Amaranthus Caudatus

After trimming a broad spotted flag
After some debate and delay
After checking technique and cross-checking
After taking scissors to the failing leaf
Of my plastic-potted fig
Watching the milk of the branch pearl up
And drip
After watching the plant pull its pus back in
And continue living
I walked in Central Park

There were blue paths and dogs
Bikes and city smell and
Grass. I touched the elm labeled elm
And the oak labeled oak. I imagined
sticking a pin into one of my frail branches
and how the fig would slump and realized
I never knew an elm was an elm.
Suddenly each plant was a plant.
They all had leaves to dust and
low branches maybe failing and
morning light and waterings.

Yesterday while watering the little palm
I spotted a broken stalk
Wove it up with the hundred other stalks
And checked on it this morning.

And here, everything trampled.
What a feat to lift up a garden.
What alchemy to grow a park
And what divinity that the world started green
that it knew already how to live
and already what to let die.

Go

It was rain today
a sick sort
meant for places with soil hungry for it
heavy
flipping drops in loving tandem
ramming headfirst into sidewalk
dead drops dribbling
limp
to the grate backbroken
in the subway

I stood on a street corner
23rd and 7th
I did not have the light
and I was in nothing but rain
and rain

I saw through the rain a boy
his hands
turned upward to the sky
in the first
rainfeel catchdrop
walking
offering palms

not backs
(des collines wrist to tip
la campagne vollonée) but
turned upward
the hand shows its muscled shape
like how
fingers close themselves
if not colline then jointed city
Michelangelo did not paint the upturned palm of God
the boy
his hands were like city hands

I don’t know
if he was feeling for rain
if he
could not believe his hands
or if
like strings
for piano hammers
he held himself
for the felted pounding
of raindrop
and raindrop
if
he could feel his own vibration
if
he loved the rain
the rain that hisses like this rain
heard it shrieking
offered to it a place of landing
or warning

pointing skyward
between the holding
and the letting

Wharf

His hand is lined as wood and about as hard. What doesn’t go to the city goes to the coast
and what goes to the coast stays there to rot. His hands splintered first, then the rest of his body
cracked. He tells me he speaks at me he throws words at my face
Consider all the terrible things he said consider all the terrible things. His eyes
are old money. I stand here on seam of the city the
dirt that presses right up to the water, spills over. I cannot tell anyone
I cannot tell anyone what I have heard. Boats were once here. All of a sudden I want to swim out
make my body a barge link my foot to a tugboat that sick I’d let it drag me
but I am not a barge and that is a terrible thing. And I can carry nothing and that is a terrible thing
and I’d drown trying. He slumps as if belonging on a cardboard box but indeed he doesn’t.
I hear the creep of the weeds in this city I hear them rooting those
self-starters feeding like mad. I want to break open the asphalt
but I like the asphalt and that is

terrible.
I pull closer to myself. Home’s too round a word now. Round like dens my hands
dig into. Like pockets where fingers at my gut take inventory: Quarter, Penny, Paperclip. Quarter, Penny, Paperclip.
This city is known for its God but I don’t know those people and that is a terrible thing.
Terrible thing is the skyline is sharp where you can see it. He
knows the God of this city was basically born into it. He shields a terrible light with that hand again and
regards my terrible body. Quarter. Penny. Paperclip. I run—
the roads are broken the trees destroy in their dying the docks are empty and in emptiness leaning
I take myself to dirty water Paperclip I throw Quarter Penny
PaperclipPaperclip and my jacket shakes dirty water heavy jacket and my shirt. And my shoes and
my socks and here I am crying
I am crying. No one is coming and that is terrible. No one is coming. I am cold and that is terrible. I am blue
and green so too my shoes and my shirt and they all shake the water and hat and jeans I spread my body
wide into the dock. I knock my body into the dock. My elbows and my knees I dig into the dock.
It splinters me.

The Black Horse

Wind, fragile and joyous, slices through the belfry of the school
to shift heavy snow into ripples like ridged fields behind.
Charlie’s having a cigarette. I haven’t yet found his blush to be
from cold or alcohol. He loves Philippa, the florist.
Must be Pip who puts the rose in his face. They are as kind
as they are insulting, and they’ll be married sarcastically, tenderly in May. It’s not May now;
it’s fragile December, when the heavy first snow is scattered with thin orange sunset
and Charlie is having a cigarette at the foot of the stairs of the Black Horse,
joined by a bald man, eerily drunk, and unjacketed. He speaks with authority of gibberish.
Charlie ducks in, slides off and hangs up the cold smell of smoke on a banister. The rest are warm and smiling,
asking questions, buying rounds. Haydn has easily put Pip behind the bar;
she calls me Puppet and brings me tea. She couldn’t find the sugar,
and I decide that I’ll love her forever. The hunting officer has bought a round; he is new, and he is fair.
He talks with Ben of riding, chasing, dogs, and women. They admire each other with dirty jokes
and rolling conversation. Jemma, newly married and beautiful, leans softly toward conversation.
In a stone fireplace the fake fire nearly feels warm, and atop it the fake wreath nearly smells green.
Unpopped Christmas poppers drape out window sills and there’s a chrysanthemum, unnoticed, in a corner.
Someone tall and chilled ducks in, hugs the bunch, and begins to thaw. My Americanness flows into me,
I lean over my tea.
The carols are round, gentle, and hum in harmony with the conversation beneath them.
The pink has lifted from the snow, and now sits, distant, in the sky. No one is leaving,
and thin traces of foam dry neatly on pints. Metal Reserved tents stack on a side table,
clean and unused. One table is set with wine glasses and folded napkins,
gleaming in posterity. Charlie is patient with the bald man whose emptiness chills me,
and I’ve just caught him saying it’s the loneliness. If not for the cigarettes,
his voice might have thickened through his laugh. The sunset has dozed into purple.
Wouldn’t this be love if you had to find it?
The type that buzzes at near imperception
on each wandering decibel, the type
built from many singing quietly together.
The sky has become dark, and I can hardly spot the schoolhouse bell through the window.
The pub begins to glow from the light above the bar
and I scrawl and sip the tea
that kindles in my belly and spreads. And another carol
tumbles onto the stoop of the Black Horse
where Charlie’s gone out for a cigarette.

Sacrament

How everyone
Every once in a while
Must sit in a room
At a subway station in a shop
Or next to a homeless man on a corner

(The one that yells at you as you pass by SO ANGRY that
Everyone is too scared to drop into​ his cup
For fear of reckoning for fear
Of him calling you WHITE GIRL calling you WARM IN THAT JACKET
Because HE’S NOT WORTH TALKING TO
I KNOW I DON’T DESERVE THOUGHTS he said yesterday)

How sometimes you have to just stand beside a man like that and
Think of stars
And dusty planets

How huge we are for being so rare
So absolutely incredible
This whole thing
Isn’t there a god? Shouldn’t there be?

How absolutely fraught

How absolutely fraught everything is.
Nothing
I mean— I couldn’t make a strong case for life if you asked me to.
And poetry- fuck. How dare we write it. The little thing.
What bubbling words do we think carry
Why tape wings to flecks why spin a seed to see if it flies? It
mostly doesn’t fly. I’m throwing balls of mud over hedges. This isn’t worth anyone’s time
But what is
if not some stars
because they’re out tonight in Boston and they aren’t always.
and there’s something about my tiredness blurs the light through my eyelashes
and I’m noticing the thickness of the air.
I remember watching a video of Maya Angelou. She cried.
I cried with her. It’s all nothing.
The world doesn’t need us but we need us, and damn a sky’s better
with a few quiet stars.

November Happened Again

I.

The air is dark, the cold is dark, and there is the threat of ice tonight. There aren’t angels
In Boston. Or if there are, they’ve got their heads down against winter.
People or angels walk like horses pulling cabled streetcars or like streetcars.
There’s a dirty sidewalk and some leaves have come from the trees left standing.
On one of those intersections— call it something and Newbury—
Nobody’s wearing gloves. Their heads are all bare. Cars rock back too early for green.
Down that way is the water and the grass, probably dying. Maybe if the cold comes tonight
As hard as they say, the ticks will die.
The mares get them worst on the softest flesh below their hind legs. Horrible
Scabs on warm secret teats, so unexposed like the creases where teddy bears don’t wear.
I’ve been checking under my fingernails for little black ones. Worst is when they pop before you pull them.
They say Lyme doesn’t show for a couple of months, so it’s a matter of time.

II.

The barn manager loads a rake in a wheelbarrow. He’s full of conversation.
You know where they come from right?
I’m running my hands down the gray’s leg, feeling her surface for
bumps, feeling her cannon for heat. Hoping the flecks are compact, hard, unfilled. Hoping her
Cannon is cool, slim, unswollen.
Ticks? My hands travel up to her girth (scabby) then to her chest.
You know the government made them? In labs? You know that?
On the base of her neck, I pin one between my nail and finger. Her left ear is on me, but she is still.
I can hear the prick. I see Capocha’s ear twitch.
I flick the leggy pink body onto cold cement, Oh really?
And there’s the damn head still buried. My hands keep searching.

III.

They call it sleep; it’s actually hiding. There aren’t angels in Boston.
How the hell did we let this one happen?

On Changing

The light faded or was blocked and in the evenness I saw the yellow in your leaves. How wonderful you change. As if
Each leaf, each strand of leaf on leafy stalk decides, alone, completely: Now, it is time. Not like other trees, ones who start at the top, like
They’ve been toasted. Or ones where one branch, maybe strongest, maybe dying, goes orange from the source. You
With flapping arms and shaggy head have chosen to speckle in your little way. I am dazzled.

Oh, Virginia

“Even the horses, had they been blind, could have heard the hum of London in the distance; and the drivers, dozing, yet saw through half shut eyes the fiery gauze of the eternally burning city.” – Virginia Woolf, The Years

Oh, Virginia,
It is your city and in it I’m spinning
Like smoke or breath or air in cold—
Hot things that burst in wet wind or cold water. Take me into your hands
And squeeze me like fireplace bellows as I breathe,
Like a poet. Like a drunk.

Like you, I’ll grab the city with two hands and chew it until I’m drunk—
Feed me, Virginia:
You know what it’s like to see a city breathe
And you’ve touched the Serpentine and you’ve sent it spinning,
Dirty water less dirty back then. Even up to your hands
I’m sure you never felt the cold

Or if you did feel the cold
You stayed in the cold, numbing until you were drunk,
Feeling the magic in your hands
Until you couldn’t, Virginia.
Behind your eyes a world was spinning
And all you could do was breathe.

And all I can do is breathe.
With gritted teeth I was fighting the cold,
But when I followed those spinning
Streets through London, lost in the pavement, drunk,
I’m sure I found where you lived, Virginia.
It was dirty and it was flat up to the street and I touched the gray wall with my hands

And your industrial soot, covering my hands,
Made me feel like I could find a way to breathe
The way that you breathed, Virginia.
Your home and the day were cold
But between the two, I’m sure they could turn someone like you into a drunk.
A city street so tall so white so wonderfully morbid, it sent my mind spinning.

And, spinning,
My mind dug its hands
Into the explosive world you made of England, drunk
And filled with cavalry officers and parlor games and old boys’ songs that you learned to breathe
And learned to exhale with absolute exhilaration—warm air pushed out from cold—
Why did you ever let yourself stop breathing, Virginia? How could you?

From spinning claustrophobia you took everything and made it breathe.
You took in your tender hands a city in all its dirt and all its cold.
You fed it, filled it, until it was drunk and warm. You made it speak, Virginia.

Mold

Conjure something up, then,
Reach your hands to the back of your skull and grasp it, uproot it,
Put something just in front of you hummingbirding there
Let it eddy upon itself, swarm into itself, let it take form like a flock in wind.
What is it? Something small enough to fit in a fist, soft enough to refigure.
Ball it up and float it just there to look at. It is something of art. Something. Anything
Of art. Scrape your mindfingers along frames of the National Gallery, break that vase
On your knee and look at the shard. Squeeze your eyes and forge a monument.
No. None of these will float. None of these will hover enough to pour words over—
To cast in this copper. To break open. Art, dipped in flaking plaster, plaster
Smoothed, plaster filled, copper cooled, and there— There is art. It begins
Shining, becomes smooth, becomes dimensional, becomes unsettling and inaccurate.
Oxidizes, decays, presses on the ground beneath it. Pick it up.
Spin it. Throw it. Put a plaque above it. Break a window with it.
What was this art? It is its copper imitation. It has sharp edges from imperfect imprinting
It almost has an echo of that original shape. I couldn’t catch the shimmering thing
So I grip something else, completely.