Viscose

Footbridges are her chalkboard.
She erases the night
with her tongue. No spitting

allowed. If she could write
like you used to
speak, she’d drop

all R’s
(reading, ‘riting, ‘rithmetic)
to make room for one long

queue that snakes
along those unmarred banks.
But she just can’t do it.

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This Inventory Is a Lie

I borrowed a list of resentments
from a stranger

on a train. I’m not even pissed
at you for dying. Maybe later.

I was once—angry—when
you accused me
of starving

myself. But even that rocking
is an empty dinghy

beneath the old drawbridge—
no sail, no wind.

Token Rolls

With that simple placement
of a single red
rose in your tended
gravesite flowerbed

I say good-bye. Still I see
your face, hear your voice
in strangers conversing
as they do their jobs

in your hometown. Whoever reads
the message I attached to the thorn
will know the code
to break your inappropriate hold

on my life. Some symbols
need to die.

Knotted

Graffiti artists or civil
engineers leave
their mark on a sidewalk

outside an abandoned gas station. A half empty
bottle of Coors, one soaked pack
of Camels beside

your tombstone—vandals or care
takers. The golden

section, topology, a field
trip to the MIT Computation Center. Figures
may not lie, but street addresses can

disappear. What’s left is
open to interpretation.

Lesson Plan

If I study the word
“long” from every measured angle
I still won’t know what
you meant or felt by those right-slanting
letters. And with you

dead, those secrets will remain secure
inside a locker
I’m not meant to discover. If I do,
I‘ll pretend not to remember
the combination just so you can

teach me about numbers again—

however it is you ghosts
do that sort of thing.

Hallowed

She doesn’t visit haunted houses.
But for you she might
walk the disappearing

floor boards just to spy the illusion
of you and those insinuations

your eyes and long fingers held
captive for so many years. Creaks
expose only laughter wrapped

around the mystery
of what might have been. If

only those planks had been
longer, straighter,
of sounder wood.

Who Finishes the Sentence

Will drink the new wine. The only conversation
I’ll have this weekend
is with you. If
erythrophobia was fatal, you would have been

a serial killer. Or was it just me?
Not yet vintage, I wanted to be
your only victim. A true enough
kiss to taste the tobacco

before it became my own. I long
to be the person again
who comes along
to stir yours. Though I can’t lick

your ghostly replies, the scent is rich
in pre-fall burning. Hold the leaves.

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.