No More Nebulous & Unhinged

enough of this
fear of fear
of fear
it’s time

to shrinkwrap
the infrastructure
play a piano
on a drenched pier

plug in your downstairs
neighbor’s guitar
rescue a beehive
wave to a mustelid

from the shore
catch the last
water taxi
of the night

stare back
at that duck
you think is
watching you

join a crowd
take the elevator
to the Empire State Building’s
top deck

be the falcon
that soars overhead

New York Anonymous

Rules of Conduct

On the lower level
of Grand Central,
do not stand, sit, or sleep
on the railings. On the rails.
Do not create
any unusual noise.
Do not rummage.
Do be appropriately dressed.
Do be in awe
of what you find above.

Punk Island

Punk bands take over
Governor’s Island.
A dozen stages.
Dueling layers
of 100-second songs.
Accidentally melodic
intros get swiftly erased
by aggressive shout singing
that falls apart
before it begins. Pogoing
slam dancers run
around and into
one another
in a strangely uniform
loop. Punk square
dancers on the Parade Ground.

We’re so ‘n’ so
from New Jersey.
Sorry we’re late.
Our muffler fell off.

Truth is like poetry.
People hate poetry.
Punk lyrics crumble
so easily when actually heard.
Please kill me
becomes merely—please.

Lost and Found

The key you lost—
that led to security coming
to unlock your hotel room door—
isn’t lost at all.
It’s in the back zipper pocket
of your running shorts.
You’re going to have to try harder
to get lost.

Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass

Inside the tiny poetry
bookshop, it rattles
like a story told slowly
on a fast-moving train—
an elevated Q
that thunders across
the tracks overhead.

On Line

Two lines form
on the landing.
A man asks what for.
You reply:
The left one is for
the Midtown East Ferry.
The right for
who knows.
You stand on the right
because sometimes
you don’t want to try
to control your destiny.
You stand there proudly
in the glow of letting go.

At the last possible moment,
you slide under
the stanchion chain
and follow the left queue.
You’re left-handed.
Isn’t that out of control enough?

Local Not Express

The ferry stops
at every once and future
hip riverfront hood
In Brooklyn and Queens
before eventually docking
at the East 34th Street Terminal.

As you recover
your land legs,
you wonder where
you might have gone instead.

Tatsuo Miyajima’s “Arrow of Time (Unfinished Life)”

We’re all damaged,
stained with life’s spills
and moments
we think we’re drowning
not waving.

You realize you must stand
beneath each LED-lit 8
before it flips
into another number
or shuts off completely.
Before you realize you must
pass through each sequence
of breathing as an unfinished
animated sculpture.

Before you realize the absence
of zero is a deliberate gesture
that admits the impossibility
of a true tabula rasa.
Before, during, after
another trip to New York
briefly illuminates the sky
as a shooting star.

Even if every person you see
walking on the sidewalk,
waiting on the subway platform,
riding a jam-packed train,
running along the bridle path
in Central Park,
knows every other person in The City,
you got what you always said
you wanted—anonymity.

Far Side Not Dark Side

To take a taxi
to the dark side
means so much more
than this poem has time
to convey. This is

a night on Earth
that becomes a dawn
breaking somewhere
so far
away. The little alien’s

science experiment
has gone awry.
The little alien
is not an alien
in its own universe.

Gender is so passé.
We are the aliens
with antiquated forms
of categorization.
We are the germs

left on the counter
the little alien forgets to wipe down.
I am ready to die
after it finishes
telepathically texting its friends.

Crooked River Incident 25 Years Later

She doesn’t mean to
slam the door
before locking it,
slam the blank book on the table
before she drinks
her morning coffee.

Never meant for one night
in the Flats
to mean so much.

Wishes she could separate
the mean from memory,
the moment from charisma,
the hero from reality
beside a narrow snake
of a river.

She just wanted
to dance
is a lie

told and retold
and forgotten
by everyone
especially the singer
throwing wisecracks
at her, at the crowd.

Everyone save her.
Save everyone who ever let one night
change their lives. Save me.

Balancing Bouba/Kiki on Her Tongue

When asked
in the right tone
on a morning
without painful weather,
she replies:

Every song
I have tasted
in June
turns crimson
by the final

chorus. The bridge
smells like lilacs

only when
a pedal steel
bends the stems.

Locked inside
a storage vault,
sculptures recite
odes to black
cherries. I know

they are dancing
behind the blue
curtain. My yellow
is not the same
distance as yours

from Saturday
in an empty garden.

Double Dutch

She can’t decide
if she’s coming
or going. If

the RV
with her family
name painted
on the back
speeds past her,

(how can it not
with her traveling
on foot)

she won’t curse
the whipped-up
wind that hits
her calves
from all directions.

Won’t forget the hemp
rope bracelet
they used to wear

year round
to keep laughing
gull calls

fresh in their heads
on the darkest
winter nights.

Slingshots & Other Facts

I.

Over 400,000 pounds of garbage
left on the Moon. Phosphenes
can’t be captured and trapped

inside a snow globe
no matter how tightly she squeezes
her eyes shut when she prays

at dusk. 96 bags
of human waste including vomit
remind her how much

vertigo gets in the way
of traveling to the edge
without a horizon.

And she would have brought
Baggin’s feather back to Earth.

II.

Black cherry lipstick
doesn’t look like
black cherries crushed

on her lips. Left on
a chipped ceramic mug,
it reminds her

of the Red Wing Shoes logo,
which harks back to a wild swan
wing dyed scarlet.

She wishes she could ask
what happened
to the rest of the swan.

And wild eagles do soar
above the Mississippi River bluffs.
And cats and window panes

kill more birds
than wind turbines do.

III.

He has the park
to himself after it rains.
The sun comes out

just before it sets.
It’s not too late to change
his mind. Lies

can be forgiven
if the alphabet is
cracked but not crumbled.

If he sounds it out
slowly with purpose.
If he holds each position

for 30 seconds. If he leaves
a light on
near the rear window. If

he doesn’t fear the dead
silence of 3 a.m.

No Anatidaephobia

I want to say a word
or two about hawk eyes
and mean it. This morming
for over an hour
on the balcony railing
eight floors above the ruin
courtyard, it watches us.
Watches over us. Perfectly
still, is it napping?
Is it real? Stuffed?
An office dog wanders
by the window. Suddenly,
a remarkable span of feathers
spreads out and across
our view of the river.
That was no duck.