Sandy Hook Light 

We step inside and ascend.
Each turn of the spiral
stair breaks off another
one of your words—

loom / ing
un / der / tow
i / so / me / tric
Ur / sa Mi / nor
speed / ing ti / cket

Syllables smash
against the whitewashed concrete
floor below and dissolve.
Plaques and tangles. Tangles and plaques.
1764, the year it was built, splits
open—decades spill onto the treads we’ve just climbed.
We reach the lanthorn. The sky has cleared for us
to see in all directions—

At / lan / tic O / cean
Ver / ra / za / no Nar / rows Bridge
Em / pire State Build / ing
nudes on a beach
Saint Ber / nard Pa / ro / chi / al School play / ground
seal haul out heav / en
gap be / tween the first
and the next

In the heat trapped inside, whole sentences fly off our tongues.
I can retrieve them later, if you wish. For now,
it’s just you and me, Dad,
on the beam

that can be seen 19 miles
at sea on a clear night.
For now, we are
the fixed white light.


I’m Begging You to Beg Me

You and your cheap trick.
Make that plural. Make that ripping
off the Kinks.

Flattery works. Repetition works
till it gets old. I know
Rockford. I remember Rockford.

I learned to walk and talk
in Rockford. Only it was the reverse.
Talk then walk.

I took my time with both.
Wanted to do them right
before taking them to the street

to become a runner and a writer.
Some say poets are not the same species
as writers. They may be onto something.

I don’t really like to write
or run. I have no choice.
I must do them to survive

like a shark.
My cheap trick.

Somewhere along the way,
all shook up becomes
all shook down.

Somehow the island makes an appearance,
and the Flying Horses will be open
well into the night.

Viewshed & Other Damp Pieces in Storage

Rain threatens only as weather can—
swiping control from unprotected hands
and skulls
at the last possible moment.

She calculates every angle
and perspective
where she can see and be seen.
Somewhere there’s a pocket

of space where selfies get erased
and the smell of mothballs
signals a shift
in barometric pressure.

She must scramble through recycle bins
for old newspapers
to stuff in her shoes
to soak up the excess.

When she sees the Kenwood Water Tower’s
brick fortress pillar straight ahead,
she knows
it will be all downhill soon.

When she drinks from another
public fountain,
she knows the water doesn’t come from
that tower anymore.

It all gets traced back
to the Mississippi.

When she runs up and down
the West River Road hills,
she knows she won’t jump in
to cool off

the way those teenage boys,
without sneakers,
are leaping off the old concrete
and limestone bridge

that arches over
the Lake of the Isles/Cedar Lake
channel. Poor Bridge #L5729
has no proper name.

They think no one sees them.
Think no one knows
how deep
the water is.

why not

discover a bed of smashed
smoked glass chips

scattered across the alley driveway
behind your building

why not
ask why

listen to a murder
of Lyft drivers compare hours

and customer vomit
over strong coffee

try not to listen to them
then give up and lean in

wander through an empty parking lot
at 2 in the morning

why not
ask why not

set up a share table
in your living room

to hold hands with your sister
who lives 750 miles away

your best friend
who lives 1,200 miles away

your ex-lover
who lives 7 miles away

your father
who’s been dead 5 years

visit the future
with a homemade drone

publish what you capture
on Instagram or Snapchat

dance with honey bees
and monarchs

in the pollinator garden
in the center of your neighborhood park

tell the bees
you love them

why not ask why

throw a garden party
and invite only lemurs and genets

flying foxes
and hummingbirds of course

serve only
the sweetest nectar

never wipe pollen
off a long snout

never stop asking why not
never stop telling the bees you love them

inside the pink barrel of a wave

someone I would have fallen in love with
if we had met properly
sings about a murder

not a lethal act
not a swath of black
coating the sky

a murder of roses
as if petals
might become wings

to propel whole gardens
stems thorns and all
to flock overhead

a green roof raised in celebration
a flying carpet ride
through the seasons

a hothouse helicopter
that hovers protectively
over the city at midnight

the surfer's organic
pink crown
survives the ride

Before Off Duty No More

Another Lyft meet and greet gets going
in the back room of the coffee bar
where she goes
to record peripatetic truths.

She would join the group
if she had a license.
If she had a license,
she would lose her identity for good.

She’s a good passenger.
Hasn't puked in the backseat
in decades. One night

several Junes ago,
she hails a taxi
outside Bubby’s
(when it was still in DUMBO).

The cabbie asks her
about her evening.
She tells him about walking across
the Brooklyn Bridge

with a crowd
of fellow Poets
House advocates.

It's the year Terrance Hayes reads
Vladimir Mayakovsky’s “Brooklyn Bridge”
under the western tower:

“I clamber,
in pride,
upon Brooklyn Bridge.
As a foolish painter
plunges his eye,
sharp and loving,
into a museum madonna,”

Every straight woman,
gay man, there
swoons. She is not immune.
It's her first time

laying eyes
on such a beautiful genius.
Even her future favorite living poet
stirs a tad with jealousy.

The taxi driver wants
to chat. He tells her
he likes her dress—
a black and rose floral number

with an old-fashioned bodice
and full skirt.
She's even wearing heels.

He sounds enchanted
by her enchantment
with living poets who know how
to summon the spirit of Walt Whitman.

Everything rises up a notch.
He senses her levitated state,
asks her to have a drink with him
as he stops the cab in front of her hotel.

He can be off duty for her.
He repeats he loves her dress.
It's been a long time
since she's heard these lines.

Still, she knows these are lines.
The medallion number lights up
the way they used to.

Ars Poetica with Origami

her life is a poem
she writes on a scrap of paper
to be folded in half
then folded again
and again and again
till her story gets so thick
with 3D virtual reality
it can walk off by itself
without aid of stanzas
or punctuation
with only density and repetition
to feed on
and dreams of a delicate paper swan
that may fly away
only to return a nightmare
of a mute one made of glass
that falls off the table
and breaks her rape scene in two

body armor language

in this version
I am a dress maker
with a tape measure
wrapped around the neck
not pulled taut

I wear my black tee backwards
all day not inside-out
not realizing the boat neck
and plunging scoop back
might rebound

a white Peter Pan collar
haunts me on cool nights
when I'm not in the mood
to go back there
where everything began

one more garment
to hang
steampunk book cover
to design
boot to unlace

one more open safety pin
to pick off the floor
before it's too late
and another passive aggressive building
refuses to take a stand

one lone tree house
lights up an entire August sky

fall crashes
the eighth month
to drop hints
of sudden
and not so sudden death

soon Bob Staake's hell train
New Yorker cover art will fade
into the annals of another
record-breaking heatwave
storming the ever teeming underground

when the cat scratches your forehead
and leaves a lightning bolt
within striking distance
of the hairline
it's time to resuscitate the mantra

I don't believe in signs
I don't believe in lines
I don't believe in nines
I don't believe in zines
I will always believe in pines

then again the throat
will tighten around
the words that no one says
while these fly out
too ridiculous and free

Bright (bright) Bright (bright) Sunshiny Day

I like to think of us on the island
at the same time.

You, a reedy, long-haired teenager,
sneak off the mainland with fellow drifters
to hitch rides and camp along the Airport Road.

You find a perfect spot beneath the pines
that smell like butter to drink beer, smoke weed,
make up Sci-Fi stories

about naked alien women
trapped inside constellations in the night sky.

Me still a kid, sand in my bathing suit,
I pick fights with my sisters in the wayback
of our mom’s station wagon. We sing along to Johnny Nash:

“I can see clearly now
the rain is gone.”

Some mornings I believe the kiss and the sentence
once lived in the same house.
They had separate bedrooms connected by a breezeway.

It’s August.
The island shines in October.

The car flies through the woods.
Our father will be landing soon
for the last time here.

The whole purpose of a swing
is to get higher and higher.
I know that now.

I wish my mother would pick up hitchhikers.
I would make room for you

between the squeaky Styrofoam cooler
and loud striped beach umbrella.

She never stops.
I wave to you as we drive by.
I swear I see you wink back

as you are reduced to a speck
of space dust that vanishes
as soon as it appears.

Memory residue
leaves streaks on the rear side window
that doesn’t open.

They call this confessional
poetry. I always liked the ritual.

Those upright coffins—so hot and dark inside.
A screen panel slides open. A disembodied voice floats in.
A wild cackle bounces off nave walls outside.

I swear I hear you say you want to be a priest
the way I insist I will become a nun.

Use kiss in a sentence. Every other word disintegrates,
so the body can remember
when we meet for real.

Foreign Body Sensation

I remember borrowing
a pogo stick from a girl
named Martha one Good Friday
morning in a snowstorm.

I pogo up and down the empty street,
addicted to the bounce
and giving in
to motion’s victory over imbalance.

I hear Ian Brown
of the Stone Roses sing:

“see land begin to clear
free from the filth and scum”

So cursed with unusually good
vestibular function,
I remember vomiting
on a Middletown cop’s boot.

That time had nothing to do
with my inner ear.
That time has everything to do
with having to declare I'm one too.

I remember falling a little bit
for the best friend
of my man’s younger brother
(those damn Minnesota boys).

My oldest sister got to have the crushes first.
I got her hand-me-downs.

The friend dares the brother
to swipe a pair of his ma’s pantyhose
to use as a net for catching crayfish
in Minnehaha Creek.

A cataract, a clinker,
a list of reminders begins:

charcoal pills and razors
hair elastics and Venetian blinds
cleaner and Muddy
Waters menus and cocktail napkins

two rolls of KT tape
and two travel size bottles
of nonalcoholic mouthwash
just in case

That clinker in the right eye
was in the left last night.

I know the woman
who discovers a hole in the deck
of the Osceola Bridge while on a canoe trip
down the Saint Croix with her pilot husband.

That is her husband who is a pilot,
not a trial husband
who might get canceled
after one season.

I remember all the days I wasted
waiting for my life to spill forth.

“she’ll carry on through it all
she's a waterfall”