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:

BLUE / CITY | GOOD / STREETS
BURNING / NIGHTS | BARREN / WHISPER
FIRST / STORM | SWEET / JUNGLE
HARD / LAND | EASY / POEMS
SECOND / SNOW | DARK / ART
TALL / WALLS | VIBRANT / DAWN

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.

Water Dancer

She knows this dock—
each splinter, barnacle,
hurricane-spared stilt.

It is not a plank. It’s where she walks.
She knows how to dive,
has been doing it for years.

No easing into the wash,
she plunges in and is used to it
before others awake.

This is underworld—closets, caves, shelves,
trenches, forests, hydromedusa, brittle
stars, Painlevé’s camera.

This is where she should live—
she who is a sponge
is a sponge is a sponge.

She will never work a room
on dry land, works the ocean floor
with the precision of a jelly bloom.

To become exposed to air,
the rising sun. It is her death
to appear before all of us.

Metal crushes metal on a distant street, emergency
sirens approach
closer, closer. A muffled distortion underwater.

Leave her enough sea room.
She would rather synchronize her own sculls
outside a tank

than be confounded by a mirage of closing night roses
she can’t reach without a body.

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.