First, you must empty the contents
of an elegantly frosted glass bottle
(“Chopin” in black script,
“POTATO VODKA” in block letters)
into the bathtub. This is
no bathtub gin tale.

Next, rinse it clean, reach
for that childhood
sea glass collection
you kept in an old
maraschino cherry jar. Fill the bottle
with your mermaid’s tears.

Create a dollhouse forest
with fresh Cuban cigars.
Use the empty wooden box
for the resonator to the guitar
you are constructing
in your sleep.

Come morning, position yourself
in front of the stage
that mysteriously appears
in Loring Park. Be transported
from the coldest day in Minnesota
so far this season to a summer evening

tucked in a crowd, standing
next to your best friend
inside the Entry circa 1995.
You share everything, even your name.
The first live Son Volt show ever.
Play “Out of the Picture” 8 times

in a row on that old stereo
you bought in 1991
to decipher the lyrics
to that Mats song better: “Die
within your reach . . . reach . . .
for the sky.” Sing along

to Syd Straw’s “Future 40s
(String of Pearls)” and
Toni Childs’ “Walk and Talk
Like Angels.” Oh, to be
“sitting on a swing
unfolding bits of string.”

No matter how loud
you belt out the words,
how much your voice carries
out the open window,
your neighbors won’t call
the police this time.

Open a box of running shoes,
lace them up, not too tight,
not too loose, take them on a test run
around Central Park. Repeat the loop—
this lap’s for your father.
Finish strong

along the penultimate stretch
of the old Wesleyan
X-Country course down Pine Street.
Fill the shoe box
with letters you received
in response to the thousands

you wrote during the first act
of your life.

Open the jewelry chest
filled with shrapnel
from Syd’s earring that exploded
on stage. Pause to recall
how she handed the pieces to you
as a souvenir in the middle of her set.

Scoop up the old New York City
subway tokens hidden
in the bottom drawer. You never did
get around to making earrings
from them. Dance, tuck, and roll down
a muddy hill. Go underground again.

Catch the #1 train to Last Stop!
Van Cortlandt Park! 242nd Street!

How many soul mates
haunt those Bronx
step streets
is the question
you refuse to relinquish
with a response.

Catch the last ferry
to Oak Bluffs. Spot
your grandparents’ old Eastville
cottage as East Chop
comes into view. Your mother’s
pipe organ playing clears the fog.

Pull your tattered copy
of No More Masks
off the shelf. Reread
Adrienne Rich’s “Women.”
You are one of three sisters too.
“Her stockings are torn but

she is beautiful.” Release
the sand from the cuffs

in your jeans. Never
drive a car. Return
to that midnight swim
36 years ago in a Connecticut pond
during a thunderstorm
with him,

so you never forget
what it means to be alive.
Everything gets dedicated
to sweet Sheri—only a week gone,
the crash still on repeat
whenever you closed your eyes.

Make your way back to 2021. Write
another poem before it’s all over.

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