You invite butterflies to check into
your bug hotel. You never know.

Everything’s in dispute these days.
Mystery boarders may burrow

in the hollows beneath the stairs.
You build over old mistakes.

The copper trimmed hipped
rooftop. The vertical cypress

siding. The slotted
front entrance. You believe

you have thought of everything
this time. A tall mounting stake rises

above the last words
you murmur at dawn.

The ladybug is a beetle
is not always a lady

the way those polka-dotted scarlet
domes open to expose

the real secret: escape wings
that unfold to four times

the size of the mere body. Sprung
free, let’s fly away abroad

before the warning
coloration flames flicker out.

Let’s sip tainted wine by the bottle,
a soft-spoken whisper drifts

through open windows
on the backs of afternoon

gusts. As the sun sets, mourning
cloaks settle into a lone pile

of logs stacked against an undisturbed,
lichen-encrusted stone wall—

without mortar. The only
protection a funeral

home moon garden needs.

As night blooms,
white-lined sphinx moths

come to mark the pale evening
primroses blessed.

Boxelder Bug

It’s in your tree.
It’s in your house.
It’s in your dream

of a treehouse
your father built
for your sisters and you

in a tangle of Massachusetts pine.

Something about an uneven ladder,
an exposed nail, a tetanus shot
before you wake. Its blood

red nymph bodies come to molt
into your closed-eye hallucinations.
The international orange outline

of its black adult wings
warns you not to eat it.
It may not be a stink bug,

but it will stink
just the same if you bite
into its hardened shell.

Will taste worse
than any other bug
you’ve tried before.

Its wants are simple—sucking

on seeds like a whittler
on a porch, carving tiny
plump evening grosbeaks

perched precariously
on skinny branches
from flaming box elder wood.

Some days you wish
you could wrap yourself tightly
in an ash gray bark

to protect yourself
from the hungry AI poets
who creep around

the backyard seeking flat oval rocks
to sun themselves on. Swarms
of them start bonfires

in thickets of invasive species
after midnight as they drain
enough flasks of liquid

courage to plot their dawn invasion
through the nearest crack
in the stucco facade.

It’s in your book,

staining your thoughts
in glorious geometries.
Oh, bug, be true.

Why Scold the Blackbird when Pinked

And she wears merlot
on her lips. It’s no slur
to say it out loud. Not a slip

of the tongue
down the throat.
A little too bright, too

hot for her aging face.
And the boundary between
mouth and oxbow lake has become

so blurred.

And there’s no vineyard
on the Vineyard anymore.
And the wine is

neither new
nor old. It plays both sides
of the social construct

when drunken corpses
pass out beneath bur oaks
on banks

of sleepy winding rivers
on humid summer afternoons
in upper valleys.

And a tongue in cheek
reviver will soon flow
into shakers from a steep

waterfall. And it could be
dancing green fairies
released from an absinthe bottle

cause her to hallucinate
her way into a prairie roof
raising before collapsing.

A stampede of pink
elephants making
a mess of the meadow. Or,

it could be the microdot
she swallows while sitting
on a window ledge

on the fourth floor
of a coed dorm
on a perfect early September

day last century (years
before Teenage Fanclub recorded
“It’s All in My Mind”).

Beware those mornings most

this millennium. Or,
it could be she is not breathless
in the presence

of such an evocative mist,
but merely choking on smog
that stagnant air won’t release

for weeks. Or, it doesn’t matter
at all—the natural color
of her lips, more matte dusty rose

than polished ruby, is enough.

And Other Chambers

The egg that won’t
hatch | the bubble
that won’t rise | the door
that won’t burst
open | the vacuum
that won’t stop
whirring breathlessly | the cement
mixer that won’t stir
or disturb the cliff | the escape
room that won’t illuminate
a clue | the camera that won’t
darken your threshold | the night
that won’t end | the star
that won’t be
judged | the cavity
that won’t absorb
the sound
of your thoughts | the cavern
that won’t collapse
into thousands of tiny flaming
punked-out grottoes | the tunnel
that won’t explode under
pressure | the only
catacomb that won’t
adapt | the ossuary that won’t preserve
your movements | the carrel
that won’t hurt
your writing hand
even if it’s
the left one | the flask
that won’t drip
or contain another morning
that breaks too early | the heart
that won’t swoon | the tent
that won’t sway too much
or obstruct our view
of the northern lights | the vessel
that won’t sink
under the weight
of a breath
of fresh air or other
ruin residue | and the vestibule
that will protect
our wishes
including that everyone
slips painlessly away
in their sleep
when it’s time—
no exceptions


Don’t just
open them,
raise the blinds

is slang

for find your scene
in a painted shoebox.
Or antique suitcase

before wheels

rolled over
every effort to be
real. Gesso

and stencils

and rounded corners.
If only
I could see

a tiny door
swing open
outside my window

onto an eddy

of unknown origin.
With a spectacular
view of

a spiral staircase

modeled after
the wrought iron one
in the Trinity College

Long Room

without the competition
for attention
from a dramatic barrel

vaulted ceiling

or 200,000 old books
exuding that delicious
vanilla aroma from

disintegrating lignin.

Perhaps it could
have been
constructed from

a nautilus shell.

Sprites streak
coded messages high
in the sky

by nightfall.

Back on the ground,
it’s time to draw the curtains
in a celebration of red.


Above a winter
prairie landscape,
the moon

startles me.

In the middle
of the sky
in the middle

of Day 1.

(I learn later).

A plane scrapes

the bottom
of our
nearest, dearest

heavenly body.

Jetting northeast,
where’s it

Sault Ste. Marie.

Montreal. Keflavik.
London. Paris.
Amsterdam. Frankfurt.

Black-capped terns

in flight. Draw
a wider
full circle

beyond blue.

Year in Water

The poems you wrote, shared, then hid
as self-destructing ephemera.

Your words are sheets of paper
that dissolve in water

in less than 30 seconds. A hesitant return
to the office turns cautiously joyous.

Faces you have not seen in two years
bring tears to dampen your own.

A college friend is sick.

You island hop across the Northeast,
from Manhattan to Governor’s Island

to Roosevelt Island
to a collection of them in Rhode Island

passing by Uncatena and Nonamesset
on the way to Martha’s Vineyard.

Old friends everywhere you pause.
Ferries and rookeries and egrets

and catamaran sails at sunset.
Dodging pond sandbars

in a motorboat
on the way to a barrier beach.

You meet your oldest sister’s
favorite local photographer,

ship a photo of your childhood
beach to her.

Gichi-gami and its 191-year
retention time. You swear you can hear

giraffes hum beneath
the Aerieal Lift Bridge in Duluth

each time you cross. You encounter
your father’s handwriting

preserved in a journal he kept
for a poetry class in college.

10 years gone now.
You are finally brave enough

to open the notebook.
“Poetry is life!”

his younger self exclaims.
Another Great Lake

comes into view
as fall draws you out.

You walk along
an old fishing pier

with your other sister.
Wedding plans begin

to take shape for her daughter
as your younger niece

and her sweet brother
are beginning to happen.

You see your mother.
There’s never enough time.

Your friend is dying.

You share nature center trails
and a familiar duck pond

with more dear friends.
A 300-year-old bur oak

in Loring Park splits open
under the stress of age,

rot, drought the final straw.
There are things you find

in the sculpture garden,
give away without telling a soul.

And there were rabbits
everywhere in the rain.

Your friend dies.

You dream of seeing him alive
one last time

in an amusement park
overlooking Lake Erie.

The Golden Gate Bridge.
A memorial service. A reunion

for those of us who remain
to tell the stories—details

a little fuzzy, a little disputed,
it doesn’t matter.

A raven flies overhead
as the fog clears.

Microclimates at work.
Are you okay? Are you okay?

Voices and laughter as singular
as fingerprints.

The first snowfall
before winter is made official

is Minnesota’s signature move.
And then a second, and then

the seasons change.
We drove almost all the way

up the mountain
to see through the mist.

You’ll Never Look at Music the Same Way Again

After watching a YouTube clip
of another 30 seconds of blank screen
while some MTV employee inserts the next tape

into the VCR, I wish I could remember where was I
when that montage of the Columbia launching
and Apollo 11 moon landing flashed by

in the blink of an eye.
Before “Video Killed the Radio Star” aired.
Before riding in the back seat

along the Pennsylvania Turnpike
heading east from Cleveland to Cape May.
Before college. Before everything changed—

not for the first time, or the last.

It was the 12-year-old daughter
of a university president who introduced me
to something new for the planet Earth

those nights I babysat her
in an old mausoleum
of a house in early 1983.

After watching Michael Jackson moonwalk.
Before a were-cat interrupts
a chorus of crickets in the dark.

After watching Prince do the splits.
Years before watching a subwoofer pulsate
in black and white on 120 Minutes.

Somebody give that boy an ashtray.
Why can’t you treat that speaker
with more respect—whoever you are?


She rarely wears green
despite what they say.

No, she typically struts
down city streets and alleys

in black ribbed stockings and boots
with thick lug soles

I would die for.

In her zeal for competition,
she wins over the one

I’ve lived for.

He looks as if he might
devour her whole.

A lust (devotion?) I have not seen
since he and I picked apples

in a faraway orchard
in early fall some other century.

I covet her orange suede mini-skirt—
the front zipper and metal studs.

Where did she find
such a treasure?

They say her very existence
is a cardinal sin. I say

I’m a sinner. Let me sin.
Let me own it.

They have no idea.
I have no shame.

I’m not afraid to look at her
looking back at him.

The M in S&M should be
my middle initial.

The you in Dylan’s “I Want You”
has become so blurry.

The Vapors

Because she spills
a glass of red wine
on her new dress,

she finds herself
in a public restroom. Because

she slips
on the floor,
she drops

a bag filled with precious
amber figurines.

Because the cat
loses its ear,
she races

to a nearby
hardware store

to buy some glue.
Because they are
out of stock,

she tries a corner bodega,
then a Duane Reade,

before buying a tube
in a novelty craft shop
blocks away.

Because she is rushing,
she affixes the ear on

crooked. Because
she starts to cry
hysterically, her mascara

begins to streak
down her cheeks.

Because she finds
herself standing
in front of a mirror

in the same public restroom,
she hears a loud boom

nearby, causing her
to escape down
a darkened corridor

where she detects
the sound of a train

rolling into the station overhead.
Because she doesn’t know
where she is

and can’t find anyone
to ask for directions,

she stays lost
for a long time
before discovering

an open door
that leads to a stage.

Because the band is playing
its encore, she waits politely
for them to finish before

walking on, jumping off,
twisting her ankle

(only slightly). Because
she is limping, a stranger
offers to carry her

heavy bag. Because
he is so kind,

she relaxes, catches
her breath, finally speaks:
“What was that explosion?”

“Oh, that’s the city
letting off steam.”

Because their conversation
unfolds naturally over time,
the last train is leaving

on Track 2 just as she reaches
the waiting room.

Because she finds herself
on a nearby bar stool
contemplating another glass of wine.