To Person, Place, or Thing

names fall so short
slip so far under the rubber mat
I can’t see anything beyond
leftover shadows of words
worried into hints of guitar picks

release date TBD

fireplace flames in another commons
once again get reflected
onto the street
setting another parked car’s
tail pipe on fire

it ends / not well / not the end

of the world
not nothing
the next corridor beckons us
to say something
about this skyway life

snow falls / blows around / wind chill kicks in

gender neutral storms
on the horizon
ones with no name at all
plot-driven beauty
has become so overrated

the eyes always tell on me

I tell myself you told no one
the way we told ourselves
it wouldn’t be the last
tell-tale half skull stare
into the low-hanging sun

wasn’t it a railroad bridge we used to cross

so deep into the night
the other side
would glow
with the most delicious fright
don’t wait for permission to choke

on tears while flying over the blaze

Not Saints Ars Poetica

where did he go

the beautiful boy
with long dark hair and beard
freshly cut blood red lips
true brown eyes

casting such a spell on me
I would give away the first born
I never had
to give away

to be his spygirl
on a secret mission to unearth
the real reason we want
to ruin everything by touching

warm skin on warm skin

the beautiful boy
who shouts

an eye for an eye
leaves the whole world blind

at a peace rally
on the steps
to Northrop Auditorium
less than a month after 9/11

emcees an erotic poetry slam
in an Irish pub where old wine
and new whiskey flow
on a bitter cold Valentine’s Day night

reappears for a sober reunion
in a church basement
soon knocking scraps of exquisite corpse
off the bed with me

warmer skin on warmer skin

the beautiful boy
16 years later
the age I was then
rumors of being found and scrubbed clean

a cellar door slams shut
the blood no longer so red
seeps into the warmest fibers
of the margin

where I have sidelined myself
to savor each stained word
of another narrow escape
near miss / enough

material finally gathered
to do this thing
Annie please say yes
to this lost beautiful boy

Epiphany

I’m searching for the chalk
in a warped wooden drawer.

I’m contemplating a quick plunge
into icy waters

if I can find an opening
this time of year

while the debate over fresh
or frozen rages on.

This craving for peas,
I respond.

I always loved George best,
even in 1967. My 3-year-old heart.

A quieter charisma. The fame.
Whose? The anxiety. Whose?

No pill to swallow
to cure this rock ‘n’ roll

roadkill recording—
obsessively hitting repeat.

If you had done a better job
teaching me those chords

(I got G, why not C?),
my guitar would gently weep

instead of this
unstrung, unwieldy instrument

I rattle to whisper

George not John or Ringo,
George not Paul,

George not you,
the other Paul.

My 3-year-old heart,
I always wanted to believe.

Urban Trace

I had to reach into the wet cement
to retrieve my left hand.

I had to rethink which mark
to leave behind.

I had to fool myself
into believing

I might get away with
no visible trace

till the street lamps
hum themselves awake

to signal civil twilight
and gloriously illuminate all my anxieties,

the 79th Street Boat Basin
and Hudson coming into view below.

Cartography

you make a choice each day
to live west
of the Mississippi
where no family member has dwelled

the reason shifts
with the decades
he’s 60 today and you haven’t spoken
in over a quarter century

some unnameable
silent anguish
medicated with sauce and song
led you here

a river
and the soul
of its second largest city
keep you here

what if next time
you open Google Maps
the home icon
has moved to a location

you can no longer identify
and you have no paper map
to unfold and fumble to refold
as a crooked mnemonic

what if you have only one heart
pin to drop

what if the snow globe falls
off the window sill
and no one’s there
to catch it

would the broken glass
and chips of porcelain or human bone
scattered on the hardwood floor
navigate you

to some island
kissed by
or swimming in
the Atlantic Ocean

Anorak

in the beginning
a real train whistle
some vague distance away

awakens her
to a day
of not speaking

in the beginning
snow steadily covers
rain puddles

to form a land
of slush and chain mail
curtains backlit blue

the fire is dying
no one comes
to stoke it

the room cools
watery eyes
tears or not

numb is not an emotion
neither is cold
nor birds that migrate away

in the beginning
hooded and alone
she breaks the silence

Alexa tell me
another math joke
the tragedy of parallel lines

echoes in the atrium
the blank brick wall
is not really blank

or made of brick
there are no clean slates
where did you come from

you angular piece
of terracotta tile
your clay origins form

the next regularly scheduled
in the beginning
she will hear

Decade

an ice storm
that used to be
a blizzard 25 years ago

walk like a penguin
in freezing rain
while there are penguins left to mimic

what if they did flap their wings
hard enough out of water
to make them wings again

what if they could fly away
from their fate
and we slid into it instead

Minnesota should not be
above freezing
this time of year

I must risk walking outside
or risk succumbing
to the caged animal deep inside

the walls have grown so quiet
we all deserve to die
in our sleep

don’t we
what am I so afraid of

this soft spot for the cardinal
as it carves its blood red initials
into December’s slate sky