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.

2711 Aldrich Avenue South

Still bare from a long winter, my favorite
tree has grown
crazier than I remember. One wildly long branch

reaches across the street
to shake hands with its fellow elder
on the block. Just one

south of the CC Club. I never enter
that darkness anymore. Someone leaves
a black teapot on top

of a recycle bin—yes or no? Do it.
Knock it in. Everything
deserves a second chance.

Streamlines

A meeting rumbles in the back
room. I could be
one of them. But

I like my margin
where I can hitchhike
rides to dark dreams

and musings
about collocating
my secrets with old

punk gods. I could delve
into euphoric recall

from a passenger
side high in a flying

coffin. Repentance. It was those
black leather police
jackets that got very cool.

Jolt

Two lipsticks total
euphoric recall
beyond what this purse
can hold. To be high

above the trees
on a balcony
railed with red
metal is the opening

scene, is the last
time she almost fell
into a black

out. Period. Under
any conditions
there will be
red lips.

Lemon in Her Water

A reminder to taste
life. A gritty pressure
she climbs the old freight

house stairs—fair trade
and organic maybe, these coffee beans
he roasts are not grown locally

in some Minnesota backyard. A transplant,
she will never be as sustainable

as those local boys
she’s chased into bars, ditches,
haystacks, church

basements, the mouth
of the Mississippi. She’s a trickle
trying to cut a figure

worth restoring. Lime
was her father’s choice.

Buds

They’re breaking through.
It feels early. I feel late 

to wake to the songs
everyone else hums. 

I am overripe
to the ones I replay 

because addiction is nothing
if not relentless 

repetition. Will the lyric
alter slightly with this listening 

to make it all about me?
If I can recover 

from the need to be
your you, perhaps you 

will relent—give one
up for me.