The makeshift ashtray

A better word for purgatory

the rescue

on a siren’s wail
that morning
turned black
so soon
our heads floated
surrounded by fields
of fall’s flowers
and silhouettes
of summer kisses
for lovers
who know
too much,

digging heels
to wood,
scratched by afternoon sun
and the ocean’s embrace
a tide turned,

going with sundown
and all her grace,
brightest at goodbye
an ever
wandering heart

to the last drop,
and new year’s
never relent,
just as the old
know weather in
their bones,
spring blooms.

coffee and sex

As roots grow in green
glasses, blue in
during an afternoon of dreaming

around bends of
concrete walls, tall
to the oldest giant
heart of the first tree,
each wooden groove
a soul’s
journey to the mountain

and back,
with ripped cheeks
sore from days
of ice and wind
collapsing in your arms
at last

a smile
radiant like
a first victory
after years at the bow
hunting your own,

like a memory
from purgatory,
fresh as summer grass
and miles of open road.

victory lap

up at dawn, fresh
twigs drawn by beak
screeching squirrels
and elastic,
the tune of the city
hidden in clouds,

a third eye
the gift of pain
and a maid’s bravery
who hunt
with alabaster claws,
until they are bone

fearsome to hear
for a child sailor
clutching his mother’s
chain of love
a firework of death

as the blood drips
from the god’s soldier
making the earth
landlocked with lost beaches
the trill of too many
battle cries
a hypnotic tonic

she clings to nothing
but what’s left
of her gift
eyes on the dawn
as it breaks through brick.

a lineage of women

sitting cross-legged me
and my dad,
sick from a trip to save souls
his hand on my cheek,
our repeated embrace
a secret
like our drives through
suffocating trees
and three point turns,
ice cream on Sundays,
he dried my hair
on a sandy coast
far from family obligations
a stolen gaze at a blue
house on a hill,
my head on your shoulder
on the train back to home

where horses die without
screams of children,
in peace

still like spring flowers
whispers of warmth
too gentle for raging obligations
one foot on crumbling rock

you gazed into the dark
so blind
you lost count,
laughing into fire
washing shame,
watching a river

in rows of corn
stamped down by city boots
and your father’s snow blower
a symphony of snow

by gamblers
from noon to midnight
music too loud
and cheap drinks
among installations
of home

smoking onions
and a brother’s disapproval

across the bar
he found his cheap pride
boasting a challenge
too big
for men of small worlds
and consequences of privilege

too many questions
hung dripping from yellow
venetian blinds,
a kind of golden cage
for birds not wise enough
for clipped wings

trained to winter’s blue
so far she ran
wet with the ocean’s pearls

in her grandmother’s
sewing box,
dancing in an old dress

sewn with grandfather’s gold

valentine’s at the black sheep

at a pawn shop
I sold our wedding ring
from 19th century Europe
on a forgotten alley
tripping over crumbling cobblestone
and the pearls
my mother
wrapped in pink cellophane
on my 16th birthday
wear these
she said glowing
like I did
on my wedding day,
it was so hot I
sweat clear through lace
but you lived,
here on a fall morning

cool like a lion’s spring
matched only by your
pet names, like money
falling from the sky
a stone both blue and white
like dirty restaurant napkins
hanging from a blood red crate

only because our mouths craved
eternal harvest
and ugly sweater parties
with half cooked goulash
made whole from winter trails

recovered with footprints of the young
on your first bracelet made of string
and animal coils
I told my mother
how love came into being
and how I regretted covering
my ears, too afraid to fly

but she loved
in her dinner stained apron
talking architecture to big men,

I’d imagine
you still wear yours
proud like the night,
I sat
on the fire hydrant
outside our house
too green for harvest

I’ve traveled the continent
calling your name,
seeing your face
in every constellation
made on raised graves,

their flowers heaven’s morning

a love letter

you’d park your bike
at the suburban wawa,
chain smoking away your young dreams
chugging green juice,
on whispered conversations
about reuniting
on the pacific northwest
the latest
of many

because we love too hard
and have fickle memories
or perhaps the river is the same,
perhaps we could hold time,
perhaps we never argued over dishes
holding particles of our selves

I still smile
remembering the time
I kicked you in the head
and how we laughed
in the dark welcoming both
day and night,
and the humor of its clashes

your light blinded me
with your too dark hair,
a constant reminder of your loyalty
to the earth
and in its valleys
streams of clear amber and obsidian
finding home

how your earrings smelled like cigarettes
that first morning
because you thought
so highly of the ashtray
I found them
moments after you left
and knew

I’d remember
to buy you irises
the last day of your work
and grinning and bearing
your uncommon
facility with words

through silence on the train
to visit your sick father
and first introductions
the stories I read to you
during sleep’s time
placing cool cloth
on your wounds

every new moon.

coming home

with arrows in her hair, holding
her only wish
for safety from the tide,
after counting boats at sunset
eating lobster on crab crates
amber snowflakes floating
in your green eyes,
the day growing purple

she wept
a river of skates
scratched like grandmother’s hands
her hair a black net
sagging with sea water
and the many hands
of mother’s earth
like the undead
longing of the moon

her shoulders pressed
through grooves of cement
that tall
as an infant tree
nurtured by your beating heart

nestled in her father’s embrace


we woke up early
pancakes baked the night before
and eaten in the backseat
slightly soggy from used plastic,
for the first train ride to town

I wept in my father’s arms
dripping hair
black gossamer on his bare legs
and we spoke in memories
and dreams of the absence of time

his tears
finally shed on his mother’s grave
a day of hot lace
and brothers across enemy lines

the day he watched
our family van pull away
waving bottles of water
as we clutched the lines

in her favorite getaway
town where vines reigned
with the promise of a perennial
the first of her suburban backyard

not her aunt’s Paris
but a worthy quest nonetheless
but the children protest
at her breast, her heart

released in the dew
you asleep in my lap

the greeting

with setting blue sunlight,
alight on curious shoulders
and last night’s beer
on elbows,
slipping on mahogany chairs
was a dream awake
with autumn color

while looking at windows
through the party smoke
and hearing the notes
to an old tune,

at our favorite tree.

about love

to sleep for a week,

the lights of fading trees
and pink winter skies
a dot on a plane’s descent
on the way home,
with ice beneath
and falling birds above
brilliant enough

to match the sprawling vines
of your oldest mother’s
grave, long enough for the white
spring flowers on mounds of ending

made familiar by the embrace
of friends long forgotten,
by rivers of first melted winter


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