Speech Therapist for the Angels

For Sheri

As we recall her in unison,
I hear her mocking herself

for the way she said
“button.” I mock myself

for trying too hard
to out-walk

my shadow. She’s been gone
so long, so much longer

than she was alive.

Dimming flashbacks to our secrets
remain safe within me.

How the angels do sing
through their stutters and lisps

to thank her
for being one of them.

All My Favorite Photos of You

Gone. Somewhere on the #1 train
between the Bronx and Chelsea.

I shouldn’t have kept them
all in my wallet. Should have kept
a mousetrap in my pocket.

It had been only a year.
I should have paced myself.
I was too young

and naïve to fathom your absence.
You were the one who understood
limits and functions. No thief

can steal the symbol for infinity
we etched into the ice with our skates
on the Thornton Park rink.

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.

All My Favorite Photos of You

for Sheri

Gone. Did the New York Subway #1
train pickpocket keep
them? I shouldn’t have kept them
all in my wallet. I wanted

some—any—scrap left
of you with me
at all times. You had been
gone only a little

over a year. I should have paced
myself. I was too young
and naïve to understand the infinite
nature of your absence. You understood

limits and functions
so much better
than I ever could. And
the symbol

for infinity could be
a pattern we used to scrape out
with our skates
on the Thornton Park Ice Rink.

Water Dancer

for Sheri

She knows every inch of the dock,
every splinter, barnacle,
hurricane seam.

It is not a plank.
It is 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, roads, the drag
of undertow. This is where she should
live, she who in her heart is a sponge
is a sponge is a sponge.

It is laying out to dry,
the exposure to air,
the rising sun. It is her death
to be before all of you. In performance,
she will never work a room,
works the ocean floor
for all it’s worth.

Leave her uncontained. She would rather
paint kisses—watercolor running—
than be confounded by a mirage of roses
she cannot reach, without a body
protected or unprotected by skin.