Category Archives: Writing

Any Less Grand

what is it that made you humble?
a wonder thing made ordinary
by its everyday occurrence.
I don’t believe it’s made
any less grand.

I cannot quilt, fair one, but imagine this:
a granny-square embarrassment of riches
that I can barely look in the eye.
I don’t think I could stand it.

putting an ear to the dancing sound of parties
from the top of the stairs, or the gust of air
that wicks the sweat from my soupy skin
as the train passes by.

perhaps it is the nebulous bloom
of cream in coffee, or the surprise
celebrity guest on the late night talk show.
walking past stores that sell books
on shelves outside.

or maybe the sound of cereal
in milk. being a regular anywhere.
the way my bike’s wheels tick
when I walk it down the street.
come with me on my simple joyride,
exit through the gift shop
at the art museum, picking up the curiosities
as you go. like the gilded apples
in the produce section. you can eat one
right there, if you want to.
I’ll pay later, in exact change.
I’ll remember your birthday forever.
it brings me joy to do it.
while I hold a quiet covenant with you,
painting your face to herald celebration.
leaving the party for a while,
and listening through the floor.

Troika

aching feet are forgotten once
I sit on a red banquette.
we’ve gone to Russia
by way of the MTA.
my mother would tell me
to cross my ankles, not my legs.
here is the upper class,
for ten American dollars.
it buys about three cups of tea.

“Earl Grey, orange, and mandarin,”
with a sour cherry for taste.
the Cyrillic trips over my tongue
and I am corrected by the waiter
in his double-breasted coat.
had I avoided the vowel blend
perhaps I would have been offered
wine, caviar, pleasures known only to
dowagers and celebrities.

when we’ve drained the cups
and read the leaves, we notice
the place is empty and scurry out
with heads bowed in reverence
at the novelty of afternoon tea
late on a Tuesday winter’s night.

Leap Day

balmy air sneaks its way through
the gaps in the cable-knit,
in this finicky colony housing
confused birds and the carnage
of melting snow.

people sharing happinesses,
incredulous – it’s sixty
in the shade. the ground is still hard
and we’re sitting under trees.

californians in parkas,
vermonters in shorts.
february twenty-ninth strolls by:
a fluke in a jean jacket.

walking home
i yell at water in my shoe,
a shock of unbridled joy
in pretending that it’s spring.

Pantoums for 3 a.m.

(for Siv)

Fall

Keeping shadows at arm’s length
while the streetlights still flicker
is the only way I know
that I understand the dark.

While the streetlights still flicker
I come to realize
that I understand the dark –
we have not kissed since morning.

I come to realize
the soft Earth’s quietude.
We have not kissed since morning;
the street is empty.

The soft Earth’s quietude
is the only way I know.
The street is empty,
keeping shadows at arm’s length.

Winter

Promises of mid-morning snow
curl twilight blues away –
I boot crunch across past-green,
revealing gray pallor of new December.

Curl twilight blues away
like peeling paint,
revealing gray pallor of new December —
and a cold snap blows like glass.

Like peeling paint,
frost does not forgive or bend.
A cold snap blows like glass,
and the fickle wind whispers.

Frost does not forgive or bend.
I boot crunch across past-green,
and the fickle wind whispers
promises of mid-morning snow.

Spring

There is no poetry
in the measured way
the floor creaks
when she comes to bed.

In the measured way
I unravel myself
when she comes to bed –
I have been waiting all day.

I unravel myself.
She does not know
I have been waiting all day
for this.

She does not know
the floor creaks.
For this,
there is no poetry.

Contra

woman! I shout-sing as I marvel
at your new-found confidences;
you have always been alone.
but now your soft-shoed dancing
knows the way it goes.
woman, you leaned into my mirror
before tonight,
rouged and pretty.
ribbons twirling through the darkened room,
led by the clavicle,
shimmering as you raise your wrists.
but girl, you draw back,
nightfall’s closing wildflower,
blushing and shy when I lower my eyes.
there is no dance led with the top of the head.
your girl quivers at my invitation,
gapes at my extended hand,
and her bird-bones stiffen at the
almost-touch of my cheek.

(as published in Rushlight, fall 2014)

Still Life with a Jar of Honey, Left Open on the Kitchen Table

last night the clock struck three, a lonely bird chirped,
and I walked into the kitchen on padded feet.
slid onto the floor with the jar and a spoon from the sink.
I live off your rations for sweetness here
and the jar has never been mine to take.
but part of you knew that if you fed me honey
I would spill like milk into your arms.
the cool linoleum calls, and the rest of your house is asleep.
weeks of episodes of clandestine honey-eating
and still we have not been caught with sticky fingers.
but left alone I licked it clean
rambling and mead-drunk in my own head, by my own hand.
there are other people in your house who use this jar
and who am I to empty it
when it is clearly marked with someone else’s name?
the strange room I occupy here, landlord, is simply mine to rent.
collapsed on the floor, silent and raving
I wonder if you will stir and creak down the stairs.
I wonder if it would please you to see me this way.
stung, foolish to forget that honey comes from bees.
apis mellifera, sucking dry the red clover
in a valley up north where it’s green.
it is selfish to empty this jar.
to hope the way I think of you is the way you think of me.

(as published in Rushlight, spring 2015; plain china, February 2017)

Bacchanal

(for Raustin, and Spectacle Pond)

on that night of stars,2013-10-13 21.37.50
of sweetly sanguine air: you were slicing fruit
when the cold snapped its fingers
and bid us come inside.
I pressed a grape to my palate with my tongue
and murmured words which grew lush
at the hesitant nape of your neck.
but how long would you stay?
I stared at the eggshell ceiling
(at the table in the kitchen
in my house, the window cracked
a train moaning)
while you swelled at the altar of my hips
and confessed: every time I danced with another
you needed to take up smoking.
perhaps I did not know you
but perhaps we were to be lovers
so I beckoned with a lighter in a flat, open hand
and we bowed our heads to our unrest.

(as published in Rushlight, fall 2014)

Minding

all at once I hide myself,
with found cravings in a coat pocket
hidden in autumn’s closet.
a yellow leaf touched my face
and I wanted this silence:
to bury my nose in your neck
like woodsmoke and amber,
until I could not see,
only hear the sylvan incantations
of the crickets,
and perhaps look up to see the others all
clambering for kindling —
needles and leaves,
while we were alone in a circle of stones,
like an ember, left burning.

(as published in Rushlight, fall 2015)

Delaney

morning has a wooden mission:
of a flat table
dressed with a checkered cloth,
pulling at its edges –
I pull myself downstairs
like honey from the jar
while jams sit in a line
waiting for butter knives.
the plate holding yolk-yellow
running from your mouth
with grin unfurling,
perched on the mug you like best.
newspapers open like squashblossoms,
buzzing radio hymnals –
This Must Be the Place.

(as published in Rushlight, spring 2014)

Asphalt

you played that solitaire
of saving with me
saying “i will remember now forever”

and tomorrow morning it’s gone
like your fingertips never made me soft
and i remember everything

like the bottle caps i collected
but i don’t win your game
if i tell you things you used to say

you keep things in your holy pockets
but i keep things in amber
and one day i tripped and

a piece socked me in the jaw
and chipped my front tooth
so when i smile big now

you can see it still hurts
and i will not play marbles
in the schoolyard with you anymore

because i will always lose
and you keep all the pretty ones
in your pockets

before you leave without asking

(as published in Rushlight, spring 2014)