Toward 26th & Lyndale

Common Roots not the CC
these days. Urban beavers, the storms
of early summer leave barricades

to lake connecting channel paths
I want to follow. I bless
reversible steps—duck and dart

back through without
a scratch. Not going to play pool
in a darkened bar on a sunny afternoon

the way we used to waste
time. I’m still learning the definition

of precious. You’re in it—
and gone forever.

Permanent Pause

Birthdays are present
tense even when the honoree is past

tense. In a year’s time,
I will surpass him in living

years. It’s a lie
that we can’t catch up

to, surpass, one another. I make
no predictions. Stand still could be

a quality of light
or shade of blue. I can see

only glare—no faces reflected
in the atrium wall, could be

a window if
you’re into that kind of thing.

Johnny Becomes You

No one else called you Lester. No one knows
I broke your typewriter—
save you. Who will
call me

Esther now? I see the jumbled
mass of timber holding up the Grain
Belt billboard sign. It doesn’t change
even when the river below breaks
open its mid-sigh

pause after months
of near death
threats. This city moves
to a different cadence

in a dye color you and I
could never find
for that windbreaker
that got left behind. On a wooden stoop
behind a cobbler’s shop.

Everybody’s got to work.
The banging has stopped
for you. For me, I’m left holding
jokes no one else gets—inside out.

Johnny Nolan Died: A Found Poem

Three days later. Can’t sing anymore.
An uncle’s ashes scattered
from the Statue of Liberty. Nightmares
in daylight, cross out drunk—

write down sick. Expected rescue
does not come. Nothing
is wasted in this world—is a lie. A lump
of cold damp earth

in her hand. To the edge, she closes
her eyes, opens her hand. Thin
tinkle of a mandolin makes
a sad sound. Not from the common
cup—not Johnny.

Note: Contains phrases found or inspired by Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

Incense Left Burning

Didn’t see it
coming—this Zen
sadness over the leaving

you. Fear, anxiety, yes,
even anger over a smokeless

sky. Didn’t know
that last flicker would remind me
so much of him

Everything Else Is Frozen Sonnet

On the Third Avenue Bridge
over the only spot
where river flow can still be
seen, I let go

of the last trace
of your voice—recording
of how I don’t want
to remember you

erased. What’s left
are those moments
I could see you
still moving. Those falls

rush on a relentless
industrial music.

Epitaph in Ashes

For Steve

Because there would be
no next time
around, she chooses to listen

to Nick Drake, Sandy Denny, Joy
Division the way he would have wished
if he still could.

Shall We Dance?

For Steve and Colin

We three who sit in a tattered, sprung black
booth on the non-music side

ourselves this. The confusion—
liver or lives, ecstasy
from a handful of pills or arms

from an invisible burden. It would kill
off two, would leave

the third alone

to hold the hollows
of an answer together
with her own hug

she wraps around herself.

A Seasonal Man

For Steve

A spring rain
essence hangs in the air
on a Saturday morning
in October, triggers memories

of any season
up for grabs. We hunt for rats
in the NYC subway,
on its streets, behind

its garbage bins
in alleys. Summer in the City
always makes a statement
to the nose. Bad

puns and monotony
breaking drinks to keep us
warm on a Minnesota winter
night. I came unprepared. You

had no idea what you were
getting yourself into—out of.
On the west bank
of the Saint Croix,

we read through
all I had written
come spring. It came
so violently, I almost faded

dead away
by my own hand. Was it yours
that crossed out

the almost

18 years later—the slow
desperation of a soul dying
to be free.

Day 2,901

No mapping
exercise, no
diapason, geometric
shape speaking to me
while I sleep

will bring him back. No
longer in medias res, he
took the wrong detour
and never recovered
his footing.