Incompletely Automated Public

before I tell you why
I’m not a robot
let’s talk

about the weather / how
snow and ice in early
November break

my stride
make my hips
and thighs ache

it’s cold and my best friend
who was a cat named Jackson
died / it’s colder

than I can remember
any early November being
even here where

people escape
to Iceland
to thaw out

before I tell you
a thing like that
look up and over there

smoke plumes
out and about
the old chimney

there’s another one
in use / so many traffic lights
and vague storefronts and

Abbey Road zebra crossings
emptied of humans
and images of buses

never getting anywhere
you can’t erase
and those fire hydrants

that appear everywhere
the bots want to crack
open the mirror

Coming Unhemmed

it’s your fault
the seagull died / blood
red metal boxes that fail
to capture moonlight
till it’s too late
high or low tide
the ocean has gotten so dry / drowned
spits and flooded personal weather
stations crowd this space
you desperately seek to rescue
from yourself and anyone
you ever blamed for needing
to be so human / that wing will stain
the shingle / it won’t wash away
our erosion

One of the Last of the Last Century Cats (in Cinquains)

I find
one white whisker
tucked in the comforter
on the bed where you used to sleep
with me.

Jackson,
my orange friend,
the best dumpster dive find,
we were each other’s true constant—
fixed love.

How long
before I stop
swearing I see your tail
swat air around a tight corner?
How long?

This whisker
will navigate
me through a hollow place
that once brimmed with your life, so I
can breathe.

Tombolo

Chappaquiddick has one
the only one I know firsthand
will I go to Howth Head
when I return to Dublin

I don’t know why we didn’t make it
to Chesil Beach
that time we drove through Dorset
on the wrong side of the road

longing and blame
should be buried
beneath a bed of pebbles
every sacrament has its risks

choices made get nailed down
so quickly and I never learned
how to let the ducks out
so much was left unsaid between

my Polish American grandmother
and me / I won’t forget
where I learned to swim
or who taught me

or how one man could be
so angry / so loving
so arrogant / so naive
so brilliant / so sad

at steady intervals
my father knew
torque and lift are everything
so many flat stones left undisturbed

The Flavor Never Lasts

the spines of angels with paws
are more fragile
than she or they admit

she doesn’t hear the rolling wave
spill into its crash
the wind has drowned

out everything save itself
she can’t even hear herself beg
for a longer reprieve

before daylight hesitates
on its way to breaking
open access splits

down the middle / cardinals escape
out the side / bark scraps
trailing from their beaks

please leave all memories outside / remove any trace

of feeling from the inaccessible
lobby steps / tell
the furnace to slow down

the piano is drunk
again and the chairs are holding
a wooden stare down contest

in the corridor
that trails off / a dream
of flying across an ocean

in a massive jet
with a boy she knew
when she was six

all night dreams unfold
in the present tense
daydreams the future perfect

nothing imperfect
about the reels
she splices together

the boy sits with her
on a contorted tree branch
in his grandmother’s front yard

an arranged marriage
they like each other well enough
just prefer to have his sister

join them on a post-honeymoon walk
along the rocky beach
in search of mermaid toenails

they will have been laughing
because everyone knows
mermaids don’t have feet

their tragic curse to be given no warning

of the scales
that might crowd out
their afternoon visions

Autumnal Equinox

If I dare
cross the threshold
into that corridor
where beauty and expire
dance the dance
of burning pigments
into a different
sky blue.

If I say I remember
when empathy swooned
naked eye to naked eye,
beer bottles rolled
across a concrete floor
to a noisy stop, and no one
moved age appropriately
to 1980s jangle pop.

If the new season
didn’t contain the trapped history
of a slow suicide
I couldn’t prevent,
and the word waste
didn’t fall inevitably
off branches
of another helpless ash.

If that New Haven house fire
hadn’t forced me
to grow up, die
a little, and learn
a lot about how to take
reckless behavior
to a new level
all in one intoxicated breath.

If I take a clean
and sober one now
and tell all the trees
and perfect chill in the air
I belong here
in this season,
then the unconditional
homecoming can begin.

Exposed Triptych Stitching

I.

if she goes any rawer
she’ll be eating dirt again

she can’t remember which relative
warned her first

if she swallows an apple seed
a tree will grow

larger and larger inside her
till her skin becomes bark

her arms branches
toes exposed roots

her heart the inside of a cave
that contains all of the planet’s sorrows

II.

built too close
a hornet nest / a wooden swing set

don’t know which
got there first

tears more from the shock
than the pain of the sting

it hurts to be so out of control
of her feelings

the burning subsides
the Vespa venom won’t kill

what’s left of her
itching soul

she will have to choose
which side

of the commons
to seek recovery in

the street down the middle
mocks her deadly indecision

III.

from the eastern bluff
she spots a dray horse

with a heart
of goldenrod

hooves made of eyelashes
from long abandoned stars

those occupied flames
burn out too fast

she watches in awe
as all that muscle

and localized energy
takes off

over the berm
to another chapter

where the moon will regain
its sway