Late Astronomical Fall

Because I’m a Sagittarian,
I’ll never mistake a chimney poker
for an archer’s arrow.

Pinwheels don’t spin
counterclockwise in my head.
Kaleidoscopes do.

The shoe transforms
into a thick-soled boot.
I drink turmeric ginger tea

year-round regardless
of the season. I hear
Smokey Robinson singing

“The Tracks of My Tears”
whenever I open the torn
cardboard box filled with letters

written to me
during my college years.
So many different senders:

my mother, grand mother,
sisters, high school buddies,
ex- and never quite boyfriends.

All those ones from you, Dad.

You smiled when I asked you
to explain the atomic radius
of a chemical element

the way I cherished the times
you quoted the poets.
Wallace Stevens pondering:

“Perhaps / The truth depends
on a walk around the lake.”*

You shared your birthday with me
the night I arrived
for the rest of your life.

Nothing could crush that bond—
no sinister creature
hidden in the seaweed,

no extreme wave crashing
over the boardwalk. Because
you were one too.

* from Wallace Stevens’ poem “Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction”

From Third Rock Shimmers to Spinning Black Holes

She prays for the bees
in relentless waves
crashing over jetties.

A fine mess
we’ve gotten ourselves
into, she says.

Many Labor Days ago, multiple stings
across her knees triggered an awareness
she can’t suppress.

What remains:
rising sea levels,
tidal floods, eroded dunes.

Soon docks, roads, whole cities,
will return to a watery abyss.
Prayers become pleas.

Past time to create living shorelines,

keep fossil fuels
underground, eat more plants,
buy better bulbs, pull the plugs,

capture and harness
the wind, the sun’s rays,
harvest energy from the stars.

Mesh

She becomes entangled
in a series of dreams

filled with shallow pools
and the struggle to swim away.

He knows they belong together,
the way her hair mail

drapes over his cheeks
when they kiss—

a protection against the wind.

The porch glider creaks when they lean
back. Light filters through.

Trails of shadow links spill
onto their legs.

“My gills!” she bellows
as she wakes.

How To Tell on Yourself

Toss reams of paper around.
Try not to give yourself a black eye.

Imagine when Lake of the Isles
was called Wita Tomna,

when it contained four islands.
Mourn the two that are gone.

Rent a canoe and trespass
on the two that remain.

Wait patiently
for a second wind.

Confess you are afraid
to tell the rest of the story.

Don’t forget the blueberries—
cartons of them.

Break a window on the east side.
Climb through. Don’t disturb

what you find.
Is it sleeping, or?

Slip into a crack in the paint.
Become the wall,

the water-stained ceiling,
the dirt-caked floor.

Breathe without hesitation.
Count to ten. Peel off your concrete

skin when you realize
becoming a tiny utility building

sprouted from a hillside
has its drawbacks.

Believe in bogs again,
bodies preserved in peat too.

Embrace the quaking.
Take a mental snapshot

of the floating boardwalk
as it trembles beneath you.

Watch your fingers transform
into golden needles about to drop.

You are that tamarack tree.
And repeat.

Penumbra

She misses the longest partial
lunar eclipse in 580 years.

They say it wasn’t
a true blood moon.

He cracks open
another thunder egg.

The word “ash” rings
in his ears for days.

He doesn’t realize her name means
“dweller by the ash tree.”

She can’t pronounce his.
No volcano nearby.

He doesn’t know she exists.
They never meet.

If they did, she would never forget
all he gave her

bundled in layers of song
and dirt. They would meet

beside the “Spoonbridge and Cherry”
and laugh about the spoon

losing its cherry.
And it would not be vulgar.

And they would not ask why.
Would not need to know

the 1,200-pound aluminum ball
is getting a fresh coat of red paint

in Peekskill, New York.
They would pause

to see their reflection
in the pond—a fresh layer of ice

shielding its waters.

They would not care
how you get from taking

something (someone?) for granted
to casually observing it,

to becoming obsessed with it,
to becoming the thing itself:

a sculpture,
a tiny utility building,

a face naturally occurring
in the bark of a tree,

the perfect balance of clay, silt,
and sand mixed into the soil.

Vulgar Latin for “Leave a Pursuer with Just One’s Cape”

She runs beneath
Highway 100. It’s dark
and damp and filled with echo,

and she likes the momentary fear
the sound of footfall behind her
triggers. She runs

from herself. From a distance,
she can hear a radio playing.
A woman sobs

over the death
of 3,000-year-old sequoia trees.
Vic Chesnutt sings

“The Gravity of the Situation.”
Flames everywhere
inside her mind. She runs through.

Ms. Beautility

I am that building
no one seems to care about,
no one can forget.

With my two-tier roof,
I spy you in the midst
of your true movements.

Don’t worry
about me.

Rudely Scratched, Painted, or Otherwise Marked

You’re listening to Joy Division
on a damp, drizzly November morning,
nowhere near ready to speak
of your soul.

Your view of the alley
gives away so little.
A tree crown’s
stubbornly persistent

leaves fringe the roof
of a burnt orange brick
apartment building
across the street.

No pink sunrise to serve
as an introvert’s perfect backdrop.

Enough! It’s time to return
to your preoccupation with me—
the abandoned utility building
tucked into the hillside

between parkway lanes.
Someone has written
“You’re beautiful”
on my face. You would never

tattoo me that way. You would
write a song without words
instead. I want to believe
there’s more to come.

And then Leonard Cohen Died (November 7, 2016)

We get to keep a record of the voice
that lured death and love to waltz
together past midnight’s hollow to
decivilize the dawn.

I was there that cool June night
he brought the future to Minneapolis.
His weaves between backup singers
timed perfectly with his body and song.
I sit in the back of the theater
wishing I could be seen with the man

I love. Beg for it—to float
with those heroes in the seaweed.
A future perfect that will not
have been sustained.

It is murder. The news
is hushed for days
unlike every other scrap
that explodes, fragments,
clones itself into more
grotesque distortion

when Hank Williams finally replies:
“You know exactly
how lonely it gets, Leonard.” Sneaks
out just in time.

Not Quite Ruined on the Median

A tiny, abandoned concrete building
with a graffiti enhanced green door
and two-tier roof

leans over the west lane
of Kenwood Parkway
as it gradually winds up hill.

Runners, cyclists, pedestrians
know it. She’s one of them.
She’s never questioned its existence

before now. What purpose did it serve?
She’s drawn to its current lack
of utility—the faded forest

green trim on the windows
and eaves, ivy growing wild
on its facade. Google’s no help.

If she posts a photo
on social media, will anyone
claim it? Could she live inside?

How can she be linear
when she can’t draw a straight line?

The Loring Park ducks keep laughing.
She whispers “central reservation,”
knowing it’s the wrong vernacular.