On the Finger Lakes (Minnesota, 2012)

for Laurel

Friends escaped to a shore of time
between states of gridded fields

Shoulders pressed with twig patterns
from beneath sleeping bags

Words loosened by brewed coffee
and stories too long waylaid

Oars held by moss cords spreading
from cattails we met on purpose

Palms held over kayak’s edge waiting
for the water’s promised nuance

Thoughts hanging like fishing hooks
watching in hope under the surface

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Garden Raising

After a sermon on more with less
and a potluck of salads and ham,
the adults confessed their excess
by hammering old beams for beds
and the children kept asking to press
black-striped seeds into the soil.

I wanted to tell them of the sunflowers
that bloomed in my childhood garden
and how I sat under their towers
looking up at their circling heads,
learning that the earth empowers
those who listen to the ground.

I wanted to tell them of the space
beyond the blocks of tall buildings
and a day’s drive from this place
where the sky dips down to dirt
and offers itself to any face
upturned like the flowers.

 

Today

Is it possible to see each thing
not for something other—
a memory or place or feeling
but for how it sings itself
like the rest of creation?

Today I will quiet my mind from
marking the edges of my existence
and rest in your palms
in these fingertips wrapping
life around mine.

Coping Mechanism

Two brothers moved here
from Michigan and started
a late-night BBQ bar on 14th
open until the buses stopped.

Then every night after hours
they carried folding chairs
and BB guns to the center
of a street lit alley.

The brothers waited for
the moment the rats
emerged for their nightly
commutes between houses.

Then pressurized pops
hissed like the sighs
of unscrewed jars from
their mother’s pantry.

The shots rebounded
off the bristled bodies
and set them scurrying
back to their crevices.

It lasted a month before
the police warned them
to stay at their bar at night
like two rats in a den..

The Journey

You told me how you came
walking — busing — rafting
from El Salvador to California
to the house of thirty others
to a man with a Dodge Durango
who took you across land
with boundaries like old veins
unsure of the blood they carry

You confessed how you
feared — ached — smelled
all those miles of pulling
the same three shirts tight
to your chest and knees
night after night in territory
blistered by borders
that never stop burning

You smiled then at the
curb — stranger — phone
that finished your journey
with your cousin in New York
at Five Guys eating a burger
for the first time and thinking
that it didn’t taste so bad
that it was like everyone said

——

I thought of you this morning
as I walked to work in the city
that we both still think is strange
and then I saw a cat licking mint
off a bush in a manicured garden
and I wondered how we do it
this coming and going
this never being home