Sample Work

From Intersection, a chapbook:

MY DEAREST SON

You are my star, always will be, and soon
I will be yours. I want you to find me
in the night sky, draw a line of light
to the others, make a constellation.

I will be yours. I want you to find me
so I can guide your way. Please do not forget
the others, make a constellation
of your father, your sister, those who think of you

and guide your way. Please do not forget
the bed I made every day for you,
your father, your sister, those who think of you,
the clothes I washed and folded, meals I made,

the bed I made every day for you.
My son, this is the way you love someone:
the clothes I washed and folded, meals I made,
this is the way you let them know.

My son, this is the way you love someone.
Each morning, greet the changing sky.
This is the way you let them know.
If you must, study the map of loneliness, then

greet the changing sky with fury,
hole up in a dark closet, huddle on empty shoes,
if you must. Study the map of loneliness,
then, go. Take a girl out for ice cream.

Hole up in a dark closet; huddle on empty shoes.
In the night sky, draw a line of light between stars.
Go, take a girl out for ice cream.
You are my star, always will be, and soon.

 

Some poems from No Stranger Than My Own

TOMATOES
after Stephen Dobyns

I’m on a parapet looking down
at upturned faces and voices
rising like feathers in an
updraft. I am afraid of heights but I know
I will fall, and in the knowing my fear
is singed, my will is a skeleton bound
by silver twine, on my cold wrists
there are bracelets, inlaid turquoise with silver
hammered thin by a Hopi in Arizona,
a boy whose face is wide and soft, who blinks
each time the small hammer strikes.
I once had a girl, once lived in the gray
cosmos of her cigarette smoke, her
dark-paneled room, her gold-brown eyes
and face so finely wrought,
like porcelain. The way she brushed
her hair down across
her scapula and vertebrae left me
weak, I thought I might turn
to a feather and drift away.
She had a friend whose name was Paige
who had a mother who did away
with herself on the summer solstice,
four bottles of pills while sitting
in a chaise lounge by a thicket of
tomato vines overgrown and unkempt,
the red planets so full and heavy,
and Paige said every day
that August she ate them
with a pinch of salt,
she said they tasted
like nothing, nothing at all,
like air, she said.

______________________

MEN IN VEGAS

At the Sands a gambler’s hands
shake, open, then wilt when he throws
the dice. Somewhere near,

behind velvet-padded doors,
there is a vast stage. Spotlight: three ziggurats.
On each, a lazy white tiger.

*

In the 2nd Honeymoon suite, a vacationing
Teamster steps on a bathroom scale.
The numbers whisk past 299,

stop at 12. He is proud,
looking at the number
between stubby, sausage toes.

*

Around the bus station
where people sleep on newspaper
a man encumbers

his skin with dirt and dust, layered
history. He admires his tanned forearms,
sunless and earthy.

*

Miles away a black-haired man
digs post-holes in stubborn ground.
In his head he hears what

his father once said—
you’re too much a girl to be mine.
His childhood: On the gray froth

of Lake Erie, smoke jutting
from steel plant black stacks
where men fire ore into lava;

he fishes, a red-and-white bobber.
His father, hunched by the prow,
stares blank at the waves.

*

In a faceless townhome condo
a man in goatee wakes. He brews
a bunch of coffee, sits on a

miniscule porch in a faded crimson robe.
A pen and notebook wait for words.
He writes nothing.

Every second, the heat crawls down
his throat. He exhales,
each breath a small misery.

______________________

ALBANY WINTER
After John Cheever’s “The Swimmer”

In the foyer closet by the staircase
he finds a silk scarf, smells the lingering
sweetness, tangerine and cream,
his dry fingertips snagging the
soft weave. He ponders the call
of a bullfrog by the backyard pool,
cannot believe it’s gone, all of it,
nothing left except dust on windowsills,
a lonely, white scarf.
He blames himself—he coveted
too much for it to be good. She is far away,
the kids dispersed to distant gray cities,
the house—incredibly—empty,
and he can see a time, years from now,
when he’ll be old and so in love
with this moment that he’ll have to
get up from the table and make tea,
whiskey or vodka too harsh. He’ll sip
hot sweetness from an old mug, listen
to his grandfather’s cabin creak
on a raw cold night. Only then
will he love this moment, when he is old
and alone and lonely: the scarf against
his face, bitterness on his tongue, the taste
of emptiness. The wind will stamp outside,
night falling in a small window,
winter, the fields golden and dead,
just outside Albany, in the old house
with gravestones down back by the creek
in the shadow of a dormant willow,
his family name eroded,
but the strange skulls and wings
of death still clear, still indelible.

______________________

BLUE HAZE, GOODNIGHT MOON

Black smoke courses along the blank hills,
there is a crack that runs the length of it.

Shouts in far-off dusk, I park. The engine ticks.
Early night heat, late September. Soon the leaves

will collapse their canopies, like so many
umbrellas. Then the summer of fire

will no longer burn my lungs
or clot my eyes, those plumes

stretching from the west.
Upstairs, the kids are asleep, white noise

the shape of a running fan, night light burning
their room gold from within,

a glistening cocoon.
Ten o’clock. I tip-toe in, listen to their sleep,

gaze at their shadow features.
It is like drinking cold water from a well.

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