There’s No February Tomorrow

Only this etching of trees
hung in the sky
as a sign
that I’ll never be 43
and the snowstorm will not come
the cards will be left unopened
I will never have to puzzle it out,
what to do next,
how much time I have left,
because it will always be like this —
our dishwasher going,
a neighbor washing clothes downstairs,
James and I both typing,
our children waiting
in suspended animation
to be released from “quiet time.”


All These Forks

Shutting down most of the haters
stuffing basketballs in their fat, open mouths
I’m throwing lots of coffee cups against the wall
seeing if anything sticks, but I can’t get all these forks
back in the silverware drawer and my head hurts
a dream of cotton or an open car window
and no place left to drive



I’m sorry it took so long
he became an exploded miracle
I blinked and there was a tragedy
of our own making, or no one’s
in offices we learned
various things
but not the main thing,
nowhere close to the one thing
we most want to know


Dark Shadows, Edge of Night

No because then why
when lives are sad
and lived in the silence of
not being able to tell something
even when the body is exposed
every day for cameras
and the press
but then why the death
the ’80s death
when now it might only have been
pills every day, a chronic illness —
and who doesn’t have one of those,
if you live long enough?
Oh, Mother, I’m only practicing my acting,
he said
when he was 6 years old or 7
sobbing in the bathroom
looking in the mirror



An ’80s Soap Opera Cookbook

Meatballs at midnight
and eggs Danube,
a rivulet of dairy sour cream
and crystalline fructose everywhere
these shrimps make a sauce,
cold or hot, over rice
a soufflé of Grand Marnier
and overheated smoking duck,
a loin of braised veal
in cherry pie filling, as I view
New York City from my pied-à-terre,
and, oh, darling! Who would ever believe
in three decades, this will be all be gone?


That’s How It Was

I’m not afraid of my final destination, she said;
I’m afraid of the journey to get there. She packed
a wicker suitcase with Hawaiian shirts and lunch,
in exactly the manner of someone who doesn’t know
how long she’ll be gone or what will be required.

Flip-flops or raingear? Sunscreen, yes or no?
In the stars, can you sunburn? Does cancer
even matter there? I couldn’t answer

her questions. Certain things, you find out
on your own. I drove her to the airport —
a lane called Kiss ‘n Fly ‘n Fly ‘n Fly —
and I tried to keep her from going,

a tumble of words I hadn’t said,
each one poking me in the throat
as it came out, and falling on her

two deaf ears. Already, I had lost her.
You know how you know something
even when you don’t want to know
that you know it? That’s how it was.


The Right Way to Say Things

Oh, my poor, sweet country mouse.
All that glisters is not gold.
Did you know that? Did you know it’s glisters,
not glitters? Well, it is. Whatever you learned there
in that one-room schoolhouse or pistachio-green
cinder block institutional monster half-wit factory
where you spent, I’m sure, many happy years–
well, anyway, it’s wrong, dear.
If you come with me, I’ll teach you
the right way to say things, and together
we’ll unlearn all your “rustic” manners.
Who knows? Maybe you can teach me a thing or two!
How to churn butter, perhaps, or the proper way to skin a deer.
Darling, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. You didn’t know better then,
when you were seven years old and eight, picking your nose
and wearing hand-me-down cotton nightgowns, faded and softened
by someone else’s body. You didn’t know when you were barefoot,
half-naked and oblivious in your own front yard, in the dirt
where the chickens scrabbled by the flagpole.
Soon I’ll have you shining like a brand new wheat penny,
your mind as tight as a drum, your limbs firm and smooth,
and everything — everything — ready to be admired.


The Terror of Knowing What This World Is About

But the pony was already running
when it came to the fence. I only
didn’t stop it; I didn’t make it run,

and now its eyes are
and its legs are
and I’m sorry that

I only did what I was told, which was
not worrying about the pony anyway,
no matter how many times it hit

that fence
or jumped over,
spooked by

snow and cars, snowflakes whirling
in headlights and in eyes gone white
not with impact but with knowing.



As We Described and Felt It Then

Volunteers reported sightings in pine trees of Chicago
of various amorphous birds which could not be roused
to much concern as men and women in denim workpants
invaded the trees with outstretched hands. Birds lit
on arms and hair, heads and faces, and everyone —
birds and people alike — chittered with delight.
This was in January 2016, you see, not so long ago,
but a time when delight was still possible, birds
still possible — and pine trees, men, women,
life still possible, as we described and felt it then.