Those Screams

while she sleeps
the last newborn of the year arrives
followed by the first of the next

in her dream
two women she doesn’t recognize
give birth in her living room

the fathers wear New Year’s Eve
party hats and blow noisemakers
to cheer on everything

that might end or begin
in the next few moments / empty
bottles of champagne roll

down the street without smashing
or waking her / a cardinal sneezes
from a giant tree in the backyard

out front three young foxes
watch the miracle
through a giant picture window

even the explosion
of fireworks over the lake
doesn’t scare them off

those screams that could turn
a dream inside out
a nightmare outside in

Who Wraps Fish in Scandal Sheets

I drive the getaway car.
I stare into the sun
during another eclipse.

Do not streak through a college cinema
during another showing of Jailhouse Rock.

I drive her to the clinic.
I stare at a man on a subway
train in the wee hours.

Do not go to the lead singer’s hotel room—
not once but twice.

I drive him into her arms.
I stare at bare ash branches outside
as they kiss by bouncing flame candlelight.

Do not write another poem about the night
that changed my life.

Please Don’t Refresh His Memory of Last Night’s Storm

when snow covered yesterday’s ice,
formed as the temperature plummeted
after a steady rain turned
Wednesday’s accumulation to slush.

What a drag she loses
a boot on the frozen drive
before having a chance
to put another log on the fire

he claims he didn’t start.
Another stale family joke
she doesn’t get.
Now would be an ideal time

to hibernate in a remote town
without access
to a back road shortcut.
They could rewrite the script

without fear of crashing
another party without a host.

One chip from one cookie
left from the last batch
he made without her input.
She never reads the menu

or removes the spider web
from the storage bin
above the cellar door.
He never removes the tag

from the sleeve
of his vegetable flannel
or bothers to zip up
the hidden duffel bag

filled with pine needles
and all evidence
that might link him to her
after another January thaw.

They Were White Cedars

I come to the swamp ready to disappear
into the primordial forest amidst cedars that stand
a distance from those dunes where I stood
above it all, eyeing a boardwalk that floats
on a salt marsh at high tide. Pause
and recall a time when I still believed
in the power of moving bodies to speak
out loud beneath the eaves as rain pounds
on the roof. A gray cottage he owned,
or, his family did. The space heater vibrated
all night. We shared peppermints after we ran
along those dunes before the perfect storm surged.

Her Duende and Guardian Angel Meet in an Alley

the day after Christmas.
Both wear black skullcaps
and matching hooded trench coats.

It’s hard to tell them apart
till they turn to face her window
two floors above.

The commotion is real.
The fear too. Why would anyone
pretend to be terrified?

Why wouldn’t they be identical
to her own desire
to become more than this

voyeur who hides
behind a partially closed blind
sipping skullcap tea

in a hooded cloak of her own?
Someone set fire to
the recycling bin,

or planted an explosive inside.
She didn’t hear it,
or smell it, or stop it

from overpowering daylit thoughts.
Castaway items have spilled out
the angry burn hole on the side:

scraps of used notebook pages,
empty yogurt containers,
a black suede, lace-up pump,

three copies of a pressure cooker
owner’s manual, not
a glass bottle in sight.

As they turn away, one of them
(she can no longer tell which)
begins to fold

sections of the Sunday paper
into human forms. Not flattened paper dolls holding hands.

Two independent ones
staring back
at her in 3D.

Only one of them
would dare do such a thing
before civil twilight.

This Floating Loop

I am a red buoy, anchored and swaying—
fettered to dark waters of dizzying thought.

You are another buoy, untethered and green,
who comes to me in a chimed dream.

There is a third buoy that has no color
I can identify—its invisibility

buoys me up
to face another mineswept day.

Instead of buoy, I should have picked moxie
or menacing or Spanish moss.

She Would Swim in the Aral Sea

how many times can she quit
her life during a blackout
and come to high
on the branch of a sycamore tree

how many times must she whisper
mirror mirror on the floor
were you ever in the hand
on / off the wall / off / on

the ceiling / tell me
a true story
how you ended up there
how I ended up here / looking

down where my feet dominate
not the eyes / rarely the mind
sometimes the knees / I ask
a stranger / you are

no longer a stranger
we’re all strangers
to our futures
reinventing the fairy tales

that have kept us
trapped between panes
of glass / untranslated water
lips of blood / dried-up seas

she can still taste
the metallic / irony
on her tongue from the old type
foundry matrix

she remembers hearing
the steamship whistle break
the news as the ferry left
the strange comfort

of its berth
recalls wanting it to be
the Uncatena or Nobska
or the one she knew best

the Islander

recollects knowing
her wish will not be fulfilled
dreams of another uncharted journey
to the Staten Island boat graveyard

where she might pay her respects
to leftover scraps
of the work horse
that shuttled her

between all those places
that might be stitched together
to construct a make believe
childhood home

along with the other tugboat
and barge remains
that keep so many secrets
sealed in the muck

The Unlicensed Mocks Car Model Fails with American Sentences

The new nanny is no lady who sings opera, but loves fish that scat.

No bimbo, she wears a sandal on her left foot to probe the wizard.

To the naked eye, a sea otter pup will dunk the lettuce head first.

That’s not all there is to the story—just another memory dump.

Before Broken Byssal Threads

It was collecting shells:
smooth ones, flat ones, ridged ones,
some with tiny spiral slides inside.

Yellow, chalky white,
that deep bruise
of the mussel

that can only mean
sandpipers stand
on one leg nearby.

Seaglass distracts
only briefly.
Every ocean I hear

unfurls from those years
I lived only
in the littoral zone.

No, It’s Mine: The 13th Stanza

Syllables smash against
the whitewashed concrete floor below.

Now all I can hear is the sound
of someone else’s ocean

in a conch shell I find buried
beneath a cedar shingle shack,

destroyed by fire. It is no accident.
The day my father dies,

I do not recognize my own name.

Letters taste foreign
as rusted hinges

and shallow pools
of savory brine.