Loading Dock Lost

And the quiet one
slips out and down the back
stairwell. I still take that twist
of steps myself but have forgotten
the smell of the rail
corridor. Anyone can die
at any moment. Anyone can nose
around to detect the real
me now that the smoke
has cleared. I can breathe deeply
and know there was a life—and
this is fragile.

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.

Beneath Her

No chance for nighttime
dreaming—a neighbor’s dance
beat disruptions wreck

any hope
of true REM. Her tolerance

for talking to drunks
has diminished
over a decade in reprieve

till it’s shrunk
to the size of a single shot
of espresso

she’s going to sip
in the morning start-over.

Won’t Go Back to the Cellar

An open safety pin
lies on a sidewalk
sprinkled with snow
as the temperature

plummets. She second
guesses her choice
to leave it there. Questions
the optimism she offered

a stranger last week. A weapon
is a weapon. Drunk
driving is driving
drunk, underage or

over it. If she had
a license, it would have caught
up with her
by now. A sigh

and accelerated pace,
pedestrian reprieves
count just as much.

Garbled

When her grandfather paid her
a nickel for each half
hour she could sit still

and mute

neither could know how
her father’s words would evaporate
into close Jersey shore air

for free, how the other capital A
disease untreated might do the same
to a friend she can’t bear to be near—

and stillness becomes

permanent. Even if
she kept those nickels
all these years, she couldn’t purchase

a reprieve
from either for anyone.

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.