No, It’s Mine: The 13th Stanza

Syllables smash against
the whitewashed concrete floor below.

Now all I can hear is the sound
of someone else’s ocean

in a conch shell I find buried
beneath a cedar shingle shack,

destroyed by fire. It is no accident.
The day my father dies,

I do not recognize my own name.

Letters taste foreign
as rusted hinges

and shallow pools
of savory brine.

Advent of Another December

Tomorrow our month begins
without you, Dad,
to cheer us on,

without the lights
that open windows
to a calendar—the one

that takes me back
to a scene in New Hope, PA,
where you treated us

to a day by ourselves
with you about to be 39,
me about to be 13

(exactly a third your age,
the way we like our math),

and you bought me that teal silk
(never wool for you or me)
sweater, and I felt so grown up,

and you were weeks away
from your jumping off place,
me from my first kiss.

Super Elliptical

cloudy water from a tap
clears bottom up
a plastic cup exposes
the mood I’m in / in
reverse or nothing at all

Moleskine gives me random-sized
rectangular stickers
in random shades of red
a square is a rectangle
with OCD / meticulously detailed

leftover maps
guide me through
every maze you drop me into / you
and your drawn-on
poker face / distilled

catenary arch kilns
nothing is pure
those stickers have rounded
corners when peeled off
what remains

is an outline
of a November day
threatened by rain

West 15th Street

not Chelsea or Tremont
Coney Island or Ocean City
not Allentown or Arlington Heights

West 15th Street in Loring Park
where a 19th-century row house
anchors the south side

where to the north
within the city’s oldest park
the geese and ducks

and turtles and black and albino
squirrels and pollinating bees
and butterflies in summer are

where you and I lived out
most of your life indoors
with catnip cardboard workouts

and otterbed dreams
wherever you were
was home

The Motile Ones

“There was nothing to make a fire from—only damp cold moss and sparse bushes the fire wouldn’t even put in its mouth, let alone digest.”
—Olga Tokarczuk, Flights

The digestive habits of fires
cannot be summarized
with one ash branch in hand.
My cat never got the chance

to curl up on a warm hearth
(as far as I know).
I grew up with them
in every house we moved to.

Even had an almost working one
in that last
New York City apartment
on West 98th Street.

By the time Jackson meowed his way
into my life, the fireplaces
cleared their throats
of bats, not smoke or steam.

He caught two. Never caught a mouse
(as far as I know).
He was a cat—
he would have let me know.

There was that incident
involving a candle
and some singed whiskers.
They grew back just fine.

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