This itch
to find a new island.
To explore.

That unintentional crease
in the sleeve.

This dust
on the needle as it loses meaning
without skipping a beat,

without a turntable
to save you.

That flip
of the hair
tossed off so easily.

This trigger false comfort—
the detoxification.

That song played
on repeat
before the bomb explodes.

This time,
the answers cannot be found

upside down
in the back of the book.
That twitch most of all

because, sometimes, you just want
to dance.

I Like an Arch

She’s entered the throw
the pen across the room
tantrum era. And she misses

the way ink used to flow
(without interruption)
to greet her

(mistaken) love for you.
How nothing would impede
her from rushing headlong,

no, heartlong,
into some ill-timed, ill-advised
irrepressible infatuation

never built to last.
And the sympathetic kind
wouldn’t dry up.

She’s not done
telling Portland brownstone quarry
stories. The cliff jumping,
never brave enough to dive
or rappel her way down.

She’s not done
cladding vestibules in terra-cotta
moss tile. The abandoned
beautility shed
is in danger

of losing its essence.
Someone has made a mess
of her facade
trying to remove the “You’re beautiful”
tattoo. She’s not done

scratching your initials
gently into the soft wood
of so many park benches—whispers
to calm night’s
untranslatable terrors.

She’s not done
romanticizing the stoop.
Beneath the pavement, it is
so much like a beach.
She’s not done

baking clay, laying bricks.
She’s not done
asking the brick
what it wants.
She’s entered the room

without any weapons left
in her hands, except
an old postcard.
In cramped, barely legible
handwriting, it reads:

From one island
to another, I confess
you can see Cuttyhunk,
but not Uncatena, from here.
I know we’re not done yet.


She writes out the number: Two.
No question, it won’t add up.
How we’re all dying. Getting closer
to it each day. How the anxiety of being

caught in the dark
cellar—door closed, maybe locked,
shades secure on the bridge
of the nose—hurts less than burning

under the sun. Our feathers singed
and unhinged. Our wings bared
and useless as clews
still affixed to a pair of tree trunks

after the deep sag has snapped
to wipe the smile off the hammock.

Now a heap of hemp in the dirt.
The shortest distance between two points
is a straight line no one can walk
forever, or at all. If only we didn’t live

on this slightly squished
and bulging sphere.
Another sign of the beauty
of imperfection all around us.

Swallowed Whole

Water must be one
of the categories. Full

stop. Snow melt drains
into street pot holes +

sidewalk dips + puckers
to form a chain, no

a maze, of tiny bodies
of water, temporarily elevating the land

of 10,000 lakes tally
to a new high.

Today’s soggy scene becomes
tomorrow’s slate lullaby.

Unmasked ghosts materialize
in the morning mud

to warn of highway dangers.
Maws dripping with silt +

slurs will have their moment.

You think you can shed your skin
like some kind of snake

to escape into the next
you. Some kind of last-century lover,

she’s already onto that one too.
Always island hopping,

she wanders off in both directions
(in search of hidden passages +

bridges) the way she promised
she wouldn’t.

And she puts her paws
on your shoulders

when she comes to.
This is no hollow meandering.

This is your tomorrow’s murmur.
All that luscious black hair

gets entangled with submerged tree roots when she swims in the dark—

so desperate to be entertained
by her own terror.

Or a Few Dabs of Red Cabbage Water

She fumbles through
a decade making sculptures
from leftover cardboard cores
(exposed when the toilet paper rolls
run out) with empty flax seed bags
tucked inside them.

Sometimes ground. Sometimes whole.
Sometimes the seeds themselves
become part of the piece.

Predating pandemic solitude,
sunshine would filter through
half open venetian blinds.
She would configure and reconfigure
her found materials
into premonitions

about what the day outside might hold.
Rarely repeating the form
or ink she used to write the words

that would become the glue
to hold it all together.
Always invisible—
mostly sympathetic. Messages
only oak galls can whisper.
Only a little blue vitriol can decode.

And the tallest trees
in urban pocket parks
would bend and moan.

Every poem ever written
is a form
of steganography.

To Cross Over

I’ve written of lovers
in the past. Lovers

who were just passing through.
Those who passed on

their wisdom and symptoms.
Some passed on seconds.

Others were merely looking
for a mountain pass to traverse—

any kind of defile would do.
And then there were the ones

who hoped to pass the ultimate test.
The ones making passes

at anyone in sunglasses.
Yet others hoping to pass

as dead ringers for the heroes
I left behind the hotel

on the bluff overlooking the sound.
And lovers who have simply passed.

Check the (Physical) Mail

I dig out the tiny Hudson key, open
the mailbox, pull the contents
from the slot, some spilling
into a puddle
of print at my feet:

clothing catalogs, restaurant flyers,
a credit card application,
a nonprofit appeal for donations,
and one white envelope with
handwriting in black ink.

A real letter. A radical act.
Return address Honolulu, HI.
Before opening it, I pause
to consider the miracle
that is an old college buddy

who has committed to writing
and mailing a letter to a friend
each of the first 100 days
of the year. It’s round two for him.
And I’ve made the cut again.

An art form I once dedicated myself
to with a religious fervor.
Who knows how many I composed
during the peak years
between 1972-1994.

Boxes filled with replies
in all dimensions and thicknesses
stored in my closet.
I’ve saved them all.
Okay, there was that one

I ripped up and returned to sender.
(I kept a photocopy.)

Hundreds from my first pen pal,
my grandmother. Just as many
from my mother. Dozens and dozens
from my sisters, even a couple
from my brother. So many gems

from my father
I still don’t have the courage
to reread almost a decade
since his death. A potent mix
of loving guidance

and mirrored reflection,
soul responding to soul.

And all those missives from friends,
spanning bridges of time,
from elementary school
through college and beyond
to those years

in New York City and New Haven.
And those first few in Minnesota.
Love letters from old flames.
Could there be a greater
romantic gesture?

Postmarked Westwood, Kokomo, Mashpee,
Shaker Heights, Trenton, Indianapolis,
Arlington, Somerville, Madrid,
Cleveland, Auckland, Medina, London,
Lima, Athens, Cincinnati, Lagos.

A conglomeration of little anecdotes
and philosophies and emotions
exposed on paper.
I can hear the voices of the departed
sing with a simple unfolding.

I dwell in the delight
of the slowed
pace of it all.
Then I snap to.
Time to read Tim’s letter.

I know it will sparkle
with light and humor and a deep well
of unabashedly honest thoughts.
It will be a window opened
just enough on a cold March day

to capture a momentary gust
of who this person, Tim, is.

I savor the old anticipation
just a little longer,
then expertly slice open
the top of the envelope with my finger.
Like riding a bicycle.