they spoke of hoofbeats
the thundering run of blood
through thread-like veins
but I heard spaceships, static
and echos, a voice miles away


hello scotoma
strange curving beast, back bent
and blown with white light
pull tight to the cornea
mark my vision with claw prints


the whistle of snow
dead grass trapped between the freeze
and thaw of autumn
I stir, nose my burrow mouth,
emerge in a new landscape


wan apparition
two white gloves scattered, stranded
on the wide top stair
I return them, hours pass
and they meekly reappear


frozen world of snow
long evenings and zipped parkas
black-iced parking lots
I peer into coming months
scrying on this clock-turned day


an inch of facepaint
pierrots and pantalones
in bathroom mirrors
trudge through the back gate, whooping
push our way into the house


the evening tripple
soporific, love-charm thick
syrup of nightshade
my eyes roll back, deep breaths chain
below my ribcage shadow


emerge from the rain
dripping, teeth chattering
in hoodies and coats
sweet costumes torn by fall gales
bags bulging with damp candy


these men and their hands
plucks and crashes, tender snares
sewn into folk songs
these men and their histories
the brilliant women they've kissed


a street lamp filtered
through rippled glass, half-cocked blinds
slats of yellowed light
midnight mission, shadowed leaves
thin ribbon of tap water


love-mad travelers
footsteps tracing a gold ring
around the isle
foggy moors dotted with sheep
cats perched on cobblestone streets


emerge from fog thick
as brick walls, iron steamships,
to the harbor cove;
the wary faces ashore
as we drag our thin corpses


ocean, still mirror
in the airless afternoon
our limp, dizzy sails
carve notches in the porthole
counting hours, days, life-times


a voyage of days
cast off with champagne clatter
and shower of suds
but hush, a queer darkness falls
macabre silence of the hold


blue-backed swallows tilt
their wings and nest on the backs
of my open palms
their bodies fold into sleep
and I join them, dreaming


wash the poison from
the curled coats of seeds, drain the
soapy waste water
heat blushes the grain brown
the germ raised like a whip-tail


the era of illness
bus rides broken by long peals
of coughing, raw gasps
the still air pulls with currents:
influenza, bronchitis


awake in moonlight
the dark miles of night stopped
for this passenger
the knife edge of consciousness
sleep thundering waves below


while we watch the game,
pass bags of chips, crack wise at
the glowing tv screen,
the day folds into darkness
the first cold nights of autumn


the room is spinning
with proclamations, sugar
strawberry incense
in a tight circle we pass
dice, toss matches, throw candy


some new tradition
mopey friday evenings to
turn pages in bed
feeling like a cypher, hollow
two eyeballs and no brain


the first niggling ache
like a loose tooth, mice nibbling
on your smallest toe
so quickly blooms malignant;
gangrenous limbs lopped to stumps


fronds of fennel wilt
next to a dozen white eggs
in their cardboard bed
jars of jellies and pickles
tinkle in the opened door


the rat-like whimper
of lungs, pumping with each flit
and fold of skin wings
world of darkness and echos
hear the ground under my feet


milk white skin, baroque
in a work shirt, porcelain
folded doll hands
the throw of your skin's perfume:
cream and sugar, wool and whey


bent tins of clams, pried
open and drained into pots
olives and parsley
he calls us from a cloud of steam
while draining pasta in the sink


ill-lit wind tunnel
black-top garage funneling sound
from the whirling blades
the roar of exhaust fans fills
every square inch, quakes each atom


step and collapse
draw myself up, step and fall
a downward arrow
traveling to the earth's core
doomed to tectonic smelter


two tired sailors,
we drift the living room rug
on the SS Couch
swigging gossip and trivia
like a flask passed between hands


your sweet civic heart
planting gardens between
crooked row houses
calling every neighborhood
by the name it gives itself


my messy kitchen
stacked skyhigh with chipped plates and
brown-ringed coffee mugs
cookie batter and fruit peels
nest between strewn tea towels


wings beat the glass globe
of the ceiling fan, splayed leg
stinkbug shadow
the cat stares, transfixed by
the prisoner's death rattle


ohio roadside
a bleak tree hung with vultures
mortician shadows
their gathered wings hunched ragged
paired gloves, pinned to a coatsleeve


the cacophony
of cheers and spilled gin gimlets
rattle the windows
below, we exchange small talk
grateful for empty foyers


gutters overflow
bearing dead leaves like steam ships
into the old cracked street
my heels click the cobblestones
wet black felt, two drowned moles


world of coiled rings
haloed planets circling
our tiny bowed heads,
microscopic corona
breathing blood between our cells


the morning rumble
black exhaust, the crushing weight
tires grinding the asphalt
to pebbles, to sand, to dust
blown in boiling tailpipe heat


lost in the static
broken signals, weakening
to dead doppler drop
mystery of space within,
where flesh parts invisibly


the maestro leering,
scissored teeth, his crimeboss mug
lined as a flattened palm
pull my sway to his orbit
the curve of his fat belly


split the thick rind
wedge the slit with knives
hands turned into claws
pull the flesh from its cracked shell
golden strands, seeds like white pearls


backyard fence slung with
ivy and white flowers, lights
bobbling on a string
dusk finds us pulled into rings
pressing words to opened hands


electric spiral
births all-knowing zygote drain
suns bloom new, decay
amid checkerboard chaos
lapsed synapse, newly-fused path


the blue-black morning
echos with my cadence:
measured fall of feet,
monotonous sawing of
weak lungs, throat choked with effort


cracks in the sidewalk
crawl with chicory, the last
flowers of the season
fall singes the knotted stems
blushes scarlet the leaf tips


slip under water
tilt back your head, silver throat
open to the sky
your humble stance, legs askew
sweet vulnerability


the evening stillness
broken by a pipe knocking
in the basement wall
upstairs the cat migrates from
bed to bed, her cotton steps


in the coal cellar
the cat snuffs, pawing boxes
touching cold concrete
she probes the perimeter
tail hung with cobwebs and dust


the day's rain, endless
dangling streamers of grey crepe
and shuttered windows;
at sunset a lone pink beam
sets fire across the river


benzaldehyde whiff
dizzy from butter's richness
and the soaring heat
sheet after sheet of cookies
hearts and wreaths to seal their love


the thunder of blood
and I'm blinded by the bloom
of stark white sheets
gnawing feeling that never
subsides, never stills my hands


I part the dark room
with one outstretched hand, grasping
for the bed corner
folding my body for sleep,
I find you, I always do


the embrace of sleep
two soft arms bearing respite
and a yard of rope,
manacles, a pillowcase
to bind my head, and strange dreams


cigarillo puff
floating down the sidewalk, thick
as a man's bare chest
small cloud and I, side by side,
neighbors in the autumn air


velvet galaxy
a milky way of strung beads
and tarnished chainlink
lustrous stars, facets burned warm
where the sun stroked their faces


run, wooden horses
the up-down levers wheezing
in the jewel-lit dark
noses flared, wild eyes all white
spooked team bolting in circles


suspended amid
the brick, an open cypher
of a window frame
and there, behind gauze curtains,
the smooth line of a boy's back


sky shook down on us
stifling mornings, the cruel heat
waves of roaring rain
she shook us to the same corner
serendipitous junction


my hand's swollen hinge
bust knuckle leaned to one side
with queasy indifference
coddle the ruined joint, prop it
against its neighbor's backbone


iris in the weeds
lush low of purple on dusk
blooming unbidden
she sits frozen at the bus stop
her blank face, her bruised eye


push back the worn vine,
scavenge the wind-fall harvest
marked with black loam
toothed flesh of the fruit, crisp bite
bloomed to sweetness' embrace


back to the warren
we pull close, memories of
warm food and cold hands:
the last false days of summer
sweat through the open window


these neon caverns
lush with painted women, booze
spilled on a bass beat
pull to the corner, notice
the plaster holes, ripped duct tape


five hours, I remained
still as a granite obelisk
parting sun from shadow
the hours pass unbidden
under the hands of my task


shirtless with his scars
wry mouth, ink-flecked fingernails
drinking flat piss beer
a crown for this slouchy king, lord
of hard years and nothingness


the chill prick of fall
slides through the slatted fan blades,
collects in the corners
I wake, half-frozen, feet curled
in the thin refuge of blanket


light spilled off the table
and puddled, honey pools
blushing the worn boards
I tug the curtain half-mast,
hide in the lip of darkness


each exhale chained a twin
syncopated lungs panting out
clipped bruised breaths
a dark spiral opened within
and I curled as if in death


we dine in treetops
emerald ceiling bowed to touch
the rim of your plate
concierge of cicadas
plucked chords of spiderweb prey


stacks of cracked spines, slung
cheek to cheek on sagging shelves
some wet afternoon
your cough, heard across the room
tugging the sleeve of my heart


powder of decay
frosts the web of leaves, yellow
stems thinned to straws
piled lumps of unripe melons
stuck knots in a green shoelace


god bless a cold beer
the way stories tangle tight
head to tail to head
the dog's perked ears, velvet scraps
between my nervous fingers


lace the sinew to
my curved calves, narrow boy hips
trimmed down to meat
the blood bolts, singing through
newly forged paths of my body


crossing dark water
the gentle humped backbone
of the unspooling bridge
summer evening cleft by
the white skin of concrete


basil bolted, ruined
by flowering flotillas
the cloud-like sway
a ragged leaf mashed to paste
warns an acrid bite, no good


the skinless fruit, moist
and sweating in my cupped palm
parting into fat halves
the snarling tooth of the knife
the nicked web of my curled thumb


the glare and the blight
heat-shimmer and bleached-out rock
cupping warm bathwater
pink lungs rattle with pain
my stomach leans uneasily


racing down the hill
a friend’s bike, his reckless grin
snapped back, stunned moment
flying, tethered by a chain
caught around his tender neck


a splash of water
stacks of wet dishes, puddled
in the steel sink
outside a brace of lightning
and a steady night rain


four thousand faces
unlined, warmed by youthful joy
shouting at the sun;
behind a rock, small omens
paper-thin skull, fanned feathers


I am downtown, mired
between suits and cigarettes
dazzled by the noise
I clutch my lifeline, swallow
down pain and vomit, cyclic


the same old zero
shuffling, fists balled in pockets
with a bad-luck eye
Sam said 'fail again, fail better'
I say he's got my number


heaps of velvet, felled
on the border of roadside
amid the tall weeds
I think of doll-sized fur coats
sleeping minks, missing kittens


my blood's exhaustion
the trembling muscles, shaking
with adrenaline
I breathe and close my eyes, sense
the body's swift work of repair


astroturf, green nap
rolling a florescent ball
through peeled-paint windmills
street lamp spotlights, flat shadows
pooling in the eighteenth hole


the half-lit theater
rows of folding chairs, unhinged
and thick with listeners
in the back a cooler weeps
ice melting between glass bottles


cold breezes punch through
august's false sun, promising
pinprick autumn nights
front stoop tomatoes waver
between ripe fruit, withered leaves


full of vinegar
salted wounds, back-bitten bile
sneers and smashed windows
cross as a tired child
I call quits and march to bed


the hum of the fan
and evening cicadas.
we sleep like children
splayed on the old quilt; the days
are growing shorter. fall waits.


warm woozy sunshine
shoe soles melting, the brick heat
of the sidewalk home
my belly is full of gin
I just want to sit and smile


the curved river bank
lays bare the morning vista
thrust of glass buildings
we duck under bridges, feet
push us west then turn homeward


fat wheeled suitcases
click seconds on the tile floor
wobble down hallways
one pale face then another
disembark, unfold smiles


small disappointments
sit like sparrows on your arms,
petty indulgence:
the dissolution of plans
lost hours, the meal unsavored


the evening gridlock
cars pile into crosswalks
animal insistence
the sky spits wind, sallow tones
the rapid slew of storm clouds


rowhouses, uneven
tightly packed as front teeth
black before the dawn
here and there a single light
one heart beats to wakefulness


ripped web of bedsheets
my feet knotted together
sweat glued to my spine
I pinch my eyes shut, churn sleep
in the hum of a box fan


every window open
to the cool blue evening
perch at the table
a glowing beacon, still life
with pen and lowball glass


ratty tea towels
a dozen masons boiled
glass parched by the heat
steam and sugar, afternoon
alchemy, hot pepper jam


creekwater and corn
overripe fruit, smashed puce bruise
wet coin-metal tang
bouquet of cheap beer, spare
yellow trace to be forgotten


a slim promise on a street
thick with harried people
two eyes can turn off course, find
home in a stray brave glance


pink dusk, empty streets
new cicadas grind a chant
husky summer song
circle like druids, arms raised
bounty and birth our blessings


a piebald nightmare
grease-soaked feathers lashed to bones
picking gutter crumbs
bedraggled, limp and totter
on warped and tumorous feet


sweep the sand away
stoke a pyre to scorch
a thousand years of strife
cherish this new void, hold it
where your heart once weakly hummed


summer of make-do
lean pockets and no real plans
to fill the long day
scrounge twenty, cheap beer to cap
event-less afternoon daze


smell of creek water
clings to my hair like algae
waving, rock-bound rust
I slip under the surface
feet pressed against the furred stones


the sun sets hotly
singeing weeds, blinding hillsides
baking the gray dust
in the cool of the castle
stray winds run through the courtyard


kitchen addition
our childish spaghetti
swift nick of chili
greens and garlic; our palates
carved to spoon fruit of the earth


the sun rose, brand new,
like it wasn't tired of this
sour old up and down
stand under the fresh circuit
feel the first rays fall to earth


dark morning hour
the thumb of nightfall still pressed
to the sleeping streets
the moon slips from the sky, a drunk
vanishing from a bar stool


my keeling ship, ten
feet of rope to lash my hands
to the shaking wheel
adrift in this wild sea
I grit my teeth and pull north


spillage of small stones
pastel houses cloaked with vines
cracked concrete, wild weeds
streets coil and branch, endless
as days fall to wet evenings


drum beats, heartbeats, sweat
thighs shake, muscle and sinew
grinding to the noise
the thin sling of a whistle
cuts through like a laser beam


my two-ton head, squared
as an anvil, pounded smooth
by hosts of hammers
I drag it across the room
the dead weight, the crooked neck


the flat hand of heat
clamped over our mouths; dim noon,
the oven's belly
ice dwindling in a glass
dish of cold grapes furred with frost


grease-soaked paper bags
chinese take out, white boxes
the curl of red ink
we spoon rice on the front porch;
husband and wife of three years


air a cubic mile
chain of dew suspended,
creeping swelter wall
clouds roll on tank tracks, hover
heavy and deadly, bad men


piano wire nest
on the hot sidewalk, hammers
and pins like lost eggs
the rotting carapace, smashed
mahogany funeral


sun leaks through curtains
pulled tight to blind this house
the still dark air within
an avocado stem shimmies
in the breeze of a box fan


in this tin-roof bar
we unwind the evening hours
over bunts and runs
baskets of popcorn, cold beer
the bat cracks, we stand to leave


inversion of two
your wonderless passage home
my keen displacement
race down city streets solo
eyes glued to your graffiti


crack the spines, white scars
and yellowed pages, dog-eared
creases of affection
stack these treasures, brittle leaves
and the scent of vanilla


the sky broke open
let loose a thousand clenched fists
on the morning streets
punch-drunk and soaked, we scrambled
for bus doors, our mouths agape


smoke-hued feathers
plumes of steel, red-earth and lead
layer in disarray
patchwork tussle of pigeons
stabbing beaks at spilled breadcrumbs


eyes peeled open, raw
from gummy half-sleep, clenched hours
adrift in a dark room
my head is filled with stuck gears
gauze and words I keep from you


we perch, tenterhooked
on the lip of darkness, deep
black ocean trenches
our eyes hoist flags, plunge curtains
scramble to form blind order


thrift store bric-à-brac
chipped saucers and stone kittens
pink pasteboard boxes
glass bottles with a thick inch
of syrupy pine cologne


coffee on the steps
painting my toenails in the
early morning sun
my unlit house is full
of silence and sleeping men


the sweating alley
bricks baked red, hissing steam
from sweat drops, spilled beers
aunties and uncles make time,
share seats, mouths lined with years


the dim bulb glows orange
in the darkness, filament
a thread of lava
we talk in shadows, glasses
sweating under summer stars


woodsmoke and cured meat
the scent is everywhere, curls
through parted curtains
cicada sunset, cool dark
graveyard full of fireflies


overnight green stems
thrust up, thick and verdant, sweep
out in search of sun
turn the pot, hear hymns of praise
drifting from the knotted roots


inkwell sky, lightning
flashes of neon, rumbing
mechanical churn
hoist my charm in the midway
he takes a photo, laughing


standing in a lot
hands deep in dirt, tangle of
weeds at my wet feet
rain-swollen clouds perch above
threaten mildly, cross house cats


sky crowded with stars
wall of buildings stand sentry
flush us to water
we fight our way upstream, swift feet,
bridge muddled with people


the thump and rattle
from the basement; lay supine
cradled glass of ice
below, the laundry creaks dry
upstairs two beds stripped faceless


in the unlit room
manila pages gather
the setting sun
faded text and cheap black ink
hold tight a world I've not seen


black sky empties
over this cut in the rock
its broken houses
cowpath streets fill with water
asphalt creekbed, hail, torn leaves


the heat clings thickly
in the darkened house, windows
seeking slim breezes
fish two olives from the jar
respite in the salty brine


I pull weeds barefoot
stacks of plantain and crabgrass
wither in the sun
I leave the buds of purslane
tender red jewels, small kindness


the empty chalet
dark wood and still sooty flues
double-wide doorways
flung to reveal sallow slopes,
parched grass baking in the sun


we move like clockwork
stirring pots, chopping spinach
pressing tortillas
a woman with three heads and
twelve arms, feeding an army


you call the sun out
to perch over my shoulder
the day of your birth
glasses of ice water melt
beside our hands, locked fingers


make the rounds, press hands
as the band comes alive in
a ping pong chorus 
I collar you at the bar
to hand you a slice of cake


lay with silent ease
legs entwined, stacked like cut wood
bellies warm and fed
from one squinted eye your smile
stretches into horizon


hold this absence
like a pulled tooth in your mouth
the gap between houses;
a blank spot on the sidewalk
still casts a shadow


how many footfalls
take us from flattened flood plain
to rocky hilltop
two-hundred cement steps and
the rattle of our pink lungs


thimble of bourbon
on the red porch, lean legs crossed
in a painted chair
night falls in the tree city
headlights and wood knots and us


flip the record, love
or put on something crazy;
let me feel the beat
a line of empty beer cans
stack of empty cardboard sleeves


storm clouds roll by, thick
tongues of moisture, wide
furrows in the sky
plants climb and volley, green shock
to the wet lawn, the grey dusk


erase my footsteps
forget my words, break my teeth
push me out breech-birth
leave me under a toadstool
tonight I curl with the worms


had that dream again
where I cannot see your face
only your thin curls
I whisper to them, how much
you are loved, how you are missed


early morning fog
shrouds this muggy monday ride
into the city
a mayfly corpse curls, thin prawn
in the well of my window


this billy goat girl
ripping vines from the side wall
with flat shoepeg teeth
she grinds stems into green cud
and turns, bleating, in the weeds


there was some trouble
on the way home; the drawn pit
the broken spirit
men are worth their golden weight
but still we catch eyes and doubt


in the darkened bar
the boys throw darts, trade mild barbs
curse the cramped bullseye
they hoist and set their wet mugs
chaining rings on the table


a bounty of leaves
folded and bound; chlorophyll
staining fingernails
wash the grit from the pale root
rip the leaves and make them bleed


cook in the kitchen
barefoot, sway your hips with a
cup of rye and ice
record spinning, hopeless drift
eight-ball avocado pits


a sunny lunch hour
in the park, book propped open
the palm's shallow crook
warm your spine on the cement
brain lurching with bitten words


a head of cabbage
hides a heart-shaped core; he boils
water, stirs the sauce
his polish bride rolls golabki
harmony in the kitchen


clusters of houses
fairy-rings of beige mushrooms
bloom in fallow fields
doors locked, shades pulled tight to blind
blank faces of behemoths


in a sunny field
wine mingles, glass is broken
under the groom's heel
the bride laughs, her chair hoisted
by a sea of loving hands


ancient rockface, wet
with spring water, braids thick woods
to the pebbled cliff
blue mountains recede behind
acres of empty ozone


spiderweb glasscracks
and the amber rush of rye
puddling below
the head-sore heat of the room
ruined bottle on the bed


my new favorite song
the sugar in my coffee
sleepy morning kiss
simple wednesday pleasures, joy
the art of proximity


I pray on the wings
of bus rides and coffee shops
street-corner glances
I pray to the god of names
to put mine in your strange mouth


majestic zero
day of anthills and tv
fridge door swung open
I melt into the couch-weave
worthless hours, humbled body


blue-black street corner
missed buses make long evenings
on a storefront stoop
press my head to your shoulder
I close my eyes between cars


the strange riverside
strewn with pumice, black coal shards
nervous flight of swifts
clouds of purple-blooming vetch
draw us to the muddy bank


sand diplomacy
the ground shifts below your boots
compacts and expands
the weight of your saber, hung
like a corpse in a scabbard


you pour your guts out
shield the strings with metaphors
or bark it out straight
reveal it tenderly or
shake it in your knotted fist


old men sip o'douls
and the players strum dixie,
keen craggy, veined hands
he nods and mouths the words, swung
by his wife's throaty burlesque


a fledgeling plummets
and shocked, bounces, beak agape
under the rosebush
tongue-thrust and squeaking, she runs
between my feet and takes wing


the sun retreats and
we're left in this dark bedroom
sweat, sotto voices
blind, i feel for your sweet face
hear my heart beat in my bones


a day to move dirt
drag life into the corners
of your slim domain
wash the grime from your skin, drink
deep and observe your hands' work


I was in a cave
and then not. My eyes burned with
the overcast sky.
Up the hill, the sound of birds,
spittlebug nests in the weeds.


eight at the table
and we laugh too loud, order
too many refills
I've shared beers with these scoundrels
since we cut our teeth, laughing


the thick midweek slog
caught half-way, foot half-lifted
to step, lungs half-full
chalky pill half-swallowed, count
minutes till the brain floats, numb


branches weave themselves
thick ribbon in the chainlink
knotting the steel grid
I run a hacksaw through them
untangle the greenish cords


with gloved hands I grab
sinewy stems and flat leaves
two-toned as poison
I tear the shoots down, expose
the knotted trunk, gnarled old heart


paean to labor
careful chopping, the warm stove
pile of clean dishrags
fold it, tuck it in a drawer
make order in your young home


the family album
lines of children, long-gone cat
in grandmother's arms
swaddled faces of babies
winking crows-feet beside me


in the grocery store
the same yankee faces but
now they are my age;
no one sees the grass spider
lost and scrambling in the aisles


my mother and I
hang our hats to a shared tune
in the weekday sun:
long walks along the creekbeds
and a stiff afternoon drink


golden sunset hours
light slanting on the hillside
the rosy red bricks
we stand in a vacant lot
listen for peeping fledglings


bell-shaped flowers bloom
in the space between old bricks
purfume and pebbles
heavy heads droop on the bus
sore for sleep, tired blossoms


caverns of water
dragon's gold and diamonds, lost
amid the boulders
I spin stories in the air
above sweet sleeping faces


thin mist afternoon
my hollow head whistles clean
in the cold spring breeze
pigeons sip from a puddle
touch beaks in bashful circles


his hand on her thigh
stop and go hours, trapped
ohio highway
plates of diner spaghetti
cool under their hooked glances


muddied wreath of roses
share smokes on a tar rooftop
the flat wet skyline
inside folks kiss and laugh loud
the whiskey so cold and sweet


the emerald tunnel
stained glass streets, wisteria
sighing on the vine
these empty sidewalks belie
an acre of green mondays


the streets are hopping
sidewalk promenade, gossip
by the corner store
bags of ice and cigarettes
make their way homeward


crumbling hillside bricks
old trees anchored to shale plates
cowpaths and violets
the warm air mingles the scent
of new growth and swift decay


feel the dark rising
shifting seapools of bile
malevolent tide
this drowned cur will drag to shore
her scissor teeth spread, rictus


I know every inch
of this pale landscape, the scabs
and scars, vacant lots
the hollow by the river
where currants muddle and stray


a rain-drenched morning
I run to the bakery
wet shoes, open door
the air is moist with live yeast
gossip and fresh loaves of rye


stopped cars interlace
like stalled bricks, smoggy stonework
crumbling sun-baked clay
we wait like mummies, brain dead
in stuffy sarcophagi


rebar ribcage, flaked
with rust, and an I-beam spine
cut through my thin core
hang my flesh from these hooks
and see the strength of my smirk


gutter stutter-step
pigeons coo and bob, spin toes
and court in the trash
tires roll by, the birds scatter
feathers, breadcrumbs and shit


ionic cloudscape
ominous sea-shifts backlit
cracking claps of air
the wind whips grit and strange rain
onto braced cheeks, black sidewalks


I apologize
for my dead-weight broken tongue
the measured withdrawl
quiet evening in the dark
my beer slushy with ice chips


voices shout to claim
the fatal proximity
edge tight to the fire
but I want to know the space
between visits, glances, months


butter with your bread
in this old hidden farmhouse
we swore we were lost
until the vista opened
land and pink sky, sweet tandem


barroom handshakes and
rumors from the ratskeller
tongues creep around beers
catch my face in the mirror
wan consort boxed in walnut


this cold blue-black night
like the bottom of the sea
mariana trench
spine-straight, I carve my way home
ceaseless shark, my dagger jaw


summerwarm evening
and familiar street faces
appear everywhere
I want to touch each shoulder
celebrate our survival


branchtips dyed chartreuse
unfolding infant leafbuds
and dusty catkins
the air is pollen thick and
hums like a swarm of mayflies


roll in like a fog
blur my vision to greasestreaks
blackjack my temple
I waiver in a bus seat
blank behind my sunglasses


hang my heart within
a tangled nest of wires
snakes and octopi
scrub the suction-cup bruises
swollen collarbone kisses


halo of whiskers
trembling, charcoal fluff-cloud
back feet tense as wire
rodent heart ticking between
my laced fingers, soft-pressed palms


crimson el topo
against the messy landscape
purple swirling sky
bang the butt of your rifle
on your hip and start shooting


bachelor evenings
hot peppers and canned black beans
cheap beer, sliced lemon
lay with an open window
and parse the chants of songbirds


triangle tendons
nerves pull tight and knot like snakes
the spine, finned backbones
stretch my pale skin taut, reveal
the punch of blood, the ill node


thunderheads migrate
like lowing cattle into
the river valley
darkness drops, a black hide hung
and hooves spark distant rumbles


two pointed brown wings
harnessed by a scrap of bone
newsprint thin ribcage
sleek swoop of death hinged in flight
and pinned to the warming dirt


microscopic gemstone grit
caustic white luster
sugar split on the counter
blown diamond mine, bad omen


confluence of wires
street corner trapeze knotted
with morning dove coos
spring touches every rowhouse
the throat of every sparrow


huddle in the cave
day-drinking light beer, folding
cards on wet bar top
sun-blind afternoon can wait
burn our backs on the walk home


my magnet blood pulls
and aligns, dark avenues
pheromones and beer
steetlight on my knotted neck
venus rules this house tonight


the era of thaw
falcons turn their rooftop eggs
and hunt, merciless
explosion of white feathers
in the tender newborn grass


he showed up again
hiking through my horoscope
a glacial presence
dark beard in forest shadows
blue-eyed Scot my dead double


bad-luck vaudeville boy
and his gamine pool pennies
for a boardwalk date:
empty pockets, shared hotdogs
and a swift daylight tumble


orion glitters
over our bare heads, dark streets
the hill-walk homeward
we pass from peak to plateau
sleepy tableland village


grey shadow crying
in the corner of the room
squat haunches, bared teeth
I fold the cat in my arms
her wounded purr, her heartbeat


gravel parking lot
tucked in the woods, dusty bricks
and the first sunshine
coatless in the spring breeze
beads of light on your shoulders


thin whine of sirens
horizon clouded with plumes
fat greasy black smoke
the shock of the blaze, the calm
hollow morning, good friday


peep of the sparrow
brevity perched on a branch
gone in an eyeblink
poems can balance on the pause
between the words omitted


still the diseased flesh
layer the blanket, wrap the cord
supine and silent
bless the battle waged within,
prayer in the sarcophagus


practice patience, child
walk carefully, speak kindly
daily sneer unstitched
unlock your heart to perceive
what the universe provides


unwanted snowfall
on the dead grass continues
our dying springtime
stuff my ears with screaming soul
bass thumps and I keep walking


ringed snakes nose blindly
lizards kick, the opossum snarls
toothy spitting hiss
fall asleep and dream about
the sprung ghosts of animals


build your own altar
count your teeth and hammer nails
show the universe
that your hands grasp what they need
and offerings flow backwards


an hour and ten
navigating crumbling rock
and street-lit gutters
bus doors open, pooling light
then vanish like meteors


thick-tongued brain half-drifts
beyond my tilted, hung head
swallowing horse pills;
nerves accelerate, lights flash
fingers tremble and weave tight


spring equinox snow
blows to the mouth of our den
we raise our noses
turn to curl our warm bodies
palms on skin, breathing stilled air


clouds bolt through the air
spit ice flakes while whirling winds
scream past my window
inside I am cut of stone
mired to earth, dumb-cut, untouched


a guttural growl
flash of teeth, ivory needles
and the fangs sink in
my gut lurches, I feel the
blossom of claws on my womb


diamond-eyed kittens
cartoon belles, pealing sirens
droning coin-drop clicks
stale casino air tastes like
cigarettes and diet coke


fog and damp pavement
lit by pools of kelly green
plastic beads, trinkets
women pass a flask, huddle
for warmth before the parade


blue eyes, mineral
and my own clumsy fingers
broadened to man-size
my brother walks beside me
grinning peter pan shadow


the sun, cloud-ridden
sulks slowly through the sky, late
to each hour's station
the lassitude of the day
weight of the stationary


a small dark morning
city still night-lit, omens
in the blue beacons
the sky begins to rain stones
prove to us her majesty


my skull has shattered
beaten by a restless mind
to a snapped-chalk pulp
my brain paces, a tiger
sniffing the same stained cement


one thousand mouths leak
diesel exhaust, great plumes of
dense carcinogens;
breathe in one thousand exhales
on this grimy city block


sun-warmed concrete steps
cut from cracked-glass gullies
to shining hill tops
a crumbling umbilicus
to our satellite bedrooms


sugar your coffee
in the afternoon shade, shoot
arrows, embrace tight;
in the brick-strewn backyard
the dog ran her foot bloody


a pint glass pixie
clockwork songbird singing for
long-nailed emperors
i open my throat, the crowd
behind me woozy and warm


standing by the sink
to wash a mug, steep mint tea
radio mumbling
the cat curls fox-wise, sleeping
I sip and dream of summer


spring cacophony
ankle-deep snow thaws into
streams of cold water;
eight-hour blizzard erased
in a sunny afternoon


swift change is coming
I can taste it in my mouth
salt, ammonia
clouds race across the sky, wet
with snow to cloak early spring


ring the broken chord
spark the spacewalk, spiral fills
claustrophobic drums
I'll walk this beat out downtown
my head hung in the ether


two-thousand green miles
a ribbon spooling over
creekbeds, mountain stones
my swift feet ache for the trail
my tongue, six months of silence


pile the bed with sheets
worn blankets, hope-chest quilts seed
the afternoon nap
our sleepy limbs tangle like
kudzu climbing phone pole wires


ring the tamborine
shake the room with bass and sweet
reedy harmonies
it's so dark and tonight we're
drunk in love and alive


snow turns to cold rain
the alley is full of trash
and tired cooks smoking
under a ripped umbrella
my head, shorn like joan of arc


taking the night bus
I peer out the dark window
wet streets, the walk home
three beers slosh in my belly
on the yellow-lit sidewalk


a cairn of stones, heaped
rough-hewn boulders, flattened rounds
pond bottom pebbles
each day remove a handful
watch the lean body vanish


saucer-eyed pea brain
dustrag moppet meowing high
and thin for supper
she drops, purring, from my arms
to sulk pretty on the stairs


strong unsweet coffee
records spinning in the haze
nag champ and sunshine
beyond the slatted blinds cars
drive up and down the mountain


your sleepy lion face
squints at my staircase foot falls,
jewelry box rummage
you lay your head back and smile
man of my house, my heart's pride


cap a week hard won
bring a dark pint to your mouth
by the high river
parse the the grain and malt between
cheek and tooth, the cup and lip


we traffic in words
breathe them into seashell ears
cocked in reception
the air is swarmed with thoughts: pull
them down, love, and give them names


sweet cord of my days
frayed from mending these pale weeks
pulls taut, tight and snaps
a hawk tumbles from the sky
and screams, tangled in a bush


i am a glass pane
a jar of water, a gust
blamed on a meek ghost
doors close before me, open
for nothing but swirling snow


slip slip stitch, knit one
yarn over with stiff fingers
turn the work, make one
the needles click whispers in
strange language of creation


we found a staircase
winding from a wet gutter
to a high hilltop
we paused at the top, breathless
eyes tracing the grid of streets


hamster in a nest
of tea cups and kleenexes
pillows and sour soup
i watch night fall, bleary-eyed, 
from the mouth of my tunnel


I lean my head back
as we skirt down Liberty
in the lush black night
eyes closed I know every lurch
and rise of the orbit home


buckets of roses
kitten heels, commuters clutch
cellophane bouquets
the gulf tower glows red and
the whole city is in love


on the wet-black roads
snow gleams like a candle flame
but when i look up
millions of flakes fill the sky,
a universe of dark stars


within the cavern
of thick sleep the mind turns
to observe itself:
forms open like bird's plumage
hanging from a flowered branch


trees are full of ghosts
plastic bags choke the branches
shredded by the wind
a twisting gust chills my bones
and rattles the strange harvest


winter walls feel close
I look out every window
and walk between rooms
in the deep month of winter
the clouds hang, claustrophobic


patchwork afternoon
flowers, trash-picked living rooms
bold women grinning
I remember being broke
twenty-four and transcendent


a vision of mouths
wood and charcoal, a long beard
and drawing blackness
I knot thread round my finger
and squint, try to remember


hunched over the desk
red wine and the radio
leaking small voices
razor between my fingers
scraps of paper at my feet


snowfall tracks cat paws
reveals her nightly sojourn:
a rest on the stoop
the disruption of smooth snow
where she slipped under the fence


watch the breath taken
slow rise of shoulder, exhale
like a soft word sighed
in scattered hillside homes lungs
pull in and out, mark the night


my boots crunch salt and
silty streetwater as I
eyeball the masses:
one hundred strangers walk by
ciphers smoking cigarettes


a step and a gasp
my leg locks in the cold air
with a deep dull pain
I brace on the chain-link fence
and coax the joint to motion


a flash of turquoise
reveals two peacocks, scratching
for grain in a drift.
snow gathers on their limp trains,
white lace shrouding bronze-green eyes


on frigid pavement
sputum puddles freeze into
grey slicks of pond ice;
in a drafty gallery
we drink wine amid nail holes


squalls blow sheets of snow
opaque as lambs' wool, cold as
a mid-winter birth
we gather at the table
warm our hands with a shared meal


a black sky downpour
spun me to the entryway
of a jewelry shop;
in the wet vestibule I
met the gaze of a soaked dove


deep clouds beheaded
the dark skyscrapers, left them
standing like mute stumps.
behold the foggy ax blade:
atmospheric slight-of-hand


warm rains cracked and dashed
the salty ice, erasing
winter from the earth
I stood in a numb fuzz, a
buzzing state of novocaine


we witchy women
gather over plates of eggs
and exchange hexes
passing vials of blessed oils:
love potions, evil eye wards


wings fill the thorn bush
spry sparrows chatter and hop
fluff their dingy coats
I throw them bread crumbs, watch them
sink up to their knees in snow


a moonlit snowfall
dusky sky smouldering above
these soft velvet hills
the air hangs still and muted
between the far shore and here


plates of ice float in
the steaming Allegheny
like mute coal barges;
their water weeps to mingle
with the wide knotted rivers


to still my shiver
I imagine my body
a column of ice:
a dark hollow heart frozen
in a web of cracked crystal


a day to keep warm
from the biting chill outside
stir rice and beans and
sit by the radiator
with a thick book in your lap


we fill her pockets
as we cut through the side streets
eyes pinned to the curb
buttons, fake flowers, torn books
souvenirs of the city


this endless city
tunneled under and over
and crawling with souls
I walk a dark street, head down
in the howling bitter wind


the bear swings his jaws
teeth ferrying a thick pane
of dripping pond ice;
fifteen harvest mice huddle
in the eye of a needle


half-remembered streets
dioramas, gemstones, bones
and polish delis
we celebrate my birthday
with a bodega cupcake


candy-colored dice
tea and reams of graph paper
herald adventure;
I slice skeletons in half
and stroke the cat in my lap


our names now adorn
an inch of mumbo jumbo
and a hilltop home.
we celebrate with hoagies
and a street corner liplock


we cut a swift path
through the tail end of traffic
fleeing the city;
ensconced in tacky stucco
birthday girls eat their pasta


the day struck me mute
to wake from strange dreams to face
chaos null and void
I slouch in a bus seat, press
my forehead against the glass


our feet eat the miles
avenues and alleyways
bridges and steep hills
we rest our legs and drink pops
before the long walk back home


In the too-warm air
I cross the bridge with bags full
of sprouts and bean curd;
later on we fold wontons
over cups of rooibos tea


this strange humid air
raises fog from cement lots
and dew in our hair
thick clouds escape the smoke stacks
and drift sideways, pinned to earth


speech, miasma, fire
destruction spreads like disease
as my clenched brow boils
I awake in a dark room
pinned by the weight of blankets


black cloud horizon
reveals a shock of pink light;
buildings rise up and
recede behind each other
like philip glass violins


my feet dig trenches
on this patch of cold concrete
i visit daily
I've stood a hundred days here
without speaking, my mind blank


dark weeks of evenings
leaving in darkness like bats
today the air changes
I stand between skyscrapers
and crane my neck. daylight. there.


careful concoction
star anise, cinnamon stick
onion, clove, garlic
we slurp rice noodles and sip
the broth, the burn of chili


we lunch like old folks
soup and sandwiches shared
at the stroke of noon
our house fills with loving scents
frying onions and warm skin


eight hundred million
the number of crows swooping 
from the north hilltops
like black snowfall, they cover
the bald face of the mountain


pushed against a wall
the handcuffed man cranes his neck
eyes searching the crowd
we walk by like we can't see
bound by the code of shared streets


we return to work
wrapped in scarves and sniffling
coughing in crosswalks
smiling across the bus aisle
at neighbors and strangers both


cold morning after
darkened storefronts, empty stoops
the streets are empty
party hats and wet streamers
stomped into the slushy snow