The Street Light Effect Lost & Found

Sober as a bright sunny, cold winter
morning. Late at night.
She searches beneath a lamp post
for hours without luck.

No one comes to help her.
No one asks her why she’s there
or what she’s doing. And she’s not making
requests or offering anything up.

Hours become days become years
become half a lifetime.
Keys? A five dollar bill?
Her soul mate? A dime? Watch? Trust

in the process? Whatever it was
she lost is lost
to the dark slippage of time.
A rotating jail

of juvenile barred owls
found nesting overhead
keeps her company
for the duration.

404 Not Found

It’s one degree above freezing.
The morning sun shines
without inhibition.
The next snowstorm won’t begin
for another 20 hours.

One more blind alley covered
in 3-month-old ice
to discover, or forget.
Everything that collects in the bottom
of the bag belongs somewhere else

to no one
you or I ever knew.

Which one of us ran away?
Which one was left clutching
the handles, waiting
for rope burns
to sting again?

I tied your boot laces so tight
one night, you claimed
you had no feeling left in your toes.
I muttered under my breath:
“What feeling did you have to lose?”

+ we both laughed.
Didn’t we?

Years of foundation shifts
+ wild weather whiplash
warped the hardwood floors.
Missing compliments + pet names
+ a handful of marbles

pooled in the middle
of the bedroom.

Everything got misplaced—
eventually including us.
Some mornings,
like this one,
I find myself

looking under books + in drawers.
I retrace my steps
+ end up 1,200 miles east
inside a subway car
heading too far north.

No one exits the train
at the last stop.

Orbital

When we cut each other
with those uncrossed steak knives
we used to chop only vegetables,
it didn’t hurt at all.

And our toothy smiles
held the wood so well.

When we smoked weed together
in a dream before rolling
down an anonymous hill
I swear I encountered in another dream

years earlier, it didn’t blunt
the edges of desire.

When we counted the empties
left beneath the wrap-around porch
in a neat dirt-banked stack,
it didn’t matter that we lost track

of how often the moon occults
your favorite star.
I never knew its name—
only that you loved it.

When we watched
the rapper sword dance
those strangers attempted
unravel, blades a blur

of clumsy dangerous motion,
it didn’t break the trance.

When we agreed to play
our game of musical chairs for two
animato, it didn’t feel
too fast to maintain.

When we heard that voice,
the way it cracks
at just the right moment
in the midnight song of waves

as they curl into a neon ridge
against the darkest blue
plane of water + the quilted sky
cushions our involuntary humming,

it didn’t stop us from ruining
each other’s wobbly breath.

When we drove back to the city
after the only wedding
we would attend together,
it didn’t storm

the whole 3-hour drive,
+ we were no longer afraid
of each other, + it was too late
to make a difference.

When we ended + the rain gutter
was finally drained
of so many unspoken words,
it didn’t disturb the soil one bit.

When we
never were at all.

Dissemble

It’s come to this:
She’s reciting poetry aloud
while standing fully clothed
in a clawfoot tub.

It’s come to this:
He’s whispering answers
to unanswerable questions
while lying naked in a nearby grotto.

It’s come to this:
The ball of flax twine slips
from the kite’s talon, lands
on a bluff, bounces, then rolls

over the edge into more thinning air.

It’s come to this:
She doesn’t need to dry off. Instead,
she loosens one screw, and the entire
bicycle seat comes apart. She can’t forgive

herself for such clumsy disassembly.

It’s come to this:
He remembers barnacles,
quickly grabs jeans and a jacket,
packs up his collection of lightning

flashes, heads to the pier.

It’s come to this:
She ties a string skirt around her hips,
reaches across a canyon
for an apple slice, knocks over

a wobbly shale palisade in the process.

It’s come to this:
Wind blows traces of salt and burning
dune grass across the sound
to the only place where they might meet

if it doesn’t crumble first.

There’s No I In

the self tucked beneath the broken
cellar door. A message
to all of us who would sculpt
drunken angels from stale snow.
Those of us who would wear ourselves
out on sleeves cut from subway maps,
sewn together crooked of course.
Hand me another bottle
of you before regret
covers my body head to toe.

I live in this universe instead.
It’s riddled with inner islands
floating inside ships
overflowing with irony.
I wait waist high in reservoir guilt.
I weigh recursive lies in motion
against static stick figures
spilling drinks mixed in reliquaries.
Kisses I risked giving in girlhood
collide with this single twisted limb image,

which survives inside itself.

This failed identity.
This littoral outside.
This lifted city.
This rising upside.
This solid illusion.
This storied inside.

Another forgotten parallel world
where we rocked ourselves to sleep
under the waves and trees.

Scape

I’ll try to go it alone.
I put The Waves back on the shelf.

I squint to flatten my perspective,
so it appears

you are still standing beside me
on a secret sandbar. We all know the truth.

1,200 miles + more than half a lifetime
separate our bodies.

You always were an island,
no matter how many bridges got built

to attempt to fasten you
to the rest of us.

I’m no island, no bridge,
no wrack line, no bluff, no cape.

Not even a spit or some patch
of tidal flats.

I’m the dinghy

that gets dragged off the beach
into cold water during emergencies.

I’m still learning not to interfere—
to leave the oars behind.

When They Said They Loved His Voice on the Stair

when she will no longer remember why
she came here

when the saddle tilted too much
the wrong way

when she will recall how they were holding hands under the table

when only the right ulnar nerve
has become entrapped

when the island will be covered
in snow

when the left hand has worked so hard
for so long without complaint

when the redheaded beauty will deliver
the scent of rosewater to her again

when the giraffe has batted
its long lashes one more time in the alley

when she will no longer remember why
she hurt herself so viciously

when a loud “no” was necessary + not
always enough

when a full-throated “yes”
will begin to happen naturally

when she used to sit on an open window
sill + gaze at the Bronx street below

when she will turn 59 next
when Virginia didn’t turn 60

when she first discovered
she loves the minor key

when his fingers will do
the remembering

when she lost the callous
on her left middle one

when she will lose her voice forever
when she loved his best

when her love affair
with the Mississippi River began

when will she take the last walk
alongside it

when the ocean was beginning
to die

when where will be
the waves

when she has no more
when’s to give

then it will be time to stop
running away from home

—————————————————————

Note: The title comes from a soliloquy by the character Rhoda in Virginia Woolf’s The Waves.