Opened Green Umbrellas

By the time I first met Francie Nolan,
my parents were separated, not yet
divorced. My father not yet

separated from his martinis.
Unlike Johnny Nolan, he did break
free from the incurable bond.

Like Johnny, my father died
of pneumonia. Plaques and tangles
instead of DTs and seizures.

I’ve known too many Johnnys.
I thought I wanted to become one too.
Why would anyone wish for such a thing?

I kept a diary just like Francie.
Still do. No longer any need to cross
out drunk, write down sick.

Turns out no one really cares
what I scribble in crayon
on blank walls while I wait

for the muse to return
from a night out
dancing to the cosmic unthreading

of dinosaur bones. Who knew my muse
would have a New York accent?
Another moment swept off the stoop

by the most invasive species.
All this time, I’ve been smashing

my limbs through an old tree stump—desperate to reach above fire
escapes to the sky.

Note: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn serves as an inspiration for the entire poem.

Roost

She’s been trying too hard
to wrap some light
around her little finger.

She will celebrate the fact
that fireflies are actually beetles.

She worries
about the lone wild turkey
lurking outside the ice rink

the way she never would
that gang of toms.

She once considered jet propulsion while getting ready to spend
a night with a chain of salps.

She has wanted to be his
muse when all along

she needed him
to be hers. A secret walk-in
closet leads to a walk-on

part in a walk-out phase
with no apparent end.

No Escape

Even our sun will die eventually.
I had forgotten how cold
it will get inside. How haunting
the drone must be on the way outside in
the galactic underworld. How lonely
for those of us left behind
searching for the light
in the wrong sky. And so it is
with this parallel eddy in the ocean—
another black hole to try to resist,
or give up the ghost as we pour more
ancient sticky water to drink.

Keener

When I die, throw me
a wedding, not a wake.
Celebrate my marriage
to the earth with the same gusto
I was never betrothed while I breathed.
Wrapped in a mushroom shroud,
through aquamation or human composting,
or nourishing the fish

in an eternal reef, I promise
to be true to the only home I’ve known.
Staying up all night (waking
neighbors belting out drunken ballads)
surrounded by bodies—been there,
done that. So last century.

Fog

A drizzly morning up north
on the fourth Thursday in November

takes its time to clear.

The storytellers hide from other truths
in tulle veils:

wedding or funeral, birdcage or blusher.

We all do it. I’m so guilty,
my hands stained with bruise

colored ink expose another

underwater smoke screen.
I’ve looked it up before.

I remember the initial thick part,

the obscuring middle,
the final mist.

I’ll look it up again as I move closer

to the sea grasses and beg
more clouds to touch the ground.

Party Till Almost Sunrise

I will find
the poetry

in a sound lantern.
It’s not hard to do.

Back then, he did, indeed,
have those long, hollow cheeks.

A candle flickered in his mouth
when he sang.

I never had a match
for him. They spilled

from my pockets
for years after the last time

we. Then no more.

I never lived
in a lighthouse with

anyone, no matter how hard I tried
to will it. All those empties

rolling off the bluff
into the sound. And

another. So many
kinds to choose from.

The last word
no one dares pick.

Nor the means:
spoken, sung, whispered, signed,

or transmitted inside
a moving billow of water.

Day One

My god, who are you
that science cannot explain?

It must be hereditary—wanting
to become an alcoholic who writes

her way outside her own skin.
I got what I wanted—a place no longer safe

where no one’s sacred,
where only exit signs light up

the night. Fire
water intoxicates

thirsty rail trestles
with five-story flames.

I will not get behind
the wheel. Have wanted to get lost,

wanted to be invisible, to pretend to be
asleep in the middle of a crowded room.

What are they saying about me
now that I’m dead?

Cause of death pending. Cause of birth
doesn’t get recorded.

Tell me, crooked river,
if I can be sober, what then?

Wedge-Shaped or Fanlike

A crow flies overhead
as the fog clears
to reveal a ravine.

And this is how
we say good-bye.

I accidentally tuck my bag
into the bin
wheels out.

And this is
how we say good-bye.

The rental car agent
mistakes me for a wife.
Tells my friend I can drive

the vehicle too.
Asks if we are headed to a wedding.
Wrong on all three counts.

This is how
we say good-bye.

Memories of discovering
a baby squid along the Connecticut shore
and watching “Search for Tomorrow”

in a crooked old house
the university tore down
to build a new athletic facility.

This is also how
we say good-bye.

We wind our way up Mount Tam
to watch the sun set.
For some of us, motion sickness

and pressure in the ears
interfere with the view.
And this is how

joy and grief collide in the margins.
The edge of the sea, all that laughter,
those throwaway asides

are precisely
how we say good-bye.

Crow or raven? And now
I cannot remember the shape
of the beak, or sound

of the bird’s call—
merely a streak of black
scraping against the sky.

And wouldn’t he reply
a feather is just a feather,
a bird is just a bird, after all?

Late October Entropy

It’s not some kind of crown
shyness—these channels
of exposed sky. It’s not
the weight of a body

as it releases a final burst
of energy. The tiny white buttons
running down the back
of a wedding dress in another state.

On the same fall day.
She’s returned to eating 7
almonds a day as if it will
reduce numbness so easily.

It’s not as if he were ever a tree.
Or, if he was, she never knew
what kind. Or, the vegetable steamer
filled with red cabbage

and thawing peas
hisses at her again.

Or, each goth song that crowds
the airwaves this time of year
seeps in only a little.
“Oh, Bela.”

The 10-year anniversary
of everything being underwater.
Red velvet lined walls.
A random sweep through time

reveals just how little we knew
in 1983. And bless us all
that summer. As if the repurposing
of atoms had already begun.

So Far As Sojourns Go

You say multifamily. I say
multi-unit with a hyphen to hum
along the corridor. Who decides

how to count the bodies?
Do you include servants and boarders?
What about the quiet child who lives

next door? The clan knocks
over the terra-cotta pot.
The dirt-caked key beneath.

I don’t know how
to run a detached
dwelling. I don’t know how

to detach your hesitation
from the way I linger
in the deep end of an infinity pool

overlooking an ocean
with those lavish waves.
Not a tipped-over figure 8 in sight.