The Whale

Frankie has bad dreams
of dark things that have no edges
like blackened shower nozzles
of mold and mildew;
a closet in an empty house
where someone sways;
tall windows with peeling paint
the color of old teeth,
chewing on memories
of a fury sunrise.

She wonders why
these things haunt her,
as she trembles in the
rings of my eyes.
Maybe she’s a
dreamcatcher
for nightmares,
the kind that lurk behind
closed doors in rooms
made by men in a hurry.

Perhaps Frankie sees mine,
and takes them away.
Beneath the ocean
she becomes a whale,
and carries my nightmares
to waters at the edge
of the Earth,
where no boats are allowed,
and whales rarely swim.

Maybe that is why
she wakes up crying.

A Disappointing Party

We wear funny hats
and shoes
at the paned window
as we look out across the lawn
in twilight’s spell.
This is your club
and your friends.
I am a guest,
the last one to choose
the shoes from in the trunk
that don’t match.
They’re the wrong
color,
and too big
for my feet.
The hat is felt
with soft lines that
sit on my head
like a lizard
curling on a rock
in the sun.
But there is only lamplight
at your party.
There’s also a record player
that skips.
I can feel your presence
behind me,
pausing in the doorway.
As I turn,
so do you,
and our gazes
never meet.
Why don’t you say anything?
You have always been
disappointing.

Tomorrow May Come

The people who are dead inside
hang their heads like shameful dogs
in collared shirts of whites and blues
plaids and checks
clinging to worn bus seats
and greasy poles
on this sunny day
of strange warmth
and lingering summer.
I shout:
Don’t give up!
There is more to this dream.
It’s a gift,
but you have to look.
No — really look.
Don’t shut it out.
Open your eyes.
Chin up.
They blink under glossy stares,
their eyes aglow with phone screens,
tweets and hashtags
fake news and ads.
They thought they heard
someone,
or maybe not —
not today at least,

Other People’s Windows

Central Park is closed,
but I stand inside
it’s gates,
holding my little dogs
as they sniff
and scratch
and pee.
A rat rounds the garbage can,
squeaking,
at the sound of a carriage,
hooves weary under
the weight of sneakers
and foreign tongues.
Street lamps leak
white ghosts
onto the sidewalk that turns
in Olmsted curves,
and light spills from
other people’s windows.
I see their shadows,
turning in salons of
gold and red,
silent,
and baroque,
like reveries
of a time that
once sipped
pleasure.

Photo by:
Sean Witzke

Jane Says

This city’s madness,
a tapestry of too much of it all.
There’s always someone or something
that drives a steak into my personal space:
an angry man in a black car honking;
a family walking four abreast on the sidewalk, slowly;
my neighbor vacuuming the concrete on her patio;
the lot across from me a construction zone of cats, gravel and a “dust control” truck.
Cement and traffic.
People and skyscrapers.
I just want to get away from it.
And yet I have lived in the country
Where the absence of annoyance
is a peaceable kingdom
that can be dulling,
like a drill to my temple,
boring,
until I’m lobotomized and desensitized.
Because it’s easier to be average
than to step outside.
So never mind,
this wayward thought
of leaving my jungle behind.
I think I’ll stay.

*

But if I left where should I go?
To the lands south of here, perhaps.
The broad avenues and cobblestone quarters of Buenos Aires,
where I’d amble among the vendors offering silver jewelry and cups of perfumed wine.
Or maybe to the ocean,
where I’d stand at the edge of a Caribbean beach washing my toes, the sun heavy on my shoulders.
My little dogs would wrestle nearby,
their fur faded and salty, littered with sand.
Scratching, always itchy.
But would I be satisfied?
I don’t know,
for I’m not sure what I’m looking for,
aside from these abstract concepts of happiness, knowledge, acceptance
and love.
I have thought of evaporating,
to escape the disappointment
of these things I don’t have,
or that I’ve lost.

*

I seek an authentic life,
in its most abstract sense,
like devouring an apple to its core and swallowing the seeds.
If I only eat the flesh,
I will only half know the apple.
Why eat around the hard and bitter parts?
The problem isn’t my city,
nor is another place the solution.
That’s the painful part,
which causes me to swell
with tears.
And yet, I can’t help but wonder,
if starting over is such a terrible thing.
Perhaps it’s out there after all,
my home.
my family,
myself.
I can’t know the answer.
I can only hope.

Things That Go Missing

Once someone gave me advice.
If I lend someone a thing,
I must never expect it back,
so I should only give what I can do without.
If they return it, it will be a gift.

Wisdom, I thought.

Yet, it does not apply to stealing.
For if someone takes a thing,
I have a right to expect it back,
to hunt it down to the ends of the Earth
and to seek vengeance upon he who took it.

I think here of my little dog.

When she went missing,
I thought the Universe stole her.
The quantum ray read,
“Frankie is here. Frankie is not here.”
Her electrons spilled through two slits.
In one world she was with me,
and in the other she was no more,
like my parents who have gone too.

I was angry; I had been mistaken.

The Universe did not steal her,
it merely borrowed her.
To pet, I presume,
because she is so cute
and has a good heart.

After the wind had ruffled her hair,
and the skies had looked down upon her glowingly,
and the sun washed its rays in her golden fur,
the Universe returned her to me,
stinking of garbage but otherwise unharmed.

A gift indeed.

Apathy of Flowers

You sip your rose
as pink petals swirl around you,
ripped from the branches
of a cherry tree by a solar wind
that tears through the streets.
You text your tattooed friend
to meet you at the outdoor cafe
when the wind tips your glass
with its oily claws,
leaving sticky flowers on your lap.
You laugh and order another.
You’re right to enjoy this moment of summertime in springtime.
Or are you?
Behind you, the wind gathers strength,
and the flowers turn in an eddy at the intersection,
pummeling the windshield of a convertible that rounds the corner, swarming a woman as she crosses the street.
This is how the end begins,
with a warm day, an unnatural wind, and the flight of flowers.
There is nothing to do about it,
except to say, “oh well” to your apathy.

Today’s Star

Who were we to each other
once upon a time,
long before we sat in this circle
on the grass talking of
sunshine and wine?
Perhaps we looked
upward to a star
named Trappist
and settled upon our drums,
striking the snares with precision
to tell the skies
we’d been here before
and would be here again,
in this place
and those to come.
Hold onto your memory,
you whose smile is strained,
eyes haunted,
for I see what you do.
This storied day
is the one that
always repeats.

Hearts and Skulls

Move over.
I’m bones that must Exit here
to be at my desk by 8:58 A.M.
Get out of my way.
I no longer have a pulse,
but I do have a memory one,
faded as it is,
like a pair of watercolor jeans.
I’m pushing you.
Don’t you feel my hand?
You look through me, as if I don’t exist.
Is any of this real?
Oh my God.
I’m but a skeleton sucking air,
answering to the whim of my masters –
Money,
and Metrocards.
This is my stop.

Her Half-Life


She’s a nice person.
She has a common face.
Her lips are painted magnolia, cheeks rouged pink.
Her hair is pulled back, dyed straw blonde and blown straight.
A smile is affixed to her face, quaking as if drawn by a child’s finger.
She looks towards the door of the subway car, her mask tight.
She’s resentful because she’s had no voice.
She was whistled at when she was young and ignored now that she’s old.
She’s been yelled at by men for driving too aggressively and honked at for going too slow.
Her boss eats the lunch his wife packed and interrupts her to say she should use fewer words.
Her friends make recriminations over the mommy at soccer practice who brought cupcakes instead of healthy snacks.
Her own kids don’t know who she really is.
Her husband treats her like furniture.
And she can’t stand it.
But what is she to do?
She doesn’t want to be a Bitch or Slut.
She’s a Mother.
She’s a nice person.
She clutches her black purse and jacket,
staring into space,
her lips a slash of purple skin.