I call the suicide hotline

The man on the other line calls me doll speaks in exclamations: don’t do it you crazy fool! Someone loves you out there! I’ve spilled a beer on my lap and sit in wet jeans with a blanket at my feet. Outside it’s like I always imagined it would be – a dark and dreamy […]

Dear Masha (to the one I once called Peanut):

Have you eaten today? I doubt you’d answer. Still, I ask, hoping you open your mouth, that this letter reminds you how I peeled grapefruit on my bedspread, and you pecked, in the way of your fascination with birds and the daintier things, the fruit’s pink flesh right out of my palms, admiring the thinness […]

Dysthymia

you are the bell, and I am the tongue of the bell, ringing you —Billy Collins, “Japan” There are days I have been cast (down) in bronze. Gloom pervades me like patina. I am the bells of Mary-le-Bow, long (fallen) silent, mute, tongueless, hollowed out. The claws of my dead dog clatter on the floor. […]

Anatomy Lab

I. You may find it emotionally difficult to dissect signifiers of personhood, says the anatomy professor, meaning these knuckles, these nails still with dirt underneath them, this stiff hand I hold as I trim away skin to the tendons beneath, thin ropes that, puppet-like, pull up each finger. Their names flexor digitorum profundus abductor pollicis […]

Heart-Shaped Box

This is a photograph of your hands scooping water out of the river named lonely running through the center of your grandmother’s chest. This is a photograph of your knees bent at the altar painted with the years between you & the last time you saw your father cry. This is a photograph of the […]

Speak-Easy

I knew it would be my last few days in the city, But I wasn’t going to tell you that I was leaving. We made our way toward the candled windows Of Little Italy like a movie from the early 30s, Grainy and aimless and your arm through mine. Our throats were phonographs, notes of […]

What It’s Like When You Escape

Running from Virginia to the other shore you’re halfway there in Topeka or thereabouts which is where you stay and serve coffee in an Edward Hopper truck stop where it’s always dusk and the interstate rolls flat out parallel to the sky straight as a chalked line snapped against a wall no curves or hills […]

Suburbia

Dad got drunk in the afternoons. He slouched in his short shorts and torn Ocean Pacific tee-shirt for hours after work watering the magnolia sapling by the driveway. His sneakers pressed yellow dimples into the St. Augustine sod as he watched the teenage girl across the street bronze in her strapless two piece.   His […]

L’Heure Bleue

What are they that move Through these rooms without even The encumbrance of shadows? —Tracy K. Smith   In a land so sharply lit Of such vast emptiness     dry scrubbed Of rock ocotillo and arroyos Framed by mountains canyoned Toothed and mesa flat     a sky That won’t release one’s gaze The blues of it with […]

Ars Poetica (Or: Walking in Lines with Five Feet)

What have we to say that bears repeating? Statements that start out I love … or I’m sorry … those are best. The rest of speech will mostly miss the mark we aim for. Language frets free the instant syllables escape the lips: so little mercy from our mouths. Wonder is best expressed in music, […]

At the Museum of Modern Art

after Mark Rothko’s “Rust and Blue” I watch a woman who smells of Dior bare her hinged fist at a Rothko: My grandson could paint better. As she swings her hips toward Renoir, I want to catch her handbag’s strap and say, Look again. Here, my chest peals with iron bells, my sternum cracks like […]