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.

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