When the Sometimes Y

becomes the yolk
trapped inside the yes
of the no longer young
becomes the first yawl
wrecked without a ship this year

when the yawn
of the snow-covered yard
becomes an old lover’s yen
to become the only yowl
true desire might yield

when the yarn
tangled inside the yawp
becomes unreliable as a distant yerk
or another memory of you
becomes what is left to yearn

Committed to Hands I Cannot See

I used to write letters
to everyone I wanted to see
me. Now I write poems—these missives
to nobody save those who would live
in the ruined unknowing
of a city’s underground ocean.


Note: The title comes from a line in Emily Dickinson’s poem “This Is My Letter to the World”

With Eyes the Size of Never

Kiss rhymes with what I hear
when I close my eyes
on the coldest of Minnesota
January nights.

Desperate for a palate cleanser
to remove the ultimately bitter taste
left in my mouth from slipping
too deeply into a euphoric recall coma,

I make a pact with myself.
I’m going to play his music
all day long.
His—not his, or his, or his, or.

Into those wee hours I used to rule
in little black dresses and torn
fishnet tights and voracious vixen
lipstick (remember lipstick?).

Into those wee hours
where I rarely go now,
it’s not all dancing in your sleep.
Another train rattles us awake.

This incurable condition.
Limbs can be so confusing—
I should know.
I’m in good hands today.


Note: The title comes from a line in Verbena’s song “Song That Ended Your Career,” written by A.A. Bondy

I Did Do

I will remember
I did do
I do love

I will be remembering
I was doing
I am loving

I will have remembered
I had done
I have loved

I will have been remembering
I had been doing
I have been loving

So yes
I do
remember love

Water Dancer

She knows this dock—
each splinter, barnacle,
hurricane-spared stilt.

It is not a plank. It’s where she walks.
She knows how to dive,
has been doing it for years.

No easing into the wash,
she plunges in and is used to it
before others awake.

This is underworld—closets, caves, shelves,
trenches, forests, hydromedusa, brittle
stars, Painlevé’s camera.

This is where she should live—
she who is a sponge
is a sponge is a sponge.

She will never work a room
on dry land, works the ocean floor
with the precision of a jelly bloom.

To become exposed to air,
the rising sun. It is her death
to appear before all of us.

Metal crushes metal on a distant street, emergency
sirens approach
closer, closer. A muffled distortion underwater.

Leave her enough sea room.
She would rather synchronize her own sculls
outside a tank

than be confounded by a mirage of closing night roses
she can’t reach without a body.


She rides a 32-year-old bike
through the snow without crashing.
Does not get the wind

knocked out of her.
No gulping + gasping for breath
in the middle of Central Park

rush hour traffic. There’s no such
thing as Central Park rush hour
traffic these days. No such thing

as people + vehicles coming + going
in the tight confines of the alley
behind her apartment building.

It’s a lie.
It happens
all day + night.

Dumpster divers, garbage collectors, smokers, Lyft + Uber drivers,
candlestick makers + her.

It’s a lie—
those tire tracks
in the snow.

Her duende + guardian angel
have been traveling abroad so long
she can’t decipher fiction

from nonfiction, from the beautiful
friction between. She can’t remember
how to decode the darkness.

A 21-speed all-terrain Trek model
for the urban commuter
collects dust in the basement.

She has no idea
where she put the key
to that Kryptonite U-lock.

She really only knows how to run.
Cannot keep pace with her younger self,
who lately taunts + baits her

to take roads only her duende
(or is it her guardian angel?)
knows how to traverse.

She wears a newfound patience
as a waterproof poncho
against the elements.

Her younger self would have cut it
into pieces like some useless bedsheet
to twist into headbands

to trap the sweat of unexamined fear.
A rooftop dance party is another
euphoric recall episode

to record before it’s too late.
If she wrote a memoir,
would anyone read it?

Damn you, duende + guardian angel.
Get home soon. These elbows
have rested on this sill too long.


What if the branch is
rotted or hollow inside?
With one snap, I could tumble
backwards + tear through the air.

I would be heading dangerously
toward blue + green water
or gray + brown rock
between now + soon.

I could die
for god’s sake.

Then what exquisite freedom
to pierce the atmosphere
as a human knife
preparing to cut open the sky

to pull out its heart.
I see colors before words—

a viable warning in shades of yellow.
The top wisdom teeth pulled,
the Novocain wears off. I pray
I don’t get dry sockets

the summer I swim
in quarries + reservoirs.

New Order’s “Blue Monday”
plays on repeat. I won’t die tonight.
It’s not a Sunday. I was born
on a Sunday. I will die on one.

Blown away + beautiful, I fall
off the porch into the arms
of an oak tree.
No questions asked.


Mahpiohanzia is defined as “the disappointment of being unable to fly” from John Koenig’s The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows. Also see Marci Calabretta Cancio-Bello’s poem “From the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows.”

Spit or Swallow

I try
to untangle
a muse
for me
from amuse
me. Till
their family
moved away.
At the
top of
our lungs,
we sang
Beatles songs.
Still without
bait, still
without results,
the creek,
then a
rural route
ditch. We
played freeze
tag and
tried to
fish for
trout, my
imaginary friend
and her
sister. When
I was
a child,
I ate