If blank walls are criminal, he’ll obey
the law with a spray can
till he needs a place to sleep. Till walls
become doors that open

onto back alleys
where the sun can’t get in. The spoon
he bends tonight
will be the surface he refuses

to touch at civil dawn. Six degrees
below without hope of a single aubade.


Yarn taggers and their measured
screams along the overpass

wake me before dawn. Or it’s the siren
again. Leftover fireworks, a dumpster diver

slams the lid, not gun
shots. I just imagine the drama

unfolding in a half-spun, sticky
dream. Fences maybe, definitely not brick

walls. Where are the vocal chords, where
does the air get through? No

the end. What’s next? Someone high
on bath salts. What a way to go.

Cleveland Graffiti

Burned out, abandoned with warnings that exhale
on the stern facade. One letter per pane, tagger’s red
paint spells it out for me:

E N T E R           Never        mind

the barbed wire fence, I
wasn’t planning to make that leap. The clock
on that shuttered Romanian community center across

the street reminds me
it’s 5:45 pm
same as last fall and the visit before that. Still there will be
more stairs to climb.

Into Shreds

The speakers are silent
and scratched in their encasements.
Videographers form a line
around your ruin. This is no time
for an apocalypse. These shadows
tower over notes someone left
on the ground. To be decoded
or ghettoized as graffiti, you
tell on the trees for neglecting
us—all of us who still want
to touch edges as we listen
to the ache.

If I Could Have Been Eva 62

Somewhere way uptown
“Bird Lives.” Barefoot
and in love, two dart
through wet cement.
Pen pals will be 

spawned. Stenciled
broken promises, the Bronx
could have come crumbling 

down. But it’s held on
for the ride. When the last
of the writing on the wall 

rolled along those tracks,
I arrived ready
to be winded
by those step streets.
I didn’t know it 

would be the shape
shifting that would catch me
in the throat.

Graffiti Blues

Dark lipstick stains
on the rim 

of a coffee mug, a juice
glass, cigarette 

filter, napkin, so far
from the neighborhood 

of your lips—they can’t be tagged.

Tiny Changes at the Last Minute

Accidents no longer
mistakes. Nothing
about buildings or fences,
not another bridge, 

a scrap of graffiti rides 

out on the 11:45 train. Her net
is small, her heart large. She just wants
to take a closer look
then let you go.


Often scratched
with a sharp object, the head
is represented. Many lack 

noses. Do not require
necks. Absent
or ambivalent emotional
expression has proven effective.
The symbol for drinking does thicken 

for a ragdoll type.
There has been much debate
about graffiti. Iconic
and crudely embellished
morphemes do not require 

general consensus. It all started
by simplifying people
to their earliest roots.

Scratch (Day 2,426)

Graffiti isn’t graffiti
unless she calls it.
On an old water tower crowning
an abandoned grain mill— 

perhaps. “Erin I love you” attaching
itself to the “and then it got
very cool” end
of Ashbery’s poem on a pedestrian 

These messages 

you leave
for her in waterfall rushing
to flow into southern lines—
she thinks they won’t disappear too soon.