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January 2017

Break Dancers

My heart peeled

As the two of you

Sliced through the subway car

And I thought of the orange steel of the playground 

Of a childhood shared.

And how my heart clapped 

When the little brown haired

Girl in the pink coat

(A premonition, the looks of my own best friend)

Reached across a distance longer than her arms

To give you a dollar 

To give you her love and thanks. 

Granddaughter

Whether or not I live to see her face,

Whether or not she ever exists,

I must not let her down.

I must not tell her I looked away from evil.

Or that, having looked away,

I covered my ears, too.

No.

I tell her now I fought,

Whether she feels the earth wet beneath her,

Or sees the last of sunsets.

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30

She finally learned to reach into the fire

When the voice in her stomach told her to.

After all that,

Nothing could burn her.

burningbowl

The Walking Man

Tonight, you crossed my mind. But then what?
Did you wander into 

Your mother’s imagination

As she stood straining pasta?

Or perhaps an old school friend

Went rifling through his yearbook

Wondering what became of you

As all the time you laughed

Sauntering forever in one ear

And out the other. 

Reincarnation

What a bore,

To be always born

White and male.

Everywhere looking the same,

Everyone thinking they have your number,

Walking in the suspicion, regardless of Time and Place,

That the only way to save yourself from madness is to make yourself heard,

To make yourself seen.

Alternate History (From a Dream)

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I am in Spain,

Simmering in the Andalusian sunshine,

Alone on the vine-encrusted balcony

Drinking wine from a cold stone cup,

Pricking the cactus in its pot on purpose.

You are playing your guitar in the plaza below,

The only possible thing

That can make me descend,

And I do.

You see me, too,

Rest the strings,

The hallow body,

Against the river wall,

Take me up in your arms instead,

And say:

“Don’t you understand?

This is the part I was born to play.”

Neighbor

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This morning, I decided to stay in the subway car

With the old man sleeping under his stinking coat,

His feet propped up on a tattered suitcase,

The slits of his eyes pulled shut.

And I thought of him, an infant,

Having come through the door of the world

Like anyone else:

Like a hero, like a priest, like a young man

Riding the rails across a blooming country

With nothing but a handkerchief sack,

Leaning against a barrel of corn,

Smelling the dirt and rain of the nation.

30th Birthday

There is some disagreement between my parents

About who held me first.

My father will tell you his was the honor,

His arms wrapped around the warm, rising loaf of me

In the cool hospital air,

While my mother will claim the nine months

That she counted like growing limbs.

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4am, The Women Awake

Every lit window is a gift at this hour

As my taxi turns toward downtown.

Perhaps you too are waking

To make the journey south.

Or perhaps you are dreaming through the storm,

Wishing us well into the thunder

And keeping your heart’s distance,

Which I cannot blame you for.

Or maybe you are frozen in the middle of your living room,

Having slept scarcely, scattered in shards of fear,

The TV muted.

Maybe your daughter or mother

Needs you more today

(Which is really a protest;

Which is love).

The thing is,

We are all awake in our way.

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