So Be It

If she drops dead
running along a trail
on a cool fall morning.

If she forgets why
he wandered into that dorm room
just to bite her on the neck.

(Who does that?)

If she reads old journals
from her college days
and decides to name the whole series:

“Diary of an Alcoholic as a Young Woman”

If she corrects her
19-year-old self’s spelling
of sea limpet in different colored ink.

If people still wrote letters.

If the deer crossed the parkway
30 seconds later.

If she would just finish reading
the novel instead of fretting
over the torn and crumbling cover.

If anyone still drinks gimlets.

If the indecipherable handwriting
with words scrawled on top
of other freshly spilled ones

was anything
besides evidence
of alcoholic palimpsest.

If her face is red
because he calls her name.
If he appears looking disheveled and sexy,

and it’s dark, and all eyes
are on her, and he walks
down the hall,

and her face is red, and
she doesn’t know what to do
with her face.

If he calls her attire cosmopolitan,
and it’s years before
she lives up to her clothes

(never really does).

If she never orders a cosmopolitan
before getting sober.

If she would stop worrying
about the solo blue morph snow goose
in the city park.

On the last day of astronomical summer,
the bird man says it can fly well enough
when a hawk is near.

If she left more pages
blank,
so she (and everyone else) could breathe.

If she did burn
each and every volume
in an elaborate ritual

involving a bonfire behind
the Take No Heroes Hotel
on a bluff overlooking the sound.

If she had climbed the chain link fence,
the bird would have still died.

He would have still died.

If a floating dock
on the south side of an urban lake
is lonely at night.

If she had done a better job
keeping in touch.

I Heard a Bird Die

as I ran along the trail north
of Cedar Lake this morning.
First, a deep thump
followed by high pitched cries

as a flash of black tumbled into a bush
beneath a wide window on the backside
of the blandest of the blandest buildings,
a copse of trees on my other side

perfectly reflected in the glass.
The cries continued for another moment.
I didn’t stop. I should have stopped.
Then they stopped. A silence loud

as the one I chase to quiet my head
if I run long enough. No full stop.

Bridge

For MJN crossing beneath,
for NYC connecting across,
for the Brooklyn Bridge rescue working destiny

Advance your vantage
point, collapse
your facade of steel,
your gutted concrete floor.

Collide your bridge maker
with mine, collage your hand over mouth
with my eyes shut,
vocal chords in strangulation—

a scream
a void

to coalesce to convalesce
on one promenade
of material unidentifiable yet.
Coordinate the crossing—

bare feet
dust
ash caked faces

no veil could protect,
suits meaningless, ties undone
till they become arms swaying.
A human chain

of events. A human
behavior changing—
never
no way
when
now.

They designed bridges
to be passageways.
Make them good
to get no further

than this. It is still where it has been,
the destination stands
between these pedestrian elevating towers
still here.

Islands + Remnants

I. The City

I worry I won’t remember
how to walk the City sidewalks.
Turns out it is like riding a bicycle
in high gear.

I’m in it again.
The rush + flow
navigate my steps.
30,000 on average per day.

I can’t stop.
It goes by too fast.

The Central Park reservoir
with its remarkable views
of residential skyscrapers
sprouting like weeds.

The SeaGlass carousel in the Battery.
How did I not know about it before?
30 internally illuminated, shimmering
fiberglass fish rotate on turntables

inside a chambered nautilus
shaped pavilion. I can’t resist.

A little island park has arisen
from the remains of Pier 54
on the Hudson River
atop concrete tulips.

I will not take any photos
of the reflecting pools—
footprints of unspeakable loss
20 years cannot heal.

Face-to-face, in-the-flesh
conversations with dear friends
remind me
I’m not always so alone.

II. Nomans Land

As the plane begins to descend
through a thick wall of clouds, I see
the ocean, then
Nomans Land.

Turns out the origin
of the uninhabited island’s name
is possibly a nod to Tequenoman,
a Wampanoag sachem.

The tranquil greenery
belies hidden
unexploded ordnance
riddled across the island.

III. The Vineyard

Then Aquinnah comes into view,
+ I know this is

the island
imprinted on my heart.
My one + only tattoo—
invisible as those UXO.

I never took the Middle Road.
I am a weathered cedar
shake in silent conversation
with the stone walls

I didn’t see. This time
it really is a skunk I smell.

The Flying Horses—
the second carousel I ride in a week.
No brass ring. I’m out of practice,
catching only two at a time.

I would never pull
on the antique horse’s mane.

There’s the rocky beach
where I learned to swim.
There’s Vanessa, the sea serpent
flashing her head + tail in Farm Pond.

Just after I run over it,
the Lagoon Pond bascule bridge
opens to let a schooner
pass through.

Snails glide across
the bike path along Beach Road.
I wish I could be
so fearless.

Waiting for the bus to Menemsha,
I hear a man say:

“He’s the only guy I know who’s caught two
seagulls, one barehanded + one
with a rope. A lifeguard
with too much time on his hands.”

Waterspouts + multiple tornado warnings
+ a relentless downpour awaken me
the last night on the island.
Ferries being diverted come morning

as white caps + serious wind gusts
prove remnants
of Hurricane Ida
really did travel this far north.

IV. Mainland

When I open my suitcase
back home in the middle,
I can smell the Vineyard
in my clothes.

I Smell Rain

I get ready
to leave this drought
damaged state
for the (soggy) City.

Remember Gloria
was supposed to be
the storm of the century.
So last century.

That was before
Katrina or Sandy,
even before Bob.
All retired names.

I was a tropical storm
in the Atlantic once.
I was six typhoons
in the Pacific.

Even a couple
of super typhoons.
I’ve never been
a hurricane.

I will be your sponge city
if you promise
to stop trying
to order the waters.

You only trouble them
when you do.

Who’s at the sliding
glass door? Is it
that damn wild turkey gang
again? Unwitting narcissists!

Where’s the sweet blue morph
snow goose
this morning?
Swimming with the ducks I hope.

Lambda: Variant of Interest

A stranger whispers: “Next.”
Quickly, I search for words
beginning with L:

The longer leash
I used to give myself.

The leucistic Canada goose
often left behind in the park
among the ducks

while the rest of the skein
disappears into the sky for days.

The longevity of the Greenland shark—
oh, the legends
it could debunk.

The last time another stranger said to me:
“Listen to your body.”

“What?” “Listen to your body!”
“Oh, I stopped listening to her
ages ago. She mumbles. She lies.”

The longitude of their love, detached
from any true latitude, disintegrates.

The next major lunar
standstill and moon wobble
may flood more than you know.

The lingering shame
that comes from suddenly remembering

to defrost the freezer.
You wait and wait
for the miniature calving to begin.

The late summer leaves of an oak
that has prematurely dropped

its crop of acorns
on the sidewalk
during a desperately needed downpour.

The language of loss
that threatens to outlive all others.

This is not
about Lucifer.
Which one?

Artist’s Multiple Anxiety

It’s August again.
I still haven’t found
my own blue rooster
to replicate for the world.

When will I learn
private jokes
make the worst poems?
Or is it public ones?

I get them
mixed up. If
everyone gets it,
even if everyone thinks

it’s funny, how
can we tell
with these masks
returning to our faces?

If I ask one more,
will my true chicken emerge—

more pullet than hen.
That doesn’t count.
Have I, or have I not, wanted
to end one with the word “cock”?

Wound Up +/- Down

I just want to know who
will go canoeing with me
some other Wednesday evening
when those cardinals
don’t blend so well
into the sky.

If I bring the oars,
who will bring the lake?
Please don’t worry
about the rain.
We wish
it would rain here.

Meet me behind the switchback
stair in the middle
of my dream.
I wave to the woman
who climbs up and down
the pedestrian bridge steps

each morning. How many sets
does she do as I walk
through the sculpture garden
into a new day?
She’s been missing all week.
Where did she go?

This tiny blister
on my left foot
is the last straw.

This is war
I don’t believe in.
This is the silent treatment.
I keep my jaw clenched,
so no words of weakness
leak out.

I smell my own fear—
salt mixed with a hint
of hemlock. No, that’s not it.
More peppermint than radish.
More mango than marmalade.
A dash of vinegar of course.

More invasive than I care to admit.
Hypnagogic or hypnopompic,
I can’t tell sometimes.

Alone in a crowd again.
It’s a relief
to see you, cardinal,
not another red-winged
blackbird too eager
to defend the nest.

A Bottle of Onginnan Pink Gin from the Friday Night Gin Club

It could begin
with a small bowl of the tangiest
mid-summer blueberries. Maybe not
as tangy or plump
as the ones you picked
with your grandfather
on Cape Cod. Still.
Not a raspberry to infuse in sight.

It might begin
with washing brunch dishes
in MoCon—that flying saucer
of a dining hall
on top of Foss Hill—
on a hot Sunday afternoon
with an even hotter hangover.
No balcony announcements to ignore.

Buildings end.
It won’t begin

with that slash
in the porch screen,
the one you waited weeks
for moths to slip through.
They never did.
They had better places
to go. No hangover
cure needed.

Follow the light.
It will begin.

The train rolls in.
Another empty subway car
(save a soul)
with crowds jamming
into the ones
on either side.
The way it never
begins for some.

Scratched

And/or walk through
the grove of the old maple’s
offspring. And/or pause

to read the sign:
Private Property
And/or find your own path.

And/or sing the lost
fourth verse to
“This Land Is Your Land.”

And/or never forget
to bring your own
original Krylon cannons.

And/or don’t let fear
fracture your muse’s
skull. And then

the whole nest fell
and collapsed in a heap
on the back stoop.

Or relax your red tinged wings.
And there’s still this
body of yours.