Men in Love II
If it were Valentine’s Day and I in jail
and in love with the jailer’s daughter,
I’d write a letter
praising her brown eyes and long black hair.
From behind bars I’d remind her
that in spite of these chains,
my spirit is free
and that the best words in my heart
blossom because of her.
I’d write my letter on plain paper
with an ink pen,
but it would be as marvelous
as if I’d written on papyrus
with a feather quill.
I’d ask the hard-hearted jailer for his daughter’s hand.
She and I would live as one
in a room not much bigger than my cell
and we’d walk through town
and comfort those in pain,
the poor in spirit and the downtrodden.
!en I’d lie with my bride in protest
on the marble steps of the temple of justice,
the white stone, warmed by the sun, hot and angry
against our skin.
[reprinted from The Minor Key (Green Linden Press, 2021]
Shadow in the Rain
it was raining
and I was sulking
with the radio on
in my bedroom.
I cried no river.
I must have given up.
For hours I stared
at a shadow in the rain
I mistook for a bird.
Gripped by fear
in my young mind,
I thought life was over.
I refused to cry
even if it hurt.
I left the light off.
Outside a blackbird sang.
I heard many songs.
It calmed me down.
That blackbird saved me.
I know it seems strange.
That blackbird saved me.
I know it is true
and no one can change
my mind. I know also
there is no one like you.
I walk around my room
thinking about you.
I imagine your kiss.
Of course, it is just a dream.
An hour passed.
The shadow in the rain
was gone. The blackbird
and like the shadow you
were gone with the wind
and I filled my day with doubt.
They Need Something More Durable Than Longing and Wine
This is why lovers show off their dog bites and appendectomy scars, the tattooed crosses they have come to regret. They keep them hidden until they can’t, until somebody touches with a tongue the place that used to hurt. After all this time, ink remains the medium of love letters. It’s how the future knows what happened.
[reprinted from A Cluster of Noisy Planets, BOA Editions, 2021)
Suit of Forsythia
Hearts are sudden things — rash and unplumbable.
Mine won’t answer questions,
more cryptic than a Magic 8-Ball.
There is a particular promise that never gets kept,
yet somehow it keeps the world alive. You catch a glimpse
of it just before waking up and remember it
right before you go to sleep. I wrote the first page,
but never came back to it. There was that time
you danced with me at a party; it was all a big joke.
On the first visit to a new city
you fall a little in love with it
and think, I could see myself living here —
but you never make it back there
except in your sleep, those train rides
through deep tunnels into places full of ghosts.
I keep a closet full of suits to wear
when I finally move to the city where I’ll live
— suits that only bloom once a year, in the spring sunlight,
and cover me with soft gold blossoms.