Poem on a Sunday

Her eyes are pearl green, like a treasure

Seen through a filter of ocean froth

And the water, brimming and subsiding,

Knows how pearls are built, not born,

From endless repetitions, much the way

The heart, tidal in its attractions, rests

 

For a moment, between sets–respiration

Like inspiration, an on-again/off-again thing–

And returns to work. But my eyes, denim

And lapis-flecked, flicker in her direction

Hungrily, hopelessly. Only a fly on the wall

Sees my breath catch as she looks away.

April is National Poetry Month

Perfect Stranger

Lately my eyes have been catching spaces

Between trees on the street, weights

Racked at the gym, eyelets on a shoe,

Myself and other people. Music happens

In the space between notes, the pauses

Between words, making sense of sound.

 

As children we’re told to be wary, if not

Fearful of strangers, the unknown quantity,

Untrustworthy and so much taller than we are.

Without being told, we fear death, the ultimate

Stranger. But oddly, we rarely fear sleep

Or the strange gnomes in our brain who file

 

Away our experiences, play dreams on the screen

Of the mind. We embrace sleep, groggy, watch

The 5-4-3-2-1- as the film counts down.

Sometimes the dream explodes behind our eyes.

Sometimes it starts more like a whisper or

A breath of spring morning air. Sometimes

 

The strangers in our dreams alarm us,

Not by threatening but by offering us too much

Familiarity, like unasked-for candy. There is

A lesson here. Sometimes they stand apart,

Waiting for us to notice them. We wake,

Hopeful. The future, promising. Sometimes

 

By day we enter spaces like our dreams,

Peopled by both kinds of strangers. Then

The game is to identify which is which.

Take this woman, who saunters into a room

Of strangers milling around looking awkward,

Engages the most uncomfortable, makes her smile:

 

Not candy, but kindness. Then she moves on.

Faces turn in her direction like flowers

Following the movement of the sun, gathering

Warmth and light. Another time when I see her,

I offer her a purple flower. She tucks it

Behind her ear and turns away. The space

 

Between us fills with other strangers. This

Morning on the subway, in between every two

Strangers is another stranger, and all of them

Looking bored, tired or angry. I find myself

Smiling for no reason, passing the light along.

Now the spaces in my dreams are full of flowers.

Moving from A to B

Between any two letters of the alphabet, infinity

Runs rampant, with fragments of letters, fractals

Like the paisley inside the peacock on the butterfly’s

Painted wing. The fractions closer to A are stiff:

Chutes, ladders, railroad tracks going in only one

Direction. As you edge closer to B, you find curves:

Buttons and bees, beer caps and tiny basketballs

Like the ones you see on TV at a bar, from across

The room. And you wouldn’t even be in the bar

Except for the L sitting next to you, rooting for

Her team. You root for her team too now.

 

Halfway between A and B, you find the square

Of the cocktail napkin, but also the ring etched

In water, the rectangular business card, but also

The number scribbled hopefully on the back.

More and more these days, I find myself

Attentive to middle spaces, littoral waters,

The city halfway down the coastline on the map,

The fourth of seven chakras, green like the leaves

Of the lotus blossom growing from my heart.

Other letters also litter the landscape: Q and P

And the letters of my name and after my name.

I will use them all to write this letter

To myself on learning how to be.

Taking Aim

 

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Among the many things I never bothered to swear I would never do: jump off the Brooklyn Bridge, with or without a bungee cord; walk anywhere near the reptile house at the zoo; waterski over a shark; do anything even remotely reminiscent of middle school gym classes.

Alas, infatuation, as it turns out, will make you do the wacky. This makes a sort of sense when you think about it since fatuus is Latin for fool, and thinking several times a day about someone I have only met twice is pretty darn stupid, especially since she probably hasn’t had a passing thought about me since Friday night. And “looking forward” to playing—I can hardly type the word—dodgeball on Saturday evening simply because she is probably going to be there feels stupid in the extreme.

And buying new sneakers because your gym sneakers are a garish pink and blue that doesn’t go with anything except your gym clothes and for this “social situation” you are bloody well not going to wear your gym clothes…

Well, you get the gist. How convenient that it’s April Fool’s Day. Present and accounted for.

When You’ve Done All You Can Do

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Here’s the thing about being a writer. I can spend four months obsessing about three dozen people who do not objectively exist, their hopes and dreams, their heroic actions and tragic mistakes, and consider it completely normal. They call this “writing a novel.” But I meet somebody I like and I spend a week thinking about them from time to time, and yes, writing a few poems, and I think I am getting completely out of hand. I suspect they call this “being human.” Hard to say, as something like this hasn’t happened to me in about twelve years.

So I am sitting here at work with my Wonder Woman mug that my office buddy gave me for Christmas and trying to stop obsessing. Surely if anyone can help me, it’s Diana Prince, Amazon extraordinaire. Sigh. No such luck. I feel like Calvin & Hobbes.

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What to Do Once You Get Her Number

  1. Grin to yourself. Outwardly, remain cool. Slip her card into your card case as if this feat of dating dexterity is something you do every week rather than once or twice a decade.
  2. Imagine calling her. Panic. Realize that you have nothing to say that could be considered witty or interesting or remotely intelligent or even grammatically English.
  3. Keep it tucked away safe. Take it out now and then to look at it. Repeat #2.
  4. Google her. Tell yourself this is not stalker behavior. Clear your browser. Distract yourself with work.
  5. Write five poems that no one within forty miles of your closet could tell were in any way gay. Post one on your blog. Repeat #4.
  6. Check out her photography portfolio online. Wonder why the single photo of her doesn’t show the glow you see when you look at her in person. Repeat #5.
  7. Write a poem that is, face it, just a little bit gay. Wait for the glitter to fall on your head.
  8.  Repeat #2-7. Keep waiting.

Crush

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Nature is funny. She gives tiny iron fillings to pigeons,

So that they can navigate, by knowing in their beaks

Which way is magnetic north, those two annoying poles,

North and south, feminine and masculine, how to find

Their way home again. I rub my nose, hoping my fingers

Will turn red with rust, but they never do. I turn right

 

And left, hoping that one way will feel more right

Or left than the others, but somehow, all I feel is

Dizzied. I suddenly realize that, before this moment,

I have never truly turned south before. My tongue

Speaks northern languages: French, the language

Of love, Japanese, the language of sacrificing yourself

 

In battle, and English, the language this woman speaks

With no accent until she is tired or perhaps has had

One pink drink too many. Her eyes are dark, polished

Oak and her grin like the full moon on a dark night.

I must focus on my work. The moon pulls at the tides,

Distracting them from reaching their usual shores.