“…Come with me, when the coast is clear,
to the Gideon’s call of foghorns
and the rush of wind in your russet hair.
I want to see the cold playing your skin
and draw maps of the constellations
of your freckles. I want to discover
the highways and fire roads in you,
your back country, the icebergs that break ships
and the lounging sunlit seals…”
“…Tonight I’m connecting the stars on my own
in a house the color of midnight.
I was experimenting with electricity
and found a rip in the galaxy—
an open circuit, a breach in polarity
where the mysteries of trinities glow
Is it too much just to be happy?
I don’t need to invent the microwave
or write a symphony.
I just want the simple pleasures
I’m waiting, and waiting is a sentient life-form
you can feed snacks…”
(Ekphrastic homage to Jean-Michel Basquiat, with borrowed words)
do these accordion players keep playing
in the middle of the street
to incoming traffic?
Bellows spread open,
taped and stitched, dissected;
parting a red sea of love notes
over and over, purses bloated with life,
pockets of coins scattering
from a currency that wasn’t current,
change that didn’t register
until the impact finally hit.
I’m walking down the street with my trouser hems burning.
I used to try to shake them out, and obviously,
the flames only rose.
I stopped trying to stop, drop and roll;
stopped trying to jump in puddles
and I’ve learned long since to ignore the stares
when getting on buses.
Sometimes it gets on my fingers, my lips,
and I catch things on fire that I touch. It’s tough,
but I’ve learned to live with it,
with the smell of burning that sends people running
every time I enter a room.
I don’t remember how it all started.
Maybe, like Centralia, it started with a vein of carbon
inside my brain that caught fire, that no one could quench…
This was this place we’d go, every Wednesday
when I was off work—and it was just this tiny portable
you fastened safely against me,
babbling meaningfully to yourself,
and the airplanes:
from this hill with a winding path,
across the river from Chelsea and its oil drums.
I knew you understood things then,
and had chosen to be here now, in this place
where the only thing I had to give you was me,
and these things I curated through eyes
that saw for you until you learned what to see…
You know you can’t stay here.
Every heaven on earth has its fall from grace.
Every rhythm eventually breaks.
Someday, you too
will get that deployment call,
maybe in the night, when the kids are still sleeping.
You’ll pack your belongings, but not all of them.
You’ll leave behind memories and a history
and start off in some unknown land,
where no amount of explaining
will unveil your stranger’s cloak of invisibility…
…He drew a line in black ink,
squiggling around shapes
of buildings, people, trees.
I followed it around the corner,
curious where it would lead.
I followed it all the way into the subway.
Sometimes I drew things back.
The city opened around me
like the glass teeth of a mosaic dragon
breathing smoke and the fires of sunsets
between buildings. their underground organs
pumping and hissing with hydraulic precision.
…In a mirrored apartment
that your father bequeathed
to you after his murder
I escaped the world,
above the East River
and the bleached ribs
of the Whitestone bridge
where seagulls lazily played
in the panoramic blue
outside your picture window.
We savored meals
of dreams and secrets:
hiding in bookstores,
swimming in crystal blue
of chlorinated pools,
wandering Manhattan streets…
…When I drive on the Mohawk trail,
it’s a sort of sex—car and road
on full alert, breathing in rhythm
to the changing scenery.
A shift from two to three dimensions;
a falling, lurching into something
My senses can’t sleep
as this topographic music
approaches its peak, temperature dropping
degree by degree—the slow towns and farms
all passed far behind me; inclines shifting
as my car swerves like a pinball on its curves.
The Cold River’s ominous congress
through rocks, deafening—
reminding me that this road
is dangerous, and people die on it…
A tree falls dead at my feet.
In its wake, black wire serpents
flail. Their sparkler tails
burn and flare—
a sort of sati
portending missed voicemails
of suicide and love:
the cords snap,
cell phone towers down
and I’m blank
as the matte-slate air—…
There’s a place beyond the runway lights
where clouds learn to talk to each other.
The air traffic signals
bounce off the silver linings,
radiating light spokes into the ether
and the wheels turning
sound like the music
of departure from the body;
the bullroar hum
indicating something otherworldly
and not quite comfortable
to the habits of feet…