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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

She’ll Float

A dab of red
paint or polish
left on a wooden
four-top. Glossed over,

she refuses to be
completely forgotten.
None of them says
good-bye. They just leave

a trail of phantoms
with black
(and blue)
nails and lips.

She doesn’t ride
the train with any of them.

One drowned
in his own
swimming pool
(no vomit)

like a chipmunk
or rolling stone
or unidentified man
seeking a closer look.

She swims
in oceans
and tidal straits.
Always hated baths.