the beacon

I swallow the last drops
of New York City water

in my Minneapolis apartment
put the empty metal bottle in the sink

today is the 30th anniversary of my first trip
to Minneapolis

I flew the same route
LaGuardia to MSP

crossing over a piece of Canada
and some of the Great Lakes

I didn’t know then what I know now
about the quality of water

in those Manhattan rooftop tanks
and interior pumps

there’s a map that reveals
which ones have been inspected in the last year

and those filled with whole pigeon
and squirrel bones

the Hotel Beacon passes the cleanliness test
some days taste better than yesterday some don’t

I stopped darkening doors decades ago
when I lived among the guns I never felt safe

the one entrance does not lead
to the other exit

the wound I blame on the man behind the door
bears no resemblance to his blistered fingers

he no longer lives there
I no longer live inside

that wound
merely visit it on occasion

when I stay in the Hotel Beacon
drink its quality water

and marvel at my 11th floor view
of the Ansonia across Broadway

I remember some other firsts

experiencing the grandeur inside the Beacon Theatre next door
seeing him and his infamous Minneapolis band play live there

he wore a tattered white button-down shirt
he was drunk I was sober

it would be the reverse
when we finally meet in the Flats years later

Johnny Thunders opened and they didn’t play
Johnny’s Gonna Die

Johnny Johnny Johnny
he would be dead by the time of that Cleveland enounter

New York City

how did I get here
I will never put home in a sentence that doesn’t include both

you know you are in New York City when

a dead rat with fresh
blood staining its mouth
becomes a mile marker
for your run along
the Hudson River Greenway

when greenway doesn’t
always mean green

you know you are
in New York City
but what am I

you know you
are in New York City
when you realize
your jaywalking skills
need a refresh

when the geese are so urban
and fearless

they ignore you
as they sit in the middle
of the too well-traveled path

when rivers flow
two ways and aren’t
really rivers
but tidal estuaries
and straits

when you wait and wait
on line never in

you know you are in New York City
when every living thing takes
more risks with life

death and squeezing onto a narrow island
without falling off

when all the languages
in the world
shove themselves into one subway car
and you get to participate
in the brackish hum

Return to the Bronx

She says
always put venerable
in the same sentence as tree.

She says Van Cortlandt Park
is never far
from her heart.

She says the #1 train
will always come first
even when it breaks down.

She says
home is where you hang
yourself. No,

he says that.
She says home is
wherever there is a pen.

why does she resent the canoe & envy the elm?

and the color blue dances
in the meadow with pale gray

till civil twilight
waves them off the horizon

a raccoon scales the side
of a skyscraper in Saint Paul

who knew there were raccoons
in the city

who knew Saint Paul
had skyscrapers

who knew half a lifetime
would pass

without getting any closer
to the answer to the question

is it mine
this is the glass age

and the year of light
has slipped away

we fight the darkness
with burning stick

figures we forgot we drew
when the words wouldn’t come

the best building
is no building

the best body
is nobody

she ever knew
how to awaken

without disturbing
the loam

if there really is just one system
she will keep fueling

this container filled with water
and carbon and blood

the flaw in her profile
is no accident

each snowflake that falls
on her tongue

tastes like the splinters
he used to feed her

the ones she would crave
with the disorientation of a junkie

between fixes
tin ceiling tiles bounce all this

wayward light
into her hands

it’s not snowing
on this day in mid-June

an excessive heat warning
kicks in till 7 pm

here in the middle
between the famed river and hidden channel

only the dirt and wood in her mouth
are real

what gets incinerated
can no longer forgive

On the Road to Zero

I meet a hero.
She gives me an 8
to use as a boomerang.

Before he comes back to me,
a spinning jenny hovers forever
beside the hummingbird I trust most.

I try optimism
on for size.
A little tight

around the neck
and across the shoulders.
I shrug off the glitter

from its inner lining
and return to these
exercises in euphoric recall.

Memorizing the Atlantic Ocean pays off
when everything comes back

in a rhythm
only the moon
could invent.

Black or Blue

Dressed in black
like some Goth female Jesus,
she dashes across a channel
in the deepest pocket of night
to deliver a message in the wind:

When you find your blue dress,
dance in it, swim in it,
just don’t tear off
the buttons
before it’s time.

She hears a whispered response
to kiss another evening
in another city and
look for lipstick smudges
on the near side of the moon.

Morning somewhere else
years later, she erases
all evidence
of dream seeds she planted
behind the building.

An alley is no place
for sprouting new limbs
and lineage,
no place for recall
of the euphoric kind.

Some fabric cannot be dyed
black or blue.

and this is June

it’s the month
for smiles

and meteor showers
and oceans
I love/

hate the month
of June
births of past lovers

including the first
who later drowns
in his own swimming pool

Father’s Day goes on
even after
the father dies

celebrate global running day
and my niece
weeks before the longest day

and shortest night
in the Northern Hemisphere
flip it in the Southern

Seersucker Thursday
Bike to Work Week
in Victoria

celebrate flip flops
surfing and Canadian rivers
Hungarian teachers

Icelandic seamen
but what about
the seawomen

doughnuts and trails
dairy goats
and thunderstorms

queens from Papua New Guinea
New Zealand
England and Norfolk Island

private reflection
in Northern Ireland
the Finnish flag

Russian inventors
and rationalizers
pixies and Dutch veterans

bomb pops and Juno
log cabins and roses
don’t forget my niece

Kenyan and Luxembourger mothers
weather whiplash
and where are the lightning bugs

moonstones and summer
meteorlogically and
astronomically speaking

honeysuckle and pearls
and the night
I may have ruined my life