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.

Last-Century Tells

I remember Jim Carroll serenading us with his needle
sharp poems from the bottom of Foss Hill.

I remember Spring Fling 1984.
(Or, was it 1983?)

Spotting the old observatory
crowning the top, he snarls

at our impossibly young distracted selves:
You can all go look at the fuckin’ stars.

Some loudmouth students reply:
Just wait till nightfall, Jim. Just wait.

All I catch is
fuckin’ stars.

I remember shadow echoes
and the storms they cause crashing around me

by the time I hop on the back
of the last motorcycle I will ever ride.

Racing downhill in the dark
spitting out grass, dirt, and famous feathers.

Passenger to Passenger

“I am a passenger.
I stay under glass. . . .
Over the city’s ripped-back sky.”
—Iggy Pop, “The Passenger”

I laugh aloud to myself
because I can. Diamonds
are funnier than squares,
triangles more gruesome
than the geometry
of our wrecked love.

I’ve gotten close, closer,
too close to the mouth
of a singer as her earring
explodes on stage. Glittery
shrapnel decorates the palm
of my hand. No blood this time.

I see a man
swim with his children,
tossing them in the air,
so they can make a splash
in the world.
I think of my father

and know he is
there underwater
using his gills
to guide me
through an angry ocean
to the nearest sandbar.

I get further
and farther
away. I spend less
time and travel
fewer blocks alone
in the wee hours

hoping to crash
into your imaginary black
jeep with my invisible red
car. I never know the year
or make, don’t care
who chauffeurs you

through the backroads now.
The Stouffer Inn in Public Square
has seen better days.
Goes by a different name.
All the aliases offered
at check-in crumble into

ruin porn, or do they just
ruin porn. Or ruin a poem.

Or have nothing
to contribute
except the image
of Mr. Barney Rubble
ordering room service
in an urban hotel suite.

I write more legibly—
I’m more legible—
in the dark.

Stations

1. weigh

2. polling

3. train

4. filling

5. space

6. police

7. bus

8. first aid

9. fire

10. subway

11. work

12. TV

13. weather

14. way

And the radio played without station or stanza break deep into another Friday night at the end of March.

Hippocampus

And a broken woman
writes on the wall
ruin in white chalk:

“Daddy, I waited here for you
a thousand times, but you
never showed up.”

Her poems caption
invisible sketches
of skeletal structures.

Become silent
lyrics to an instrumental

with conga, claves,
baritone sax, banjo or tres,
instead of guitar.

Her unspoken words
translate photos
someone forgot

to delete from a phone
donated to another one
who lives

on the other side
of the Malécon.

Another one
who swims

with porpoises
and seahorses
inside crumbled concrete reefs.

Grime Dance Hall

“I always tell the truth,
even when I lie.”
—Tony Montana in Scarface

You were my gateway
drug. My gateway
crime. I drew
on your face
with a broken eraser.
Loaded pistols appeared,
and the word

LOVE faded
under the hot Havana sun.

Voice Under There

The narrator rarely interrupts
the steady drip
of poems
into a tin can.

So unreliable.
She would need
to empty the can
before calling in

the next turn
or swerve
in the plot. Before
whispering details

about the secret
tragedy that will liver
punch the hero
before nightfall.

She would need
to have a hero
to intrude upon
without warning.

She’s got nothing
but this piece

of string pulled taut
and an echo
of tomorrow’s rain
vibrating through.

Ride to the End of the Last Stroke

I want nothing
more than to be
writing another poem
on a train

as it tunnels through
January fog. Who

knew the impression
could cloak
so well. Who knows

where my bare shoulders
will reappear, or when.

Then the fonts—
so physical, so metallic—
will leak precious
angel spit.

Lining Inside

“The held breath of the world at 5 pm in winter.”
—Garth Risk Hallberg, City on Fire

She keeps her pockets empty.
Daylight is precious this time of year.

She keeps her pockets empty.
Driverless cars will give the unlicensed permission to feel.

She keeps her pockets empty.
Thick gloves interrupt her thoughts indoors.

She keeps her pockets empty.
The time has come to make room for winter.

She keeps her pockets empty.
A small bird chirps behind a tree trunk.

She keeps her pockets empty.
Everywhere else is too full the day after.

She keeps her pockets empty.
The wind slips through so easily.

She keeps her pockets empty.
The park reopens before dawn.

She keeps her pockets empty.
Some skylines regenerate like livers.

She keeps her pockets empty.
No kangaroo crosses her path or breaks her stride.

She keeps her pockets empty.
When an actor forgets his lines, she remembers how to scream.

She keeps her pockets empty.
Geocachers lose themselves inside a discovered letterbox.

She keeps her pockets empty
to make room for an exhale of visible breath.