Troubleshooting & Other Shelters

Your drought year
is his neverending storm
of waterspouts in the sound
and splintered piers down-island.

Her search for the right river
to rest beside begins and ends here.
Their walk becomes a run.
A mile becomes nine.

The scratch of leaves skidding across
pavement awakens owls above
and a whole rafter
of wild turkeys below.

Soon, they’re strolling
down the sidewalk
like they own the place.
You know the kind I mean.

A jet leads a wedge
of geese across a clear sky,
or so it seems,
till the moment passes—

the plane heads east,
the birds going south.
You break a glass
in the sink.

No one hears you shout:
“Testing, testing.”
Your right hand holds
the red light, your left

lands here
where silt loam
and decaying litterfall
cradle her head.

Nothing will trouble
the waters tonight.

Whoever says there are no accidents
never lived inside this danger
hollow. You both know
what it means to eat dirt.

How To Reclaim Your Own Narrative

When I see
my former self
lost in a dangerous dance—
eyes closed, hips swaying
without a sound,
knees slightly bent,
the same song playing
for the eighth time that night—

I rush to my current closet,
summer clothes not yet rotated
to the back so late
into October,
plan my attack.
I can still revenge dress
in all black
with black leather boots,

vicious vixen lipstick
(remember lipstick?),

a haircut even shorter
than my 25-year-old one.
She may be a sturdy little scull,
but now I’m the oar. She may swoon
and run faster and farther,
but I still float.
And these days and nights,
I go further.

More Fog than Frost

this October.
It’s time
to stop
breaking weather
records. Where

did this climate come from?
Waterloo? Saint Louis? New Orleans?
Where did our old one go?
Duluth? Thunder Bay? Fairbanks?

Finally,
the radiators
begin to
rattle and hiss
at night. Leaves

scattered on the sidewalks
do not speak in brilliant color.
Lots of brown, some yellow-green,
very little burnt orange or red.

I’m fine—really.

“We been runnin’ ‘round covered in gas,
playin’ with matches, oh.
We’ve been runnin’ this thing,
burnin’ it down, down.”

When Leon Bridges
begins singing
“Don’t Worry,”
it’s over
for me.

October is my flame season.
Can’t erase the memory
of seeing those fire trucks
(not red) in front of my apartment

house in
New Haven
that beautiful
fall civil
twilight. Lost

in the soul
of the thing
I can’t quite reach.
I wish I wrote

“the plane
tilted, dropped
and rose,
and the whole
earth slanted”

the way James Baldwin did
in Another Country.
I wish I was on a plane
about to land at Idlewild.

I wish
JFK was
alive when
I was
born. Longing

for that lover or piece of land
I never met. Saudade floats—
never sinks. I will never forget
where I learned to swim

(Eastville,
the Vineyard)
or who
taught me
(my father).

“Okciyapi (Help Each Other)”*

Lost in slow motion
walking through
a sculpture garden
at civil twilight
on a too warm fall day,
you hear someone whisper:

“Niśnana śni.”**

You don’t know the language,
but the land does.
Cool water droplets
soothe your muscles.
Those clouds in the sky
won’t produce any rain tonight.

______________________________________

* New sculpture by Angela Two Stars in Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

** Dakota language phrase “Niśnana śni” = “You are not alone” in English

Bird of Prey on a Wire

A humid October morning.
Your favorite season shrinks
more each year.

Women still needing
to reclaim their bodies.
Your body. How did we get back here?

29 years living
in one city. More than half
your life. How did you get here?

The driver is 11 years gone.

A few nights ago, an explosion.
The lights go out. The music stops.
The owl does not survive.

You’re all alone
in the dark
with your thoughts.

A day later,
you get trapped
on the wrong side of the tracks

when the longest freight train
passes through,
rattling on and on.

The blue morph snow goose is gone.
Wild turkeys have returned.
How did that rabbit on the trail die?

You stay outside
almost long enough
to see the sun set.

You hear a rumor
lumberjacks and
lighthouse keepers

are making a comeback.
Not necessarily in that order.
Sirens in the rain.

+ One Deliberate Pause

I wake to discover an asterisk
on my left hip.

I try to wipe it off.
It sticks to my skin.

A little star
that has lost its way.

This is no tattoo.

I look for the footnote
to clarify why this hip,

not the right one.
Why mine, not yours.

It must have gotten erased
during the printing process.

At least my limbs didn’t break off.

Let’s make another turtle
and frog crossing sign just in case.

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 words scrawled
in indecipherable handwriting
on top of other freshly spilled ones

were 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.