that tells the waters or to rise, or fall*

in this genius of place
a meadow and stream
dance together to invent

a new color
you can touch
with your favorite edge of sky

those bare birch trees
remind you to shout
bring on the dirt

how many bridges to nowhere
can you count blindfolded
is not the question to ask

with so many blackbirds
soaring noisily overhead

instead tally the pedestrian
one that leads to a garden
of sculptural delights

when it’s not closed
for the spring
maybe all summer for repairs

no one wants
another one
to fall down

don’t blame the river
no matter how angry
or lonely it gets

* from Alexander Pope’s “Epistles to Several Persons: Epistle IV to Richard Boyle”

Big E

It’s not simple as
you have fast-twitch,
I have slow.

I always knew dirt
was the answer.

Tread water
this precious. Air,
mercurial. Fire,

fear and courage
dance to the edge
of tread lightly

on the beach
without uttering
a sound or wasting

a word this far gone.
Apologies encased
in a foamy guilt

sink to the bottom—
no longer interrupted by pearls
or extraterrestrial dust.

Plastic shame floats
to kill its way
around a neverending loop.

Tread now to the heartbeat
of this aching place
we call home. Can you hear it,

can you hear it,
hear it, please,
I know you can.


Another car parked sideways
beside a snowbank
in late April.

I hear Leonard Cohen sing
about Suzanne and heroes
in the seaweed.

2016 was a bad year
for music
lovers. Two more go by

since Prince
let the elevaror
bring him down for good.

We talk about omnidirectional
wheels. No one dares
murmur prop walk.

I could be a 360 degree
spinner—would still miss
the stowaway’s gaze.

So laden with meaning,
this wallpaper peels off
in irregular strips

till my hands
are covered
in blood.

What remains vertical
will become souvenir lyrics
I don’t dare sing

aloud. Call it
a ghost poem
with circular sawn lath

and plaster stanzas
that will double
as a raft

for all the vagabonds
who want to join me
on the river as it thaws.

I promise
only wind and current
will propel us then.

My Sister’s Getting Married Today

How delightfully sinister
to welcome another lefty
into the family.

My sister will always be
her right-hand woman.
Lake Erie’s gray morning ire
will become its evening calm.

Gales do pass.
Humility gets defined
over and over again
with the seiche’s oscillation.

And we’ll sit down to another meal
without elbowing one another
at the table. Nothing
sinister there at all.

It’s Not Eavesdropping If

strangers at the next table
speak so loudly
you can’t capture the next
image in its naked moment
the way Bachelard would have wanted.

Instead, you hear:

If you get chickens,
don’t sleep with them.

I heard about a woman
who slept with a snake.

My sister tried to sleep
with me last night.

That mannequin has no clothes on—
visible or invisible
to the naked eye. And you
like the red cat stick figure
bike corral best.

where’s the money shot

sunny with a real feel of 5
degrees Fahrenheit

another cruel moment in April
gets trapped under ice

no algae
nothing’s blooming

good or bad
here where the climate trickster

of our own making
never sleeps

Frankenstein’s monster drinks
from the fetid future

has not yet learned
how to lie

he won’t open his eyes underwater
he won’t tell us what he hears

in all that muffled blue
his silence is damaged

if he would declare his damage
it would spill then bleed

into the fibers
of a wrongly-folded map

someone has abandoned
on the frozen ground

remember those

pockets of jamais vu
dot the landscape

with crimson-tinted notes
in the minor key

no one asks to be
the hero image

that spans an iridescent bridge
to nowhere

Last-Century Tells

I remember Jim Carroll serenading us with his needle
sharp poems from the bottom of Foss Hill.

I remember Spring Fling 1984.
(Or, was it 1983?)

Spotting the old observatory
crowning the top, he snarls

at our impossibly young distracted selves:
You can all go look at the fuckin’ stars.

Some loudmouth students reply:
Just wait till nightfall, Jim. Just wait.

All I catch is
fuckin’ stars.

I remember shadow echoes
and the storms they cause crashing around me

by the time I hop on the back
of the last motorcycle I will ever ride.

Racing downhill in the dark
spitting out grass, dirt, and famous feathers.