Danger in the Word Playground 

creepy sock monkeys
creepy socks with monkeys
embroidered on them
creepy monkeys wearing socks

wear an extra pair
when it gets this cold
get rid of this cold
before it gets rid of you

hot flashes confuse the issue
the issue of hot flashes
is confusing
he’s so hot
in his confusion
in the photo
she takes of him
without a flash

to go slo-mo without a flash
is not the same as having no flash
option with a pano taken
of the offing before dawn

and a pano is not the last
clipping she will encounter
as she leaves the lab
to meet her shrink in a pub

where they have an open mic
on Monday nights
no photos feds
or stashes allowed

I can’t stop I must stop
I won’t stop just one more
stop before hitting the Monkey Bar’s
last call

Ridged Velvet

The curious nature
of corduroy
never bothered her
till now. How many pairs
of jeans made with the stuff
has she worn?

Is she the only one
left? Freeze.

Thaw. Freeze. Runnels
of melting snow and ice
spread across the sidewalk.
Then they freeze
in anticipation of a Christmas
wintry mix

to polish off
a perfectly disastrous year.

Lock everything down—
evergreen wreaths, mobile home bumpers,
dumpster lids, the feathers
protecting her heart—
when high winds and a plummeting air temperature return the next morning.

Don’t talk about the weather
behind its back.
Talk to it in a slow,
sustained rhotic accent
that gives away
nothing, means

what you want
it to mean.

The color of the fibers
here do not match
the colour of the fibres
across the ocean,
or even across
the northern border.

Mr. Leonard Cohen once said,
“There are no dirty words.”

He and Prince and
Mr. Bowie
made brilliant escapes
in the nick
of time. She keeps looking
north without an offing.

Another Time at the Nuyorican 

Each time I see you
I start talking
about my dead father.

It’s the day he died
two years ago.
It’s the day he was born

79 years ago.
It’s my birthday.
Why do I tell you that?

We’re lucky
to have lived this long.
You recognize my face—that’s all.

Or it’s some other woman’s face
you see in mine. Do you see
mine in hers?

I’m not much better.
I remember a seam
that divides your torso,

the waves crashing
in on themselves,
you swimming out and out and out.

But the words escape
down a pipe

into the Lethe.
I’ve got nothing.
I look for seam rippers

on the uptown F train.
I’m not really that violent
with my passion.

Does the Poem’s Ink Fade on Purpose

She wants to ask
but fears a stranger’s ridicule.
A boldfaced truth
rarely dominates
the way those lying bastards
in the center aisle do.

She’s one. Became a bastard
by age 12. A marriage made null
and void. To ask why
bastardize a child
is to carry around
an irresistible urge to disappear

without a desire
for the cure.
She’s no angel.

It’s no longer about repairing
wings. An atheistic spirituality
wraps around her shoulders tightly
to brace her for another polar vortex.
That Coriolis force
will never change

the direction her words drain
through a basin
into the pipe that leaks
into the Lethe.
The rehabilitation will require
no feathers.

Sunday Blue

“What would a person be searching for
outside in this kind of weather except death?”
—Jon Kalman Stefansson (untitled poem)

In the penultimate hour
she looks for Cate Blanchett
in a mirrored hallway.
She tells no one.
It would ruin
the effect. It would ruin

the shape of the loop—
the many loops

she has held down
with her left boot. No loop
can be so constrained.
A sash could wreck her life.
An oversized red silk one
could, in fact, kill her

instantly. But a loop
will not strangle or be strangled.

Illegible laughter
brims to the surface
of her hot pink throat.
A slow-motion pigeon
distracts her from a thief
who would steal

her dreams. She dreams
of Martha Graham.

It means nothing.
A bleeding purple cabbage
reminds her of that first
adolescent kiss
in a closet
behind a milk crate

filled with leather and silk
belts and cuffs.

To be a skald in a taxi that races past
an Uber vehicle
on a deserted highway.
To be reminded of that feeling—
how death digs into her chest
like a burrowing insect.

To be so alive
when her father has been gone for years.

To take a single drumstick
from a hinged case
to make a sapling
without a sound.

To be a malediction
that won’t stick

and a tiny black speck
on the far screen
is to be the one
who stands up
before the train stops
at the next (to last) station.