Lilacs Again

Promise—the second oldest memory
they stir. I can’t remember
the first. Packaged
in a top 40 radio hit perhaps.

Am I the only one
who still listens to the radio?
Anyone out there?
When I get the second shot in two days

and have waited two weeks,
anyone out there then?
All those heart-to-hearts
with the younger self.

The wardrobe rotated again as if
it matters. At some point, this left-hand
ink smear will become the most valuable
NFT you never invested in.

It’s not a competition,
songs and scents
both release the most sweet
bitter whorls, bundles of them.

Sappho knew lilacs
are in the olive family.
Just one more final and the death
of a high school friend

till you can board another
rocking ferry
for the next Greek island,
you tell yourself.

nothing rocks like it used to


over and over

what got erased from those love letters

to a life lived so hard

I kept them

all of them

I never questioned that

“unmanageable creature who steals in”

the way everyone advised

“like a mountain wind falling on oak trees”

and then

“for we in our youth

did these things

yes many and beautiful things”

she says

“lyre lyre lyre”

say it three times

because how else

will the “transparent dress” follow

and I won’t ask

for more

about the “gold anklebone cups”

I won’t I won’t I won’t

Note: Thank you, Sappho, for those fragments I stole. And thank you, Anne Carson, for bringing them to light in If Not, Winter.

Bluish In Thick Layers

With true sangfroid,
she says let’s talk
about purple pipes.

Let’s admit it—
the great blue heron
nested here first.

Rivers are people too.
Turns out our most precious blood . . .
Locked in and interrupting herself,

she says I have been accused
of being tasteless and very slightly
compressible too.

I no longer fear
the first flush
in these boots. My hands

gloved. I have my reasons,
she says. No diamonds
of the first water

(or even muddy and impure ones)
need protecting
on these fingers.

That willingness to rape
the earth—don’t blame the owl,
or the hawk,

or that heron
staring at you
from its dead branch perch,

she says. And the tree’s story
does not end
the night a storm struck it down.

Our most precious blood,
a truth so secret,
it stills the water.

Minneapolis, MN | Week of April 18

A COVID vaccine hangover. Death
of an elder Minnesota statesperson.
Not one, not two, but three
guilty verdicts.
It might rain. It might even—you know.
“Sometimes it snows in April.” Prince knew.
Now he’s gone five years.
Yesterday I saw a great blue heron

perched on a dead tree branch
extended over the pond. Red-winged
blackbirds gathered around as if readying
to mob, then thought better of it.
The cherry saplings in Loring Park
hold their blossoms all week.

The Kettle | The Keeper | The Crook

She’s such
a thief she’ll steal
your words before they leave
your mouth. She’ll hijack your thoughts just

she can.
There she goes with
a cluster in her fist.
She’s ready to drop them in a

with fresh
petals—a repurposed
remedy she will drink in the
wee hours.

the next morning,
she’ll discover a new
raison d’être as she swipes a

of her
own words scrawled on
a page in a yellow
book she pulls off the shelf, covered
in dust.

He used
to keep the light,
then bees. Now he just keeps
me up nights wondering how to
keep him.

The Cruelest

No more April 11, 1993.
No more muscle relaxants,
no more Xanax pills
in her purse. No more purse.
No more bottle to drain
of anything sweet or strong.
No more friends holding.
No more dangerous obsession
fueling her days and nights.
No more strung out on some face.
No more dead-end wedding anniversaries.
No more Good Friday sadness.
No more Easter NDE.
No more immediate exit plan to enact.
No more denial: I just wanted to write
one good line you couldn’t forget.

She’s So Grounded

No lightning strike can touch her.

She would never pursue poetry
as a profession.

Her wings may rust from disuse.

Salt on her upper lip doesn’t mean
she swam with golden sweepers

to steal light.

Does the punishment fit the crime?

From a second story window, she watches
her duende and guardian angel

dance in the alley
during a thunderstorm.

She’s forgotten what it feels like
to touch the clouds.

She would not ask you
to get a face tattoo

on your turned cheek,
or the other side

of that Airstream
you keep threatening to buy

(or steal).

When she says she can’t drive,
she means it.

And still spokes are her favorite part
of the wheel.

She wouldn’t train a creeper
to climb a wall.

And still the Boston ivy
that slashed her screen

before dying doesn’t disturb her.

It’s not if—it’s when
she will eat dirt again.

Your New Oread

She knows how to whirl
her way down a hill, up
the next till she reaches the sea
where she will go to whirl
her way underwater to your
favorite hiding place. Pointed
remarks about home in the pines
cannot muffle the splash
she makes as she dislodges your
golden trident. What great
waves she makes miles from the pines
you used to climb. High tide on
the way. I remember our
skinny dipping excursions off those rocks
into that waterfall. We would hurl
ourselves into the cold pond, your
hand holding mine tight. Your tossed green
shirt flapping overhead. I’m still not over
it. As if there really were an us
before she was born. Someone cover
my eyes, so I can’t see how you wielded us
like a weapon against time. With
or without fear, she swims out far, your
dolphins beside her. It’s chlorinated pools
where she would drown. Of
course, I know you built the dock with fir.

Thanks to Gwendolyn Brooks, Terrance Hayes, and last Sunday’s New York Times At Home section for refreshing my memory of the golden shovel poetic form. This poem gets its final word for each line from H.D.’s wonderful poem “Oread.”

Meme Mutant

I was still looking for the horizon
inside a tunnel beneath a bay
a skipping stone’s distance
from an island I once knew.

+/- then a monster container
ship gets stuck in a canal.
A traffic jam of astronomical
(spring) proportions.

The push +/- pull of tugboats
make me laugh +/- cry.

Time to start keeping a tally
of things that measure
the length of the Empire State Building
tipped on its side.

An old steel mill skeleton,
now this
rainbow behemoth. We wait
for the tide to refloat it, us.

“Kilroy was here.”
I can’t draw, but you get the picture.
Mittens +/- folding chairs +/-
cats—lots of cats.

In this scenario, are you the boat
or the canal? Tiny bulldozer
or patch of mud? A sign of progress
or Lessepsian migration nightmare?

Are you a strangely beautiful
lionfish spreading venom
within turbid estuaries
or toxic nomad

jellyfish swarming
Mediterranean shores,
or the native meagre

before our eyes? A ghost net
or a salt crystal.

The most invasive species at it
again, +/- all I want to know is
who’s going to right +/- refloat
New York’s iconic skyscraper.

The Horse + The Heron

Have I even seen one
since watching a herd
of the miniature Icelandic breed
break into fifth gear—
the flying pace—
alongside the winding Ring Road?

Thick waterfall manes + tails
flowing in the wind.

I pause to imagine their dark
silhouettes against a backdrop
of Northern Lights.
I saw them both:
the horses + the lights.
Just not together.

I wait for the great blue ones
to wade + fish
in the Loring Park pond again.
Despite the surface ice,
the ducks have returned.
It will snow again. Animals adapt.

Divide the picture
in half diagonally.

Dare to put the one with wings
in the wedge beneath.
I want to fly again. Head east.
Get a bird’s eye view
wide + long enough to capture all
of New York City’s bridges in one breath.

Head west. I ran across
the Golden Gate Bridge once,
looking for Easter bonnets
in the fog. Sobriety
out of reach
for another year or so.

I never found
your stolen Pegasus.

Would not drown it
in a bucket of salt water
if I did. Did you check
the sky one more time?
On this vernal equinox
after the sun sets so quickly.

Equal parts street pounder + cloud
counter, she may not want to be recovered.

+ Next

+ thieves come to steal
an hour in the middle of the night.

+ the ice on the pond come March
turns a brilliant slate of blues + grays.

+ after almost three decades
of running along that parkway,
I have just discovered
how red the asphalt is.

+ the snow has finally melted in time
for the next winter storm.

+ it is still winter astronomically speaking,
+ the vernal equinox is six days away.

+ my day dreams will become
perfectly balanced
with the ones I survive
in the wee hours.

+ I will continue to dig through mud
+ mycelium, desperate to unearth a plot

+ eavesdrop on the Sargent cherry
saplings as they awaken.