Discard Pile Thief

“We quote each other only when we’re wrong.”
—Jay Farrar (Uncle Tupelo), from “High Water” (Anodyne)

A half dozen
roses tossed
onto a snow bank. A garment
bag with wheels
going in circles
on a carousel

of time. Three
sisters, one
mother, a wife, two
children under
four. One father—
recently dead. A box of notes

for a novel
scrapped without
a plot. A birthday
gift for a modern
novelist—long dead. A bowl
of yellow split

pea soup without
a spoon. Six
roses in the wrong

kind of water.
The dialogue
that preceded them.

All the quotation
marks she saved
just in case.

Ellipses

. . . do I count them
before or after
this verbal thievery? If I live

in the past, may as well revel
in this day come nightfall.
Twenty years is a long time to be

entranced by a voice. The voice. It stops
my soul from deflating
under self-reflexive pressure. The voice

that fills a dark room as if
it’s been doing it
since long before I was born. This is

the voice that invites me
to stop leaving out
the moment we’re in now. Who knew.

I Always Let My Victim Catch Me in the Act

The first time I could have thought
I’d died and gone to heaven, I didn’t.
Only years later would I see
how one night of live music inside Toad’s

Place would be all I ever needed—
one almost lethal obsession kicking
in, another stubbornly tame one sparked
and filed away in a Midwestern vault

for safe keeping. Do not remove for more
than a decade (and a half). The first time

I did think I’d died and gone
there, I took a wrong turn
onto a riverboat and got trapped tracing
a wake aft. To cross it without spilling

into myself has become a new preoccupation
about to break the surface. Ready
as I’ll never be and all other stolen
turns of phrase twisted inside out.

Listening to “Sandusky”

I must learn how
to describe each tiny movement
from solid green to a yellow brushed with red breaking 

into orange without  
these blocks of language. I turn up the volume
when this instrumental plays—sweet 

guitar sings vocal lines, the human voice
at rest. Seductively rich
baritone be still 

for these moments, while I work
on my lesson, a thing I am to practice
with my soul—
without a bridge.