Cartography

you make a choice each day
to live west
of the Mississippi
where no family member has dwelled

the reason shifts
with the decades
he’s 60 today and you haven’t spoken
in over a quarter century

some unnameable
silent anguish
medicated with sauce and song
led you here

a river
and the soul
of its second largest city
keep you here

what if next time
you open Google Maps
the home icon
has moved to a location

you can no longer identify
and you have no paper map
to unfold and fumble to refold
as a crooked mnemonic

what if you have only one heart
pin to drop

what if the snow globe falls
off the window sill
and no one’s there
to catch it

would the broken glass
and chips of porcelain or human bone
scattered on the hardwood floor
navigate you

to some island
kissed by
or swimming in
the Atlantic Ocean

Anorak

in the beginning
a real train whistle
some vague distance away

awakens her
to a day
of not speaking

in the beginning
snow steadily covers
rain puddles

to form a land
of slush and chain mail
curtains backlit blue

the fire is dying
no one comes
to stoke it

the room cools
watery eyes
tears or not

numb is not an emotion
neither is cold
nor birds that migrate away

in the beginning
hooded and alone
she breaks the silence

Alexa tell me
another math joke
the tragedy of parallel lines

echoes in the atrium
the blank brick wall
is not really blank

or made of brick
there are no clean slates
where did you come from

you angular piece
of terracotta tile
your clay origins form

the next regularly scheduled
in the beginning
she will hear

Decade

an ice storm
that used to be
a blizzard 25 years ago

walk like a penguin
in freezing rain
while there are penguins left to mimic

what if they did flap their wings
hard enough out of water
to make them wings again

what if they could fly away
from their fate
and we slid into it instead

Minnesota should not be
above freezing
this time of year

I must risk walking outside
or risk succumbing
to the caged animal deep inside

the walls have grown so quiet
we all deserve to die
in our sleep

don’t we
what am I so afraid of

this soft spot for the cardinal
as it carves its blood red initials
into December’s slate sky

Without Numbers

the ceiling fan woud have no rhythm
the room with its cracked hardwood floors
and charcoal colored molding
would have no depth
the box within the box
with a shared wall
that slides up and down
to alter each person’s reality
might stick and begin to bow
till it slips off track
and comes crashing down
we might get away with living
forever if you’re into that sort of thing

Cavity

the wild animal
scratches its way through
insulation and wires
ingredients they can name
not you
and 100-year-old sighs

the woman who hears it
that’s you

the wild animal
disappears as suddenly
as it clawed or crawled inside
your exterior wall
your guess is
as bad as his

the color
of its fur / if
it had fur
or feathers
a tail
how thick

the brick skin
must be
to hold a heart
so heavy
with flashing
and unnameables

Unsaved

who chooses
their final
resting place
without a will
goes against covenants
meant to be
broken / baptized
twice they tried
desperately to save her
they overdid it
was it their truest
misguided expression
of love
nothing can
save her now
the Lehigh
did all it could
to point her east
due east
brackish or salt
definitely water

Winter Solstice

It’s the best
day of the year.
It won’t get any darker
than this—
rock bottom,
jumping off point,
no place to go
but up

toward the light.
A low-riding sun
interrupts the sky.
It’s not an interruption;
it’s a dialogue
to shake free
from fear
of the blues

in our private factories
whirring beneath
another midnight’s
high. You prefer
figure eights
to infinity. Nowhere
does the sun set
in the east,

“keeps risin’
in the west
I keep on wakin’
fully confused”
the song goes.
Why the tears?
Because you’re too afraid
to go home. The City

goes on
without you.
That boy’s going to be 60
before the year ends.
Then all of us
tail end
of the boomers
sixties babies

will start
following behind.
You used him
as an excuse
to ruin your life
till you hear
Rilke shout
“You must change your life.”

How did we get here,
fixed on this point
of the analemma?
No regrets
this far north,
running along
this beautifully flat
lake laden land.

So much light
to come
within your reach
from either side
of the solstice.
I prefer
to stand still
before another reversal.