In Preparation

When we walk at night with the ghosts of New York,
we float above grates and glass;
we have hit our heads on concrete before—
we have jumped from buildings, sank.

We spent a year wrapped in blankets,
emerged drunk, slightly shrunken;
we had films for expression, books for quotations,
but no banners for our own procession.

Map-inches away, we settle into our lives—
separate, less comic, too lost, less known.
The tea smells better in Omaha—
the mundane, better in New York.

Thin like a flower’s shadow,
aproned and sipping stolen cups of red,
you cook and create
create mold and shape
the glimmer in your hands.
And I watch, overcome.

May Flowers

I took the W on my way downtown to Battery Park and a homeless man was cleaning himself methodically in the seats diagonal to mine. Take off shoe, take off sock, wipe, clean. Somewhere around City Hall, he took out an air freshener and sprayed the air above, around, and underneath him, and I thought, “How lovely, how considerate.” The smell of fake-summer (gardenia, freesia, aerosol) made its way to my seat and I wished that I could know his life. That I could know and change his life.

Weather Channel

Your back turned, a broken compass
vibrating faulty,
stays shadowed despite
the moonlight-in-the-window.

The ghosts living between
our clothes, the dinner talks
of porch lights.
The apple-picking of
forgotten thought,
and allotted time for
touching fingers.
I keep my front to your back,
my knees closed, jointly pointing.

The rain stays south,
but not forever. Find
west-bound with your compass.
Walk there gently,
new figure in the window.
I will never hurt again.

10 Years

Sitting in a tub, behind the curtain,
with fingers lightly thumping porcelain:
after thirty-three hours of praying,
she came down from the ceiling.

It’s the big blue chair that my mother loved,
with upholstery maintained and bottom scuffs,
that followed me to Brooklyn.
Massive, it didn’t come apart in the middle
like lounges made after 1995.
Instead, sat cumbersome
inside the red van packed with stuff
on the trip from Boston.

I wish my mother could have had a death bed,
one where she lay day to night,
looking the part with historical novels,
yellowing the bright white doilies of the bed table.
With a diagnosis, we could have exercised hope.

I take the Q over the Manhattan Bridge
to see the Statue of Liberty walking with me.
And I’m just trying to make you proud.

In Rockefeller

I can’t see the ground around me just
umbrellas overlapping in the rain
everywhere as people stand.
(I don’t own one—
with which to overlap or to be overlapped.
The wet always comes in anyway.
Not with two?
But, surely, the wind…)

The rain falls in sheets
like summer lined-laundry
and I can only think of ruined
picnics; Cental Park certainly deserted—
sinking ground, soaked benches.
The rain makes me mean but only
to hide the dreary
and for a moment, I’m pleased (cold).

The pouring on the store-front
makes me want a house with a porch,
remote, not so many umbrellas.
I mouth without even knowing,
Please don’t let me end up here.


When I dreamed of screaming,
your eyes were a dizzy kaleidoscope.
On my bed. The ceiling was our future,
wet with paint and silver like lost fog.
(Said much prior:
I finger in your name on the dust of dressers,
on the windowpanes of outdoor shops—
I read it on the wrinkles of clothes during damp days.)

My eyes, a strange piano note.
Plucked violin chords stood.
See me as montage with light against my back
walking into the next seconds as if they’re standing still.
(Meaning it, like all was real.
Saying it, knowing nothing is.)

And her eyes were bent flowers
covered by raincoats held out by arms stretching.
Then her/my eyes WERE flowers and your name was black ceiling paint.
Truly, I’m with the pen and the lonely,
bleary and writing on a Sunday morning.

You’re not good anymore and you’re not even my trouble.
I know you I know you I know you well.

Saving Lives

Make sleep be drunk under lemonpeel stars,
beneath the canopied bed I am moon-sunk.
Stuck to the bed by the weight of the dark,
I dream:
My mother is old, not buried,
her hair wound in a bun.
Carnival spun cotton candy blue pink wisps.
She says

In the morning
your ribcage pulls apart easily.
My fingers gently tug,
your eyes are rocks of empty and a pile in my lap.
Sitting suspended in your cavity
is heart, dripping syrup and moving magic.
I let it rest inside my palm before I pull it out.
And then I know it’s over.
Sewing steady, a hummingbird’s beat;
I’m saving your life.

Of the Past

It’s sitting in your car one winter in Rotterdam that I tell you your future.

It’s quiet except for my voice like a radio buzz shaking the car slightly,
and the streets are dreams with edges that fall off.
We drive into the headlights, past the field that makes us feel rural,
so unmoving and flat like the safety of the dashboard’s horizon.

I talk and hear my own thoughts together and you can hear me now and see me then and the mess of it was in a dream (someone’s) somewhere

(We dance in shallow water
in shadowed water
smoke on a rooftop in New York
shake at the heights and smell
cut mango flowers floating up from a street cart.
That’s much later.)

And the past too (my past not yours):

We spent a summer day
picking cherries in the backyard,
eating tomatoes in her mother’s garden.
Her half-blind cat swept through the sunflower stalks,
licking the sunrays off his paws.
Bleeding softly, the pits collected on napkins,
while the night ate the tree leaves,
casting shadows on fallen fruit.

Her mother’s fresh pierogies
cooling on the counter
dipped in sour cream with sugar.
All that food was love and all that love
sits still in my stomach. She’d lick the plate
when it tasted too good.

When the car stops you say:
I’m waiting for life so I can make
something that’s so full of truth you’ll
have to close your eyes and let it burst and burn
like a drunken firework.

I only know one way to kiss,
I’ve only seen underneath my lids.
So uncomfortable with the way it sounds
when I try to say all.
Then there’s your face in the shadows of the lemon tree
while I swing low from the limbs
reaching for the grass with my fingertips.
I get lost swimming in the dark
and you say just open your eyes now.

Last night I slept in my grandfather’s clothes
and my last thought towards sleep:
remember but I’ll bring you pictures if you forget.


i. In the Polaroid from ’81, her dress was lemon yellow.
With sandaled feet, she stood like Mary,
bowing her head to morning.
I search her grin for veiled discontent, and find
instead, a joy pooled at her mouth, sitting
between the cherry lips and waiting.

ii. The thick waterbeads licked my face and I continued wading
in the aboveground, admiring the orangey-yellow-
painted toes and the poised crossed legs of my mother, sitting
on the deck my uncle built (stairs crooked—charming). And she was merry
inside her own reverie, a secret place she found
out of necessity, and she shined inside like morning.

iii. She had me wear Catholic jumpers but we skipped church on Sunday mornings, and I lay in bed until 11, waiting
for the God of Father Brucker and the Sisters to find
me instead. Sunny-side up, Michael liked eggs runny with yellow
to scoop with his toast. I ate my blueberry pancakes, praying to Mary
not to burn our souls—I’ll have faith, does it matter where I sit?

iv. The boxy Chevy Baretta—Michael sat,
watching her adjust the windshield sunshade, blocking July morning.
She hummed half-sang to the Beatles: “Mother Mary
comes to me, speaking words of wisdom, let it be.” I was waiting
for her cigarette to burn to filter between fingers stained yellow—
she glanced down, smiling, her hand guiltily fingering the lighter I’d found.

v. Phone to my ear, wrapped in a tangled cobweb cord, I try to find
her breath and the seconds are hours. The hours are minutes, sitting,
debating the consequence of her skin—a pale yellow;
I wonder if I will look different in mourning.
The hospital chairs—stiff, unsympathetic—and I’m waiting,
mesmerized by the grey lips of relatives, each murmuring a practiced Hail Mary.

vi. But in July, swollen plump like a tropical fruit, and lately married,
was she still trying to find
(It’s quickly fading, the joy that was sitting
on her lips) the pretty bits of morning?
Or was she already waiting
(it’s like she knew) for the edges to turn yellow?

vii. In the church of my misfaith, I’ll watch the world marry. And wherever I’m sitting in the future, I will find the corners, dimly-lit. Hand outstretched, Mourning won’t wait for me any longer, but I’ll request it remain, a primary shade—my life’s yellow.

God Is Swimming

Making whirlpools in the above-ground
on days when the air lays heavy on our skin,
leaving our pink cheeks sticky to the touch.
Abandoning forest green plaid school uniforms 
for fluorescent bathing suits,
revealing our innocent girl-bellies. 
My pool—perfecting the laps—
mastering the water flow,
watching the waves leap out the sides,
smacking the dirt-packed ground in protest.
Holding the blue lining of the walls, glowing,
our bodies keep with the current,
pulling us toward the liquid center—
and one of us lets go