Beneath Her

No chance for nighttime
dreaming—a neighbor’s dance
beat disruptions wreck

any hope
of true REM. Her tolerance

for talking to drunks
has diminished
over a decade in reprieve

till it’s shrunk
to the size of a single shot
of espresso

she’s going to sip
in the morning start-over.

Over the Transom

A wedge of lime and one of lemon
in her drink—is it allowed? Scorn
for the drunk who smashes
into her—is it allowed? Reading
poetry by candlelight in First
Avenue before the main act takes
the stage—is it allowed? A woman
crunches on something in a plastic bag—the sound
of almost breaking teeth, is it
allowed? She’s on edge—with or without
permission—even as the sun opens
wide a written-off day. Your ghost
keeps showing up uninvited.

Johnny Nolan Died: A Found Poem

Three days later. Can’t sing anymore.
An uncle’s ashes scattered
from the Statue of Liberty. Nightmares
in daylight, cross out drunk—

write down sick. Expected rescue
does not come. Nothing
is wasted in this world—is a lie. A lump
of cold damp earth

in her hand. To the edge, she closes
her eyes, opens her hand. Thin
tinkle of a mandolin makes
a sad sound. Not from the common
cup—not Johnny.

Note: Contains phrases found or inspired by Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

Day 751 (Solstice Passages)

I don’t remember
the sock monkey, but do
remember our fear
of it. My shadow tripped
over its own darkness
onto stumble

down tracks that no longer
exist. Today I remember
to find light in these
shortest of days,
have almost perfected turning

a corner
into a new moment’s alley
on an evening
you don’t have to carry
me home.

Character to Go

No time to explore
the lobby so make it 

up as you charge
down the back stair 

well. A dry one.
Not a drunk in sight. No mirrors 

or reflective glass
walls to encase you 

in your own reprieve
from the next flood. A drought 

at another bottom. You’ve read
the views bind guests 

to spells of stillness.
It’s not the pause 

in your story. Are you
that delusional, or are you the real 

omnipotent narrator come to quell
the intrusive one?