A Dreamy Divagation

My father must have been driving.
My mother preferred not to get behind the wheel
after dark. Or, was that my grandmother?

I always believed Nana didn’t have a license.
I bragged about carrying on
the passenger tradition.

Then I learned she did have one.
My grandfather merely refused to let her
navigate those Rockville streets alone.

So many myths to eavesdrop on.

We are traveling along some back roads
before reaching the Wilbur Cross Highway
en route to the Mass Pike. Headed home

after a day trip to visit my father’s family.
For years, I thought the definition
of Connecticut was “cousin.” Shadowy cut

slabs of schist and gneiss loop past.
I can no longer read the hieroglyphic
veins—pictograms of sinister faces

and primitive beasts—I saw
on the way out. No fear
of motion sickness this late at night,

I tumble into the way back
of the old blue Chrysler station wagon.
My mother must have talked my father

into leaving the red convertible
Austin-Healey behind in Dover.
Too cramped for a family of five.

I always had to sit on the bump
in the middle. Here I have room
to spread out limbs and thoughts

without elbowing my sisters.
Here I have room to whisper
secret stories to myself

without interruption.
Who are you
accusing of humming?

Swimming in a shallow pond
on the edge of an evergreen forest
becomes carving figure eights

in the ice
with skate blades
without falling down

becomes tiny wooden sailboats
floating in stagnant water
on a still summer afternoon.

The car jerks to a sudden stop.

I open my eyes, peer out the window.

No dead animals. No crushed metal. No,

we just missed the turn

onto Pine Street. Everything that binds

those two states together,

my father’s roots clamped onto my mother’s,

begins to fracture, piece by piece,

into permanent divagation.

Note: The title comes from Elizabeth Bishop’s poem “The Moose.”

No Soft Return

She was right to conflate corsages with corsets.

Windchills and ice quakes will not break her stride.

The other woman folds the red herringbone throw wrong.

He drew a continuous line drawing of her missing skyline.

All the action already unravelled in the last century.


Hardened bread, a humiliation. Ever since
Annie Dillard chewed me
out in class for submitting a poem
about rolling one down a Connecticut hill,
I’ve avoided the whole boiling

water bath affair.

Baking—no. Soda—yes.
Can’t deny the benefit
of a little fine grain
sea salt. Never wear jewelry
on the fingers or wrists.

I am pliable. I will look you directly

in the eye, arms akimbo, recite
teapot metaphors, promise
to meet you along
the New York Bight
when it thaws.

You’ll find me at the top

of Sandy Hook Light
the next time
I’m searching for a sign
my father would have easily detected.
I’ll bring a baker’s dozen

fresh from H&H.

Snow Blindness

With the shortest day of the year
only 100 hours away, she is doom
eager for a delicious darkness.

An emptiness that will electrify
as daylight shrinks.

She will wallow in the moment
the sun’s center sinks six degrees
below the horizon.

She will no longer need
to shield her eyes with her hands.

On the shortest day, light
will leak everywhere at all hours—
a most precious blood

to pour into the sky with a teardrop-
shaped tureen turned upside down.

Wearing a wily duende smile,
she whispers: “There is nothing civil
about civil twilight.”

Not a Toy

It’s been
too long. I take
you off the bottom shelf,
wipe the dust from your feathered tail
and crest.

I see
a resemblance
to Noguchi’s set piece
for a Martha Graham masterwork

I miss
that primitive
tent of true foreboding—
no longer on display in the

of seduction,
voids, decapitation,
a biblical praying mantis
in bronze.

instead of spears,
muzzle instead of fangs,
you soothe away the violence of
the past.

I hear
you hum, tiny
wrought-iron rocking horse,
late at night when no one’s around
save us.

The Cardinal Directions in Close Embrace

She forgets how to tango
with the least tern
after it migrates to Argentina.
These winter boots have chased away
any grace she had left.

Wild turkeys dodge snow banks.
Squirrels cackle at her
as she runs by. Is it because
she has forgotten how to tango
with civil twilight?

Is it because the raven appears
demystified in the fog?
She forgot how to tango long before
crossing the bridge—its international
orange her model for taking a stand

against the sky and ocean. A miracle
that such a boisterous cry for help
can erupt from such a puny body.
She will have forgotten
how tango hummingbird mint

clashes with the Bethlehem Steel towers
when she finally plants beds of it
in her coastal garden.
So desperate to be mesmerized
by the 80-beats-per-minute buzz

of the tiny creature’s fluttering wings
as they draw invisible figure eights
in the air. Her own heart races
at the site of a spectral owl
in a mountain forest she stumbles into

on her way back east. Stories
told during a memorial service still linger
in the sloped meadow beyond the way
Ruth Stone would have whispered the last
lines to her poem “The Train Ride”:

“All things come to an end.
No, they go on forever.”
As for the tango,
she forgot
she never learned how.

Two Nights Past Full

the moon illuminates
another time I found myself

holding a wooden box filled
with postcards in my trembling hands.

I was young and naive
enough to believe

they would be addressed to me.

Photo after photo—
London, Sydney, Bogata, Paris, Berlin,

Lisbon, Baghdad, Tokyo, Havana, Mumbai—
all written to nobody.

I dreamed of how Emily and I
might have whispered secret etymologies

to one another under the covers
the way sisters do.

I studied the handwriting in each:
how he signed his name

with an exaggerated loop
in the first letter,

the creative spelling,
the blue jokes, the references

to a heightened intimacy long ago.

Who was this baby, this darling,
this dove, this keeper of his soul?

None of them dated.
None stamped.

None of them mailed or delivered
to their intended.

The one letter he did send me
long shredded (photocopied first

after the blood, before the violence
ensued) is the only one that’s mine.

This time,
it’s mahogany not cedar.

It’s a smaller stack,
representing only cities

in North America: Seattle, Minneapolis,
Boston, LA, Nashville, Atlanta,

New York (of course). This time,
it’s my own handwriting

and inability to follow through.
A lost calendar with moon cycles

marked in red
lines the bottom.

Opened Green Umbrellas

By the time I first met Francie Nolan,
my parents were separated, not yet
divorced. My father not yet

separated from his martinis.
Unlike Johnny Nolan, he did break
free from the incurable bond.

Like Johnny, my father died
of pneumonia. Plaques and tangles
instead of DTs and seizures.

I’ve known too many Johnnys.
I thought I wanted to become one too.
Why would anyone wish for such a thing?

I kept a diary just like Francie.
Still do. No longer any need to cross
out drunk, write down sick.

Turns out no one really cares
what I scribble in crayon
on blank walls while I wait

for the muse to return
from a night out
dancing to the cosmic unthreading

of dinosaur bones. Who knew my muse
would have a New York accent?
Another moment swept off the stoop

by the most invasive species.
All this time, I’ve been smashing

my limbs through an old tree stump—desperate to reach above fire
escapes to the sky.

Note: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn serves as an inspiration for the entire poem.


She’s been trying too hard
to wrap some light
around her little finger.

She will celebrate the fact
that fireflies are actually beetles.

She worries
about the lone wild turkey
lurking outside the ice rink

the way she never would
that gang of toms.

She once considered jet propulsion while getting ready to spend
a night with a chain of salps.

She has wanted to be his
muse when all along

she needed him
to be hers. A secret walk-in
closet leads to a walk-on

part in a walk-out phase
with no apparent end.

No Escape

Even our sun will die eventually.
I had forgotten how cold
it will get inside. How haunting
the drone must be on the way outside in
the galactic underworld. How lonely
for those of us left behind
searching for the light
in the wrong sky. And so it is
with this parallel eddy in the ocean—
another black hole to try to resist,
or give up the ghost as we pour more
ancient sticky water to drink.