Figurehead Off the Prow

She could return to the man
who dances with praying
mantises. Or, to the water—colder

on the second day. Or,
another man

she hasn’t spoken to
in over 20 years. She sees him—does he
see her? She imagines

how she might reinvent
his gaze. How he would look

underwater when the ocean
has calmed. Or, what he’d do
if a fox started following him.

Now she doesn’t even know
which man she means.

It’s all a wild ride
that begins in a dinghy
her uncle named after her.

With Sloping Shelves

Multicolored book
trucks still roll
into view. She muzzles
herself as she drifts

to a one-room
library circa 1970. Rain dazzles
the surface
of the island. The scent

of Mylar, settled-in
type, a lilac
perfume on the librarian
who reads

Blueberries for Sal
to a circle
of restless children. Next stop,

next town, the Flying Horses
to ring themselves off.
Then it fades away.

Is It Mine Again?

Dumptruck sings “Get off
my island.” Used to be
my refrain even though
I’ve always known no one

(especially me) can really own
it. Just missed going to college
with one Dumptrucker. Shared a cab
from the Lower East Side to Prospect Heights
early one Sunday morning with another.

An oral history gets written
down. What gets lost
in translation becomes ghost
poems that only recite

themselves under waxing
crescent moons. But when they do,
you can hear them echo
up freshly rained-on empty streets
with titles like “urban spring” and “long live
the lighthouse keeper.”

Didn’t Even Bite Me

It was an English sheepdog
on the island. I got tangled
in the wire—cut across
the tender part
of the ankle. Left
a scar next to the skin
I would permanently mark
later with a plastic
razor. On the same island.
And those nautical rope
bracelets with ends
fastened by fraying
and burning. I had
one of those too.

Our Saudade

It revolved around Boston,
the Cape, Amherst, the Vineyard, Woburn,
an entire state—

our common ground. You—
with your accent and clearly delineated roots. Me—
with a brief history,

my mother’s story, and an incurable longing
no word in English
could contain. All of our plotting

and heightened talk went nowhere beyond
imagination. Now that I know

you are back home, I’ll fly

East so we can finally spend a moment
together on this sacred turf. You—

ashes. Me—alive
more than ever, ready to be enough
for the both of us.

CT

Whatever happened to Dumptruck? What
got lost in the Portland quarry has been

recycled into Brooklyn brownstone tall
tales. I used to shout: “Get off

my island” too. Followed by the refrain:
“No one owns

the land.” Thought I was so clever
discovering her getaway

path—used to be mine. You didn’t want
to take it till it became

hers. And definitely no one owns
the water between—no matter

what anyone says. That includes you
singing or talking in your sleep.

Helen’s Hour

Bumping against the half century
mark, she recalls (it’s time for that—right?)
a large wooden hour

glass she used to tip. Did it really
take 60 minutes for every last grain
of sand to slip through
that mouthless bottle

neck? She imagines
her grandmother would collect
jars of sand from the rocky beach

that doubled as their waterfront
cottage’s front yard—a promenade
shrinking into a cool rippled
bay. Not a surfer’s surface. She would be

Grandma’s little helper—eager
to pick out bits of sea
glass and chipped shells

for her own bragger’s collection
to tote back to the Midwest
at summer’s end. How did she do it—get the sand
into that perfectly narrow glass

female figure? It probably wasn’t her
doing after all. But she likes to recollect
images as she pleases to pronounce:

The imagination is not dead. It’s alive
and confidently working its way
into the 21st century. And no creeping

tidal shift will wash it away. Her hands have begun
to wrinkle like that old woman’s. And she realizes
this might not be so bad after all.