
My internal compass
isn’t moral, doesn’t glow

in the dark. Invisible currents
tend to glide the vessel east.

Real Live Lover, Could Have Been a Book*

Walking in the rain
without an umbrella
or slicker in late May.

The bascule bridge
is drawn up.
A tall ship moves

slowly through.
People mumble
to themselves.

The pause
breaks a chain
of unfortunate thoughts.

She hums
a made-up tune.
No lyrics yet.

Some letters
have gotten drenched.
Others will drown.

* Nick Drake

May 20th, August 27th, October 1st Are Mine

iTranslate, Babelfish.com,
even a real Babel fish
can’t translate my grief
into yours. Yours into mine.

As much as we try to grieve
together, we grieve alone.

The friend I lost 31 years ago
was their sister.
The one I lost 6 years ago
was his brother.

I never met your sister.
My sisters live

with their own losses.
My bother his.
We each said good-bye
to our father

in our own voice. A wave
blasts against a sea wall.

A silenced stream still moves
beneath a frozen ceiling
under a Wolf Moon.
Am I a thief

to try to write about anyone’s
except mine? Even mine?
I’ve been known to steal
from many of my former selves.

It’s time to find
Tranströmer’s deer tracks

in the snow. The real language
of grief could be hidden inside
those heart-shaped imprints
without words.

Parallel

how she places the enormous coffee mug
on the tiny round table

the way she takes
her coffee when morning’s gone

where she goes
to disappear

the graffiti she passes
along the way

questions not asked about spraypainting
and other noncontact sports

the tune she recognizes
but can’t name

the musician she talks to
but can’t hear

her favorite version
of a song erased

the technique she uses
to remember dreams

the one she tries
to forget everything but

when they collide
when they never touch

One Mississippi Two Mississippi Three Mississippi 

When you died,
there was no cloud

where I could store
images of you.

No one scanned
the photos of you

I carried in
my wallet till

that New York subway
pickpocket swiped it

while I slept.
You wouldn’t have

closed your eyes.
Your closed eyes.

I didn’t know
how to wear the grief.

Didn’t know how
to live with it

just below the surface—
an electrical storm

that might erupt
at any moment.

And you would have
already calculated

the joules of energy released
before the next thunderclap.

On Board

stairs light up
when you step
on them

the elevator
has lost
its mind

stops on every floor
except the one
where you think

you belong
the smallest
island in

the archipelago
floats away

musical instruments
hang on tight
except that piano

it’s already tight
the piano has been
drinking

it’s out of tune
and those stairs

and those freighthoppers
don’t care