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.

Within Walking Distance of 52nd & Lex

Invisible or forgotten.
Not both.

To slip through a moving crowd
on a New York City sidewalk unrecognized,
without falling through a subway grate.

To walk past a construction site
without a glance, let alone cat call,
directed her way.

To ask Siri a simple question
and get no reply.

Or, to go whole weeks
without a single text, email, Facebook message,
phone call to reply to.

To discover he really did leave
to catch the last ferry
without her.

To be given a choice,
she keeps slipping through,
dodging ironwork lattices.

It’s not a cool breeze,
but a steamy, cloying one after all.

Poet = Maker

come meet your poet
who rewrites you
each night
after the local news

let’s the new version cure
for 24 hours
or millennia
no slow death before noon

no archangels
that trumpet rhymes
they serve coffee in stained
glass ruby goblets

no handles
the world goes Manx
for a day
or three hundred

ways to skin
your knee
in a gravel pit

the poem
not the poet
controls the moon

the tides
and women
that’s another story

13 Years Flow Both Ways

The last time
I took mushrooms
I got stuck

under the East River
in a subway car
for more than a half

century tucked into
an hour. More than
just another bad trip.

I wish I’d been alone
with only strangers
down there. Regrets.

I claim to have none.
Then another ex-lover
reel plays

in a too well-lighted room.
No blinds, shades, curtains,
not even a ratty sheet

to use
to cover those outsized
windows. I can’t tell the difference

between fresh and salt
water thoughts
from this view. An angry sun

leads to the worst
bouts of shame. When it’s over,
I always feel a little

embarrassed that I let it
get that far. That I’ve gotten
on the wrong train.

Can’t really blame the guy.
Not the subway, city
dwellers, or even the chemicals.

It’s never the river’s fault
especially when the river
is really a strait.

It Sways Chokes Bends

Wait for me inside
the vestibule
of my inner ear.

You’ll make me dizzy.
I don’t mind.
It’s not you.

It’s that damn dimple.
The one that appears
on your left cheek

when you give me
that crooked smile.
I thought it signaled

your love.
Peel off
the red

raincoat. Turn
it inside out.
We all make each other

sick some
of the time
remaining in

the glass.
Nausea dissipates
when I walk it off.

When I snap
my fingers and forget
to hold my breath.


I forget
to say good-bye
to the bridge
before I cross it.

My silence
becomes the silence
in a field after a cattail fire
finally dies out.

Your eyes
tell me
to do it.

I trade rough
air for rough
water and swim
where I used to drown

before you
and those dangerous eyes.

I erase the horizon
with a cloth
covered in blood—

could be a fermented
raspberry smoothie
that exploded
in my hand.

I spit out
the wine
before it spits
out me.

Just in time
to hear the last minute
of “Night Fever,”

I want to walk one more block
beneath an elevated subway line
in a white dress
and platform shoes.

I want to dance alone
to the end

of a pier you and I saw
but were too afraid
to approach.

I won’t turn my back
on the waterfront,
or pretend
to be a contender.

What are we going to do
when Robert DeNiro is gone,
when the children have never heard of
Greta Garbo or Marlon Brando?

What’s that trick
when the artist draws
an entire world on a stucco wall
without lifting his brush?

Why is it a crime
to run a sentence
the full length of the sky,
but not a pencil line?

Color forgives
the wave its naked trespasses
in the dark.

The wide black vinyl belt
slips down too far now—
I hold my breath
against the eye doctor’s orders.

Because I could never ghost
anyone, especially you, or him, or him,
even if you invented the method,
used it on me more than once.

I don’t know what to say
about stalkers except

I hope they all get lockjaw
and spend eternity
in the Rust Belt.

My neck hurts
not from looking in both directions,
but from spinning my head
360 degrees like a good spinster.

Or solo musician who unscrews his,
places it in the passenger seat
so he has someone to talk to
on the lonely road.

It isn’t really funny,
but we laugh anyway
because he has those crazed eyes
and desire to see modern dance moves

in the elbow
of the man who stands
behind me.

All the widowed words
hesitate to walk into a bar.
No one wants to go first,
to be so alone again.

Greta Garbo would have
pushed one
inside the swinging door

just to watch the expression
it makes before falling
into place.

I might change my name
to tetanus
to honor all those ghosts,
I mean stalkers.

I mean who’s to say
it won’t end tomorrow,
or tonight, if the sky clears.

I believe every day
should be a Wednesday
night in the Flats.

When I find no stage
or maligned river,
I go searching for them
inside my wrecked heart.

He saw the scar you left,
licked it before I bit his cheek.
We laughed till the sun rose
in another Rust Belt city.

Ruined for this life, I hear
a solitude whisper to me
in an afterhours glow.

I lie in the middle
of an empty, one-way street
I love beyond reason
without a fear.

Lost & Found Summer

I look for you
everywhere—beneath grates
and cellar doors
that open onto city sidewalks.

On the Brooklyn Bridge
pedestrian ramp
next to a woman selling
sliced mango.

In the Fulton Street subway station.
Behind that window
covered by Banksy’s (or Mr. Brainwash’s)
“Love is the Answer” Einstein.

In the Hudson, over the underpass,
inside the fermented
raspberry smoothie bottle
before it explodes.

An instant murder scene
impersonation stains
a white room
in the Lexington Hotel.

We lose an old friend
to a heart attack in July,
find each other
at his funeral after 31 years.

Maybe you didn’t want
to be found. Maybe I should be losing

myself in Grand Central
sky constellations instead.