Poem #4: Forget-Me-Nots


When is the best time to remember?
I remember the walks, where dad would remember
his old track and field and cross-country days,
Hannah and dad walking parallel, me in the back.
There’s a syllable of summer in the air, speaking

clear through the forgetful mess—the sun would
rise like spears glinting in the sky, the tentative
violence, the heat of the awakened sun.
Those summers at the beach, as you would get
out of the water from swimming,
every tuft and tussle and turn of the wind

would snap at the notched cramps in your side
from the cold. These walks, teeming with absent concentration,
we’d try to become the person our shadows are, so formulaic,
in the angst of memory, walking along the bike trail
where the leaves would walk behind us in the wind,

like footsteps. However far we get, when the time
comes, is it better to avoid the mud puddle
or leap over it? My notebook would get heavier with
new ideas, stories to memorise. There was
old Mr. Yanskas, inviting us into his house on Halloween,

and I’d wondered if he’d been in a war, or where
his own children were—but his wife gave us candy
simply for spending our time there. I think
I was a pirate again that year, or maybe I was a drummer:
I can’t remember—funny, isn’t it?

There were always the walks when we
didn’t want to be cooped up inside;
I never even cared if it was about to rain.
Back to the prior summer—or every summer, perhaps—
the gleaming speech of the crescent waves would

curdle and crinkle upon the shore, Hannah
never being allowed to swim out deep; but she
might’ve been better than me at swimming.
The sand would be clothing for our feet
in the parking lot. I wonder now, looking over the park rail,

and out over the lake: a net as wide as the sea
wouldn’t be able to capture all the life in it—
something, some remnant of a memory would escape,
no doubt. Only a couple days ago we were watching softball
games down at the civic center—the grass underfoot

conforming to our steps, the legs of the sun walking with us.
All the memories under the sun are not enough,
they are not my true joy. My legs are taut to the front yard,
the back yard; I must be watching myself from everywhere,
role-playing. But thinking to myself, the little blue flowers

in the back yard all thrown up in dad’s
dirt pile from snow-plowing, they’re still alive and
blue. I feel as if I’ll forget them one day, forget everything
that I ever collected to recollect.
Speaking was never an obsession;

Reminding yourself with souvenirs is not
as unshakeable as you think. As July may flourish
every shade of green, August will always burn red
in my heart. We never knew what all this oblivious love
between us meant, but I mean to hold it as a keepsake.

You can’t bury the weather of yesterday,
you can’t grow tomorrow’s filtering sunlight;
but I’ll find paradise at my desk rather than
at the end of smoke. Paradise, you’re a paradox
to me, and you won’t stay still, you’re always in

someone else’s hopes and dreams.
However misleading my reminiscing will be
down the road, I know this world doesn’t deserve us—
I will be me as best as I ought to—
however long it takes me to remember.

Poem #3: In Which I Imagine Myself on the Corner of Munson and 5-Mile

I would give the world simply to sit in traffic,
with you, see hours exhausted as all cars around hiss and grog for movement,
And I want you to watch, know my world, know yours.
Trees, or what is left of some
(Like the wooden nails my father pounds, infrequently, at work),
grappling for the sun knitting their gashed skin,
minimalist, motionless, gazing at us,
yet we fail to acknowledge.
Speechless, without lung, I turn you to words.
Purple strewn on my fingers, a blue pen suicide,
lukewarm tea in cupholder, and chancing happiness at the inconveniences,
summer drizzle coagulating on the windshield– since I loathe the radio,
you speak. (And I wouldn’t want her to ever stop, no.
(She speaks, and my mouth turns to notebook paper.
She is the poem, young and unfinished.)
Your hands nervous, snowglobe-eyed, the way you say
Jehovah flawlessly, you break me. And I want
to be broken, by your name and His, reformed and replaced.
A leaf on the grass, scuttled across, hopping stem over heels on newly poured blacktop.
(Always an “if” with us and God.
Could God sit me down and tell me
to tell her.)
A sedative sky all around, gathering me, abridged, centered where
my lollipop stick bones, their cardboard packaged exterior too,
relax behind the dashboard.
(Look at all this air for us to run.
Addicted to watching everything turn. Watching her enfold
with the light. So in love with the God that made her.
Silent in the way things play.)
And you could put all your weight on my shoulders,
and I’ll still hold you up.

Poem #2: Wanting a Blue Daybreak

“Wanting a Blue Daybreak”

Those weekend nights in winter when daybreak swapped stage
with the bleak satin of twilight and no curtain could
make midnight any less dark, I remember them
and the dunes of snow as we passed another distraught gas station,
how we spent the month of February,
driving for the sake of frozen gasoline.

Closest to the window, farthest from any exploits of conversation,
I am so addicted to the cold, to the frost encrusted
on the windows and melting them with a press of my palm.
Ten minutes ago we were scrambling through a dirt trail
to a graveyard Alex said was haunted, spoiling half the reasons why
mid-journey. A row of disregarded porch lights enlightening
the cusps of dusk, like smoldering Dresden, I wanted to leave
as soon as snow crunched underfoot when I shut the car door,
as soon as I first lost footing on the path, oiled by ice.
Feet shuffling in straight eighth notes,
every tree harboring the same pallid post lacking color,
they were the air vents either side for the real blackness
to seep through.

A turn right up ahead and I will be the martyr of complaints.
Reasonably so, veering off this path bright from moon particle,
and under shafts of oaken iron light, the graves are blurred
beneath snow and night.
Something incandescent about soggy flowers clinging to graves settled
in their earthen seats moved my eyes to the boughs limp overhead
and to a taut backdrop of sky.
Stone cropped like my own hair a month ago, but not quivering
with its hands in its pockets as I am.

And a clichéd story of “haunted” fragments, rumors of four family members,
and here we shiver, four vagrant friends left with nothing to do but wade crystal water
where grass now sleeps.
I’m so far gone in mind that being last in line felt fitting.
I trip on a sliver of wind or ice as we leave, and the silence turned its face–
I get up as I had always: without another hand.
Noah and Hayana say practically nothing there and back, but does not stop.
Under my chapped breath I am the da capo, the repeat sign
whispering how stupid this is; I am Colonel Sartoris running away,
but I only wish it.

Returned to the car, I breathe hollow air into my palms,
cupped like a cavern. The only suggestion I included just now,
from Traverse to Grawn and back, was to play some music on the CD player.
I see now the other side of the road we passed an hour earlier,
confiding to God that if I was in His place, all those people would have
died the same, no speck of dust disturbed.
The melted snow slipping down my ankles, I tap those same
uncertain feet to the instruments behind Buddy Nielsen’s voice,
all the way past Chum’s Corners.

Poem #1: Russian Spy Lady

“Russian Spy Lady”

She checked out, clairvoyantly, books about cooking and Russian history,

sixteen dollars in overdue fines, and left as quick

as the bells on the front door handle ceased chiming.

Without and accent, Rosalind Russell grin; given four weeks,

her heels will clap with the library carpet again,

And we will earn more than a dissolved hello from evasive eyes

at her next visit.

No speculation, just a tossing of replies and an escape like Tippi Hedren’s in “Marnie.”

I have already forgotten her name, or even the fog of one stated,

the moment her tires peeled themselves off the parking lot.

Once a week, the library assistant and I remind ourselves of the

ominous air that lady who spied our shelves puzzled our minds with,

always glancing at the hallway entrance now,

hoping she will slyly wander in.

Is it that she would reappear to us, or simply disappear

from elsewhere, fleeing here in disguised posture?

I’ve heard the most suspicious people frequent one particular place–

and yet doesn’t everybody?

I shrug it off, lean back, check out my own books,

and laugh at the possibilities.