There are dogs on the sidewalk.
Their coats on magazines asleep
their paws curled underneath faces,
closed up, hidden.
I heard the homeless girl takes a train from Syosset
and covers herself with dirt somewhere in Queens.
I wonder what people think when they watch her
or un-tuck her plaid Abercrombie shirt
from her Old Navy Jeans.
I wonder if they picture dirt
under her fingernails,
mad grabby hands in subway tunnels,
hollow screams for help--
or her last summer-camp with that horse
dancing fairies rising up
from the hot-dog campfire.
I heard those dogs are rented.
Costs $25 for the day,
and with enough Benadryl in their
they can sleep on a subway grate
or in the biting cold.
People donate to girls with dogs:
storybook lives rescued from mountains,
deep snow drifts,
a run from a hairy monster.
The quarters drop like hope,
One tinny sound against another.
We see what we see from the eyes that we are.
Cloudy eyelashes blinking under small pellets of belief.
Fear like thin meat captured between safe slices of bread -
us hiding under school desks bias written in ink across our faces.
We can't snap a picture of hate it can't hold its liquor.
It staggers down the stairs cursing in tongues.
It sees us the next morning shame-walking in yesterday's clothes
regret held together like a zipper.
I learned about eyes as they traveled across me staggering lopsided
fumbling in the dark like a bad date; sliding its prejudice next to me
on the train -
its paper swung open over holy knees lost edgy souls.
They sleep across the edge of a knife.
See White. See Black. See Nothing.
If I walk through the rooms of us each painted corner an empty chair-
silhouettes shrouded over in grocery store plastic.
Our shadows outlined with police tape peel off without effort.
That is what these eyes see I am the white friend you are the black
watch us disappear.
We feel what we feel from the pulse of our heart.
Slow moving knuckles beating quietly across our chests.
We can love a handful of people deeply -
others found on the edges of the very place we leave.
We have all tasted slammed door noises chairs sliding across the hall.
Bad neighborhood garbage cans lonely cries sirens in the night.
Blind alleys lost dogs manhole covers slipping up cars
Johnny pumps aimed like rain.
We are the sprays of dusty water we hide from.
The dirt deep under our nails.
Taught to hate one other -
We are the eyes under our skins.
Saturday in the Park
If you learn to fly a kite I guess it would be the windy side of the day that
The butter on toast with just the hint of something else.
You would have to check the sky for leftover rain -night shadows
hiding restless messages -
faces of midnight moons hiding behind the stars.
You would be held to higher standards once it lifted into the air -
while it floated people would be close to you wearing you like a scarf.
Eyes following it down the nothing of air - like a million lost roads.
All you know stops making sense with the striped buckets of color and light; it
would dip -
curl high above the sullen pockets of land -
then test the ground and run its finger through its hair.
It would be fierce then frightened.
Solid and uncertain.
You can't lie to a kite.
It knows you in the flick of your wrist - senses you like a cloud.
Kites hear the light gasps of air as you watch it tease and twist -
it acts casual with you but it's more bossy than the sun.
He taught me once about kites in some beige,soft spot of sky.
I ran along side that lonesome string tripping over sand
and the sound of his voice.
Those Things That Just Are
In a field of Octobers the deep sun wrestles with blank spots of sky -
it warms the very tips of our fingers and shuts our eyes against the heat.
We can squeeze the last light out of any day
and nestle it close in the palm of our hands.
And it is with the single strands of friendship -
those delicate threads that gather us together
that keep us strong if strong is needed.
Between our pages the notes on doors and scribbled along the edge of the air
we whisper our deepest secrets in code with blinks of an eye.
Or sounds between the sounds.
There are place-settings and jumbled tightrope tricks of the wrist
and we can sit anywhere and there is room.
We Missed the #68 to Orchard Beach and Went Home Instead (July, 1969)
Dusty tunnels in the afternoon
a kaleidoscope of dust -
you can squint your eyes to see the particles
streaming through the Venetian Blinds like a magic trick.
If you hold a pipe cleaner up to the window
and wave it like a sword you can
cartoon yourself back into your sandals;
escape the odd feeling of a bathing suit under your jeans.
The cats under the couch looking for the lost Spalding balls -
someone's mother calling from the window
screaming Spanish accents into the dirty Bronx air.
It's all you could do to get away from the sun
the sun -
streaky down on your neck
little pools of streaky sun.
Packed deep into ice -
lost sandwiches kicked down the street
like a failed math test.
Ice cream money singing loose change songs
in your sweaty pocket.
You can hide under the cushions/ find pennies there.
go outside go outside go outside.
Her voice trails along the lines of the wall
where we scraped our shoes kicking the boredom -
Everything is always the same here-
everyone hates us.
Blending into the wallpaper
we creep along the ceiling -
right under her nose.
why can't you go outside.
We shuffle through the boxes under the bed -
she hides things there
in between the dead shoes single socks.
Found a dollar folded like a swan.
He punches me sometimes hard on the arm
bam bam bam.
Same spot all the time
leaves a blue and green mark
round like a puddle.
Pulls my hair across the room
until i land smack in the middle of his nightmare.
go outside go outside go outside.
Motown music walks a tightrope
from the electric chord on the kitchen table its copper penny brother
steadying its arm
scratching out the angry move your hips music.
We all know i got no rhythm.
Soap bubbles tossed in the bathroom
buckets of water like a beach.
Make a beach from blankets
spread across the flat blue carpet in the bedroom.
Pails and shovels
and shells made from broken dolls without eyes.
No waves/ ocean sounds.
But it's a beach for today.
There's all this sand.
~for my mother
I breathed-in the lines of your face,
Left drops of who you were on the arm of the chair,
wrapped my fingers around unspoken, hushed,
I stared down your scars - your hollow eyes,
guilty that they made me squirm.
Small round math lines /tunnels, knives.
I know blood was pushed in a mad dash.
They spun your stuff around tricking it into clean.
But nothing was new on you.
Soon you would be all that's left of nothing.
Short hair in spiked-up gray, snipped slick down at the sides
so you could be less sick in a smaller space.
You swallowed up those voiceless screams--
brave rock-climber folded into last year's size.
I was screaming for you
and you just wanted to live.
You asked for nail polish in deep blues--
velvet blues you called them.
You wanted to face the next stretch of your journey with your nails
shaped into neat half moons.
You cupped your hands around the tea cup
sipping it like you had all the time in the world.
But you were already gone by then.
I was just borrowing you.
We run away now
from this world.
We pack our black thoughts
into suitcases -
lock them tight -
turn around three times
There is not enough
salt over shoulders
or red ribbons fastened tight
over cribs and sick beds.
If we stuffed coins
into our socks -
curled our toes deep
around them -
or pulled out a deck of cards -
our eyes would bleed
from the weight
of lost hope.
Fear would part
with each joker
We can't wave away
the ugly truth; swat it away
like a lazy summer fly.
We kick our sorrow
down the street/a dented can
of angry shout-y noise.
We carry our burdens
in our open hearts -
marbles into words
and handfuls of rain.
The Bronx is cement.
Loud, lost art-deco lobby/hidden staircase;
overhead planes flying too low down the back of your neck.
The Bronx is a window painted shut.
Stained streets littered-up, bags on the side of the road.
The Bronx is an air-raid drill in the middle of class.
You stand single-file up against the wall
so the bomb,
when it comes,
could roll its way down beside you.
You stand clear like a shadow.
The Bronx is curled under your desk
covering your head from
The Bronx is a music teacher in a dark suit
who hands out pennies at Christmas.
He doesn't date your mother but he should.
The President died in my Bronx classroom
filling up the afternoon
to The Pledge of Allegiance.
Early dismissal flowing down the rest of the year
like a black cloud.
The Bronx is a long block with tree names –
bicycles filled with dead air.
German shepherd dogs –
their chains rolled tight against bad boy fists.
It is crossed streets- Johnny- pumps high against passing cars
It is the deep drip of summer.
The Bronx is needles in apples on Halloween.
Sulky neighbors with sharp fang teeth;
dead pigeons in rainbow-oil puddles
around and around lost, like in a drain.
It is gum stuck to the end of your shoes.
The Bronx is the end of your shoes.
Broken Things in Sunlight
Wicked machinery; not big like tractors
but smaller steely parts sitting in back yards
near woody swing-sets dried-up pools.
She lived near a family who had chickens like pets-
they would battle
in the middle of the night –
call up to her window;
whistle like she was a hooker.
One long chicken sound.
She danced by the open window sometimes
the radio music on low
she would sway her hips;
look down on the broken machinery-
crap she would think.
Crap this is ugly.
Her friends had snow blowers/ lawn mowers
garden people watching over their plants –
the sun would shine its side-ways smile
through their bumped-up cross their hearts hope to die promises.
She climbed on top of anything bouncing
car-lot playgrounds thinking
she could fly to God straight up.
Truth stuck to her like fly paper.
Broken bicycle wheels on chains
dead on her burned-down street corner.
Sooty lamp posts she keeps seeing the shadow dance of "can't sleep"
She looks out her window straight down
to the shopping carts tipped to the side;
pooling up rain water slippery through its bars.
Almost in the bright sun it could look like a statue or something rich.
She wants to pray to it.
People call for God at the bottom of the day.
The hollow tube of despair the restless wait.
Bad news brings God -
his name repeated like worry beads orderly- familiar.
People hold hands around the idea of Him
each calling Him different things dressed loosely
wrapped tight in black.
They expect Him to hear them through the boundless sirens -
rain sheets down the side of the road.
God takes the front seat on the long trip -
riding shotgun holding the map.
God is in the steamy cloud of lust parading itself in red lips -
he is called for before/after some great
act of love.
His name is in the soft leftovers that should or should not be there.
God is what they show you in the palm of your hand.
His name forms bubbles in the close shoulders of church mornings.
His name is on the wafer you take -
on the pages hidden beneath your knees.
People fall to the ground for God.
They expect to see him as they struggle across
the wide open space of the sky.
He is the small covering on the top of your head
the rites of boy to man.
He is the last crumbs down the drain -
the rush through the station waving the final notes of love.
People look for God at the bottom of a glass -
at the edge of the last soft kiss.
God sits on the seat you missed on the plane that went down.
God looks up.
He is at the deep end of the lake with willow trees
between the rocks the lost turtle -
friendship seared through absence.
He is the heart growing fonder.