“Do Not Go Hand in Hand the Whole Stretch of the Way”*

Occasionally, we lick salt
and loneliness with the tongues
of forgotten owls. Our heads turn

to the rhythm of another
Virginia Woolf sentence before it flies
silently into the unmuted night.

Occasionally, we stretch our necks
to their breaking point,
the inevitable snap swallowed whole

by our incurable thirst.
Occasionally, we misunderstand
the howling in the distance.

Trees and their wounds, our anger
crowds branches, leaves a permanent mark. Occasionally, we still dream

of touching flannel to felt,
feather to bark, linen to polished
whale-bone, skin to roughed-up skin.

Rarely, we remove these
false faces long enough
to see how, occasionally,

the masks we wear
may protect our smiles
from disappearing altogether.

* Virginia Woolf, “On Being Ill,” The Moment and Other Essays

Box Whispers to No One

in this aubade
no one walks
outside long
enough to see it

gets close enough to debate
the edge of darkness or light
because of it the world is
postponed till further notice

taphophiles say they see
a city of immortals in
the stone a luxury
no one can afford

I hear Mary Mallon
still in isolation
deny her name
was ever Typhoid Mary

Loring Pond’s
ice out day
arrives suddenly
before the rowboat

not the old extreme
cambered pony truss
iron pedestrian bridge
or climbing ivy skeleton

has a chance to scream
into the empty sky
can anyone tell me
where my oars are

a topiary of dancing
evergreen toy blocks
spills helter skelter
onto a brown lawn

fists tighten
into position
to smash the
wooden table

into a
memory of
holding hands

right angles
are only right
when the long
fingered southpaw

bat releases
its grip
on its guilt
becomes ours

milk crates stolen
from PS7 a triptych
of red doors
you admit nothing

as you stare at a photo
of a rebuilt stoop
on Corlear Avenue
in Kingsbridge the Bronx

the city in its agony
another September 11
the city you cannot reach
the city you cannot touch

it’s not shelter in place
it’s still waiting to be
given the name we lost
when everyone went home

Beginning with V

Verb is a noun.
Grief cycles through her veins
the way a tattered recipe
written in invisible ink
signals an unknowable hunger.
His lips numbed by a vacancy,
a wooden plank tilts in the sand.
A green screen curtain
will not return them to another
continent, bring them home.
Scenes from a vacation decades ago
become the virtual landscape
neither can touch.
An outline of her face
melts into a halo
for a Vineyard seagull
perched on a pier piling
before its hurricane demise.
He whispers, “Unplug
every device in the house.
Walk through Minnesota’s Central Park.
Look for the volta.”

She thinks she sees it
in the thawing pond’s deep slate water,
in the ducks’ visible breath.
Ventilators scarce,
vaccine not ready yet,
dumpster vandals in the alley,
violets bloom in her memory
before she lost her sense of smell.

Visitors ghosted in gowns
he doesn’t recognize ask,
“How do you hug a voice?”
One more beginning with V
will not be named
during this stage of denial.

Double Helix: How Did We Get Here?

everything can be delivered
early spring sun sneaks through open blinds
perfect ribbons of light map a path
to a host of shadows
you know nothing of the prisoner
who gets nothing delivered
a loner’s paradise
run amok / what is life

potential in the period
between birth and death
the opposite of this rock
who says it has no energy
like a seed with so much potential
on the verge

they can be destroyed
a curling lock of his hair
volute shells they collected in the cuffs
of their rolled trousers
the aching voice as it breaks over the bridge
they can be destroyed
how many song thrushes stuck
to the branch with birdlime

your mistletoe concoction
pest or kiss or misunderstood
they can be destroyed / the red maples moan
they can be destroyed
novel agents rebel everywhere
in their quest for a borrowed life


In an urban dreamscape, she kisses

your friend full on the mouth.

His lips collapse from the pressure
of it all. Forget the zero:

the naught, the cipher, the absence.
We passed that exit days ago.
The road blurs into a four square game

chalked before the next rain comes.
They read from your torn copy
of Moby Dick by candlelight
not because they want to,
because they have no choice.

Flattened or exponential,
six feet away or she feels your breath
burn a hole in her neck,
the haunting has just begun
to touch your face
the way these lines collide.
Six feet away or six million plus
between her home and yours.


Your anger and fear and
intolerance for being
human are written all over
my face. You swim beyond
the shoal through these tears
I can’t swallow without choking
on backwash salt. Reverse osmosis
and viewshed moments happen.

We’re living proof
death and the end don’t travel
along the same rail corridor.
I hear your voice, Dad,
propel the breeze to slip through
an open train car window.

I am an Imposter

who draws silhouettes of foxes
from someone else’s memory.
I hear screams
fill the empty night
miles from my open mouth.
My throat aches. He’s out there.
He knows. Even his death fills
with low light in this hollow.