The Flats

There’s that bend
in the river again.
Calm water. No flames.
A movement born here.
I lost my mind
just a mile west.
The other side.
You accepted this
new me the next night
when we did our dancing
and drinking
inside Euclid Tavern.
So many reinventions—
yours, mine, the river’s.
I thought we would
see each other again.
I’ve been wrong
about so many things.
Want to believe
you can keep morphing
and moving
unencumbered by a body.
Want to believe
you can still receive
these poems.

June 12: 22 Years Later

It comes around once
a year like any other
with a morning,

noon, afternoon, civil
twilight reminder. The Cuyahoga

River at dusk. A boat docked
in the Flats. An outdoor stage. The opening
act. Guitars. Dance in black

leggings and a royal blue
floral button down baby
doll dress with pockets.

Is it mine? The first
kiss, beer on tap, another kiss,
more beer on tap. Stouffer Inn, magic elevator

carpet. Room service pizza.
Clothes off. Jokes on
all night. Nothing dies

within your reach
again. A child who would be
21 by now is not mine
or yours—is the night’s own.

June 12th

Yesterday was another
one. Twenty-one
years—but why keep

a tally? Yesterday
I heard his signature
song come tumbling out

of that Irish pub
on the mall. Part of that romance
on public transportation

series. The only kind I could know
other than this pedestrian love.
Really that’s all there is

for me not quite
half a lifetime later—so many
of the original players long gone.

The Flats

If only you had come down
that warm June night.
To rescue her

from his leaping kiss, from
herself—you might have deflected
the obsession

from his visage
to yours. Might have cherished
her beautiful catastrophe

longer than
a summer’s breath. River
to lake—lake to river

bed, you might have left her
another widowed
word in the end.

Reverse Current

“Let’s put our heads together, start a new country up.
Underneath the river bed, we burned the river down.
This is where they walked, swam, hunted, danced, and sang.
Take a picture here, take a souvenir. Cuyahoga. Cuyahoga, gone.”
—from the song “Cuyahoga,” by Berry/Buck/Mills/Stipe (REM)

Back in ’88 the hottest heat
wave to hit parts known only to me
for those it was so cold
stories. Post-modern infill spills
onto Old Main Street. The big river never looked
so sad. I would not wade across it
for decades. Just not ready to embrace
that middle seam going all the way up. I didn’t know
the young, crooked one would boomerang
back into my life. I would grow
into the bridge between those two
that would never meet outside
my heart before it became a souvenir.

1991: A Poem

Dream. Premonition. Mortality
begins now. I give him an anecdote
in a letter—he’ll never receive
my gift. If equilibrium exists, where’s my

ecstasy? My sister and I watch boats go
up and down the terrifyingly calm

Cuyahoga. Aboard the floating
Heartbreak Hotel, it’s all so close—
the banks of the river, a rail bridge ahead, the crushing
of fantasies. But it doesn’t happen

that way. The world begins to tip in a slowed motion. Sights
and sounds expand beyond their original limits. I watch

from another planet as he walks up the aisle. A kiss,
a hand in hand. Shall I be so bold
as to ask you? He asks. We kiss
as if the elevator door would never open again. Lovely

feet and hands. Brown eyes that turn cloudy
green or bottomless black at will—not his. When

he makes love, he talks. He loves
those vocal chords. I retreat
to the lobby bathroom to check
if I’m still wearing

my own skin. Is it mine? Still? Indeed.
Gravity is overrated.

I Always Let My Victim Catch Me in the Act

The first time I could have thought
I’d died and gone to heaven, I didn’t.
Only years later would I see
how one night of live music inside Toad’s

Place would be all I ever needed—
one almost lethal obsession kicking
in, another stubbornly tame one sparked
and filed away in a Midwestern vault

for safe keeping. Do not remove for more
than a decade (and a half). The first time

I did think I’d died and gone
there, I took a wrong turn
onto a riverboat and got trapped tracing
a wake aft. To cross it without spilling

into myself has become a new preoccupation
about to break the surface. Ready
as I’ll never be and all other stolen
turns of phrase twisted inside out.

Fact or Fiction

The details have begun
to fade—was it June
or July? New York or
Cleveland? Who were you 

opening for? Was a body
of water involved? I could sprinkle
these memory ashes
downstream into the river 

deceit. The truth: 

I haven’t forgotten even one
detail. Down to the pocket
in my dress, later chewed and torn
by an innocent Airedale. 

The truth? Do memories drown
when they’ve served their purpose?
Is two decades long enough?
What if they float?

Ohio Cruising Altitude

Is this the right number
of times to have lost
myself to this sound—yours? To fly

solo over traffic
air currents low enough
to see each housing

development curl
into its cul de sac
mortal coil, to trace

each bend in the rivers between
Cincinnati and Cleveland—Little
Miami, Mohican, Cuyahoga,

Chagrin. To be high

enough to know it is possible
to survive this state
without losing my sense

of direction for the gathering
of waters. The tally stretches across
the greatest mud. Take me home.