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