On Clemens Road Again

Who offers
an app for saying
good-bye without
uttering a sound? Secrets

are sometimes so loud
she doesn’t pay
attention. Misses
the easy

ones. She understands
the hardened silence too well.

Small Rain

It spits
as it sings
of spring. She could start

the season over. Forget
the loud neighbor’s death
threats (sarcastic or not),

a father’s descent
into absolute silence,
a coworker’s suicide

that stings
the skin of all who knew
of him

but never got to know
who he was.

A Natural Hollow in the Ash

Is where she leaves
her messages. There was a to him
till there wasn’t.

She can’t write
away the ache of witnessing
a parent slowly evaporate

on life’s bark
while still being here. Only a temporary
empty, she’ll be retrieved—

dents banged out,
recycled, refilled.

Then she’ll rest in those concave
curves and remember the name
he gave her might mean Ash.

A Proofread Life Has No Action Verbs

The fog in my head
is not the one
in yours
that won’t clear. When

there’s nothing left
to hoard, a crack
in the marble will run
the length of the promenade

till it splits open—
a seam of unused words
packed in the foundation
like worms.

Aphasia Part II

A lifelong conversation winds
around the trunks
of bare trees. She’s left
to support his silence
so he won’t fall

down the rabbit hole. The one
she can’t peer into for fear
she might like
what she sees. Might not ask
for help again.


When her grandfather paid her
a nickel for each half
hour she could sit still

and mute

neither could know how
her father’s words would evaporate
into close Jersey shore air

for free, how the other capital A
disease untreated might do the same
to a friend she can’t bear to be near—

and stillness becomes

permanent. Even if
she kept those nickels
all these years, she couldn’t purchase

a reprieve
from either for anyone.

Sandy Hook Light

for my father

We step inside the octagon
pillar. And we ascend.
Each turn of the spiral
stair breaks another one of your words
from its memory foothold—

loom                           ing
bar          ri     er
in                     can           des       cent
sand           bar
un               der                     tow.

Syllables smash
against the white-washed
concrete floor base below
and dissolve without leaving
any echo
residue. 1764, the year
it was built, splits
open—decades spill
onto the treads we’ve just climbed.
By the time we reach
the lanthorn, the Fresnel lens
freshly cleaned and functioning
into the 21st century, the sky
has cleared for us
to see in all directions—Atlantic Ocean,
Jersey Coast, Verrazano Narrows
Bridge, the Empire State
Building 20 miles north.
In the heat trapped inside and panorama opening wide, whole sentences fly
off our tongues, circumnavigating
enunciation. Did they jump,
or were they pushed? 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.