Before the Thaw

I ran all the way to The Commons
to catch a glimpse of the celestial
horse sculpted from ice.

Wrong commons.
Not an equine in sight.

I should have looked for the aphrodisiac
telephone (off-white version)
in Boom Park

or veiled lady
in Longfellow Park instead.

I think of the forest
behind Chickering Elementary School
where I would go alone

to kill the loneliness
on a playground where the circle dance
children refused to hold my hand.

Not an equine
or lobster in sight.

Just those hot pink lady’s slippers
to beware. So afraid I would step
on one and go to jail.

Not a seahorse anywhere in sight
to protect me.

That time I tripped on the sidewalk
and bloodied my forehead
when I was 18, truth is

I thought I was tripping
on the absinthe I drank that night
from a bottle a college buddy smuggled

in from Spain. The green fairy
and her powers of suggestion,
my excuse for public drunkenness.

Not a lobster

talking on the phone or riding
a horse in sight. And now it’s too late.


She wears real lady’s
slippers in the snow
so she can become
your endangered species.

Precious cargo, she’s some kind
of female Jesus ready to bless
the ice cold river for being
so capable of reducing knots

in the lower back to mere seeds—
the very ones she will plant
to launch a new vertical farm
indoors, capable of rising above

the gravity of the city’s
wooden water towers.

Three Depots

I will never shake the number 3,
forever my place in the line-up.
Moments of stochastic resonance.

There I would sit
on a long wooden bench
and write lines to calm nerves

and crack open scenes of other
stations in or between other cities,
towns, junctions, tiniest of hamlets.

Strangers would talk to travel companions,
most stare at their phones these days,
the rare person reading a book

with real covers and pages inside.
Arrivals and departures
get announced over a PA system.

Of all the depots I have passed by,
all the ones I waited in,
working to believe

my life was about to take off
down its true tracks—
I narrow down the list to these three:

The old San Diego Santa Fe Depot
where I waited for the Pacific Surfliner
to carry me along,

to hug the coast,
destination LA for the first
(and only) time (so far).

A union station where Amtrak,
North County Transit District,
and the San Diego Trolley converge

and diverge. Historic Mission Revival,
redwood beam ceilings, walls covered
in the warmest colored ceramic tiling.

I could write a thousand poems
about my beloved Grand Central
and never scratch the surface

of its celestial music and theater
of crowd and architecture
in perfect choreography.

Instead, I return to the tunnels
beneath New Haven’s Union Station
where I would run

on Friday afternoons
to catch the next Metro-North train
heading to Grand Central.

After I moved to New Haven
to take a break from NYC,
all I wanted was to escape back

to the City every weekend.
Why don’t I have a better memory
of Cass Gilbert’s grand chandeliered interior?

How can I forget Red Wing Station,
just south of the Mississippi,
the first stop after the Twin Cities

on the Empire Builder?
I waited outside
well into a warm summer night

for the perpetually late train
as bats flew overhead and a young man
turned the track into a balance beam.

He knew something.
I know it now.
Not a third rail in sight.


[All the dying that occurs inside.]

The way time passes within without.

A widow stumbles along a passage.

Beakers fill with mystery—an invitation

to rest inside a tiny universe.

My therapist once said

I expanded his world.

I think I may have broken

it [open?].

Accidental Not Occasional

Sneeze on a blank page.
Call it interruption poetry.
That stanza wasn’t going to launch

anyhow. Your ode to the anacoluthon,
punctuation releases itself
from a corral to take a brisk walk

in the windchill heavy morning.
Why? The first
and last question

to ask, knowing no one will answer
you. The silence is nothing to [pause]
You know the rest. Break it

anyway you can. It’s the sudden
exposure to bright light
reflected off snow and incurable ice.

Arousal of memory you interrupted one
too many times. Fragments
scar the walls inside

that Olin Library study carrel. You
hide from the world
inside a thesis swirl of notecards,

quoting everyone quoting Woolf
way before laptops and Google.
Metal in the stacks. An aerosol

of song before the word pandemic
took up residence in the highest
aerie, refused to leave. That view.

Live with it down here
where solitude
is slang for [pause again]

Listening to ‘90s Era Americana

on the radio on a Sunday morning:
Uncle Tupelo and Lucinda Williams,
Steve Earle and the Jayhawks,
Son Volt and Roseanne Cash.

A decade’s worth
of music-triggered memories.
The prime of my life cut open
exposes a swath of impossible

highs, unbearable lows.
How will I ever forgive
myself for the ’90s, forgive
those years for what’s left

of me? How can I not? I already have. Drunken angels send the best postcards.

Are You Talking to Me (in the Third Story), Bertha?

Life is short. What are you
going to do about it?

How many grudges are you nurturing
under that grow light?

All the Northern journalists
scramble for their pencils

in this deep freeze, ballpoints
capped and stacked at home.

In this early morning darkness, who
can tell what kind of birdwoman you are.

Which bank you lean into.
The frozen river. What grows inside

the cave. A cardinal or kite,
osprey or owl, witch hazel

or wallflower, weed or wild turkey. Then comes the wild child,

the blurry one
before she becomes

static. Electricity
from a lightning storm.

What a frayed memory to fracture
this haunted February morning.

All those sustained notes—
mere organ speak, the sound

of virtual reality tipping
over the choir loft railing.

There will always be
madwomen in the attic

of old New England
publishing houses. Go back

to when you lived
in the third story

of an apartment house
all by yourself. You,

the mannequin I found hidden
in a cedar closet up there.

Missing arms, your soul
was intact. Remember the friend

who named you. Who maimed you?
An East Coast life interrupted

by a Minnesota live song set.
Shall we return to New Haven

for the last chapter? All the books
published since then left to read.