Strays

Not exactly a rip
current but enough of a drag
to rearrange her.

Where are we?
Where’s our stuff?

See my car beyond
the collapsing seawall?

Identifying cars has never been her
strength. A weakened
swollen left foot

finds relief
in the cool salt

water. Nothing hurts
in this moment. Gang

shootings happen weekly
back home. Heads down, eyes
locked in, a knot

in the throat that can’t be loosened
by the contents

of any of those 10,000 +
lakes. By blood soaking into a little sister’s

sleeve. And swimming here
in a dress, she wishes
she could be more lost.

Decade of Origin

I’m no longer
a Manhattan with rye,
the suit with one sugar cube, or
the skirt

garnished with a cherry. I’m no longer
eligible to mix
it up on the East Coast. But
visits taken black

filled to the brim
still carry me home.

Unconsummate

A bed of pine needles
because it’s Massachusetts.
You wear a shirt studded
with diamond-shaped snaps
two nights in a row. I’ll never tell

you how I like the gray
in your beard
the way I told him never
to shave his off
30 years ago. I won’t mix

you up. The music is
immortal. The flowers he grew
were something else.

Another Siren

awakens her to stories she wishes
she didn’t have to tell, she wishes
she could tell 

apart from nightmares she rarely remembers. So afraid
of fire, she wouldn’t light a match
till the pyromania years were long 

done, till the Bunsen burner’s true blue
flame was out of her life
for good. She believes there is no such thing 

as friendly fire. In 1970, a spectacular one burned
the Caryl School to the ground. A stubborn, wind-whipped blaze
six town fire departments couldn’t slay. Falling slate, flying 

glass, then the roof caved in. That same year,
she found floral ceramic remains
scarring a sand lot with vacancy 

when she stood on the footprint of a stranger’s house
of ash a half mile up the shoreline
from her grandparents’ cottage 

before the land bends
over itself toward East Chop light.
It took years for her to bury 

the terror that fires are contagious,
that they will eventually reach the porch,
that they will erase 

the place where she lived
more consistently than any other
till she turned 12. At 26, before she began 

to smoke, she was smoked out
of another home when roofers torched
a cardinal’s nest wedged in a gutter. 

Odds are most people have a fire
story to tell. These are hers. Those,
her father for one, who saw 

the towers come scorching
down carry
the weight of surviving
wherever they choose
to live. She can’t help 

but become impatient, wanting
to sing. And this is how she becomes her own siren—
persistent and contagious, 

calling to reclaim
a loss she didn’t know
she had to lose: 

My father, my city, rescue them, rescue this,
whether or not I know what it is
that is mine, this is mine.