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.



I Know All the Words

This is what I want —
an invocation or a memory
untainted by ’60s Methodist
abstract stained glass or
having been kissed

in the church kitchen,
an old man’s  sweaty cheek
smearing my glasses.

I want tiny cups of grape juice,
dusty sighs and offertory envelopes,
paper bulletins and golf pencils
to draw on them. Do I want

’80s Jesus to come back,
those days to come back, only
this time I would yell
for my mother, in the next room,
decorating long tables
for Easter dinner? I didn’t yell —

I went out to the playground,
sat on the jungle gym, thought
how everything had changed.

And it had.

The skyscraper church
in downtown Chicago —
far from Dayton, Ohio —
rings out the doxology,

Wesley hymns, and I’m sorry
to be separated from my music,
startled when I know all the words.








My Feet on the Wall of the Tub

Splendid flippers,
if only they were webbed.
I used to say they were like
pounded veal cutlets,
flat as frying pans after
the weight of two children
and all of it, all of it.
Impossibly wide.

I think of my mother’s feet,
tiny double-A’s, N for narrow,
which mine once were, too.
What a division between us,

small but important, when
mine exceeded their limits,
became unlike hers.

Now, they are a solid medium.

If you traced around them
and drew a pair of shoes to fit,
they’d never look like shoes —
except maybe the kind that
look like rubber feet.

It’s as if they’re the base
of a statue. It’s as if I’m
the mother Sea Monkey
in the ads, with flippers
and a crown of flesh —

as if, in having these children,
I evolved backwards, became
some briny new queen.


Statsny and the Moon

Statsny looked out at the moon
but couldn’t see it.
He was not a hard-boiled guy;
his wrists were like pink baby arms
with feathers.
The moon looked in at Statsny
but didn’t see him.
It was not the kind of moon
that goes around caressing faces
through windowpanes,
bringing dreams.


You’re Just a Little Boat

Let the melatonin ponies
nuzzle your sacrum, lip you
over into a field of poppies
or under the rope to the
deep end before you can
realize, fight yourself awake.
You’re just a little boat,
a pleasant little tugboat, say,
not a garbage scow circled
by ravaging seagulls. Ponies.
Remember the ponies, how
their eyes command you
toward sugar cube dreams.