The Hand that Draws the World

the way her empathy flows
in elongated shadows in any light

to envy the waves
or particulate mix
of charismatic morning dew

is too crass
even for me

even the ancient Pando
in all its trembling
massive root system glory

would trust her approach
it’s really just one system after all

those crooked pines
in the crooked forest
would straighten up to greet her

this left hand relaxes
into the hinted presence of such awe

Bloom

she watches the woman water
potted plants on the stoop
in the pouring rain

an indoor ghost garden leaves traces
on the ceiling / an enclosed atrium
aches for its missing awe

a preserved moss wall
in any color merely represents
never reveals the true river

will it stop / it doesn’t stop
Lola on the Lake from burning
to the ground / Tin Fish phantom

from another wet spring
a bite grabbed / he brought the dog
one more walk around the lake

some histories too burdened with slag
are not worth rescuing
from the flood

Speech Therapist for the Angels

For Sheri

As we recall her in unison,
I hear her mocking herself

for the way she said
“button.” I mock myself

for trying too hard
to out-walk

my shadow. She’s been gone
so long, so much longer

than she was alive.

Dimming flashbacks to our secrets
remain safe within me.

How the angels do sing
through their stutters and lisps

to thank her
for being one of them.

Skin Sculpture

he will know when
she finds relief
stops blaming
the sky
stands beneath
his favorite ash
and laughs
at the sight
of all
those carvings
exposing them
she knows now
trees prefer
a gentle touch
without risk
of tattoo

Cleared or Cleaved

Illegible scrawl creates a collision
on a freakishly cold, rainy morning
in mid-May.

She wears a knit cap. Tree pollen
ruins her for anyone
who crosses this crooked line.

Nothing against those blooming
northern pin oaks. Misery clears
an unwanted swath

through an urban forest
of steet signs and boulevard droops.
How did she get from tree

lawn to boulevard? By way of berm
to hellstrip to swale to snow shelf
on the verge of bursting forth

along a line of maidenhair trees,
dewy green blades might reply.

Extreme weather cleaves another
station where she might have met you
during a calmer time.

A crawler reaches for the sky
so that vegetables with dirt on them
might take us the rest of the way.

Hooks

In this version, she retreats
from guitar strums,
the plaintive crack
of a worn voice,
to write a letter
to her 27-year-old self:

How many babies won’t you have?
How long will you stay
in one place?

A voice in some messier version
gives her permission
to let the questions dangle
precariously from her lower lip.
Whispers from another river
elevate her view

of all that high water danger.
She wants to release it
to a more natural shape and flow.

Another version
will emerge truer
with more nuanced
section cuts
in an even darker ink,
if she can wait
just a little longer.

Route Hinge

she keeps coming to you
in a dream fog
to show you where

the streetcars used to run
around a sharp bend
the hill so much steeper

in the slumbering mind
you know she’s wrong
you remember those tracks

mapping a different route
on another street / neither of you
alive when buses replaced trams

in another city
in another state
in another dream

you ride the Rapid
downtown / it will remain
the Terminal Tower

in your mind / dare you say heart / she nods when you laugh at yourself
all the protesting

may have been valid
but the crooked river
is slowly being set free

February 25, 1974

I remember the day you were born
and I was told. Our sister
ran up the driveway, shouting
just after high noon:

“It’s a boy! It’s a boy!”

And she was right,
the Ouiji board was not.
She was right there,
you were somewhere
in a hospital I had come to hate.

I wanted you home,
wanted you to bring our mother with you,
so she could play her sacred
organ music again with those tiny
(critics say too small) hands and feet.

I was tired of waiting
for you. Tired
of waiting
for you
to bring our mother home.

But you needed time to incubate.
You were so tiny and perfect.
Shockingly perfect
given how little time
you gave yourself to compose.

And when you did come home,
and you brought our mother with you,
she dressed you in all white
knit sweaters and hats.
And I thought, no.

You should wear a different color—
maybe navy, perhaps gray,
no, definitely black—
and then, and only then, some white
in a minor key.

I wanted to invert the piano.
Wanted the sharps and flats
all white. I wanted
all the naturals
black. I wanted you to know this.

And so when I was told
you were here for me to feed
one quarter time,
I let you know
to reverse the piano

more than half time. I let you know
that you and I endangered our mother
twisting and breaking
our way into this world.

To honor her, we must
keep twisting and breaking
our way
into each moment alive

because it’s better that way.
Because I am so glad
you came home
and brought our mother with you.

Beyond / Beneath the Garden’s Reach

the color yellow has its moment
indoors against blue / the one
that always ends up stealing time
and falling / in the valley
between two lakes

two moments / two firsts
two words merge
Glengary remains the saddest name
in a swirl of them
trapped beneath

the Long Room will always slay
the real demons I see
in the oldest wood grain
in the skewed photo I choose
to take away / let’s raise another roof

another April washes away
letters no longer blurred
into a sloppy slope slipping
to a concrete floor
all that racket about a roadhouse

on the edge of the best little city
I almost never got to know

high top bar tables still distract me
that helping hand
could no longer reach mine
Notre Dame was burning
I did nothing

I prop you up like a seagull
at night / water shushing
the shore even darker
I loved you into that morning
left you beneath the dock’s disaster

not every you is an old lover
not every month holds a day
that reduces me to tears
not every true love
is a person / there’s the place

where I belong / outlier reaching
toward a root
those underground trees
are merely protecting themselves
from the next flame

buoy bells sound off / a distance
measured and forgotten / as preteens
we dive off a broken pier / not caring
which hurricane / ‘38 or ‘54
gave us this break

I will never grow your dandelion hair
see you through his butterfly eyes
you two see my scars
I put my insect life
in your hands

doesn’t anyone else see the irony
in how Tesla died

wood ducks perch
on a dead tree branch
casting a shadow over the pond
the way I wish I could witness the world
without this numbing anxiety

aren’t we all accidents
the result of an elaborate
egg dumping ruse
no one has quite figured out
a nest bursting at the seams

another retreat into pages
turned by dandelion fingers
after the rain on the first day of May
I slip my panic into a box
to place on a shelf within reach