Speech Therapist for the Angels

For Sheri

As we recall her in unison,
I hear her mocking herself

for the way she said
“button.” I mock myself

for trying too hard
to out-walk

my shadow. She’s been gone
so long, so much longer

than she was alive.

Dimming flashbacks to our secrets
remain safe within me.

How the angels do sing
through their stutters and lisps

to thank her
for being one of them.

February 25, 1974

I remember the day you were born
and I was told. Our sister
ran up the driveway, shouting
just after high noon:

“It’s a boy! It’s a boy!”

And she was right,
the Ouiji board was not.
She was right there,
you were somewhere
in a hospital I had come to hate.

I wanted you home,
wanted you to bring our mother with you,
so she could play her sacred
organ music again with those tiny
(critics say too small) hands and feet.

I was tired of waiting
for you. Tired
of waiting
for you
to bring our mother home.

But you needed time to incubate.
You were so tiny and perfect.
Shockingly perfect
given how little time
you gave yourself to compose.

And when you did come home,
and you brought our mother with you,
she dressed you in all white
knit sweaters and hats.
And I thought, no.

You should wear a different color—
maybe navy, perhaps gray,
no, definitely black—
and then, and only then, some white
in a minor key.

I wanted to invert the piano.
Wanted the sharps and flats
all white. I wanted
all the naturals
black. I wanted you to know this.

And so when I was told
you were here for me to feed
one quarter time,
I let you know
to reverse the piano

more than half time. I let you know
that you and I endangered our mother
twisting and breaking
our way into this world.

To honor her, we must
keep twisting and breaking
our way
into each moment alive

because it’s better that way.
Because I am so glad
you came home
and brought our mother with you.

They Were White Cedars

I come to the swamp ready to disappear
into the primordial forest amidst cedars that stand
a distance from those dunes where I stood
above it all, eyeing a boardwalk that floats
on a salt marsh at high tide. Pause
and recall a time when I still believed
in the power of moving bodies to speak
out loud beneath the eaves as rain pounds
on the roof. A gray cottage he owned,
or, his family did. The space heater vibrated
all night. We shared peppermints after we ran
along those dunes before the perfect storm surged.

Cries of Distress from the Boom Carpet

It would be a crime
to translate the muffled
trombone of adult voices
in Charlie Brown’s world.

It would be a crime
to dissect any parallels between
Simon and Garfunkel’s folk song “Patterns”
and Uncle Tupelo’s instrumental “Sandusky.”

To make fun of your 14-year-old self
for singing her heart out
to Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide”
slightly off key.

A crime to villainize
your girlfriend who laughs so hard
at your performance
tears stream down her cheeks. Yours.

Neither of you could know
the beauty in that moment.

A crime to believe
all this organology
will bring back
the lituus or gue.

It would be a crime to continue
cursing the banjo or accordion,
bagpipes or penny whistle,
ukulele or hurdy-gurdy.

To forget
how it felt to play
that harpsichord
when you were 10.

A broken
sound barrier
will heal itself faster
without your help.

The biggest crime
you can commit—

the moment you pin a word on it,
everything falls apart.

Paradoxical Sleep (or, What the Living Statue Sees in Himself)

Black squirrels, albino squirrels,
skunks, raccoons, no fish
infest walls, ceilings,
crawl spaces, window wells.
The marsh bleeds in. Whorls

from rushes sprout suddenly,
dangerously as a rogue
eyelash that gets stuck
on the surface. This is
no Cocteau film. This is

my dream to star in.
I’m no star. I’ll be

your Planet 9
for real this time.
I’ll give you a wide berth.
Just let me exert gravity
over some frozen volatiles.

Just give me time
to make it all the way
around in the dark.
No one has seen me
with or without you.

I won’t be demoted
this time. It’s been so long since

I ate meat,
I can’t remember what you did
with the knives.