Ursa Minor

(originally posted July 30, 2013)

I could use a child’s wooden foot
stool to reach the last

days of July. Painted red
or a mustard almost

too rich to see
in summer. So much has been written

about April’s
cruelty, but it is the majestic

peak of August
I cannot bear. Such a short distance

to pitch and tuck
into a somersault

down an observatory crowned
hill toward fall. Before

the month ends,
my father will die

all over again, and life will continue
without him. No ladder will stretch

high enough into the sky
to reach all those stars we reckoned our spirits with.

Ventriloquy

If she’s really letting me

speak

for the first time, I don’t know
where to begin. All those stories
about drawing pictures
in the moonmilk
inside ancient caves and rods
taking longer than cones
to adjust to the dark. That’s not how

I would talk. I don’t have a lisp
or thick Minnesota accent, or
New England one. I will sing
quietly about iron
rail bridges and natural rock
formations and the view
from the top. That’s

exactly what I will do if
she’s for real this time.

Record

I always forget the part
where you yell at my answering machine:

If you ever darken
my doorstep again,
you’ll regret it
till the day . . .

Now I remember.
Have it recorded on tape
along with the first words . . .

Not everything
you utter is
worth repeating. We all

risk becoming
self-parodies.

This isn’t some geography lesson
about North
Korean borders.

. . . you said to me
. . . you die.

[Untitled]

I wrote a song
for you
that has no title
I wrote a title
for me
that has no poem

slightly surreal

could be a park after
dark don’t go
inside the theater
has been closed
longer than the lifespan
of most dolphins

or meerkats
ever so slightly

surreal could be a weather condition
like ice
what’s the difference

between freezing
rain and hail
between a swarm

of locusts and helicopters
or bees

rising up
to get their revenge

Water Dancer

for Sheri

She knows every inch of the dock,
every splinter, barnacle,
hurricane-spared stilt.

It is not a plank. It’s just where she walks.
And she knows how to dive,
has been doing it for years.

No easing shore side into the wash for her,
she plunges in and is used to it
before others wake.

This is underworld—closets, caves, shelves,
trenches, forests, hydromedusa, brittle
stars, Painlevé’s camera. This is where she should live—

she who in her heart is a sponge
is a sponge is a sponge.

To lay out to dry, to become exposed
to air, the rising sun. It is her death

to be before all of you. She will never work a room,
works the ocean floor
for all it’s worth.

Metal crushes metal, emergency sirens approach closer

and closer. A muffled distortion
underwater. Leave her uncontained.
She would rather synchronize her own sculls outside a tank

than be confounded by a mirage of roses
she can’t reach without a body.