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.”

DNR—Or Do

I can almost taste
the snow—nothing
good ever comes

from that. A late March double
espresso might neutralize
the palate. Might

not. A family
reunion in August resuscitated
to honor my father. I

never went when he was
alive. How can I
go now? August is

the month of grand
gestures, spiritual releases.
August is

the month he left
us. Yes, I told him
he could let go, but

how could I know
what it would be like
to live in a world without

his heart beating
in it? August is the month
when water

falling majesty just
might return.

Day 212 (When I Am Home)

I am New England dirt,
the taste of beets out back.
I am not brownstone—
not urban by birth. I am

still in quarry depth,
the scent of cars rusting beneath.
I am not ocher—not red
iron ore impure. I am sipping

fresh water from a claw-foot tub
turned spring, overflowing
to Bone Lake at dusk
and warm. But I am not

the moon to be collected.
I am not forty jokes memorized—
not working a room,
timing accent and plot. I am

ready to mark this laughter
the colors of a flower bed
against brick. I am the line
drawn purple—blues and reds

of a road map
preparing to fold everything
I am
(except magnetic north) in place.

Go Back to Rockville

As soon as

we bring
your ashes east
to rest
where you began

as soon as

we hear
the bagpipes grieve
wailing beauty
against stone

as soon as

perfectly selected
hymns are sung,
prayers murmured,
eulogy declared, another
poem read

as soon as

we reach
the engraved
memory of your parents
and second sister—
the baby before you

as soon as

your ashes
are properly returned
to earth’s secure
containment

as soon as

you are
released, I will
begin again.

Move Scenario

She’s going to write another
poem about how she almost

moved
to Georgia. And she’ll use
move

at least two more times
before finding relief

for a blistered left
thumb. This burn—an accident.

An embarrassment.
An encounter
with a flat

iron nothing like the wedge
of a building where her former

self began.
Then the move
back

to Connecticut, then the big one
to Minneapolis—not Athens.

One music town
or another
moves

ahead. A northern girl
in the end—so far.

Pillory

“Lap and drag. Crag and gleam.
That continual work of wave
And tide, like a wet wind, blowing
The earth down to nothing.”
—Tracy K. Smith, from “Minister of Saudade” (in Duende)

When laws of motion become lairs,
it’s time to reconsider the quarry

and what it might hold. She stopped
buying bathing suits when she learned

the truth about limits. Love
lies at the bottom

of the bottomless. There she’ll be—
denying her need

for oxygen. Not a little death.
Not a death at all.