Minnesota Point

I am going to read
“The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”
the way you once did

for a poetry class
as an MIT senior in 1959.
Years before you would begin

sharing your birthday
with me. I am going

to taste seaweed all morning.
Run through dunes with rolled-up
flannel trousers all afternoon.

Come civil twilight,
the hour of our beloved
early December sky,

we will not hear the mermaids
singing. No, it will be a chorus

of selkies humming like giraffes,
chanting like monks,
bursting with life

beneath the Aerial Lift Bridge
to be heard while crossing over.
Salties and lakers pass through.

Ten years now since you slipped into
the horizon—the grayest of blue seams.

Anything with Wings, Dad

“I love my free spirit.
I trust my creative power.
I generate the wind beneath my wings
and enjoy the journey.”
—Michael Nash Mantra

Wielding a broken branch,
a child chases a juvenile gray duck
in the grass.
My heart hurts
to watch the bird
waddle furiously to escape.
Suddenly seeming to remember
it can fly, it glides across the walkway
through cattails to the pond.
A water landing—sweet relief.

Anything with wings, Dad.
Anything with wings.

Utter an Inarticulate Sound

An open blind casts shadow bars
on a blank page mid-morning.

They are a mask—a birch forest
on a tilted globe. You are mistaken

for a monumental stair by a robot
that thinks your ribs

are made for climbing. The takeover
has begun. No crickets or grasshoppers

within earshot to wake you
from the middle of a dream

about an encounter with that singing
curmudgeon in a neglected corridor

on the top floor
of a Victorian apartment house.

Facial expressions nearly legible
by candlelight. You’ve lost track

of what day it is.
The smell of handgun smoke

lingers on the mall
after the muzzle blast dies.

A 300-year-old bur oak splits open
under the stress of rot, weight, age—

drought the final straw.
The park has always had a bird man

who ignores the signs
not to feed the geese, ducks,

pigeons, red-winged blackbirds.
The occasional great blue heron

that fishes in the lake
doesn’t need anyone’s help.

You were once a bumper car stuck
going backwards in figure eights,

before rhythmically slamming into walls
on repeat. You’ve spent your life

trying not to become the ball
crushed into a 2D idea

in mere moments. Night fell

on national chant at the moon day
without so much as a whimper

released from your throat.
Let the howling resume tomorrow.

This Rocky Misunderstanding

I am landless. I am free. I am trying
to get away with it.

I can’t distinguish weeds
from prized flowers.

I can’t tend a garden
I don’t have. I won’t take

that community plot
in the southwest corner

of the park I call my front yard
from someone who deserves it more.

Everyone owns my front yard.
The party’s been over for decades

(for me). I am licenseless. I am afoot.
Hoping to get away with it.

If this blind tracery were to cover
my ears, I would still hear

tires screeching on pavement
in the middle of the night.

If the West Chop foghorn could be heard
this many miles and years away,

it would soothe these nerves
before splitting all that slate

blue apart—sky from ocean,
an oscillogram of my father’s voice

looping above and below the horizon.
I am not

rootless. I am a tree
that refuses to choose: Am I

planted in the wrong place
at the right time, or

the other way around? Or, secured
to some hidden holdfast.

Oh, my sea moss,
you and I have gotten away with it.


A banana falls from the sky,
lands loose and dented
at her feet on a hot sidewalk
before August has begun.

Sounds bleed into one another
on a Monday, like a child’s handwriting
that droops to the right,

each line more sloped
than the one preceding it.
The gutter does not terrify
this five-year-old.

Everything she loves
grows in the margins—wild
and entangled in the lost language

of the drum. Cattails that harbor
red-winged black bird nests
surround Loring Lake, designated
as the most urban one in Minnesota,

where you can canoe for free
on Wednesday evenings in August.
That a hole in the wooden deck

of a nearby pedestrian bridge
doesn’t cause anxiety
might mean her long-lost daughter
has always been her long-lost duende.

So what if you were right
all those years ago about the left
leg being shorter by a half centimeter?

Some game of low-level dueling
will always interrupt lifelong dreams.
Lead to the risk of late-life depression.
Translate into a series

of little lie-downs
that don’t add up
to one everlasting sleep.

And just maybe she won’t become A
is for Amy who fell
down the stairs. With a backpack
(lilting, long, and deep enough

to hold all her dirty laundry
and a few scraps of lost letters
and dignity) secured to her shoulders,

she’ll keep her balance
all the way down.
And if she does stumble,
a rope ladder, strategically hung

on the cellar door
by someone who looks like
you once did,

will appear at the last possible
moment. A handwoven lattice-lace
design remains imprinted
on closed eyes, not by choice.

And, finally, a dark August
Saturday morning arrives
with thunderstorms in the forecast.

“Rain, rain, please,”
she pleads,
“stick around long and loud
and dripping enough

to quench the garden’s thirst,
to coax Minnehaha Falls to begin
falling again.”