In Search of the Lost Art

“A writer is essentially a spy. . . .
With used furniture he makes a tree.
A writer is essentially a crook.”
—Anne Sexton (from “The Black Art”)

When we were lovers,
I didn’t know how
to wear lipstick.

When we were lovers,
we built and broke
our own code.

The Def Leppard
drummer still
used both hands.

Orwell’s novel
did not come true.
Ronald Reagan was president.

When we were lovers,
I had all the licenses
I would ever get—none.

When we were lovers,
you were thick,
I was snug.

We had no world
wide web. MTV was born.
Mark Zuckerberg, not yet.

We didn’t need replacements. Heard music
beneath stars, discovered our bodies’ perfect cadence
in a station wagon way-back.

When we were lovers,
house alarms went off
spontaneously.

When we were lovers,
eating ice cream was erotic—
didn’t give me stomach aches yet.

One bath almost shared.
One shower together
after three years of waiting.

We got locked inside a courtyard
outside a Brooklyn brownstone
and didn’t care.

When we were lovers,
a waft of ghostly smoke
occasionally hovered over the river.

When we were lovers,
we fought as intensely.
Almost.

We could reignite
as soon as one of us got off a plane
at the airport gate.

Thornton Pool had a high dive.
I belly-flopped off it.
You watched a swan glide down.

When we were lovers,
you would drive me home
at daybreak.

When we were lovers,
time stood still
but not for long enough.

When we were lovers,
we couldn’t keep our hands
off each other.

One letter got lost
for months.
Our timing was off.

Before 1950, making love
to one another could happen
through the mail without touching.

When we were lovers, we didn’t know how
three decades later we might submerge ourselves
in deep water to resuscitate the lost art.

Is It Mine Again?

Dumptruck sings “Get off
my island.” Used to be
my refrain even though
I’ve always known no one

(especially me) can really own
it. Just missed going to college
with one Dumptrucker. Shared a cab
from the Lower East Side to Prospect Heights
early one Sunday morning with another.

An oral history gets written
down. What gets lost
in translation becomes ghost
poems that only recite

themselves under waxing
crescent moons. But when they do,
you can hear them echo
up freshly rained-on empty streets
with titles like “urban spring” and “long live
the lighthouse keeper.”

Staged and Charged Up (Day 2,669)

No photos ever of me
in Brooklyn. Some in Queens—
an Astoria fourplex with unfinished 

hardwood floors. Manhattan all over beginning
inside the helm of the Flat Iron.
The Bronx north of 232nd Street indoors 

and out. Even one on Staten Island before
dashing across the Verrazano Narrows 

Bridge. Where did they go? I know
they were taken
by the tiny broken locks 

in my soul.
But I can’t end
on that—I’ll be the one 

stealing, not having earned
the right to mention it—
the soul that is.