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.

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.