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.