Goldilocks Strikes Again

What is that noise I hear
coming from the bedroom?

WTF are you doing
sitting on my bed?

I’m testing your mattress
to see how sturdy it is.

I can tell you have a memory
foam pad, and I can feel beneath

is an ancient mattress.
No wonder your hips hurt.

Shut up! Get off my bed!
How did you get in here?

Same way
I always do.

Reminds me—my father
ate tomatoes right off

the vine like apples. He would say:
They’re fruit after all.

What does that have to do with me?

He also said: Don’t break
into people’s homes.

Who are you calling?

Who do you think?

The police?

Nah, I’m texting Nectar.

What’s so Funny about these Senryū?

Even the headaches
each morning didn’t stop her
from pouring one more.

So many bottles
clanking in the recycle bin—
chimes of shame sound.

They passed out on the lawn
one too many times that summer.
The paper boy’s laughter.

Their story merely
alcoholic palimpsest
no one remembers

to tell till now,
38 years later, with
nitro cold brew on tap.

Anxiety | My Smoke Alarm

This anxiety of mine beeps
incessantly when the battery
needs replacing.

Screeches when the stirfry
heats up. When
steam from the shower

escapes the bathroom.
Is that dish fattening?
What if someone breaks

into my apartment
and slices open
the hemp curtain

with a switchblade?
Is it waterproof?

Toxic? How does that extinguisher
work again? Where’s the fire?

Broadway | 7th Avenue Local

I held the Bronx in my hand.
An old New York City
subway map,

I couldn’t bear
to toss it out.
My left thumb presses

against the black dot
marking Van Cortlandt Park
242nd Street. I hear

the announcement
“last stop” loud and clear
replaying in my head

over and over again. The map—
an afterimage imprinted
on my closed eyes.

That red line
of the #1 train
snaking its way

from the Battery
at the bottom of Manahattan
to that historic park

at the top of the Bronx.
A non sequitur
found on a page

within Henry Beetle Hough’s memoir
in a chapter about his years
at Columbia School of Journalism.

I was 21 and fearless
and hopelessly naive
when I moved there

as a post-college
urban working stiff.
A paltry publishing salary

and an office with a window
on the fourth floor
of the Flatiron Building.

I had no idea
what richness I possessed
as I held the Bronx in my hand.

Number 9

I’m not a nine person, but okay
I will play along for nine innings.
Who can forget the Brady Bunch grid
with all of the family members,
plus Alice, looking up, down, across
at each other—never behind them.
There’s where they might have found Madame Ruth,
her gold-capped tooth sparkling as she sold
bottles of Love Potion Number Nine.

December 8

This day
that tortures and sustains and follows
me like a persistent shadow
year after year.
This is the 10th one
he’s missed. Beatles songs
play hourly on the radio.
41 years now he’s been gone.

Not that my father
and John Lennon
shared much in common—save
one died the day the other was born
43 years earlier. Save
they each shared their birthdays
with one of their children.
A daughter. A son.

Coincidences that blossom
into hothouse flowers
ready to deliver
into late astronomical fall.
Fresh early season snow
that bonds and blurs
park paths into grassy fields
hidden beneath.

A kaleidoscope
of butterflies
collected in a vivarium
that charms with mystery,
delights and moves
once tilted mirrors
and repeated reflection
get involved.

A song to write, or
a physics problem to solve.
If the two of them had met,
it might have been catastrophic.
No doubt, whatever got created
would have taken flight
in a gravity defying blast
of sonic glory.

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.