Monthly Archives: October 2015

Acorns [from Vanishing Tracks]


The long winter ends when
The tree remembers he is in love.
From his many hands the leaves
Unfold and fall, the pages’
Ever changing colors waiting
To be read in wonder but
Instead in time
Gathered by rakes and scoundrels
Yet still the tree continues
To produce, he cannot be stopped,
Though the present blows through
Him in westerly gusts he stands fast
And the fruit of his thought flies loose,
Each acorn that batters the roof below
A love letter, a blown kiss, a single everlasting
Glance forgotten. You will hear them
On your own roof tonight,
In the brief moment they strike wondering
If it was you they were meant for
Then rolling on the grass or driveway
To be stomped on by the girl whose head
One fell on without saying why,
Or rolled over by the one who loves you
Driving away for who knows how long
In that fragile casing,
The birds taking the rest, only the squirrels
Understanding and tucking a few away
For when the landscape has lost its verse.
Then the snow’s white manners
Exerting months of formalities
Finally bullied away by mud and
A single sprouting oak a few fields
Away. You walk outside
And the sun is a warm leaf on your cheek
And you are beautiful and the tree
Remembers he is in love.

City [from Vanishing Tracks]


It takes a while for the city to remember you.
You were the one who left, after all.
As if the city were a vast ship
You feel it roll on now unfamiliar
Swells of commerce, your step uncertain.
Have you been gone so long
A voice asks. It is the type
Of conversation strangers overhear.

Walking past the diner you see
Your city body, just a few blocks ahead
But lose it in the crowd. Underground
At the turnstiles it swipes its pass
While you fumble in your pocket
For change. Someone is tuning
An instrument and about to sing.
You are reaching back in your pocket

When someone puts a dollar into your hand.
It is your city body. The first notes
Of the city’s song are subway brakes.
The train stops like a dollar dropped
On velvet and the city drifts out to greet you.
Welcome back, welcome back, you hear a voice say
And it is your own voice.

Sestina, with Christmas Lights [from Vanishing Tracks]

Sestina, with Christmas Lights [from Vanishing Tracks]

Through the graves of trees comes a quiet that is almost conscious.
A memory in search of its strength, like blood racing to the heart
To be replenished with oxygen. In that quiet is our quick
Reinvention, and we have forgotten already who we were, what our stories
Were about, in the way that the clump of unplugged Christmas lights
Has nothing to do with Christmas. I had a similar feeling in a hotel

Once, where I did not recognize my story as being set in a hotel
But there I was. I was home in a way I was not even conscious
Of acknowledging, as Christmas is not acknowledged by Christmas lights
But by acknowledging the birth of something brand new in our hearts
That just might save us if we can forget all the stories
That have come before it, if our sense of eternity’s quick

Enough to follow tracks time’s flurries are so quick
To fill. It’s too cold outside: back to memory’s mansion or is it a hotel
Of the same room comfortably over and over, the same stories
In generic bedrooms we’re nearly content in without us being conscious
Of not having slept there before? The past is leading my heart
To a place the past cannot be, but like one short in Christmas lights

May darken an entire string, most of which would still light if the Christmas lights
Were wired differently. But we can’t change the way we’re wired or how quick
Darkness in one triggers a darkness in many. Right now your heart
Just pumped a liter of blood in one beat, like checkout time at a hotel
Where everybody knows they’re coming back but are conscious
They will get a different room that will be familiar as the stories

They grew up with are different from the stories
They tell. And still nobody has invented better Christmas lights.
When I speak to my mother about Christmas she is no longer conscious
Of memory as memory, it is the tree her speech lands on like the quick
Accumulation of snow on branches. It is like she is wandering in a hotel
Where her key opens every door and every room touches her heart

Though she’s no longer talking about Christmas. I don’t have the heart
To correct her, or maybe I have heart enough to know her stories
Are closer to being correct, they’re all there in the same hotel
Like a convention of amnesiacs, and either the Christmas lights
Are lit or they are not, but their keys fit all the doors now, and quick
As a wink there’s a mint beside the bed of all that is conscious.

Boxing up ornaments and taking down the tree, the family was suddenly conscious
Of disconcerted movement: two weeks in warmth, and hatched hungry to the quick,
Hundreds of praying mantis glittered like unexpected Christmas lights.

Vanishing Tracks (II)

Vanishing Tracks (II)

What is resilient in us is resistant to memory
When the memory goes she will be some other self
Still resilient to the sailing light and shadow
And hungers and exhaustions of love
Made maybe even more immediate

When the resilience goes what is that then

When the resistance goes what is that

Just outside her heart she hears a sound in the night
I am out there knocking on the dusty porch
I have brought a friend with me
When she opens the door will she see herself
Holding my hand?

Do you remember when the car door opened up
As you drove and I hung out there clinging to it
Legs dangling and hollering your name?

Do you remember hollering my name
In encouragement
As you sat in the bleachers to watch
The smallest second baseman ever?

Do you remember the rides on rainy days to school
In the golden Rambler you called Goldilocks
Your children and their friends sitting forward
And backward like sardines to fit more of us into the back seat?

You spent so much time doing these things you have the right
Not to remember

Nothing can change what you have done
What it has made in me
I will remember these things
For you and when I can no longer remember
Nothing can change what you have done

Everything I can remember makes up only a small part of your life
The rest of it now becomes more you to me I see that now
You become your childhood your mother in that picture
Is you now as you look at it which is not
A bad thing as you tell me laughing
Your nephew becomes your father in that picture
Standing beside you younger than you somehow
It doesn’t matter
He has always stood beside you
From the moment he died when you were thirteen he was there
And you grew older as he remained a young father
I only understand now
how you see that picture

The mind’s tide’s becalmed
The beach endless
These memories now rise
Or settle
With little difference in depth
To the step of the moment that splashes


Vanishing Tracks (I)

Vanishing Tracks (I)

On my journey home
the clouds obscure the one road up the mountain
like gods who long
since forgetting what they have made
come this way again
recognizing nothing

A hundred hazard lights blinking
of strangers slowing through that veil
could be seen from a distance
as some kind of worship

A half hour later
the clouds will be gone the road will not remember
they were ever here

On the mountain’s other side
I see them again
three heads on the sky’s coins
all looking away
and then again above the valley floor ahead of me
a tail of a giant sea creature twelve miles long
diving into the horizon

I can bear the gods forgetting all they have made
until they no longer exist
even in memory
and have made nothing
how much heavier though is your forgetting
because I know you
did what the gods could not

Still I will follow these vanishing tracks


Note: The three title poems from my 2011 book Vanishing Tracks, and another poem entitled “Sestina, with Christmas Lights,” were written in honor of my mother, who at the time of their composition had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s but was still living with my father. These poems, of course, are about memory, family, the sacred nature of motherhood, loss, and loss suffered across a family in a manner that is keenly unique but which impacts the rest of your life’s views on everything, from identity to suffering to love.

In a Dream [from Vanishing Tracks]

In a Dream [from Vanishing Tracks]

In a dream I am in a car
racing backwards in slow motion
through a neighborhood being progressively
unbuilt, earth and foundation
appearing as shingles and windows fly away,
sod pulled up from red clay, native
shrubs waiting for the foundations to liquidize
and evaporate then moving back in,
and finally large rocks which we
never moved to make way for the houses
that were not built after all
and the road itself turns to gravel then dirt
undergrowth and pine needles rushing in,
and as the car itself begins to loosen
the sky darkens with shadows
coming towards me at the
speed of trees never cut down


[Another poem from from the series “Markers” and the book Vanishing Tracks.]

Bridgeport, CT [from Vanishing Tracks]

Bridgeport, CT [from Vanishing Tracks]

On an empty court surrounded by empty lots
A man is dribbling a basketball. He stands
Around the three point line, jukes and feints
Away from an invisible defender, pulls up to
Shoot, changes his mind, dribbles again and
Steps to his left, maybe being doubled up
At this point though I can’t see anyone there,
And no one is around to see him pick up
His dribble yet again, no whistle blows, so he dances a
Little closer, the ball back over his head like a stone
In a medieval catapult. There is nothing between him
And the basket. He pauses, and dribbles again.
I crane my neck to watch him negotiate all that emptiness
As the train rounds a bend. He is still dribbling,
He will never find his shot.


Note: Another poem from the series “Markers,” a set of poems written on a train trip from Virginia to New England and back.

Coming to New England by Train [from Vanishing Tracks]

Coming to New England by Train

The rocks are back, drifting just above
The earth’s surface like wildflowers along the tracks.

First a few outcroppings as if someone dropped rock seeds
By mistake, then wilder bunches of them, knee-high humps

Like micro mountain ranges. Soon they are shaping the landscape.
They are the engineers in charge, edging the banks heaving

To the tree line. They make walls but are not rocks with a mind
For mortar. They settle for nothing but themselves.

In Connecticut you see the first rocks on lawns,
In Rhode Island they are primary lawn ornaments

Bigger than the people who lived there. Clearly the house was designed
Around the rock. Wildflowers have been planted

At the foot of the rock. I know I am home because the clouds
Stick out of the sky like dry stones in calm blue water.


[Another poem from the sequence “Markers,” in which all the poems were written during a train trip from Virginia to New England and back.]

Paramount Stone [from Vanishing Tracks]

Paramount Stone

The weeds cannot tell me anything new.
I let them cover up the old lies

And the shapes are something
I could not have told myself

About how I grew over the person
I told people I was and became something


[Dear readers, While I deal with a little writer’s cramp of the soul, I thought I would share with you some poems from my book Vanishing Tracks, which was published in 2011. The poems I share this week are from a section called “Markers: Notes on a train trip from Virginia to Cape Cod and back again” and all the poems in that section were written, at least in draft form, on the train there or back again. Many of these poems deal in some way or another with memory, with looking back while bring propelled forward, even if the propulsion is, in the strange ways of geography and family, toward the past. I’m purposefully releasing only a selection of them, and out of order, at that, if only because I’m going to let the mood of each day determine what to reach back for.]