The Boards Will Rock | Linoleum Will Make a Comeback

Red-winged blackbirds have haunted
the thick hem of cattails
surrounding this city park lake
for as long as I can remember.

Why this day did one choose
to attack my head?
Yes, I veered too close to its nest.
I get it—an overprotective parent.

But I’ve run along this floating
fishing pier so many times before.

Takes me back: dancing to
Tears for Fears’ “Head Over Heels”
in some Firá disco on Santorini
on a hot summer night in 1985.

I had heard the song
so many times before. But
that late evening under
the twinkling lights and influence

of cheap Greek beer
and lust for
an Armenian American boy
from New York City,

(Meet me in the warm clear blue water.
. . . Let’s walk across the flaming red
pebbles of Kokkini Beach holding hands
and talk about the weather. . . .)

it hit me like a beak to the skull.
I must shed the red and black
of my alma mater, or I’d end
up living in The City.

Swimming in a Connecticut quarry
two months earlier (okay, it was a pond) during a thunderstorm because my friend died in a car crash, I wasn’t ready

to heed any warnings. I am only now
wondering who swept the floor
the next morning. Cardinals belong
to a completely different family.

Some nomadic men
start a campfire
in my little city park
1,200 miles and decades later.

I’m knee deep in it, hoping
to fish usable text
from the gutter down the street
during a much-needed rain shower.

The Magical Mistake of a Mixed Metaphor, or, To the City and the Vineyard

She’s going back
where she learned to swim
the ocean and the street.

She’s ready for the beacon
again. Ready to touch
rings, turnstiles, the Atlantic’s salt

in her hair,
on her cheek,
between a taste and a neverending inhale.

She’s on the verge
of another forward motion
to stop

settling for the dead man’s
float when the tide goes out.

She’s not going
to tread water anymore
now that those sidewalks are

so awake again
and the only flotation device
she needs extends

over the third rail. She will
forever follow astronomical,
not meteorological, summer.

I Am the Story

lost inside facing pages
to some biography,
the ones that stuck together
during the printing process.

A triple rainbow stretches over
the city’s modest skyline
after a sudden downpour
at the end of a sunny June afternoon.

Real waves rumble across
the tiny downtown lake.

No time to ask how long
it takes to paint a rooster blue.
How much longer
to build a scaffold

around it to retouch the parts
time and weather swallowed up.

I would have chosen moths
to burst through a tear in the screen
rather than those mosquitoes.
I’m obviously not from here.

This city never chose me
the way I chose it.
How long does it take
to answer the question: Why

are you here?
I’m not the only one.

A tale of two Midwestern cities:
It was the best of times.
It was the worst of times.
It was, no, not that one.

My sister and I sat in a bar once
and watched the boats
go up and down
the terrifyingly calm Cuyahoga.

From another planet, I watched you leap.
Picnic tables
beneath paper lanterns
hanging everywhere.

You wore my dress. You sang “O, Canada”
as you walked out the door.

More picnic tables
and strange, tacky decorations.
We left the trailer and walked
hand-in-hand to the wooden gate.

You said: “Never mind what I said before.”
We even talked about Virginia Woolf.

You said: “Damn it, pick up that pen
and start writing poetry again.”
You said: “You’re perfect.”
You said you didn’t have time for me.

I am the stitches dropped
in that perfect binding.
I will never be fully justified
or ragged right.

One Night in the Flats

Claustrophobia can be triggered
at any moment in the cabin.
Who else hears you twist
those lyrics? Another girl jumps off

a moving merry-go-round
to change her life.
An island
known for brass

rings, clay cliffs, mechanical sharks, cars going off bridges. The back of a jet

heading west. Potholes
in the sky over the Great Lakes.
A radio station rented yacht
called Heartbreak Hotel docks.

The Cuyahoga at civil twilight. It’s all
so close—

the oxbow bend in the river,
an old jackknife rail bridge,
waterfront amphitheater, beer on tap,
royal blue floral baby

doll dress with pockets.
In front of the crowd, you ask:

“Is it mine?”

Everyone cracks up till you leap
off the stage to kiss me.

Nothing there to be yours yet.
Clothes off, jokes on
all night. One letter. One phone call.
One replacement. One souvenir heart.

Then it’s gone. Too much
blood on the bathroom floor.

Name. It.
I dare you. Thought so.

Descending over the Mississippi,
a landing so smooth.