Day One

My god, who are you
that science cannot explain?

It must be hereditary—wanting
to become an alcoholic who writes

her way outside her own skin. I got what I wanted—
a place no longer safe where no one’s sacred.

Will not get behind
the wheel. I’ve wanted to get lost,

wanted to be invisible, to pretend to be
asleep in the middle of a crowded room.

What are they saying
about me now that I’m dead?

Cause of death. Cause of birth
doesn’t get recorded or certified.

If I can be sober,
what then?

And then Leonard Cohen Died

“Everybody knows that the boat is leaking.
Everybody knows that the captain lied.”
—Leonard Cohen, “Everybody Knows”

The news is hushed for days,
unlike every other scrap
that explodes, fragments, flashes
its way into grotesque distortion.

He snuck out just in time—
slipping through that crack
in the Universe
where the light gets through.

The seam is sealed shut again.
Water splashes
all around us
on the outside. Inside,

he shakes hands
with that Spanish guitarist
who taught him the flamenco sound
before killing himself.

Outside, we get to keep a record
of the voice that lured death and love
to waltz together past midnight’s hollow
to uncivilize the dawn. Inside,

Hank Williams finally replies:
“You know exactly how lonely it gets, Leonard.”

The Morning After

When your worst nightmare
comes true and your nasty woman shouts
boomerang back to your ears
as muzzled ghost moans.

When flashbacks
to a highschool date rape
before date rape existed
and a stranger on a bicycle
who sexually molested you in the middle
of the sacred act of running
wreck the few moments of sleep
you try to catch.

When you feel yourself losing
the battle to avoid placing blame
and your city girl soul wants
to [#%$&#%#]
the spirit of [%#$&#%]

When you wonder if the pendulum
really will swing back again,
and if it does, how many otherized
victims will be bludgeoned
in the wake of its arc.

When the date November 9, 2016,
scrolls across the screen
and can only be read upside down
and it gives you vertigo to try.

When, then, now
you hope for a miracle—
to keep your mind open wide,
your heart open wider.

Shifters Scatter Across the Sidewalk

“Like a bird on a wire
Like a drunk in a midnight choir
I have tried in my way to be free.”
—Leonard Cohen, “Bird on a Wire”

A poet
loves the
songwriter. A
songwriter doesn’t
love the
poet back.

Her speaking voice carries
loudly through half-bare branches
of trees that won’t give it all up yet.

His handwriting
is only
half legible.
The words
slant to
the left

before reaching a perfectly
perpendicular rhythm as the stone wall
blocks the light.

No box
of mirrors
will rescue
the colors
lost inside
his song.

She doesn’t want to trap him
into seeing her. He saw her
once but got drunk

a decade later. Now
the poem needs a door
to lean against.

It’s the singer who discovers
the gap they have tried
so hard to conceal.