The Wait

November sits in the cupboard
with the tinfoil and sandwich bags.
It’s after dusk.
I’m riding in the back seat,
down the back roads.

Some houses are dark.
Some have one light on
and I can’t help wondering
who is doing what in that light.

The snow makes me sleepy.
There’s a dream:
a woman with plum-black hair—
a bit of a local celebrity—
standing at the sink.
Without looking in the mirror,
she cups her hands,
fills them with warm water.
I am small.
I swan dive
from the tip of her nose
into her pool and open my eyes,
floating on the wait.

November straddles plum-black fields.
November waits for me,
its shadows like dreams in the dry stubble.

(Originally appeared in The Bitter Oleander)


Diner, Midtown Manhattan

The thought that she can’t stay beautiful much longer
on cigarettes and coffee
nags at her a little more
now that it’s fall.
But not today.
Early Sunday morning, the city forgives her
in its light and silence.
This is how it worships—
a holy refraining,
nothing banging together.
Even the small man at the counter barely chews.

(Originally appeared in Art House America; later reprinted in Perspectives: A Journal of Reformed Thought)


The New Literacy

for Jud Decker

I’m chasing birds and cats and leaves,
choosing Old Testament heroes,
trailing apostles through Judea,
studying the moves of the Lord Himself;
I’m chasing myself
around the living room,
seeing sleepy projections—
15th-century Flemish art:
the Merode Altarpiece;
I’m running down baseballs
in the backyard,
searching for a home run
through tinseled trees,

spiking at the calves
of long-legged cross-country runners;
I’m playing lost solos
to my best friend’s twelve-string—
Brookwood Park;
it’s a tag game
and still going—
Herkimer, South Washington Street Bridge,
Ilion, the back roads of Mohawk,
the cemetery,
the candle shop in Utica;

I’m hunting down day and night themselves
and climbing toward the big bands:
the elusive bari sax,
Latin percussion,
ghosts of nightclub conductors;
I’m riding shotgun
in my brother’s LTD,
sinking Cobain
back to the belly,

knowing I’m being chased too,
being run out of my own town
like an outlaw
until finally,
at last,
the body becomes the name,
the words become the body,
the body, the body,
the thousand versions of warmth.

(Originally appeared in Seneca Review)