Figurehead Off the Prow

She could return to the man
who dances with praying
mantises. Or, to the water—colder

on the second day. Or,
another man

she hasn’t spoken to
in over 20 years. She sees him—does he
see her? She imagines

how she might reinvent
his gaze. How he would look

underwater when the ocean
has calmed. Or, what he’d do
if a fox started following him.

Now she doesn’t even know
which man she means.

It’s all a wild ride
that begins in a dinghy
her uncle named after her.

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Behind Monumental

A large white dollhouse
with green shutters
on a folk art pedestal
seduces her. Not

those shell-encrusted
parlor memorials, painting
of the Pilgrim Monument, replica
of a whaling vessel. She’s

a little embarrassed
to be still playing with dolls’
homes. Tiny artisans
and a beehive furnace

in a model
of a 19th-century glassmaking factory
could take her away
for a night or two.

Fear of heights gets no purchase
inside a life in miniature.

Imaginary Isthmus

A citrus hangover on a humid spring
Sunday leaves her certain

she can smell the lilac bushes
on an island she used to know. What if

a bridge of land appeared above
the white caps to graft it to the cape.

She would still take the ferry. Would still hear the almost
in peninsula. She would still believe

in separation
over creation myths. And still want
to build her hotel

for pariahs on the clay
cliffs overlooking that wild
side of the Atlantic.

Our Saudade

It revolved around Boston,
the Cape, Amherst, the Vineyard, Woburn,
an entire state—

our common ground. You—
with your accent and clearly delineated roots. Me—
with a brief history,

my mother’s story, and an incurable longing
no word in English
could contain. All of our plotting

and heightened talk went nowhere beyond
imagination. Now that I know

you are back home, I’ll fly

East so we can finally spend a moment
together on this sacred turf. You—

ashes. Me—alive
more than ever, ready to be enough
for the both of us.

No Auction

Mixed in with a bundle of continuing education
junk mail, she pulls out a letter
originally postmarked August 17, 1981. No explanation
for how it made its snail
of all snails way to her current mail box

given how many addresses and lives
she has slipped through in 30 years. This is a poem,

not a documentary on the US Postal Service. She doesn’t
recognize the return address—all but rubbed out
from decades of dodging the dead
letter office. She hesitates to open it
for fear it will crumble in her fingers—sender

identity lost in a palm
full of stationery dust. Swallowing hard, she tears
from the top. Is jarred
by the careful construction
of each letter to each word. Such elegance

from a male hand. She instantly recognizes
the handwriting. It’s from you.

A brief missive. Spending a week on the Cape
with relatives before returning
to another school year of pushing numbers
to students the way someone else might sell the alphabet—
C&M, H, LSD, MJ, PCP. It ends:

My dear, my heart is breaking
as I realize you are gone

forever. Next time we meet, you will no longer be
a teenage girl dolled up in blushes
and high heels. Were they for me? You will be
an adult—I will be too intimidated to touch

even a strand of your hair. Next time
we meet, you won’t remember how
I say your name. My dear, this is life. Trust me
when I say it’s for the best.

All that we mourn today becomes enriched sod
we use tomorrow to keep growing. Or we perish.

Carefully folding and tucking the letter away, she wonders
how she got so lucky to receive mail from the dead.

Lysistrata Dreaming

Not one of your death wish missions
into another war torn land. This is mine:

a summer night dream, sweaty
without covers. The things we used to do

together—drink, run, get naked
in waterfalls, have sex, smoke years later—I don’t do

anymore. A Greek island, Southern Portugal, somewhere
in the middle

of Connecticut. The unconscious doesn’t bother
with these details. Do you want me

to break my vows? You have some of your own.
You were never really free. I might break

down inside this scene if
I could see the right water

fall after dark—no Mississippi River icon,
Niagara Falls, Icelandic wonder, rain playing blues

harp on a Cape Cod cottage roof. No.
Would need to be off

a back road near no one
and nothing left at all before I wake.