It Would Be Cheaper

Let’s build a wall
of brick and mortar
that comes full circle
to meet itself
in a dark alley.

Make it wide enough
to stuff him in.
Slap a manhole cover
over it, so we can’t
see or hear him.

Seal it shut
without air holes.
Not just Mexico,
but the whole world
would pay for that.

No Pall-Mall

When winter and construction
cover the mall
with unlaid pipe
embedded in frozen accidental lakes,
it’s time
to wrap the temporary fences
in stenciled word collisions:


It’s time
this time.

This Machine Kills Fascists*

“There was a big high wall there that tried to stop me.
The sign was painted, said ‘Private Property.’
But on the backside it didn’t say nothin.
This land was made for you and me.”
—Woody Guthrie, “This Land Is Your Land”

She never had deep pockets. Tries
to lift her jaw off the ground.

Millions march with signs
In different cities around the world.

Not marking time. No
goose step. Limbs do bend.

Her body has always been
her body

even when she was determined
to destroy her before her time.

Her “No Means No”
sign abuts
“Judith Shakespeare LIVES
in you and in me.”

What has happened to the other signs
is none of her business.

Another alternative fact
slaps her with its curly tail

and broken glass fangs.

If she were a cat,
she would see

the man who clipped the whiskers
on her left cheek

knew what he was doing.
She gets stuck

trying to escape
through an abandoned milk chute.

But not judgment impaired,
not what she was wearing.

It’s not the anxiety
of visualizing how she might

rearrange the furniture. Not the cold
or thickened patches of ice outside.

It’s how to become the dry ice
his hot breath can’t sublimate.

On the bus that morning,
they sing protest songs.

No one remembers that lost verse
to “This Land Is Your Land.”

If she were a cat,
she would jump on the wall

to get a better look
at the backside of that sign.

* Written on Woody Guthrie’s guitar.

Inauguration Day 2017

What would Adrienne do,
what would Virginia do,
with this peculiar January 20th?
What will I do without them?

Without Barack and Michelle?
Let’s all be on a first name basis
as we step forward
despite the inflamed angry tempest

trying to knock us down.
Let Judith Shakespeare reclaim her body
to live in you and in me.
Let words to action

bend and flex
in the wind without breaking.


addicted to black coffee
she never gets a heart-shaped
swirl in the foam

never thinks to take
a photo of what
she’s drinking

it’s no longer a blur

the hot dark liquid
to be poured

the solid ceramic vessel
to be lifted

the reflection of a face
to be worn


parallel lines
quotation mark
rabbit ears
buck teeth
peace sign
twin towers
double toothpick
virgin islands
divided highway
eleventh hour
always prime

Thinly Veiled

what if my love
for you
could never compete
with the ardor
I feel for this place

this compact
urban breath

not where it began
for me

where it continues
to come full circle

and you really did
dare to wear
my dress
on stage
the next night

You Tacky Thing

All heroes leak. Blood
and spit don’t mix too well
with both eyes closed.

Pay attention,
but don’t get too close.
Not all flaws

are tragic. Not all
flaws twinkle with light
that reflects off

an ocean’s
blindside. Not all
heteronyms stick.

Tear your dress
and wait
for the drawbridge to rise.

Winter 16-17

Two weeks into the season,
one week into the year,
she’s sick of it—
sick of it all.

All the words that rhyme
with frostbite
are trapped beneath the ice,
except one lost night.

Even the one
that escaped
did’t get far enough away
to thaw.

She doesn’t dare
stay awake past midnight

the way those radiators hiss at her
to sleep long and hard.
Curled up against the biggest one,
her cat refuses to hiss back.

Found on New Year’s Day

Discussions of carbon monoxide
leave me lightheaded so early in
the new year. I search for answers
to the expanding riddle of 2017—

breaking spines to get inside the cool,
flat surfaces that cannot fully contain

“celebrations of objects
and experiences
that have been overlooked
or underappreciated.”

I consult the adjacent how-to column.
I am easily distracted by imperatives.

Hold your breath
while driving through a tunnel.
But don’t turn blue.
Don’t pass out.

Don’t cross the double
yellow line into oncoming traffic.
Learn how to build
an igloo instead.

Make sure the snow hasn’t gone through
a freeze-thaw cycle. The trick
to free diving
is to learn how not to breathe.

Punch a hole near the top.
Push past all feelings.

Forget nearly everything.
Don’t black out. Cut a door as small
as possible. Be liquid as you enter.
Become the sea.

Found elements from “Not Breathing,” by Ryan Bradley (from The New York Times Magazine Letter of Recommendation, 1/1/17) and “How to Build an Igloo,” by Jaime Lowe (from The New York Times Magazine Tip column, 1/1/17)