Prompt or Not,

this train might derail
into a simmering chain
of thought. This anniversary
of a hootenanny so far up north
and deep in the middle

reminds her it’s his birthday:
her one and only husband.
They married at six,

divorced at seven.
Here’s to counting missed beats
that never got a chance
to channel the rhythm
of the waves

on the rocky beach.
He’ll never read this line,
or the next, or the ones

she wrote about a library bar.
Itinerant troublemakers
and other verse spewing
vagabonds flip through volumes
of poetry and lookbooks

on the table. Angels
on the ceiling. Drained
shot glasses strewn across

the cork floor
beside blacked-out tarts.
Stacks of alcoholic palimpsests
to be cataloged, and no one
remembers how.

Library of Congress
or Dewey Decimal,
who decides? Mermaids

swim out too far.
Scaled tails made
in the makerspace
turn out not to be

Grey Goose or Belvedere.
To the Lighthouse or
The Sun Also Rises.

Who decides what goes
on the top shelf?
Why put anything so far
out of reach? Never mind
those borrowed nights

dancing at the Hippodrome.
London 1984. A collection
of New York City years checked

out before you would meet
down by the once dead river.
Cobwebs yoke the pines
to one another in a cove
she won’t easily forget.

The briny taste of the color
of wet slate lingers fine free
forever on her tongue.

The Curse of Being

labeled the “material world,
the abode of man.” Never mind

all the other
gender identities

out there. Never mind the eagles
flying over the ocean where eagle eye

corals dazzle
in all their glorious fluorescence

in the deep below. The raptorial limbs
of the orchid mantis.

Never mind Jesus Christ

lizards gathering momentum
to run across a stream.

The rubber tree and its scarred
trunk. Giant sequoias kiss

the flaming sky. An underwater cypress
forest teems with aquatic life.

The narwhal tests the water’s salinity

with its spiraling tooth.
Never mind the afternoon dance

of the telegraph plant or
the rootlessness of grandpa’s beard.

The sea angel licks the sea
butterfly to death in the abyss.

Emperor penguins in a huddle
on an Antarctic winter night.

Never mind African elephant
allomothers comforting calves

with their trunks.
The bowerbird paints the walls

of the starter house
he built for his mate

with charcoal dust
and spit. Never mind

those dwarf seahorses
as they hide in plain sight

with their prehensile tails
wrapped around gorgonian

hitching posts. They scan
the subtidal neighborhood

with panoramic vision.

Alaskan wood frogs lying immobile
and frozen and very much alive

in the earth. The Earth!
Do pay our home no nevermind.


I did not dream

I was a suitcase,
which did not fall
from an open window

and smash onto a nearby roof
into a thousand pieces.
Did you see all

those double letters
hang onto one another
for dear life as they rolled

along the creek
before it spilled ink-stained
sediment into every crook,

then slipped beneath
the street?
You did not dream

of me drinking strong
cups of coffee—
one after another—

before I did not see
it coming. The spell broken
by so many hot murmurings

of drought as rain melts
any remaining mounds
of dirty snow. Not the brown kind

that fell along the North Shore.
Not heaps of dust vacuumed
from New Mexican sand dunes

by monstrous winds.
Not plumes
of molten rock.

I did not drive
the white car
that you did not crash

into a Kentucky library.
And that glass wall:
it did not shatter.

Isn’t this what it means
to be human? The puppeteer
scratching her head

as mechatronic marionettes
rush the stage to dance
on wildly warped boards.

We did not carry
our portmanteaus
into the motel

camouflaged by night smog.
The wood did not burn,
the neon sign did not flicker,

and the clock did not strike at all.

Mate for Life + Death +

They flip each other

the bird

as a sweet nod to their mutual affection.
Naturally. She swears

she saw a black and yellow butterfly
wing on the dirty

snow-encrusted trail weeks before
the chain of lakes ice out.

The nest fell after 20 years.
The eaglet did not


Hopping from one live
cam to the next,

she watches two peregrines
fuss over their first egg.

Does she dare
hope? Will he see

one fly upside down again?
When will the ruby-throated

hummingbirds awaken
from their torpor and


to mesmerize them
with their backwards

in-flight dance?
Just a 3-second fling

we all know so well.
And ducks contemplate

a swim in a freshly melted city
park puddle before seeking seasonal

monogamy. Back
in the blind, they


obscenities at one another
as they share

binoculars on the warmest day
in five months.


She speaks to him with her single
quotation mark eyebrows.
She’s not the first to tell him
it’s time to rescue the creek
from the underground.

Vampire loads haunt the halls
of revamped warehouses and
not so refreshed corner bars.

A GPS watch skips
two hours ahead
without the wearer having
to leave the neighborhood.
It’s a mistake

to diminish the sorrow
in the center
of everything.

After days of sweating
and hallucinating
about buildings
that scrape clouds
off the sky

like sandblasters attacking
stubborn graffiti residue,
the hissing finally ceases.

A tenant left the window open
before moving out.
She wants to ask him
where all the sax players
who used to wail their laments

out open windows
have gone. It’s April 1st,
and nine inches of fresh snow

conceal all the previous day’s
potential. Sadly, it’s no joke.
He reminds her you can see
the tangle of highway lanes below
through tiny knotted holes

in the pedestrian bridge
boardwalk. No nearby woonerf
to calm the traffic down.

Thunder sleet—also no joke.
She confesses to him
she has not crossed
the Mississippi in months.
It could simply mean

all the musicians have stopped
practicing. Or, they have
already broken free.

He doesn’t have to say it.
They both know
this day won’t end
without hearing Prince sing
“Sometimes It Snows in April.”

They watch the freight train
pass through town before them,
car after car holding

someone else’s secrets—not theirs.

The rhythm of wheels
over rail joints
ruins their rush.