Street Poems

BUS KIOSK

“He shot me cuz I said hello!”
The ghost kept pantomiming this story
for me. I knew not to see this wound,
the phantom, its mouth which was opening
to a blood abyss. A pity trap with those jagged
metal jaws set. The eyes are the windows
to the eternal slide in the amusement park
where the soul is a child with a gun
whose parents have escaped to new hells.
But someone’s gonna pay and real soon
for leaving him here, a baby in bloody swaddling.
Part of me explodes, a grenade of Christmas presents
this poor kid never got. The rest clenches
everything clenchable on my body.

KEATS NIGHT

Want to come over tonight
and listen to some nightingales?
They start up with the blue and red lights
strobing off the neighbors’ houses.
They chirp a song of otherworldly beauty
until the crying kids come screaming
out of the house, down the concrete steps,
blood not yet dry on their wifebeaters:
“Liar! Liar!” And the cops do their lambada,
cuffing them against the squad car
and the ode is suddenly over.

FIXTURE

I think he enjoyed the sweetness
of being no one sitting there
in that bus kiosk, all four seasons.
He’d close his eyes in bliss
and had those headphones.
Then someone shot him,
almost certainly for no reason
except his just being there
which today makes you the ultimate target.
Then he reluctantly became a name
and a series of soundbite stories
on the local news for an evening
which I just know he would have hated.
He loved being the town ghost
and now he is. The birds
he always fed bits of his sandwich moved on
to somewhere else just slightly safer
than bullets:: : other birds.


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Catherine


I hear her laugh inside me,
all these years later. I remember it
as one of the pure sounds of earthly joy.
Does anyone else remember her?
She didn’t have children
so she’s disappearing much faster,
a stone sinking into the ocean.
I only ever knew her old.
I think she stayed in that little house
on the corner of my block
fifty years or so. The strange apple orchard
her husband made of their hilly yard
was really something for the suburbs.
He’d bring buckets of apples to my parents
some years, sometimes vegetables too.
They were the good neighbors of lore
that don’t exist anymore, or rarely now.
We’d ride our bicycles past the lawn chair
where Catherine sat and read the newspaper
in the front yard on sunny days. We liked
her Yonkers accent, which was strong.
Over time, her memory began to slip.
She loved to feed our opportunistically social beagle Rocky
when he’d get loose and go on a walkabout.
She fed him liverwurst from the farmer’s market.
I knew to find him there. I liked watching
her joy at feeding him. She had no pets
or children ever. Just a husband, a small clean house.
It was often silent. Sometimes a radio played softly.
When her mind began to slip, she’d say
queer things to the smaller kids riding trikes
on her sidewalk. They frightened her.
They would call her “Witch!” and mock her,
then pedal away fast in a game of dares
to see who would risk getting closest
to the dangerous crone who reminded them
of a Disney villainess. Thus is old age.
Her husband tried to ride it out.
He told neighbors she’d wake in the middle
of the night and pummel him hard
with her fists, finding a “stranger” in her bed.
We didn’t have much affordable home health care
in those dark days. I remember her laugh.
Even after the change, she would still wait for my dog
to come and visit. Their exchange was important.
Leaning out the back screen door, dropping chunks
of liverwurst he could catch in his fast mouth
before it hit the ground. It satisfied her soul
that overflowed with cackles of joy. If she’s a ghost,
she’s still at that back door, waiting for him.
How she hated to see him leave, when I’d come
to fetch him home. She’d wave goodbye to him
as to a child. Then she’d turn in her faded apron
and go back to tend to her small pristine rooms,
to spruce up the clean silence.

Winter Skein (Some Poems)

NIGHT SNOW

Sudden hallowing brightness.
No one needs to be a person
in this.

HOW IT HAPPENS

We meet in a room all air.
You mutated into me. I you.

We went home missing each other
and ourselves.

JANUARY

Ghost cat scratching
at a frosted (forested) blue door
without a house

SIT

Sit wilderness in your heart
listening to goodbye
in a quiet room.
The trees lean towards the windows
to listen too, blindly see
all that you are
by your peculiar silence.

GREY DAYS

the men like bees in their bodies
the friction of hands cards of wings
useless winter coats cowls scowls
innocent words sheathing men
in cubicles hostile yawns
between their faces
phones where no queen buzzes
spring yet

WHAT’S WHAT

The soft things are mother,
we say, obtuse.

The hard things are father.
We hammer and sink

into our lovers,
stupidly blind.

CEREMONY

Visit the fire
of your parents burning;
be ash, Rise up
in the snow as sparks
saying the only wise thing
in this sky

JANUARY’S END

the morning writes
sing-notes in its bones
in cold marrow

of trees reaching

in graves
in dreams just before waking
as you do

I KEEP

my dead mother’s jewelry
my dead father’s dentures
yet laughably say
I’m irreligious

FAWN

New wet narrow face slides out
onto leaf-mould and moonlight
crush of snow on forest floor
without houses we dream
ourselves you but wake up
monstrously us
motherless

FAUST

I sold my winter soul
to the hot water in pipes,
death by morphine candy.

VACANCY

Nobody has been home here for sixty years.
I stand before the foyer anyway,
ask about Christmas cards.

Then I stand by the triplicate windows
of the grand dining room
until the answer comes

as a strange invitation.

EXCHANGE

I ask you with my meat face
and you don’t reply.

I rephrase it with luminous visage,
my beehive of lies,

and you spark to life.

NIGHT FACTORY

Vender of astral noises
of dreams unmanacled
of stupid bodies

you cast my horoscope

in the river’s tea

of drowned swimmers.

FOR THE BIRDS

I throw water at the hawk.
He flies the air.

I am lessened and magnified,
a mother.

WANTING

Wanting the darkness in you
most of all, strangled crocus
unsaid all winter

YES

Wet the face
Wet the beginning
Wet the end

CARNEGIE

Let us go to the lonely places
that are unlonely regal dark
abandoned highway tunnels
where moss climbs mountains
of the basis of us changes its mind
constantly goes somewhere else ambulance
embrace some peace or war amour
no matter but please the thrill
of tunnelling forever

HEY MOON

You float in color gradients
behind the house opposite dawn
noctisynthesis pink
to mauve my brain
wiped down with antiseptic
antiwords void Betadine
just before
I count backwards

VALENTINE’S DAY

Blood droplets in snow

the rabbit you don’t see
something else’s joy

dear reader,

thank you, and the chimneys,
touched pink in the almost hour
here, now, the without with
me where, the who, whatever
it was, the black cat, most
of all things, how small
my heart became in
her hand, no her paw, her
reaching up to dawn
each morning, however

forever comes,

come

Mourning Doves

I wake and lie in darkness
listening to their sad five flute notes,
their self-soothing before the sun rises.

I think this is what America
sounded like for so long,
when it wasn’t a map.

I love that the dove won’t let me
look at her or him. I love
that it protects its terror.

I feed doves, husbands and wives,
charming couples. I google their lifespan
then sit sadly.

I like to see them visit my restaurant.
I have to spy behind a curtain.
They fly away when they see me

and I am happy. Flee me,
and I will admire your ghost.
This works for people too.


Buried Alive with Offerings

Pulling the curtains,
everything is deep in white,
bare trees and cars
in their Buddhahood.
Starlings raid
the bowl of cat food on the porch,
and sometimes turkey vultures.
It’s a mess like abstract
contemporary doodles,

all that’s left. The past
is happy to just survive,
but please pay it.

Nobody’s going anywhere.
We’ll be shadows all day
in houses that won’t open,
except to look and shake our heads
at the unplowed streets.
Time goes backwards
when this happens.
Slip the vinyl out
and hear the dust in music
wanting to talk
too. It has something
it wants to say to you

about the stillest day

deep in you. Look at abstract expressionist

paintings on the t.v. You like the way
they look like something starving

scoured those rectangles of earth.

Today is a day to feel the sacredness

of whatever food there is.

Frankenstein Plant

Take this pill
not that pill.
Love this sort of person,
not that sort.
Embrace only
the finest sense of doom.

The garbage workers
take away other centuries
dark mornings.

Every thing you will lose,
others have lost
and they’re stepping into elevators
with birthday parties
still happening around them,
red balloons grazing death.

I look at the plant
you have placed in a vase
on the windowsill
you fill weekly with water.

Such a simple glass heart.

Then I remember it is the top
of a palm you had to cut
with scissors, because
it was pushing into the ceiling tile
of a room.

It is beheaded and doing well.

Like so, so many of us.

I bet parts of you have been severed.

I bet you’re a patchwork somewhere,
just holding it together.

Frankenstein, be brave.




You

When we touch each other’s words,
it is this blind communion
of starfish clasping in the dark.

Down under the sea in a bed like ours,
two hands have forgotten
their unnecessary bodies.

No Monk

The night came in wet droves. I slipped out of the house to walk barefoot in its fingers. “Moonlight is good for the feet,” my slenderest aunt had always said.

Then I noticed that each blade of grass was a recluse. Pushed up against each other, snaking around each other, they were tortured hermits. Forced to be together against their innermost nature.

I began pulling up clumps of wet grass. Throwing them, liberating them. It was like laying monks on their backs in small boats barely larger than their bodies, one monk per boat, and pushing them onto the night sea.

But there were so many tortured souls that I soon gave up. I walked on their bodies saying nothing then, what a rat, going deeper into the night. I thought of the monks drifting further apart on the dark sea, looking up at the stars from their wandering beds. When they would finally look over their gunwale they might see a whale spouting lazily with a piglike sound. But no monks. No monks at last.

About Paint

I tried to explain the paint to itself. It cracked into a thousand countries while I talked on and on. I did not want you to know I was secretly building an Armada. I kept it in a forest behind the motel.

The quiet conversations that occur between greens filled the window. But was it really a window? Nobody looking through it was sure. Even just looking at it, we felt like imposters.

The children who live under the earth prepared to celebrate Christmas. This was the Other Earth, Other Christmas. Weirdly enough, through the moonlit snow, we heard the bells far below our feet. They were shaking them into voices.

But then they must have heard us listening, because they stopped.