Friday, December 18, 2009

Taking Stock

I have a collection here of all the things
I’m not doing.
I wrote them out on paper,
in my shaking script and laid them at your feet.
I’m not walking out of rooms fast enough
I’m not making the right phone calls at the right time.
I’m not taking the right pills.

I’m not holding the sky up or sleeping well at night.
I’m not as far along as I should be. I’m not sure what the date is.
I’m not drinking the right wine or the right tea. I’m not choosing the right life.
I’m not keeping track of time. I’m not staying together.

The list is getting longer
Longer in fact than the days
that pass from promise to promise
like lily pads I’m leaping to and still missing.

And I’m not sure how many apologies
to hand out, folded into little origami swans,
to outstretched hands and shaking heads.

I am snipping off little tiny pieces of me,
to float down the river toward your house
but there isn’t enough left. I’ve used up all my fingertips.
And there aren’t enough poems for that matter,
or presents, or apologies to undo this feeling.
I’ve taken stock and yet again, come up lacking.

You are all just little words that slip out,
that taste iron and rusted,
the only taste left,
and I’m thinking that these days,
there isn’t a quiet pause long enough,
an island deserted enough, a night restful enough,
for me to keep getting up and doing this all over again.

So I’m going to fold up these little papers,
these lists of not doing,
and eat them one by one, till they line my throat,
till my veins are brittle and my blood is inked.
Till it’s quiet enough for me to just be still. Just this once.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Chess Man

The chess man calls to me
while I’m waiting and watching
and trying not to watch the game he is playing.

Hey beautiful, he says with a wink.
Wanna watch me wreck this punk, he asks.

He sits on two milk crates
the board propped up on three.

He gives the other player the bishop.
He even tells him so. Just take it, fool.
It don’t matter what you do. It don’t matter.

Come here, beautiful, he tells me.
I smile and shake my head no, my eyes drift
away from the board and back to the crowd
as if I am waiting for someone.

This is just boring, he yells to no one.
The opponent doesn’t flinch.
He offers up a soft j’adobe and flits his
long black fingers over the rook.

Fool, the chess man says.
Wanna play baby?

I shake my head no.
I don’t play, I tell him. Which is a lie.

Dat’s it, he yells. He doesn’t say checkmate.
He doesn’t shake hands like my father taught me to do.
Back to the pond, he yells after the opponent who is already walking away
If I need to fish again, I’ll bring my pole, he yells and cackles.
He smacks his lips looking to see who’s watching.

For no reason I follow the opponent through the crowd.
He is tall. Dreads. Easy to keep track of in the city.
And then circle back around to see who’s next.
But the chess man is packing up.
He puts his board away with care, and the clock,
the rattle of the plastic pieces.

He lets out a heavy sigh, wipes his brow
hooks his fat fingers through the plastic crates
and shuffles through the crowd,
looking awfully lost for a man that just won.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Conversations with the Dead

“Is it like an unraveling?” I ask.
“No, I told you last year it wasn’t like that,” you say, looking down at your fingers.

I pour myself more wine
but you still haven’t touched yours.

“It’s more like tunneling,” you say, and I try not to look at your fingernails.
As if you have been digging in the dirt for so long your fingers bend back.

I nod. I don’t know what else to say. You continue.

“It’s hard and it hurts. There is snapping, like tree limbs, loud cracking
of bone against bone.”

“A splintering,” I offer, but you don’t say anything else.

“I thought it was supposed to be peaceful,” I tell you, sadly.
“Yes, it’s supposed to be. But what is peaceful?”

I think about what you said again before you leave.
I still haven’t gotten it right, this changing.

It is brittle bark. Crushed snail shells.
Things left un-watered. Everything cracks.

I thought a metamorphosis was always supposed to be for the better
but these days, it seems like everything has broken free.

Broken. Free.
Like bone to bone. Like the snapping back of the ribs.

The soul separating from the body. Summer crashing into winter
with the crush and hush of snow like a hand over your mouth.

Organs packed in ice and shipped off to be sliced down to their cells.
An undoing. An undying.

The dead, undying this time of year. Changing back to what they were,
if only for a moment, just to explain. And then gone again.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Wanted Prison

This is the end of another dying year
but it doesn't feel like it out there,
with a light jacket
even when the wind whips down 75th.
I want it to get cold,
desperately cold
and snowy
which it doesn't do anymore,
but when we were little,
it did and the snow buried the door
and we were trapped inside,
screaming with excitement,
racing up and down the halls of our little house,
until we heard a rumble at the door.
We pressed our noses to the glass,
cold and stared out into all that
frozen crystal. Our wanted prison.
An unknown planet.
A terrible forgotten place.
We would never get out.
Never, you whispered.
And then there was a scrape
and we squealed.
A snow monster, you said,
your breath steaming the glass.
And then the sharp red line
of a shovel appeared.
And the snow dropped.
And then our father's face.
Ice crystals in his beard.
Blue eyes, like yours.
Our unwanted rescuer from our wanted prision
and you said,
No fun, and stomped back into the kitchen
where our mother did the dishes.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Dear Morgan

My sister and I were discussing what to
get you for Christmas and on my walk
in the rain to the post office
I thought of something I could give you.

It belonged to your mother, a necklace,
that she gave me when I was about your age
maybe a year or two older.
It broke over the years and recently
my mother had it fixed and when she gave it to me,
I cried.

I don't have anything else that belonged to your mother.
A few letters. A few photographs of all of us together.
A weathered newspaper obituary.
But that is it. The dry ink of family.
Celluloid snapshots of faces in the kitchen, of food being made.
Photographs of time.

Morgan, you are almost 11 and you don't remember her.
Next year you'll be 11 and a half,
and that won't change. I only had a handful of days,
visits, letters, phone calls, over all those years,
like the first call when she sounded so much like my sisters,
her voice like a voice I should have known sounding over
an ocean of impossiblity. A chance most people don't get.
But I can't give you that.
I can't give you your dead mother's voice.
I can't give you the days, or the few letters, or the phone calls
in a way of explanation about who she was.

But I can give you this necklace,
that meant so much to me.
It broke before she died.
But not before she said she couldn't see us anymore,
this "other family" that we were.
Not before she decided that the wires would be uncrossed,
as they were meant to be and we would all float through this world,
not wondering about being related to the guy in the bank and not even knowing it.

When it broke, I carried it around in a baggie
next to this shipwrecked heart, thinking too much about blood,
disease and the cells of my undoing.
And then eventually I stopped carrying it.
That is the way of acceptance, I suppose.

What I'm trying to say is I was going to give you that necklace, Morgan,
but I can't.
You have a household of things she touched,
breathed life into.
A household full of photographs,
your father's memories,
your grandmothers memories.
Those people who knew her in a way I wasn't allowed to.
You have that.
I have this necklace.
This is all I have left.
Christmas or not.
This is all I have.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Virginia's Journal

is encased behind glass at the British Library
and they have opened it to this page of self-assurance
where she writes that it is now, with the book that will
become Mrs. Dalloway
that she finally found the arc, the water line,
the place where she stops worrying about what other
people think of her writing,

not her sister
nor her husband.

She writes that she has truly found her voice.
And I wonder, my hands pressed against the cool
glass of the Treasury Room,
such a perfect name,
how long did that last Virginia?

How long did the belief nestle in your hollow bird bones,
before it flew away from you. Because you put it on paper
we can believe it was forever, but it wasn't, was it?
The next day was much worse.

New York has your cane, Virginia,
the one you left bank side when you walked into the water.
It is owned by a city you didn't consider
in a country you didn't plan to visit.

This is what they do, this dissecting.
You should have taken it all with you, Virginia.
Tied your journals to your back for weight,
tucked that cane under your arm, a pocket watch that will stop.
All those carefully chosen words, like petals,
inked on onion-skin paper will float like lily pads.
You should have sailed off by that northern star
and left them all wondering,
Why, where is Virginia? She is awfully late for tea.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Season of Snails

-for Oscar

I was telling Oscar the other day,
about the season of snails,
The way the spirals on the shells
which are so delicate, just keep swirling
and how I stop on my walk
to run a fingernail around the edge
and their little eyes on antenna
roll up at me.

And then I start to worry,
I worry that they will get stepped on,
that I will step on their delicate shells
with my big stomping boots
because I am not paying attention

or that they will be hidden under all
the dead leaves that litter the sidewalk
and I won’t see them
or that that a businessman
so intent on catching the bus to Manhattan
won’t take the time to avoid the snails

and they will be crushed as if they were never there, nevermore
and the thought brings me to tears, so that I have to stop at the wall,
and watch them exist in case on the way home, they are gone,

and then I realize,
I sound like a crazy person.
Poor Oscar. What madness I put people through.
I don’t even tell him about the missing organs
the ground teeth, just nubs of shattered white
the red pumping fist,
in it’s place there is just a picture of heart
torn from a medical text
onion skin thin, taped on. My lungs
fat wet fish are missing too. Just images taped up in place of the real thing.

My jaw, broken, knocked lose,
I have only a wrist and a hand
that melancholy holds
and she’s making me take her everywhere in the city
with her little white curls in her hair
and her grip is fierce and cold and
I can hear her silvery whisper in my ear all day.

This is my season, I suppose
and the snails will be gone in a few weeks
but I’ll still worry about them, like a crazy person
the way Oscar will still worry about me,
reading these notes from the other side of the ocean,
where it’s almost noon and time for a drink.

Saturday, November 7, 2009


I am growing out my hair
to my feet and when I look
in the mirror it will not be me anymore.
I will dye it with ink,
darker than your night
jet black and I will sell it.
They will string violins with it
and use it to make necklaces
and that piece of me will be gone.

And then I will give away my bones,
the ones in my hand first,
hollow like a birds
and like a birds,
easily crushed. And then the ones in my feet.

I will lay out the pieces of me
skin and muscle side by side, like memories
of folded paper, undone, wrinkled, pressed smooth
with the flesh of my hands and your hands
gathered together like those moments that we
try to remember
or worse,
like the moments we try not to remember
from ten years ago.

And I will give that part away too,
tied to a rock and sent down
to the bottom of the black ocean.
Until everything I am, has fluttered away

I will be a different woman,
Severed from the reflection you saw
And then I won’t have to worry anymore
If I am still that person you once loved.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

I Don't Worry About Curses

-Good friend for Jesus sake forbear
to dig the dust enclosed here.
Blessed be he that spares these stones
and cursed be he that moves my bones.
-Etched on Shakespeare’s grave

You told me that I never eat eggs like this.
You said, in fact, that you have never seen me eat eggs at home.

But this is not home. This is England. And more importantly
this is a little restaurant in Stratford Upon Avon

and it’s so very old, older than I can really fathom
when I run my hands along the wood beams of the Garrick Inn.

Older than you or I or the other lives we lived before this.
So I am different here too, older even, walking the cobblestones

in my loud boots, creeping through the chancel
to see Shakespeare’s final resting place.

The man at the church says it isn’t his fault.
He says there is nothing he can do.

You tell him we crossed the ocean.
I see your fingers twitch as you want to grab him by the collar.

But he says you can almost see it. He is British and proper.
He says the construction at Trinity Church is necessary.

And I think, well, it was bound to happen.
I tell you its okay. I can be proper too.

But in my dreams, I am not reasonable.
I don’t stand on my tippy toes, to see peek through scaffolding.

In my dreams I slip through the railing and I climb across the pews.
The proper English man yells in the background. He tells me to stop.

I lay one cool cheek on the tombstone
I close my eyes, hold my breath, and I trace my fingers through the curse.

In my dream, I don’t just walk away
pick out a stone to keep from the walkway.

I don’t just glance back and think about what I could have done,
what I should have done, after all these years and miles.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Untidy Life

My back pockets are filling with lists of things I must do
before this trip over an ocean.

I have to talk to the neighbor’s kid so she’ll check on the cats.
I have to stop the mail.

I have to clean my clothes, my apartment, what with the kid coming over,
clean out my back pockets, the cat’s litter.

I’m busying myself with the tasks of tidying, management,
packing all these little moments into their tiny boxes,

packing those tiny boxes into leather suitcases
latching those leather suitcases with metal buckles

Wood crating those leather and metal suitcases and
labeling them with paper and ink till everything is stacked in the center of the room.

This is what I am busying myself with,
watching the cats cry at shadows and pace the room in their anxiety.

Watching you tell me, darling, there is time for everything. Relax. Have a drink with me.
But I have this trip to take, and if I don’t come back

If I slip into the crowd of another city, to have another life,
and I don’t come back to this one.
If I just keep moving, passport in hand, keep taking, and keep boarding trains, well

I just want to make sure it’s neat when the police come to move everything out.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Poet's Book

I hold your book open walking though the Atlantic Avenue subway station.
The pages are so white that the black slashes of your words seem small.

I hold your book open walking through the subway station
cradling the spine, keeping the pages back with my thumb

The way my mother taught me to support the babies head. Always.

I hold your book open walking through the subway station
and lower it, like an offering, so that the people passing by can see

As if they could read it and understand your words
about your brother’s death, and the winter when the snow didn’t come.

But your words didn’t come out. They stayed in my head.
Your song, sung, open mouthed and low behind the rumble of trains.

I hold your book open walking through the subway station
like a divining rod, like a guide, your holy voice, like it will bring me closer

to what I said and what I always meant to say.

Thursday, September 24, 2009


It’s like there’s a microphone hanging over everything I say, I tell him.
It’s not like that, he says.
Besides, I always make myself the bad guy.
Not that I mind, I say, I’m careful to add that.
That’s not the point, I tell him.
You take things out of context. I sound like a nag, I tell him, nagging.

You could do it, he says.
But I won’t, I say.
And I think, for a moment, that I mean it.

We are quiet.
We sip our beers.

On the subway there is a sign for happiness
and right below it another one.
I didn’t know happiness was advertising.
One is written in pink.
The other blue. Like the colors people subscribe to babies.
I stare at the word for so long, it comes apart.
The letters separate and spread like when you run your hand through a spider web.
The p’s pull apart
until they are just pink and blue letters.
Until letters are just shapes
and they blur into a smear of language.
I start to wonder if it’s a message for me.

I want to tell him about this at the bar.
I want to ask him if he thinks it’s a message.
But instead I ask him what order the Gomez albums were recorded in.
I tell him I want to listen to them in order.
He perks up.
This one, he can answer.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

All that Good Water and Air

Our neighborhood was a warzone. And no one would have believed us
out there in the country, what with all that good water and air.

Our parents left the city, so we would be safe.
Though maybe they just settled for safer, at least safer than what was reported on TV.

Your dog got shot with the neighbor’s bb gun,
and he walked with a limp after that.

There were strangers hiding in the woods, when we ducked under the
star rock, we could see them pass through the leaves like monsters.

There was playing chicken, dogging the cars that sped round the bend.
But that danger we created, thumping hearts, panting tongues, slick smiles.

We walked the narrow lane down the only busy street into town,
our mother’s hearts fluttering with caution. Other children had been found dead.

Other children had been found hung. Strung up in the front yard
like they were lynched. Postcards of the hanging.

We stole boats and rowed out into the crater lake.
It had a creature in it. Everyone knew that.

There was the Birdman who would leave his tracks in the snow
by your bedroom window and we stood around it in a circle

You had a stick in your hand and said we were lucky to still be alive.
We didn’t know what he would do when he got us, but it wouldn’t be good.

We made some of these nightmares. Others found us.
Like when the little girl next door was found face down in the pool.

Her hair spread out like little rays of sunlight.

The whole neighborhood migrated then, moving toward the house.
But we sat at the top of tree, our feet swinging, knowing we were invisible.

Years later, the boy who shot your dog, his father got cancer.
Then everyone got cancer. Maybe the water wasn’t so good after all.

He walked down the steps to his basement and he bolted the door behind him.
He laid down on the cool tile and he turned off the light.

They say, it didn’t take long.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

What Can Not Be Undone

My feet fall through the snow, with a heavy crunch, crunch, crunch,
disappearing up to the ankle. All that ice and crystal will not hold me.

I stand by the mailbox of my childhood home, in the frigid night air,
the same spot where you slipped and fell

3 winters ago,

when you went out to fetch the mail for my father,
who sat in his chair, his fingers nervously picking at the curtain.
His nails short, his skin anxious and sickly white.

That winter, when he was sick,
no, sicker, because that is how this story goes,
you slipped on the ice and landed with a heavy thud on your back
at the top of my quiet street. The wind was knocked out of you.

Two deer came out of the woods, their hooves steady
no, steadier, on the ice than your booted feet.

They passed you, the bigger one with antlers held low
gave you a cautious look as if you were an enemy laying prostrate
your weapon, perhaps your arm,

and they crossed through the yard, balancing on the snow
their noses dangerously close to the ground.

I lay here now, 3 winters later

where you laid, against that same ice, my legs freezing against the pavement,
my heart thumping in my chest

tired from the work of turning back the clock
and undoing what cannot be undone.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


There are others who have died,
and I realize that even when I talk to myself
-- about you.

Or when someone says your name,
which sounds strange coming out of their mouth.
Like a foreign word.

Because I’m used to it only being spoken
by the voice I use in my head.

Which is different from the voice I use out loud.

Even when loved ones form the syllables that
make up the word that I called you, I am taken aback to hear it.

In the dream I had last night
the planets came crashing to earth.

They broke free with a sharp twang
from the wire strings that held them
suspended in the sky

and they smashed down around us,
like boulders left by a glacier.

And the dark night sky turned pink and purple
like a bruise.
A smear against the stars.
And I cowered in fear.
No one believed me. They kept staring at their TV.

They said it was just a television show.
But it wasn’t.
It was real death.
It was a tidalwave of frozen tears.
It was her drowning.

It was a god, reborn, pink and weaning
lonely up in all that blackness
and he was never going to look down at us.
And we were never going to look up at him.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Streetlight, not Moonlight

It is streetlight , not moonlight that you are wrestling with.
Your tag team partner, the double layered curtain.

The streetlight’s partner is sleepiness and the late hour and the fumbling
of your tired fingers. You are outnumbered.

And I am awake, watching you tug at the fabric, forcing the light out.
Streetlight is not moonlight,

which beckons you to stand in it, to dance in it, to get your heart broken in it.
Streetlight only beckons moths who, let’s be honest, will go with any old light.

I get up to use the bathroom. I can hear the man upstairs pacing the floor.
The toilet seat is cold on my legs. It makes it hard to pee.

The cat circles, she cries, too loud for this late night. She stands in the door way
nudging at my pale legs. I kick at her. Not too hard but hard enough.

She doesn’t go away. She cries some more. She wants food. She wants love.
I tell her, Be Quiet. I hiss it. I want her to understand my language.

She doesn’t understand. She cries some more, trying to speak my language.
Like a baby cries, exhibiting only need, not understanding. Not words.

You are back in bed, facing the other way.
The streetlight is gone, mostly. You have won, mostly.

The cat has followed me back into the room.
She is still crying but I pretend not to understand.

I watch the curtain slip, and the streetlight creep up the wall,
like a flood line. You have lost. But you don’t know, yet.

I have lost too. The cat has lost. Only the blue-ish white light of the streetlight
has won. It stands out there on the street, alone, just trying to keep everyone safe.

Trapped in its nocturnal guardianship, just trying to keep everyone safe.
Just doing its job. But it’s an impossible job. Eventually it will lose, too.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Silence is a Lonely Place

Silence is a lonely place
an island teeming with one tree
sitting bare in my palm.

Silence is the space where we come together
and apart between heartbeats
and through the black rock of your garden.

Silence is my city past the notion of space,
where my feet drop through the door in the floor
the soft part where I slip through the molecules.

Silence is this breathing underwater
this crash-landing
this hum and tremble of succumbing to gravity.

Silence is you on a hilltop,
dirt on your jeans,
under your nails.

Silence is space
like love is space
like music is the undoing, the eating of space.

Silence is temporal
the words that hover over your head seconds after you said them
floating like black and white birds.

Silence is heartache
and need. It is the mouth stretched open
the teeth a gateway, the tongue a captured creature.

Silence is what I keep in a locket.
What I give the living and the dead, and the half-born and the never-gone
and the wood and the aluminum and the saltwater and the steel.

It is what I give.
It is all I ever give
and it is always misunderstood.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Necklace

I remember the day your necklace broke
and the beads fell in slow motion
like her fingers
like rotten fruit
like suicide jumpers
like all those things that have rolled away from me.

I picked up what I could,
and closed it in a little box

and years later,
after your death,

the jeweler passed it back to me
and I wondered how he could do
such delicate work
with such fat fingers

and then I closed it
back in a little box
because there was nothing left now.

Monday, August 31, 2009


Not that I am the authority or anything
but we were talking about it
and I said that yes, I think I know a thing or two
about confessional poetry
about slipping out from behind the curtain,
clothed in only my hands,
pink and voyeuristic
but I don’t pretend to be an authority.

No those Kings and Queens
and sleepy Princes, have their thrones
in the canon. They have turned themselves
inside out.
I’m just saying that I have at time,
ripped out the still beating heart
of me
and my sisters,
my parents,
my lovers
and thrown it down for you to see.
I have smeared the blood on the table top.
I have traced my name in the mud and crushed snail shells.
I have sat naked and shivering, hating all that flesh
in the bare board Catholic confessional
and whispered my secrets through the mesh
to all of you, dressed in priest’s white
with thick fingers and clean clipped nails.

And here is tonight’s:

Last night,
after talking about new jeans,
and my father’s health
and my parents vacation
and movies and weather
and everything was winding down
the phone hot against the side of my face
when she said,
“Honey are you still getting mammograms?
You know you should still get them.
I’m going tomorrow. When was your last one?”

and I wonder why now,
at the end does this have to come up?
There will never be an end to the things we are forced to talk about.

So I tell her “yes, of course,”
even though it is a lie and I tell her I have a fall appointment,
even though I don’t
because I want to get off the phone
because I have nothing left to say about this
and because I also want to tell her what she wants to hear
so that she can believe we can hold back this tidal wave
of deterioration by doing the things we are supposed to do.
As if by locking the front door and making sure the range is off
before we go to bed, we will all be sure to wake up into the next day.

I tell her “yes” also because I am tired
and I want to get back to my glass of wine
my book
and my Sunday night.

Forgive me,
for I have sinned.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Throwing Bones

And there we were, finally
after what felt like years of separation
and Dan was telling tales of Morocco and
Venice and Korea
and I watched my husband sit on the balcony
his legs propped up, the wine in his hand,
each time he blinked he fell in love with this city all over again,

just as I fall in love with both of you all over again,
my boys,
my oldest of friends, my deepest of loves.

We are the bone throwers,
we are the magi
we circled the chairs so we were near the
cool breeze blowing off Houston Street
and we let the music play and play
in the darkening studio.
We chased away the bad feelings.
We chased away bloody ex-lovers
with stolen keys.
We chased away chastising family.
We chased away work and
brought out the spell books,
the sketches,
the wine,
the rum,
the poetry,
the Arabic line,
the music,
the bones,
the rings,
the Korean fans, the snail shells,
the Pink Life, the translucency,
the glasses all in a circle as proof that we were here,
like a still life of art imitating life imitating art.

We are the Fauves, the wild things with our terrible
roars and our terrible claws.
We are the tricksters.
We are the tide,
we come together and come apart
and come together. And this is the way it will always be.

And when we left that night, all howls and laughter,
we carried beers in our back pockets
as if the world and their silly rules
were inches below us,
just as the concrete was still inches
below our floating feet.
Just as the dawn was still hours away,
frozen and still
and we knew it would come,
the night would end,
but not yet.
Not just yet.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Do You

He’s yelling into the phone.
He already called her a bitch,
and a fucking bitch just to add clarity.

I’m trying to read my book
and failing
and I can hear her voice on the other end,
hollow and reedy
like a bird’s bones, splintered
after listening to this noise for so long
and she’s pleading with him, shrill,
frantic, her panic beating just outside her skin.

He tells her
“Do you”
and he means for her to stop worrying about him
and start worrying about herself. To Do Herself. You Do You.
Like it’s that simple.
And I feel the weight of every woman
trapped inside these men,
flood into this subway car as the doors close.
Do You.
What a horrible phrase
as if her life weren’t her own
and I want to smack that phone out of his hand
and remind him of the prison he has built
out of his screaming
out of his jealousy and madness.
I want to remind him that Men
like him, help create Women like her.
I want to remind him that need is a two way street.

And he’s threatening to hang up.
And I just wish he would,
because somewhere she is strangling herself
locked in his room like another decoration,
her fingers trembling,
her mouth slack.
And if he hangs up maybe she'll open the door
and keep walking till she reaches the water,
where she can start over.

But she doesn’t.
They never do.

“Do you,”
he cries and stomps down the subway car
and I feel myself shake with anger at both of them
and I feel the helplessness
the kind of nakedness I once had,
but don’t anymore.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Tiny Kitchen

It’s like a battlefield
or an operating table
or a stage.
Yes, a stage,
and we do this little intimate dance
and sometimes we get it right, and you pass
with the hot pan in your oven-mitted hands
right as I close the refrigerator door
and it’s a fluid ballet. The audience claps
And sometimes we get it wrong
and something gets dropped
or someone get burned
or the someone’s toes get stepped on.
The audience boos.

I make us another drink.
I set the table.

By now we have stopped talking about work
for the most part
and writing
for the most part
and it’s only
Monday and we are already planning our weekend.

Our whole 12 years we have had
tiny kitchens, where we bump into one another.
And we have filled the white cabinets
and the freezer.
When the cabinets are bare, you worry.
You tell me,
“Don’t worry, I’m going to the store.”
You tell me,
“There will be food. I promise.”

Because food is important.
And what we have for dinner each night is important.
It has a way of taking away what went wrong that day.
The bad day at work.
The bad writing morning.
The bad week ahead.

We still make whole meals,
like our mothers did,
before they got old,
caring for and cleaning up after their men.

We still cook, like America used cook,
as a solvent,
as a release,
to prove that we can build something real
and nourishing.

I cut tomatoes,
and you tell me to be careful
because you think I hold the knife too close to my fingers.
You stir the chicken in the pan.

For now, we stopped worrying so much
about money.
About how it comes and how it goes
and how it settles.
Now we dance around tiny kitchens
in the heat,
with the Beatles on,
and I turn on the fan for dinner
and we eat
in the heat
and you make us another drink after
and we keep the blinds closed
till the sun goes down,
full bellied
and sleepy.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Kangaroo Song

They don’t say kangaroo,
I realized that now,
it’s a mantra,
jai guru dava
but back then it sounded just like kangaroo dava.

Back when I was sitting cross-legged on the floor of my dorm.
Back when I took enough pills to keep my eyes open all night
because when they closed I couldn’t stop thinking of his slender back,
the smell of his dorm, the corner of his desk so terribly close to my eye,
like a threat.
The sound of him locking the door.

But here on the floor,
I was untouchable,
the small cd player right next to me
the door bolted
and re-bolted
my roommate away for the weekend,
my veins jittering
hitting repeat
for the 17th time
for the 18th time,

just to hear
that “nothing’s gonna change my world.”
Played over and over again,
my own mantra,
until it started to feel true
and I dug a big hole
and dumped my fear down it.

And nothing was fixed,
I still jump at shadows
and I still worry about the door,
I still get scared in the dark
14 years later,
but I’m still here aren’t I?
That part, if nothing else, didn’t change.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Muse

Daniel sends me one last little letter
that he is between nowhere and here
between the past and the present.
That he has left behind the sinking city
and on his last night as the Artist
at his show,
he asked the question that he asked me
months ago.

Does the muse choose the artist or does the artist
choose the muse?

And he was writing me to tell me that
the painters said it was a little of both,
a partnership
but that all the other writers,
at his table,
they all agreed with me.

That we wait patiently for them,
and they come and go like fickle little leprechauns
That we have all known so many in our lives,
all our old heartbreak, scars, laughter recorded on a 6 inch.

And I think to myself, of course the other writers said that too.
None of us are original.
Not any more.

We run around telling people “I love you”
when we mean “turn out the light,”
so says one writer.
We cower at the terrible beauty of lighting
when it hits the mountains and rocks our little boat.
We feel the things that happen to us with a distance,
like looking through the wrong end of a spyglass
so that later we’ll know exactly how it felt
and get it down in ink.

We drink and we fuck
and we fight about high art and low art
and we are all jealous of painters
with their thick fingers and their stained cheeks.
but Original,
is a Muse that left a long time ago
and now lives out her days,
aboard a cruise ship
just south of Fiji
sipping orange drinks and doing nothing at all.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

I Am Choosing Engagement

- Underneath all proclivities and responses to life however is a substratum of fear and suffering. It can be engaged with or it can be ignored, but it is there nonetheless.
-Deborah Barlow

It’s empty
stubbornly, violently empty,
this hole I keep tossing
myself into,
parts of me,
hair, fingers especially
eyelids, nails,
my tongue
the things I think I can
do without and still
get by on the street without jeers.
I have a whole bucket of parts here,
slopping around the slaughterhouse floor.
But that hole,
that whole hole,
isn’t filling.
I’m ripping out the narrative
and laying it to dry,
next to my skin,
flipped inside out
so you can see the words backwards here,
on this beach
where I’ve lost my way.

And the part of my brain
that is still working
in cool starts and stutters
has finally figured out what
this is,
these marks on my skin,
this black under my nails,
this spasm from the wrist,

It is the discomfort of being,
an existence that some of us
are disused to,
that cannot be tempered
by toys, or travel.
A voice that is always
there, telling us,
(not you of course,
this doesn’t apply to everyone),
but telling those of us,
who eat our hair,
or carve little messages
in our skin,
that our choice,
our only choice
is engagement or ignorance
and that all the bits of you
you leave behind,
in vain,
aren’t making any difference at all.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Francis Bacon Told the Truth

It’s all teeth and fangs at first,
then there is the bone,
snatches of white against the blood,
that goes on for too long
and comes right out the back
and then finally the glass boxes
that you have got them all trapped in
so that their screams are echoed back at
them for a thousand years.

This is the song.
This is the only song you sung.

And I’m here, trying to scour
the eyeless heads
and the bent bodies
for the story you are telling
cause it feels like a dream
I forgot to have
like a daymare that I live some days
especially in the heat

and then it happened.
The whining child,
the bitchy mother,
the disgruntled father.
And then it escalated,
the stern docent,
the irate father,
the crowd parting
and their fangs came out.
Someone used the word asshole,
which echoed in the hushed museum walls
and someone used the word civil.
Someone said “it’s a museum, sir, please act decent.”

And I almost had to laugh out loud, Frankie
cause there it was,
come to life,
the human as animal
and nothing more,
the screeching, fang bearing,
chest thumping animal.
The baboon you made human
The pope you animalized.

This was everything you were painting.
As if the madness of you was possessive.

This was the chorus of your song.
And I stretched,
and moved into the next room
the one where you painted
your dead friend
over and over again,
his skin tacked to the wall.

The Theif.
The cruelty you knew he lived with,
desperate for you, desperate enough to do whatever you wanted.

My back cracked,
sore from wandering through your life,
and I felt my spine, come through my skin,
felt my teeth grow,
felt this glass box I was in
and shuddered.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Francis Bacon, 1909 - 1992

“the man who paints those dreadful pictures”
-Margaret Thatcher

Oscar, today I wish you lived here,
more than other days, when we are just
chatting about the heat and wine,
because today,
was the kind of day you would have liked,

and I didn’t know before I went,
that was it all teeth,
empty vacant eyes,
upside mouths,
skin flung to the floor,
or that Bacon would make these little
pen thin strokes, making cages
around his victims,
that he trapped in soundless glass boxes,
with nothing but their own screams,

and Oscar, it was one room after another,
it just kept going,
and in each space, you felt your stomach
flip like a rollercoaster,
except Bacon made this coaster out of the
spines of your loved ones,
and it was a nightmare brought to life,
but not the kind you run away from,
the kind that just stops you for a moment, in awe.
The kind you can’t look away from. Ever.

And then in the end it was just poor Frankie
all alone,
prostrate in grief,
his head in his hands.
Prometheus was gone,
the Furies were gone,
Dyer was gone.
It was one man alone with his head on a sink
locked in the space his love died in,
with no one left to paint but himself,

and I left the museum thinking
that the word “artist” gets thrown around a little too much
is used a little too loosely by people with nothing to lose,
and that I should work a little harder
that we should all be working a little harder,
at being butchers,
pulling out our vertebrae,
peeling muscle from bone,
unpacking the physical,
and therefore undoing the ethereal,
one by one
tacking them to the canvas
and never looking back.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Avoiding Bad Luck

The summer has found her way back,
like a rotten little sister
we tried to ditch at the mall
but she is here, again,
pampered and stamping her foot
threatening to tell.

And the humidity is soaking
my skull
and the hardwood floors
are drying out my feet till they itch.
My bones are splitting,
yellow marrow and cracked gray
every part of me is hot like I’ve been
pulled from an oven,

but this morning
there was a letter
telling me about my father,
that little has changed
that there was some growth
but also some shrinking
that the nurse says that the doctor
will say to come back
in 3 months
and I remember
that we have been riding
this wave of Luck, with a capital L, for years now,

so I walk a little softer this morning
hoping to pass through my days
creeping across the back drop
so that Bad Luck doesn’t see me
making a ruckus
and crying about the weather
and she doesn’t give me something
bigger to cry about.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Real Poem

It is early and I am up
like it is so many mornings
like I start so many poems

and Mozart is playing on the radio,
now angry
but he started off kind of soft and tempting
all velvet strings and fog
but it turned into trumpets and flutes
too much metal clanking for a nearly august morning

when the heat is finally settling on this city
and creeping under my clothing
making me itch,
making me distracted
making this poem even harder to write

especially cause I hate writing about writing,
it’s like stalling till the main act comes on stage
and I feel myself sweating under the spotlight
making lame jokes
and awkward too loud laughs
glancing at the sidelines
for the real act to come on
to another empty room.

And I fidget,
toe tap
and weight shift
hair twist
and nail bite
lip pinch
and nibble
my mouth
opens and closes
and opens and closes
like a fish
about to read Shakespeare.

But it’s okay,
this isn’t the real poem
the real poem is coming up
and man,
it’s going to be so good,
you are going to say to yourself,
wow, what a line,
what a poem.
It’s going to knock your socks off,
any minute now,
just you wait and see.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

So was Virginia

In my dream last night
I was given a ragdoll,
with long white legs
made by Virginia Woolf
when she was just a little girl

and I thought to myself,
that there are some people
that never seem like little girls
like they were born into this world,
fully grown, sprung from the head of Zeus,
and so many writers seem that way.

Last night was a Pink Life kind of night,
where we talk about writing,
over beers,
until you glance at your watch
and realize how much time has gone by,
while we were gushing and fussing
over poems. Poems that we treat
like little girls with crooked
ponytails. The kind of little girls who
say “Unlikely” when asked if they think
letters will arrive in the mail.
The kind that love the Wizard of Oz,
and ask aloud what the house must have felt
like to find itself suddenly moving from darkness to color.

And we talk about half finished novels.
Half finished novels that act
like teenage boys,
who wreck the car,
who leap off waterfalls,
who fail math class,
who sneak in the window at 2 am after spending
most of the night, trying to unzip their girlfriends jeans,
who are causing so much heartache and worry.

And we talk about it passionately
like we just met today and discovered our shared secret,
not 12 years ago.
And there is so much work that goes into this,
the tending to, this garden, the fear of frost
the threading of words,
gemstones on wires of heartache,
that is how I know that like you,
I was that little girl
and I was that teenage boy,
and so was Virginia, I suppose.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Dear Future Me

I am writing letters to myself
dated and stamped to arrive
years from now,
torn and tattered from their trip
around the world.
Sodden from the months spent
laying at the bottom of the ocean,
nibbled on by fish.
I take them out of the mailbox carefully,
so as not to tear the corners,
examine the stamps,
all the places that I want to go,
faded ink,
and the smell of old yellowed paper.
I read about the heat wave,
the wars,
the implosion of a family,
the cardboard boxes to store my life in,
and my hopes.
I read about how I am keeping
my fingers crossed, like a little kid,
waiting for it to all Get Better
and the voice on the paper is so eager,
so dreamy, like a prayer,
like what a god would hear
if you could separate our collective noise
but I know that a month after this letter
it all fell apart,
that it was as fragile as the paper it was writ upon,
and I think of that girl,
who didn’t know that yet,
and unfold a new sheet of paper,
to start all over
to jot down all the things now,
that are teetering on the thin edge
of my narrow Hope.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Dan Says Come To Venice

He tells me he’s a little bit drunk.
He tells me to come to Venice.
He tells me to steal my sister’s credit card
go to JFK right now and come to Venice.

He tells me he misses me and he hates me.
He says he’s furious I’m not there,
that I go every other damn place,
why not come to Venice?
He offers free lodge.
He will pay for dinners.
He says Venice is so fantastic and boring
and did he mention he was a little bit drunk?
He says I would appreciate it.
He says I can work there. I can write. Get writing done,
which is the goal, is it not?
He says he knows he’s being forward
but he has no social graces
and that I must go if I’m going to do all this exclusive shit in my life.
He ends his last message with a guttural cry.

And I would, if I could.

But it’s so very far from here
and my pockets are empty
and I’ve still got these poems to write.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


“You stole it,” he says,
taking a sip of his drink,
a wry smile playing on his lips.

“I didn’t steal it,” I say,
I found it, I think. I saved it.
I rescued it. They should have been more careful.

“You stole it,” he says again.

I look down at the blue t-shirt
the way it fits perfectly,
the way it hugs my breasts,
especially now, with no bra on,
like a strange pair of illicit hands
holding the weight.

And he’s probably right. I did steal it.
But it was left in the washing machine
downstairs, in the basement of this giant building.
They left other clothes too but I noticed them
as I pulled my wet shirts and underwear into the basket.

I didn’t notice the blue t-shirt because it looked like
it was something I would own.
Should own.

“You need to bring it back downstairs,” he says.
“I know,” I say and then change the topic
because I also know that if I do, if I leave it on the
oh-so-polite communal table of the wash room,
like the way people leave movies or used books for anyone to take
that someone else will find it before the owner.

And it won’t hug their curves,
or show their nipples in quite the same way.
And did I mention how soft it was?
Or that it has the cutest little bleach stain on the back, just by the shoulder blade?
Or how it reminds me of a t-shirt I used to have
a million years ago, when my hips and breasts were smaller
and my high school boyfriend and I wore the same size.
I used to let him borrow it
and when he gave it back to me
it smelled like him,
him and sex and summer nights on the beach
and rainy fall days in my rusted out car
and kisses that lasted hours, and punk rock shows
and cigarettes and aimless night in small towns
with nothing to do but try to not get pregnant.

“What if it was your favorite black t-shirt?” he adds.
“Yes I know,” I say changing the topic again.

Because right now, on the couch,
I don’t mind being the bad person, the thief.
I don’t mind remembering
for a change.
Remembering the good parts of back then.
I’ll wash it next week.
And I’ll give it back.
I promise.

Monday, July 13, 2009


-for Sesame, my sister

Stephanie, you are thirty-five
but it is early still and I’m not sure if you know that yet,
asleep in your bed
in your house,
300 miles from here
where I sit,
watching the dawn spread
a startling blue spider web of light
thinking about sisterhood,

and how when we were younger,
I used to sneak into your room
when you weren’t there
just sit on your bed
and wonder about you.
I touched your jewelry cases, opened them to see your earrings,
laying like little treasures.
I would open your closet,
try on your Red Hot Chili Peppers t-shirt
which still smelled faintly like your hairspray
and your skin.

Or earlier before that
when we shared that little
room but then it seemed so big
plenty big for two little girls
who shared a pair of roller skates,
one on each foot on the bumpy driveway,
and how I wanted my hair to be just like yours
which it never was.

Never so fine and delicate.
Skin never so freckled.
We were all brown-eyed,
except for you with those lighter than sky blue
translucent eyes.
Ghost eyes.
Our father’s eyes.

When our oldest sister moved out,
you took her room,
and I remember thinking how lonely it would be at night
without you breathing in the bed next to me.
I was a tornado even in sleep,
tossing and turning, sleeping with my eyes open,
but you lay perfectly still,
as if you hadn’t a care in the world
cocooned in whatever dreams you were having,
as you may be right now, as I write this,
another thing I could add to the list of things I didn’t know.

And now we are grown,
too grown it seems,
making the kinds of decisions that
don’t seem as important
and you are far away
too far away it seems,
working to become a mother yourself,
and I wonder where all that time has gone.

And I hope that you have girls,
to pound down the steps of that house
to slip secret notes between the cracks in the wall
and I want you to remember that we used to do that
from one closet to another,
and I want you to know them,
their laugh
their nervous late night call for you in the dark.
I want them to share a pair of roller skates
on the driveway
so that we can watch this cycle
repeat itself
and we can see how certain things
are unchangeable,
and that sisterhood is unchangeable.

It is a coming together and apart,
over time.
It is our hair growing down to our toes.
It is the secret language we once knew,
and then forgot,
coming back to our tongues one final time.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Book Log, or the Necessity of Selective Memory

It was one of the few things I never kept track of,
which is strange,
as I am prone to do those things,
track, obsess, log, journal, those kinds of things.

But he suggested a book log,
in the back of my journal,
journals that have been stacking up since
I was eight and had a crush on Michael Jackson.

and I thought it was a great idea.
My elusive and trickster memory
could be pinned down, tied to the stone of time
dripping snake venom and all.
No more standing in the long aisles of Strand,
wondering aloud,
like a crazy person,
if I had read the book in hand.

No more finding out from my husband,
whose memory is better than mine,
(sometimes even for the parts he wasn’t around for yet)
that I had, in fact, read the book
the first time we lived in New York
and didn’t like it.

No more thinking there was something wrong with me,
or emotionally
since I was unable to remember what I did
or read or saw or thought
or cried over or laughed with just a few years ago.

So I have the list,
and yesterday, as I noticed my journal
was winding down, that there were only a handful of pages
left since I started it last October,
that my book list didn’t look so long.
And only added up to 50 books
and now I am disappointed. 50 books? It felt like more.
Much more. And that includes the ones I gave up on.
And there it was, another thing to be disappointed in
like the rejections and the long hot summer ahead
and the bad writing mornings
and the Sunday night arguments,
and the silent phone
and the job insecurity
and the empty belly
and the cheap scotch and
this list is going to get longer
and longer,
longer even than the book log.

And now I’m starting to think,
there may be reasons, a sort of natural selection of the brain,
for my selective memory.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Spontaneous Conversation

He says that it wasn’t fair.
He says that it’s obvious that is him in the poem.
He says that I didn’t have his permission to take his stories.

I try to laugh it off, but I think he’s serious.

I tell him, he should be flattered.
I tell him, I believed his stories.
I tell him, that’s what writers do.

We steal from people around us.
Plucking little snippets of conversation,
mistaken drunken sentences,
bad behavior,
we watch for them and we take them and put them down in ink
where they live forever.
We photograph your words, and then hang them up for all to see.

She tells me she loved the poem.
She tells me that she is my muse.
She does a little ballerina twirl when she says this.

I tell her, yes.
I tell her, good. There will be more stories. More poems.
More words and deeds captured in my net.
Sometimes we take it and we twist it.
We make your truths, lies
your untruths, whole.

This is the price of friendship with people like us,
the word-smiths
the story-weavers.
And most times we are too selfish
too destructive
too drunk
to even be good friends.
But you keep coming back,
so I guess we can’t make everyone happy.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Walking Home in the Rain

It’s not the best walk I’ve had,
not by a long shot,
down 86th street
from 3rd Avenue
to 18th Avenue

but it’s mine
and I’ve gotten used to it,
the spots where there is no shade
in the blazing summer sun
or the way the forest by the park
smells just like the one back home.

But in the rain,
it takes on a certain feeling,
cause no one is else is walking
2 and a half miles in wet flip flops
with Greetings From Asbury Park
in their ears

and if they are,
well they aren’t doing it down 86th street
cause it’s empty nearly the whole way
and the rain has been coming down for weeks now
washing away the snails and the leaves that cling to the stone wall
by the big houses near 13th Avenue.

When I pass our window,
you are already inside,
dry, though you must have been caught in it too.
Your feet up on the coffee table,
the orange light glowing,
the cat in the window,
a book in your hand,
killing time,
waiting for me, because I am late,
and because there are drinks to be made
and stories to tell,
where it’s dry.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

5 A.M

When you shut off the alarm,
because you are already awake,
it makes a noise,
an irritating chirp like some horrific
electronic nuisance bird
and you rub my back
or the curve of my ass to wake me up.
You say my name softly.

I fumble for my glasses,
my stomach growls, possibly hungry
possibly sorry about the extra scotch last night.

You feed the cats.
I turn on the computers.
It is 5 am.

We move chairs,
scraping the hardwood floor.
The teapot whistles.
The computers buzz.

We open windows.
It is 5 am.

Last night, making the last drink
you reminded me that 5 am would come quickly.
As it always does.
I asked out loud, not to you, per say, but out loud
“Why do we keep doing this?”
Why do we get up at 5 am,
to sit in front of this screen.
Every morning.
Where do we think it’s going to get us?
And you answered, even though you didn’t have to,
since we both know that it is just
What We Do.

I wondered to myself what other people do,
for a minute,
but only a minute,
before closing the window
and shuffling down the hall to bed.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Conversations with My Mother

My mother tells me she spent all day cleaning the gutters
and pulling out bushes.
She tells me my father is in the shower,
between the age and the cancer
and being out in the hot June sun all day.

And I don’t understand why anyone would go through that.
I tell her, they don’t need to do that, they are old. Who cares?

But she says when you have a house, it’s what you do.

I tell her I would never own a house. Not never. No never.
And she laughs and says if you don’t have kids there is no need.

I tell her we booked the trip to London in October.
I gush about finally seeing Shakespeare’s grave.
She practically swoons. She tells me that she is going there
through me, vicariously.
She tells me to stay in London.
To not come back.
To just keep traveling from one place to another until there is
nothing left to see.

And I don’t have the words to thank her
for understanding that I don’t want a home.
Or a child.
That I just want to keep moving.
That sometimes I can’t close my eyes
worrying about what I might miss.
That even at 32, I swear,
I can hold in my hands how little might be left.

But she probably already knows this.

And I wonder if that is what she would have done.
Had she not been pregnant so young?
But probably not. Traveling tends to wear her out.

Though not as much as cleaning the gutters and pulling out bushes.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Her Tattoos

She shows them to me when she comes in,
lifting her shirt,
in the library,
excited to see what I think.
She doesn’t care if the mother’s are watching.
She never cares who is watching.

This is her new obsession,
and maybe also the boys that give them to her.
But it will change too,
because she is young
and when we are young
we can love and hate easier.
The coin stretches the depth of the sea
and we can’t yet feel
the nights that will come,
when they are so close together
sheer like a spider’s thread
when they blur,
and the world flips over,
you, standing there

scarred, frothing, like a mad dog
trapped in the complete imperfection
the mediocrity,
the distant buzzing hum of a phone line going dead.
She doesn’t know yet how hard letting go can be
or what the mirror can tell you.
She hasn’t been shipwrecked, yet.
But she is a woman, and a creator, so it is only a matter of time.

But for now,
she shows me her tattoos
and tells me
as she pulls up pictures on her little phone
what she’s going to get next
because she has so much skin left to cover
and so much time ahead of her.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Esplanade Avenue

It was on Esplanade Avenue
where the stars are fixed,
not like here,
with all that forward thinking
and all the glass that stretches up to the sky
in this never ending shine
changing the structure,
the molecules
and how they fit around all that brick.

It was on Esplanade Avenue
where the rust is creeping
oxidizing, where the water table
is right below our feet, 18 inches
and we can dig our way out of this basin
to the swamps where the last dinosaurs
roll and roll and roll.

It was on Esplanade Avenue
where down the street is a house
built 212 years ago, a safe house
for a little king
a warrior,
it is waiting for him still,
with crumbling stone and Dvorak
and we are raking our metal fingers down
Tin Pan Alley for the new American God
of Progress.

It was on Esplanade Avenue
where the old Gods still hide,
ducking behind broken shutters
and spraypaint,
down railroad tracks into blood red skies
under heat
and in whispers
and in little packets of promised treasure
bone, hair, stone, paint.
They are starved but they are still worshiped.

It was on Esplanade Avenue
under the fixed stars
that time stopped
where a wild woman
a possessed thing
raked the ground
hauled up the dirt of someone’s garden bed
and hide your secrets.

Monday, June 22, 2009

How to Talk to Them

The bartender asked me first if I was squeamish
before uncapping my beer
and setting the already sweaty bottle
on the bar.

I answered,

and she leaned over the bar
so that I could see the tattoo between her breasts
even better
and she took my hands in her hands
and ran my fingers across the her forehead
pushing hard at certain points
so that I could feel all the ridges,
the bolts and metal plates
that hold her face together.

“A crowbar,”
she says,
“Took my face off down to the eyeballs,”
she says with a snort.
We had been talking about New Orleans
and New York City so I wasn’t sure where it happened.

One could be mugged with a crowbar anywhere on this lonely planet, I guess.

She tells me about how she saw a surgery show one time
and watched a woman have a her face taken off,
“That’s what they did to me,” she said with a degree of wonder
as if, were it possible, she would hover over that operating table,
a beer-slinging ghost of herself and watch them peel back the skin
to see the deep dark underbelly of her very own skull.
Watch herself be taken apart and put back together again.

I tell her I fell off a waterfall and split my skull open too.
I like the way it sounds when I say it like that,
to her.
She nods.
Earlier when we came in, the only two in the bar,
cardboard boxes full of beer bottles,
warping in the heat, she let us in even though she wasn’t set up.
She said she could do with the company.
Her name was Michele and she said us redheads have to stick together.
“Even if it ain’t real.”

This was just one of those times,
where you find one of those souls
that maybe you knew a million years ago
when you met on a deserted island
or in a pub at the end of the world, past Death Valley
or deep down in the sweaty hull of a ship
full of iron weapons that can take you apart.

but when you see them again,
because you survived,
you know how to talk to them.

Monday, June 8, 2009

What the Men Tell Me

They talk
the Men
and this is what the Men tell me
which really they are just telling each other
I just happen to stand between them.

They tell me about voodoo
about a man’s who lost his penis after picking up a dollar
about a woman who lost a breast on the bus in Nigeria.
No not lost, it was stolen, the Men tell me.
They tell me about shamanism,
about the power of a feather,
about learning to talk to animals.

They tell me I haven’t seen anything, not really.
They tell me about power.
They talk about power for a long time
and I nod.
This is what the Men tell me.

And then they tell me about Venus
about living in space in the no-zone empty
dark black vacuum with no air and no light and no love
and no appreciate for all the work given
and given and given and what have they gotten back,
the Men want to know.

They tell each other, over my head,
that they have seen things no one would believe,
a man who can’t be killed,
a man whose bones heal themselves,
a riot, a union card, the never ending tales of
a Child of the Sixties, that is what the Men tell me.

And I haven’t said anything yet.
I am just letting them talk
because I can see that if and when they stop
they will have nothing left to say.

So I listen, and I nod,
and this is what the Men tell me.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Pass the Season

These moments are just little snapshots,
frozen celluloid dimensions
where I keep these secrets.
It’s like a flip book,
no a journal,
black words written on
fallen dry leaves,
hard bone,
white snowflakes,
dandelions, seashells
pasted together by the hands of the children
we will never have.

I realized that everyone must be careful.
while making these little choices
to keep
or not keep
things for themselves.

Women who rage with dissatisfaction,
with the blood boiling need for the things
they aren’t getting. Women who hammer and nail
and cobble together a Frankenstein.

Men who fail
and turn that failure into food
and eat and eat and eat it. They board buses
and disappear in the middle of the night
curious about blowjobs and murder.

This is how we steal.
And damage.
And undo.

This is how we kill for God.
This is how we pass the seasons.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Dead Birds

My boot heels sound hollow
scraping the concrete as if they were made of metal
and filled with nothing but air
my legs empty canisters
when I stop suddenly,
a bit of bile rising in my throat
and I can’t figure out why

this isn’t the first time I have come upon
these little creatures,
their purple bloated heads,
three times the size of their withered featherless bodies
their feet curling like weeds growing on a garden on themselves,

but this time, the three dead bird fetuses bother me
and I think about when I worked in a lab
and the incubator was left on and a dozen chicks hatched,
all yellow and fluffy and sweetly chirping
so happy to have come into existence in this warm little oven
and how my supervisor wouldn’t let me keep one.
She said they went to a farm,
a lie they tell children, which I guess she still considered me
and I never told her that I found their little yellow bodies
bagged in the trash out back, beaks split open as if they were still
chirping tiny hellos

And here I stand, trying to decide if I should step
left or right, to weave my way around, as other people
are passing without notice and near the warehouse
a fat starling sits on the barbed wire,
her claws grasping right onto the sharp spikes
as if that pain is nothing,
another human creation,
just like her dead babies are.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Unborn

Before anything else she remembered the darkness
as if the stars, like giant spider eyes,
blinked out,
a thousand years ago, so that
at that very moment,
standing alone on the slippery grass
she would be in darkness.
And cold.
We mustn’t forget the cold.

A moment where the gods,
all hushed up, quit bickering,
and nodded together in unison,

at this woman,
staring unflinching
in her hands an ink pot
in the pot, the fetus,
the purple bloated smear across its mouth
her dialogue writ
in words she doesn’t understand anymore.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A Trend Toward Disorder

This is a faulty barrier
this thinly stretched skin
over everything I grow inside.
That is to say that I create what I have,
that nothing comes out of me, everything is born inside,

a matter changing and morphing into something else
but always, always matter,
energy, entropy, the ultimate state of inert
all that stuff we learned a million
years ago we are taught again,
but fail, as we did when we fit in those small seats, to learn.
I hear everything, that there is to know,
we already know
but pretend we don’t to make it manageable.

But as I was saying, that outside barrier is faulty,
but the ones inside, like a maze, I control, guiding
you towards what I think it is
you want me to be. This is communication.
Savage and primitive.
We are not elegant, tipping hats and pet names.
But when he gets up off the couch,
I feel his absence,
and I stretch out my scarred legs,
and dirty feet bottoms
because I can’t stand the empty space.

Monday, May 4, 2009


I’m addicted to the little slash marks,
the looping, crossing, cutting, slanted marks.
The black type on paper,
the language, the letters
that come together and tell stories,
the heavy sweating men,
the storyteller at his loom,
the boat ride down lazy English rivers,
the lithe knights
the fainting princess
the witches,
ah, the evil witches.

I’ve always been addicted,
to the right word,
to the wrong poem,
to the women with calluses
to the story that distracts.

To the death
and rebirth incarnate,
to the key hanging around your neck,
to the drunken poet,
to the crack of the binding
like that of the bat,
to the illustrations
to what’s behind the door,
to being one of them,

ever hoping
for 24 years
to be one of them,
just once,
to be one of them
and to hold in my hand
the stories I drink
the ink that turns my mouth black,
and changes my words from the heartache inside
to the kind you can touch
and yes, I know, I’m going to die trying
but at least I will have died passionately,
like they do in stories.

Friday, May 1, 2009


In this unexpected heat
I pause to acknowledge
the anniversary
of the chance that I exist
and then move on.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


I want it to be autumn,
all ablaze with the fire
of a dying season.
I want my red red hair to match
the aching trees lining the streets
that bend and reach toward the water
grasping for their own reflection,
lost in their own beauty and fishing for love.

I want something other than
this fuzzy heat,
that makes my skin itch
that melts the cells that hold me together
turning my skin into flaking tree bark.

I want the silence
that comes with a blanket of snow,
when the busy city streets get hushed
and the whole place feels abandoned
like it is a time when humans are long gone
and only nimble rats will poke their nervous heads
up the subway steps.

I want change,
to be out of this moment of uncertainty
away from this rain shower of doubt, droplets beading on everything,
and refusing to pop.
To skip to the future
just to see how it works out
and if we get everything we want
and need
and damn well deserve
in this backbreaking world.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


There are too many places out there,
cities like beehives
and rolling hills and towns and deserts
and empty roads
and ocean waves choked with algae
each of them, just floating past fingertips
like bubbles waiting to be popped.

I am tumbling here
in this rushing river of a city
cast against the stones
like a minnow,
despair lines this riverbed.

These needs are little earthworms
chewing through my dirt,
my saltlick.

I sleep at night
because I tell myself that
I am topography, too.
My sleek underarm, a shell
my soft belly,
the warm sand before the ocean
the dip of my backbone, a wheat field.

I am places I haven’t seen yet,
And behind my lids, a sunset.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A Body, Unfinished

“I shaved every place where you been, boy”
- Tori Amos

The scars, are small
barely perceptible,
little white razor slits
circing my belly button
petals on a flower
lashes on an unseeing eye.

There are scars elsewhere
on elbows and knees, deep in the skin of my skull
damage done when crashing through this life,
damage done by the carelessness of others,
damage done by lovers who squeezed till I broke,

but none of them lay so neatly
across the bare skin of a belly,
a belly fed with the hair I cut,
like a reluctant Rapunzel
off my head each week,

and I think of that red hair
like the bristles of unfinished paintbrushes,
floating there inside me.
And I think of all that red meat,
that makes up this lapping heart
and stained lungs, hot mucky soup
crushed down to the tight hip
that bends like a bone heart
all the way down to the folds
wet with tears
and tangled little hair
that opens and comes out
and breathes like a dragon
exhaling little pieces of my soul at night,
filled with the heat of a woman,
a woman,
that I am,
that takes and keeps what she finds, inside.

Monday, April 13, 2009

For Jay on his 35th Birthday

Because we were at the Rodeo Bar in 3rd Avenue
and the Miller Lights cost 5 bucks a pint
which makes you feel like you are in a tourist bar
and cause the doe-eyed waitress
wouldn’t stop talking about Mexican pot
and how it shouldn’t count as much as regular pot
and cause that is when your back started to hurt
and wasn’t going to stop for another 4 days,

we left.

But I just want you to know
that is was nice for a moment
to pretend while the Shooter
and the Jamie Johnson played
bouncing off the Elvis plaques

that we were somewhere else today
like Nashville
or a cheaper plastic version of Nashville. Something close enough.
It was nice to think that
if even for a second
cause darling, we ache for these places
in the pinball machine of New York City
and I wanted to take you there so badly
even for the weekend
even though you know
and I know
we don’t have the money.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

My Inheritance

I wish I could find the loose seam
of me where I can unravel myself,
pull back the flesh and check
under each hot organ, just to make sure
that everything lays where it should
that no little cells are misbehaving like naughty school children.
I could feel that my bones are thick, solid,
not hollow and light like a little bird’s wing.

My mother asks me if I will get the cancer test.
And I remember being 24 getting my first mammogram.
She says it’s my choice,
but I wonder what difference it will make.
When the dial on my life changes, it changes,
without permission.
And maybe not knowing
and waiting and wondering
is my inheritance.
The way the night sky gets to keep the stars
till they explode and shatter as if made of glass.
The way the river keeps the stones that fall in its path
and the ocean keeps all the wishes cast in bottles from the beginning of time.
All the heartache
that makes up this story is carved around my skull,
and floats behind my eyes each night.

“No,” I tell her, “not today.
But if I change my mind, I’ll let you know.”

She says she understands,
and her words sound heavy like bones
cracking under the weight of all these questions.
She is sorry, because she is a mother,
for what has passed at birth in the making of
our lives, in the rickety ladder of these chromosomes
the dominant, the recessive
the little consciousness that sits patient like an old poet inside me
holding the answer in a silver chest.
Her news is neither good nor bad,
it is just my inheritance.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Dead Dogs

The time keeps sliding by
in that same sickening yearly circle
but not that much is actually changing.
I am back in February,
this same weekend, like I was 3 years ago
when the neighbor’s Pit Bull got loose
and tore open the throat of an old German Shepard
in front of 89 Luquer Street.

We were home that day,
for a change,
having finally carved out a small piece of sanctuary on that jagged island.
All the yelping, followed by the neighbors screaming,
brought our homespun peace to a screeching halt.
From the window, with the phone in my hand, and the bored 911 operator in my ear,
I watched that old dog fight a losing battle.
We all did.
There was a crowd of screaming Puerto Ricans stepping away from the blood
as if it was going to make any difference.

The old man who owned the German Shepard, poked at the mouth of the Pit Bull with his cane, almost like he was begging to be next.

Later they would have to hose the blood off the street
and some people left flowers on the brownstone steps.
I remembered you crying,
saying someone should do something,
but I couldn’t. I could just stare at the two dogs, the tangle of teeth, bone and blood
and wait for the end,
like everyone else on the street did. You asked how we could live here, like this
but I was so detached, at that moment, I was never going to be the same.

How patient that pit bull was
as if he had his whole life to drain that other dog dry.

There is no blood outside my window now,
no Puerto Rican gangs fighting, the chattering angry Spanish.
No drunken poor woman yelling out the apartment window,
cursing the god that failed her.
There are no teenagers in red, cutting cocaine in the car,
Or playing dice on the street as we walk home
with Chinese takeout. They always stood back
to part the way for us, and often smiled. I smiled back.
But I also kept my key between my fingers
like you showed me.

No outside my window, there is nothing but white people
white snow and gray sky.
Buffalo isn’t Brooklyn, and that was the very reason I came here.
I traded pain for ease. I can’t remember how many times I have made that mistake.
So in the end, I guess it’s me that can’t be satisfied
as I glance around the apartment and fret over how many books we have piling up,
wondering what size moving truck we are going to need this time.

And yes, it is partially about running away, but it’s also
about wondering when I’m ever going to feel the way the rest of you feel.
And at home.
The ache and frustration finally cooled with a dying hiss.
To settle into a life, a routine. To live in the present instead of the past and future.
To move on, in same way.
To stop counting the years between the dead and living as if it meant anything.

Mostly I wonder, if I ever do settle,
will I have the strength to end it then,
cause really, what am if I am not wanting something more?
What else do I have?

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Crossroads

Highway 61 chugs out of Memphis
winding all the way down to
Clarksdale, Mississippi.
70 miles of two lane run smack
into Route 49 and Route 161
and the story goes that with the right
amount of luck
and persuasion
you can convince the devil to meet you down there.
At least that is the story they told
when Robert Johnson died at 27, on his hands and knees
howling like a hell hound.

Now there are two gaudy blue guitars,
and I’m standing in the parking lot of Church’s Chicken
watching the Clarksdale traffic swirl around.
I had imagined something expansive
and desolate.
Two dangerous and lonely roads racing through
empty fields and running smack into each other
and then disappearing off into the distance, as if, terrified
of their own connection.
Something discrete, where the soft hand of fate
and luck gets viciously slapped back.
A secret place where the devil is free to walk you down that road.

I am disappointed, really, watching the Highway 161 bend through town.
I wanted something more subtle
but I suppose I expect too much out of gods
as I watched the early morning drunks stumble toward
my little car, the heat coming off of them like anger lines in the air.
After all, for the devil, this is easy pickings.

Monday, March 30, 2009

This is Why I Don't Go to Coffee Shops

We spent the morning in a coffee shop
working out the problems with the novel
I have been writing for longer
than I can stand to admit,
although you keep telling me not to worry about that part,
it’s done when it’s done

and when we were done,
for today at least,
I get up to pay the bill
for tea, coffee and a sweet little muffin
and the guy, who brought our coffee, tea and
sweet little muffin
is ringing me up,
the same guy who I forgot to ask for milk
for my tea, because I drink it like the English,

and he says
“so, you are a writer.”

just like that. And I wasn’t sure what to say.
It wasn’t mean, but it wasn’t necessarily kind,
like I was sure his next comment wasn’t going to be
something like, “cause I have a publishing company
back here behind the coffee shop that is just dying to
publish a redhead like you.”

Plus I couldn’t tell if it was a question. Or a statement.

So I just said, “uh, yeah.”
because I used to be articulate but not anymore
and he nods, and doesn’t say anything which prompts me to say
“well, you know, it’s my first novel.”
and now I realize that I sound like all those other idiots
who come into coffee shops as a fake, you know the type,
those people who don’t do anything for weeks and weeks
but decide that a poem once a month is enough, if that,
those people we were just making fun of, dear,
on the walk down because we have to draw clear lines
about what we do versus what they do
when it comes to alarms going off at 5 am.
I don’t want to sound like one of those people so I say,

“well I have a book of poems”
and I think about lying and saying a couple books cause it wouldn’t really hurt anyone.
I mean who cares, right?
But this guy has already given me back my change cause he doesn’t really care,
and his co-worker, who is smiling like all get out,
says it’s okay about the four cents and with short stubby fingers
pries 4 pennies off the counter and drops them in the register.

I feel bad about this,
and about everything I said,
so I leave 2 dollars in the tip jar
one for tea and coffee and the sweet little muffin
and the other for indulging
me and this stack of papers under my arm.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Brooklyn Curved Away

We had made our way
down to where the river and ocean
roll together underneath that bridge
where, as Ray Carver said,
water comes together with other water.

It was windy, the first fall day
so the water was choppy from that
and from the boats, that sloughed their way upstream
packed with crates like children’s blocks on their metal backs.

When the wind picked up your hat, and sent it careening down the walkway
like a runaway
we chased it catching the black brim
just before it went over the railing.

We headed up the path,
walking hand in hand, our faces red from windburn
scanning the rocks for driftwood, tangled fishing line and maybe a dead crab.
After awhile Brooklyn started to curve away from us
like an old friend passing on
and Manhattan started to appear, and then disappear
flirting it’s way up the coast,
a mere seven miles from where we were,
down where the ocean is.

But it had been so long since I had seen the ocean
that Manhattan didn’t look so grand after all
not next to those whitecaps
not compared to the shadow of that silver bridge spanning
a river that forced its way through the land.

It was a good day, and we had gotten good news
about my father’s cancer.
Not to mention, we had the whole day together for a change.
So it could have been that.
I just wanted you to know this is one of those days
that I’ll remember, even when I can’t remember anything else

Just cause it was so easy
to stand under that bridge with you
and not do anything
but watch all that water get away from me.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Butterfly Effect

I had a poem the other day
it sprung from my head like a little
alphabetical Athena,
and roared off into battle,
waving a little sword and shield

before I was able to grasp it
and pin it here, tacked down
like a museum sample
and displayed on my wall.

but it flapped it’s little paper wings,
and flew off.
It was decent too, which is a shame.
Now, it’s somewhere off the coast of Africa
causing a tornado in Texas.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Yorick's Skull

It’s probably a bad idea
to start writing a poem with the title.
Like I am doing right now,
but I can’t seem to stop thinking

about Yorick’s skull
and what Salinger had to say
in Franny and Zooey
and mind you, I think I might be
the only person on this lonely globe
that likes that book, who carried
a tattered old dog-eared, underlined, copy of it
from coast to coast,
tucked in the back pocket of her jeans,
and what Salinger said about having
a goddamn honorable skull when you die.
Does anyone remember that part?

I’m filling up journals
but I’m running out of ink
and this month is lasting forever
except I’m going to be 32 soon.
And darling, that sounds old,
older than Yorick’s skull,
and I’m trying to pay attention to the Way
and the Work
and keep my mind clear
and walk some kind of straight and narrow
and the intention of improvement,
with the gait of direction

but I’m still directionless
and they had that parade
in Bay Ridge yesterday and those kids
with the snappers,
sitting on the curb, their little Irish flags
and all that anticipation in all their faces,
little teeth, wide eyes, fat cheeks,
Christ, I could hardly stand it,
and me with my dirty hair
and bad knee felt like a monster among them
and definitely not honorable,
not this skull
not this month.

But I’m working on it, love.
Maybe next month.
Hell, maybe next year,
maybe 33,
who knows,
Double digits could be lucky.
If nothing else, I haven’t given up on that.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

After Telling You the Story of How I Fell Off the Waterfall

What with the moss being all smooth and wet
I probably didn’t stand a chance,
but I took it anyway
and lost
not just my footing
and fell
not to my death
but something unimaginably close.

You asked me if I still had nightmares.
I lied when I said no.
But they are slippery too,
like petals
or soft like tattooed skin.
The gentle unfolding of vision
blurring the edges of streetlamps
haunted and milky
the wispy sound of houseflies sleeping.
They taste like roots pulled too soon from their beds

like the inside of his hand that day
when he hung on to me and that rock
against the pull of gravity and the neediness of water
for just a fraction of a second
and then…

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Beer at Jack's Place

-wherefore art thou?

Everything is here
except the last little bit
eaten by the dog
so they say they can’t determine this intention

but I’m pretty sure it’s clear.
It’s just beauty.
And for those of you who think that isn’t enough
that the sadness counts too,
don’t worry it’s in there.

Besides, he left the end scratched into the plaster
of the bathroom wall with the last razor blade in the house
before he escaped onto the rooftop, vanished.
The directions are there, just in case you wanted to follow him
from this coast
the other coast where the journey ends at a little hilltop house
bursting to the seems with a love for just about everything.
This was all before the fire started,
before the flood waters rose
before his liver quit.
But who cares, everyone goes at some point.

It was all there for whoever bothered to see.
And that’s nothing about whoever bothered to say thank you.

But we knew that,
tipping a beer on the street in mid afternoon,
talking about everything but
what it will mean
when people like us, stop coming to the houses
of people like him.
But what of it, huh?
We head down 20th street, hoping Uncle Jack is at the ‘Root
and that there is still a seat at the bar.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Délire de Négation

“couldn’t quite seem to escape myself, far enough
far enough, far from Florida”
- Isaac Brock

These are the hardships of being dead
according to Jules Cotard especially
when one is still alive.
For instance, it’s frustrating to continue to have to go to work.
And shaving seems utterly pointless,
even more pointless than it did when you were alive.
And why does everyone keep reminding you to eat something?

That face in the mirror, does nothing for you,
because after all, you are dead.
Or if you aren’t dead, then you already lost your face,
so there is nothing to worry about.

Because that can happen too.
You can loose whole parts of you.
Organs left behind on bus stop benches,
blood leaked out like so much shower water
down the drain.

You are a negation.

The men with the coats call it extremely nihilistic,
but I’m sure for people like you,
and mind you, I’m not of your ilk,
but for you people, there must be a relief,
what with the warm weather down in Florida,
where your mother has taken you to help you recover,
the warm weather down in Florida being caused by the fires of hell.

You had already been so clear about being dead.

And you think to yourself, it is so nice of your mother to come down here
and show you around Hell,
what with it being your first day and all.

Saturday, March 14, 2009


Somewhere outside New Orleans I lost my voice
about there the pages in my journal are blank.
This country was too big for me,
and my small noises.

When the car started bucking
just outside the hundred miles
of Mojave
I couldn’t help but smile.
Even as an adult, these things you fear can really come true.

But by the time we got to Salinas,
we were used to the revving and
I was back to driving without shoes.
I still didn’t have my voice
and had to keep shouting things twice
to you
over the roar of the wind
through the open windows.

After we bickered outside the John Steinbeck library
and sometime before we drove up Polk Street
in San Francisco
you said,
that you didn’t think we would really do this.

I told you of course we would,
what else could two lost people do?
Where else do you go when the frustration
of being dispossessed
for years turns your vision black?
What else is there when all your belongings
fit into the corner of the garage
of your childhood home,
and your father is upstairs waiting
to tell you they took him off the chemo?

But you didn’t hear anything past
of course we would,
because my voice was snuffed out.
You just heard my resilience, saw my smile,
and believed that I believed it was this easy.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Spotted Cat

The waitress at the Spotted Cat in
Faubourg Marigny, leans against the bar
as she tells us about Froggie’s upcoming shows.
We had spent all day
going from bar to bar trying to track down
St. Louis Slim.
He’s playing here on Saturday, she drawls
letting the sounds plunk down on the sticky bar
top like water drops.

But by Saturday we’ll be in Dallas
already thinking about Albuquerque.

She has greasy brown hair, that hangs around her face,
small breasts and a pot belly pushing against her brown
t-shirt. Her skin and eyes are baked the same color brown.
She’s the color of the muddy Mississippi
and the clay southern highways.
She has blended into her background
to become part of place that is part of her.

I stare down at my one burnt driving arm.
The other still New York pale.
She makes me a drink with a cucumber in it
and I thank her softly
trying to stop myself from imitating
her dripping vowels,
her gentle Southern cadence.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Thursday Night Fight

These words are little tiny
balled-up fists that I’m tossing at you
from across the room
trying to figure out
when you are going to get around
to choosing me and us
Over them.

Which is, I know, Unfair, with a capital U
but darling, I promised a lot of things,
but I never promised fair. Not all the time.

And this is one of those moments
where you look right through me
like a ghost in the moonlight
and it takes away my voice.

So when you leave,
I wait till your head goes by the window
so I know you are really gone,
and then,
I lock the extra top bolt on the door
the one we paid the super for
but never use.
Cause I know that you won’t be able to
get it open. We never could, two hundred dollars later.

Eventually in the silence of the apartment,
the silence that I worked all night to get,
I put down my book and my glass,
the ice clinking gently and a bit
like a zombie
I walk back to the door
and with a struggle, undo the bolt.

And that was the forgiveness you got from me
without asking, the forgiveness
that you didn’t even know about
before you came in,
pulled off your hat,
steadied yourself in the doorway
and started to speak.