Listening to that Which Lives, Feels, Thinks & Wills

The fact of hot air rising
up to greet them as an upper
floor apartment stays cool longer
than anyone predicted.

That rhythm of riding trains
and meeting them
on the other side
of the Pawcatuck River.

The confused irony
of a truck driver who whistles
at a 58-year-old woman
in running shorts—

she who has always condemned
the objectification of women
as she wonders which shoes
flatter her legs most.

That four letter word
coming from or belonging to the sea,
which explains everything about her:
compact name, hair, frame, stare.

The anticipation of waiting
for that last tiny bubble
in the foam of a perfectly chilled
glass of nitro cold brew to burst.

That astonishment of realizing,
yes, it can be this smooth.

The instrumental that invites
acoustic guitar, mandolin, and banjo
to gather on a front porch
down by the lake so late

into one March night
it spills into a new day
with delicious darkness
lingering on the morning’s breath.

Wild Day’s Eye + The Clocked Lion’s Tooth

On a cool, cloudy Sunday morning
in May, she asks herself:

have I resisted
time travel for so long?

Riding in the back seat
during an afternoon hail storm,
she forgets her fear

of cars to focus on the rhythmic
ping-ponging overhead.

She remembers how hail stones
tore holes in the convertible top
to her father’s red Austin-Healey

during Black Friday—an outbreak
of tornadoes and other dramatic weather

that ripped through
Belvidere, Illinois,
on April 21, 1967.

Large white pellets
strewn across the highway

break the spell,
return her to 2022.
She walks all the way home

from the intersection
of obsession and rejection,

determined not to become an empty lot
cleared then forgotten.
Another case of misunderstanding

why wildflowers.
How many No Mow Mays

before “weed”
loses its dirty word status?
Something about removing

piano wire from the ear.
Plucked, not hammered.

She longs for one more moment alone
in a dark room
with her harpsichord.

And they tore down the eyesore
ramshackle house with that door
she was meant to never darken again.

Egress and shelter
float to the top of the list.

No one knows for certain
where the latter came from—
who might walk across the roof

on humid days. As for the former,
some will ask:

Which exit?
Others will call her
the way out.

The shield she carries
cannot protect the shoulder

seasons from shrinking
more each year.
No one’s jumping

out a plane for her.
No one’s pushing her

to leap into a perfectly blue
secret passage
to the shore below.

And then
there’s simply now.

All My Favorite Photos of You

Gone. Somewhere
on the #1 train
between the Bronx and Chelsea.

I shouldn’t have kept them
all in my wallet. Shouldn’t have fallen
asleep. You wouldn’t have

closed your eyes.
Your closed eyes.

Class pictures year after year.
Awkward stages with glasses and haircuts
and crooked parts
would make you cringe
if you could still move.

One of you and me,
my father must have taken.
In town to drive us to our junior high prom.

No dates. We were each other’s date.
Dresses the color of water
with ruffled scoop necks.

It had been only a year.
I should have paced myself.
I was too young
to fathom your absence.
You were way too young.

You were the one who understood
limits and functions.
I didn’t know how to wear the grief
turning inside out in the wind—
an electrical storm

that might erupt
at any moment. And you
would have already calculated
the joules of energy released
before the next thunderclap.

No thief can steal the symbol for infinity
we etched into the ice with our skates
on the Thornton Park rink.

Blue Carbon Sink

It’s one thing for little boys
to roll down a slope
into a sunken sculpture garden.

It’s quite another
for drunken college seniors
to somersault their way

down a campus-defining hill—
barreling through the glee and terror
of the final night before

being handed diplomas and brass
keys to open unknown doors.
In bold acts of unsustainable

immortality, we borrow ones
made of animal bone to break
the promises we made to ourselves

well into the witching hour.
Swipe steel ones to pry open another defense of our dishonor.

Now they jangle, rattle, and crack
in pockets to worn-out jeans,
pounding out a relentless beat

accompanied by old subway tokens,
a tiny folded piece of paper
(the message faded and illegible

from so many rereadings
and wash cycles),
and bolts to anything

that fell apart ages ago.

Locks of gray hair,
floors no longer sticky,
a sluice gate,

a clear head
at dawn, and other slurs
accumulate. Eventually, standing

on the highest bluff, we believe
in the power of a finely-tuned spyglass
to rotate the view—never forgetting

the ones who followed the sea

stars and rockfish
into the reef and got lost
among the glass sponges forever.