the ASSIST

help me
walk the streets of New York
a virgin again
help me
ride the subway
a virgin again

help me identify
the next generation
of cells
fragile or sturdy
you can’t be both
says who

help me define the edges
of broken glass
from a porch window
without color
without gasps
for breath

or that delicious sting
that comes when the blood appears

help me
help myself
one more time
as sand gets between everything
and an empty pail
and bent shovel

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This Fracture Critical

The vicious circle stops
navigating around itself here
at the bottom

of a half-drunk glass
of Shiraz inside an Irish pub
one northern night in late fall.

A damp, drizzly November
in my soul saves my life.
Always knew deep down

the whale would win.
The time has come
to drop the harpoon,

to pick up the oar.
As I row toward what could be land,
I see how easily I might drown

without a second oar,
without that hand reaching

to help me leap from the boat
as it hits the beach.

WASH ME

when the left hand disappoints
more than the right ever could

and another A train catches fire
and you still love to write

about your irrational love affair
with the New York City subway

when you want to laugh
and all the jokes turn sour

on the tongue
your mouth shut \ jaw clenched

when you see an ad in the New Yorker
for passion \ drama \ Russian romance

a Tchaikovsky marathon
to be performed

by the Minnesota Orchestra
on its home turf

and you lose your place
in the geography of reading and dreaming

when water drips
from the basement ceiling

and you wish you could fold a flood
and put it in a drawer

and never yell
FIRE again

when you accidentally eavesdrop
on the Lyft guys at the next table

and wonder where
all the girls are

when missing puzzle pieces
articulate the spirituality

of imperfection
in Leonard Cohen’s face

when #MeToo triggers flashbacks
to a large empty brick house

and unidentifiable jazz
leaking from the radio

and the weight of him on you
muffles the NO’s

and all the self-hatred
that goes into climbing

in and out of
open bedroom windows

when the pain apparent
under transparent skin

shouldn’t lead you
to a wooden box

confessional

and the trombone player
will never kneel the penitent’s light on

when the messiest clean artist you know
is you \ and grime writing purifies the soul

those kills 

I hear you dance
with my hands

your lips congratulate your feet
for making way for taller ships

I would return
to Staten Island

for the kills
not the politics

I would return to the scene
of our crime

of passion if
I could remember how

to get there
you can’t get there

from here where the sky fills
with darkness so early

Martha Graham and Helen Keller
chose another storied route

delineated by vibrations
stirring the air

and those tiny talking bean stalks
have more to say

soliloquies always carry
a hint of distress

if a painting falls
off the wall

it won’t land
on your head this time

it will implode
like those towers

never mind
next time

never mind the questions
I ask you

text after text
because I can’t help myself

it’s an abstract
because

you already drew all the figures
to be hung

ice and snow patches
before not under

the overpass
still catch me off guard

let’s drive across
the Bayonne Bridge’s new roadway deck

before they dismantle
the old one below

too late

let’s cross
it anyway

you drive
I’ll steer

Wash Your Mouth Out

she fears if she eats
lavender, her cloven nature
will resurface

it’s not a question
enemies do lurk
in passive aggressive shadows

dog leashes loosened
too much to create a barrier
between this time

and the other night
those raccoons and their obsessive
compulsive hand wringing

they’re not that clean
the stories I told you in bed
were not that dirty

Non-Consanguinity 

In a dream,
my favorite lost dress returns.
Wrinkled and dusty,
it had fallen

to the bottom of the walk-in
closet. Those edges
won’t curl
in the dark. A crawl space

becomes a secret passageway
between your sisters’
bedrooms. No one should leave us
alone back there.

First kiss, first trip
to New York City,
the bicentennial year
winds down.

Every bathroom doubles
as a severe weather shelter.
Even the brightest
aureole fades

to nothing
on foggy December mornings.

A clay horse
head explodes
inside a kiln
on the other side of the lake.

To unclutter the sky
at the tail end
of another shoulder season
is to mean everything

you say, even the words
that get trapped between your teeth.

Please don’t let this view
deep into another northern night
be the final whitecap
that crashes

before it reaches the jetty. Useless
foam that cannot salvage our drowning

hearts. Our fingers will never touch
memory’s true mud. Will never work
rooms like worry stones
under the hot light.

That thing you make
will be a poem some day.
I wish I could burn a bridge
just for a little while.

Nothing would collapse.
The sun would rise again.
You would give yourself over
to laughter and another cup

of black coffee
in an empty tavern.

I speak to horizontal,
then diagonal,
finally vertical
transportation experts.

They reveal nothing
about the journey
into the center
of a warm shell

where geothermal heat kicks in
just as the hidden people
from that dream I can’t shake
whisper coded messages

about what might become
of all this raw space.

And I confess to longing
for that cold afternoon in 1976
when you buy the Farrah Fawcett poster
from a 34th Street sidewalk vendor,

as I stand next to you
trying to memorize the motion
of our first subway ride
to tide me over till I return.