In Search of the Lost Art

“A writer is essentially a spy. . . .
With used furniture he makes a tree.
A writer is essentially a crook.”
—Anne Sexton (from “The Black Art”)

When we were lovers,
I didn’t know how
to wear lipstick.

When we were lovers,
we built and broke
our own code.

The Def Leppard
drummer still
used both hands.

Orwell’s novel
did not come true.
Ronald Reagan was president.

When we were lovers,
I had all the licenses
I would ever get—none.

When we were lovers,
you were thick,
I was snug.

We had no world
wide web. MTV was born.
Mark Zuckerberg, not yet.

We didn’t need replacements. Heard music
beneath stars, discovered our bodies’ perfect cadence
in a station wagon way-back.

When we were lovers,
house alarms went off
spontaneously.

When we were lovers,
eating ice cream was erotic—
didn’t give me stomach aches yet.

One bath almost shared.
One shower together
after three years of waiting.

We got locked inside a courtyard
outside a Brooklyn brownstone
and didn’t care.

When we were lovers,
a waft of ghostly smoke
occasionally hovered over the river.

When we were lovers,
we fought as intensely.
Almost.

We could reignite
as soon as one of us got off a plane
at the airport gate.

Thornton Pool had a high dive.
I belly-flopped off it.
You watched a swan glide down.

When we were lovers,
you would drive me home
at daybreak.

When we were lovers,
time stood still
but not for long enough.

When we were lovers,
we couldn’t keep our hands
off each other.

One letter got lost
for months.
Our timing was off.

Before 1950, making love
to one another could happen
through the mail without touching.

When we were lovers, we didn’t know how
three decades later we might submerge ourselves
in deep water to resuscitate the lost art.

Not a Mother Or

To Ohio and back is to be rhythmic
and prodigal. A daughter
and sister from the start. Add
in-law, friend, aunt over
the years. These roles sustained
where that one is not
in any state. Beloved only
to you who cannot be seen.
A plane’s lights flash
in the midnight sky overhead.

Leaving Hoosierland

A moving walkway is coming to an end, begin
here where passing through
is an industry. Will I speak
to strangers, you ask no one. I will
not use horizontal escalators
to get what I want, you state

plainly—rural routes
delineate a grid
unlike any you know now.
You remember how you did the leaving,
a wave from the way back window in the red
Chrysler wood-paneled station wagon

as your mother pumped the gas pedal hard
and away. East to Ohio was never enough. Farther still,

New Jersey, New York, Connecticut,
a town in Southern Portugal. An absence
for something, did you ever know, you ask. Some day you will
believe in the pedal steel
player’s sticker on an instrument he plays
that night in Indianapolis:

“Non-judgment day is near.”

Cedar Point Not Lost (Day 2,160: Take 3)

Sandusky is not merely amusement, not merely
a beer garden, bathhouse, dance
floor where the first lover
would begin to break 

my hope over cold water. Edging Lake Erie,
a peninsula not an island 

after all, Ohio’s tendency for hills. I stay away
to prevent roller coaster motion

sickness—we’re never cured
from the disease
of memory.  What we get
if we’re very lucky, and the light 

is with us, is
a daily reprieve from our inner ear’s relentless imbalance.