6pm Reading, St. Anthony Hall

There is no curtain for the heart
In a room full of poets. Each face maps
Its suffering, its lust with lines
As subtle as mountain ranges.

The sign language translator exaggerates
For his single subject. He rolls his eyes,
Fans his fingers, captures the nerves
As well as the words.

The day draws to a close. Light
Is blue, green, white. Shadows dissolve
And reform with every dusted moment. The speaker
Dabs at his eyes, clutches his throat.

His voice says roller skates, chaperon
But nobody’s father.
Whether he is overcome or near to,
The hot currents of emotion
Will not leave him dry.

He is washed again and again against
The rocks of sorrow, and the hollow shell
Of his voice calls back.

photograph by Manish Desai


The Anniversary

Bombs don’t break the sky on foggy days.
Only from sherbet sunrises, azure lakes will this
Growing death emerge,
Screaming with the air it swallows.

We are nearly dressed for dinner
When the words smash through the cement
Of your lips. The sweet summer grass
Is its own shadow, black and crumbling

As your clammy hand gropes
for my voice.

photograph by Alisa Resnik


Margaret in Medical School

"We took out the heart today," she writes.
"It was so much bigger than I thought it would be,
and those veins in all directions...so beautiful." She tells me
how she fainted, how the generous cadaver seemed to rise as she fell.

Ship in a Bottle

He carried the clay pitcher with him always,
visible like a chip on his shoulder,
but it was only on the shipwrecks
as the old men drowned around him
that he filled his jug and drank.

She watched hawk-eyed from the shore as the sun rose,
watched him paddle the dying survivors home
with one arm,
not letting go his watery love.

In their driftwood hut he'd set the jar on the table
and collapse,
And as the moon floated take it up again,
to sign his name beneath the old men
of another night's ship.

photograph by Ragnhildur Ýr Pétursdóttir


Your Quiet House

I don’t think I ever saw you
In the sunlight. It seems somehow
It rained, was night the whole weekend.

The soft strains of your record collection
Stir in me still ghost-breezed curtains,
Cold legs. The hum of your voice
Against the floorboards in the dark, two rooms away
and properly occupied.

I left one burgundy hair in your bed and an umbrella
Shaking off in the bathtub. Did you hear
The music, the folk songs spinning
Without you? Did you wonder
How I lay, if I dreamt
On one ragdoll arm, or pressed against your pillow,
Or not at all?

At three the house was silent.
At four my veiled eyes caught your fingers' melt
Around the crack in the door, and then I slept.

photograph by Elizabeth Robinson


Mnemiopsis leidyi

Four inches of glass, smoked with a combination
of your breath and mine. On the other side
only darkness, and the thumb-sized, pounding hearts
of the walnut jellies.
No tangle of tentacles here, just bodies
sheer as veils, twinkling like Vegas
against the black water.

photograph by Kalie


Forwarding Address

after Lady Brett Ashley

I do not write you enough
Love letters. You must have
A new hiding place for them by now;
That cigar box beneath the bed was three bare flats
And two cities ago. Times have changed,
My sky-eyed darling, but the raw hole still remains
Right where you left it,
In my breast.

photograph by RedheadRaye


Walking in September

And just when I was sure that I
would never live again the autumn comes.

The earth is round and will never stop spinning.

photograph by Andreas Wolkerstorfer

The First Act

Just before handing over the paperback
you reconsidered, gathered it to your chest
and tore out the title page.
Broad curtains of rain swept the gutter.
The words for your destruction were lost
to the theatre of the night,
the applause of wet windowpanes.
I wonder what shade it was you saw in my eyes then,
when you wadded up the inscription
and shoved it way down in the trash.

photograph by Lina Scheynius


Toward the Bus Shelter

You walked fast across the empty courtyard,
and I followed brisk behind. It would have looked
like I was chasing you. The tails of the scarf I bought you
were trapped beneath your backpack straps,
and you stopped to unstrangle yourself.

The lavender sky was cloudless, or all clouds.
My eyes streamed with the wind.

photograph by Alisa Resnik

Love Letter to the Sea Walnuts

What purpose can this pulsing serve?
My own heart rises to meet you. There are strands
within this cloud, cells that flash
with the cold regularity
of the MGM Grand. I cannot believe you,
little ones, and you will never know
that the hot fog smearing your sky
has passed across my parted lips.

Jellies may have been invisible, but they were never unimportant.
Exhibit wall, The New England Aquarium

photo by Rachel Blumenthal


The Death of the Hummingbird

Suddenly the sky (Yes, always yes, since you
were bold enough to ask) is too fast.
The ground too, the twigs and grasses
that reached like children yesterday today
are mad and waving.

You do not close your eyes,
but fall and feel the slowing
of a blurred heart,
and the busy little priests of your parasites
all chant the same last rites.

Uria by Audrey Kawasaki
Hummingbird body from Cassandra Barney

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