arms and feet no legs

knots form mysteriously
up and down your headset cord

or in the kinky tail
of a spider monkey

or red-spotted glass
frog tadpole

sometimes polliwog
no that lizard

the one that walks on water
what’s it called

Jesus Christ
where are my smokes

ever get swallowed whole

by a song
tucked inside the mouth of a whale

tickle its tonsils
if it had some

with that feather you pulled off
the end of a long-tailed widowbird

to escape

you’re no starfish
that tattoo of railroad tracks

crawling up your torso
can’t be removed

your appendix won’t regenerate
neither will my soul

sold on the black market
a lump of ambergris

washes ashore
I dare you

to pick it up
without getting fettered

can you spell
gray the American way

without getting indigestion
it’s illegal

to smell this good
anywhere near here

where seasmoke settles
over the island

a farm road disappears
voices whisper

rumors of reunions east

no plane
will land this morning

I should have asked as much

as you got
for my leaky reeky heart

Into the Evergreen Wash

“I confess I tortured the dress
that you wore for the world to look through.”
—Leonard Cohen, “One of Us Cannot be Wrong”

I wait in a pew to be next
to unburden my soul.
Or is this sacrament about the heart?
I confuse the two.

I count to three.
I confess the real reason
I don’t drive: I have trouble
unfastening seat belts,

unlocking and opening doors,
understanding how headlights work,
distinguishing your car from hers.
I confuse the two.

I collapse two memories
into one to save
space, time, energy, or
nothing at all.

What I would give
for a glimpse of that dress
he tortured. Or to touch it gently—
careful not to rip the fragile

fabric of the story.
Translucent not transparent.
Not every part
is worth repeating.

I get my picture taken
leaning against the knuckle
of the Fremont Troll’s left
trigger finger.

He won’t release his grip
on that VW bug
he’s been clutching
for 27 years. I confess

a fear of those beetles
comes into play too.

Another city waterfront.
I want to run alongside it,
not in it. I have not forgotten
how to swim or tread water.

I just know now I could sink
to the bottom
even with the ocean salt
offering buoyancy.

The seam in the torso
I have only read about before
startles and embarrasses me
when I see it in the flesh.

Don’t stare. I can’t stop.
The eyes and mouth
attached to the torso
give nothing away.

Memoir and poem.
Poem and memoir.
Somewhere the story
must stand up and walk through

blackness into an urban evergreen
forest in order to begin.

I live stanza to stanza,
hopping on trains,
falling off the edge
where motion meets a mirror

of itself. Suddenly,
I remember exactly
where and when I learned
to walk backwards.

A buoy bell spells out a rhythm
for waves as they slam against
a stationary ship. The two become
fused in the distance.

Remember the One about You and Me

I could post that poem
about one night in the Flats
on my blog

I could write another one
with “I remember”
as an anaphora

I could but
I’ve already started
this echo chamber

I could
I could
I could

I would not expect you
to remember me
if you saw me

walking along the sidewalk
in a rainstorm
I would be lying

if I claimed
not to have expectations

Screw it
I remember when I believed
I would never lie

I don’t remember
ever believing that
about you

I would lie again
if I had to

some mornings
I want to bruise
the ginger essence

I spray
on my left wrist

bang it into the right
and grind the scent
deep into my pores

I would tell myself
I am more potent
this way

Copper-Zinc Imbalance

Just because I drop a coin
into some liquid
doesn’t mean someone will die.

It’s not a wishing well.
I don’t need
to wish my father eternal peace.

It’s too late for that.
It’s a penny

accidentally tossed
into a mug
of hot coffee.

Just don’t swallow it.
Copper wedged in the throat
might wake the gods.

minted after 1982—
might stir something else.

A Spy in the House of Love

“Someone should tell you,
and it won’t be me.”
—The dB’s, “A Spy in the House of Love”

See how that cast-iron disc
decorates the empty street.
It’s not just for men anymore.
Women have always known

about the urban underground,
have their own secrets
that need covering
to protect our pedestrian selves.

See how that frosted glass spa
door dons an Icelandic female figure
outline and her pet trout
on the left. Ice blue

fades to black
behind and through her.
Not stick, not silhouette,
not another mystery unveiled

in a saga to be read
in the shrinking daylight hours.

See how she denies a police officer
stands in her livingroom.
How he mentions a stolen barge
filled with lifted

maintenance hole covers.
What happened overnight.

See how she breathes
a sigh of relief
when he leaves her
to an internal thievery

where no words
are safe.

See how the tail cuts
the fog at the slightest angle.
How the dress hem slices
a razor sharp line

to echo a horizon
that doesn’t exist.

See how the baristas
remove a square panel
hidden in the floorboards
to access a vault below.

One of them disappears
into it and reemerges
minutes later with a supply
of stackable chairs.

Flanges on legs prevent the table
from wobbling. And nothing else
warrants naming
a cafe “spyhouse.”

See how the feet are rounded off
to transform the legs
into an upside down peace sign
flashed with fingers.

Not V for victory
but a ∩ for intersection
or the Big Bend skyscraper
dreamed up for Billionaires’ Row.

See how it’s not my fantasy
to cast shadows
on America’s most beloved
city park.

How it’s all
exquisite nonsense

nowhere near the rabbit hole
but so close
to the shelf where
that Anaïs Nin novel lies.

Ask, Ask, Ask (When Nobody’s Listening)

“If you’re going to tell me all my faults,
I’ll tell you the ones I’m gonna keep.”
—Tommy Stinson, “Anybody Else”

When did all the words get taken,
roles get cast?

When did every word become the name
of an elaborate game in a virtual world?

Where do sentences come from?

Who invented the short-sleeved shirt?
Who invented the shirt?

Where do sentences come from?
What about the neighborhoods that have no name?

How can a place have no scenery?
I have never understood the difference

between the front row
and the stage. It’s there though—

the edge, the moat, the river
that can’t be crossed

without a bridge
that stops lifting

or swinging long enough
to jump on.

There are no guarantees
that the other side will make you

famous. That fraternizing
with the other side won’t make

a difference. The next song
will be “Tops.”

I used to talk
to strangers.

Now I talk to myself—
strangest of all.

I am so bewildered
I have forgotten who

you are. Who you were
yesterday and on the day

that dude from The New Yorker
interviews Gil Scott-Heron

while a propane torch plays on and on
in the background.

I want to ask if we met
the first time

decades ago on the island
along the Airport Road

when my mother stops the station wagon
to pick up a long-haired, shirtless teenager.

Me, still a kid, sand in my swimsuit,
I shove the squeaky styrofoam cooler

against my sister to make room.
But my mother never picks up hitchhikers.

I wave to you from the wayback.
I swear I see you wink at me

as you shrink into the distance.
That was you, wasn’t it? I don’t ask.

Some mornings I believe
the kiss and the sentence

once lived in the same house.
They had separate bedrooms

connected by a breezeway
that traps no wind.

The whole purpose of a swing
is to get higher

and higher.
I know that now.

They call this confessional
poetry. I always liked the ritual.

Those upright coffins
so hot and dark inside.

A screen slides open.
A disembodied voice floats in.

Someone laughs outside—a wild cackle.

Did you want to be a priest
the way I believed I would become a nun?

I Once Dated Someone Who Hated Music

Not the guy who sang
“I Hate Music.”
Another guy who actually refused

to listen
to anything but talk radio,
who never owned a stereo,

CD player, or boom box.
Had no computer
or iTunes account.

It went on
for a while. A long while.
Too long.

I had stopped drinking
only a few years earlier.

I didn’t realize
I didn’t have to give up everything
to survive.

I didn’t realize
it was possible to hate
the way the earth talks to the gods.