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.